Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

myafrica September Statistics

I like Africa anyway, but this blogger, Cerengeti, goes way outside the Africa box. He has gathered statistics from all over the world – and he gives all the references – that are amazing, horrifying, fascinating – from abortion in India to plagiarism in the United States – take a look at Myafrica’s Index for September 2006.

October 27, 2006 Posted by | Africa, Cross Cultural, Family Issues, Social Issues, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Last Minute Upheaval

As I looked at my two suitcases, two days from travelling, and then at all the things that needed to get into my suitcases, I had a bad feeling. I figured out what I would need for the next couple days and started packing all the rest. . .good thing, too. It was never going to fit.

Fortunately there is a Staples next door, and I could run over and buy a box. When I got there, a clerk was putting out computer paper, and he had some sturdy boxes he was going to break down, so I didn’t even have to buy one, he just gave it to me.

That’s the thing about addictions – they take up space. Books, shoes, fabrics, clothing, cooking supplies . . .

Got the extras packed into the box and mailed off, even had just a tiny bit of room to spare when my parents gave me six cans of Alaskan canned salmon. Oh Yum! But that is it. Cannot even allow myself to wander into a store, no! no! no!

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October 27, 2006 Posted by | ExPat Life, Travel | 2 Comments

Addiction and Amy Tan

“I’ll just go in to get the birthday cards,” I said to myself, but the moment I opened the large brass-handled swinging doors, my heart started pounding, my breath came faster and like a moth to the flame, I headed straight toward that huge pile of “Best Sellers” just inside the door.

Mentally slapping myself and forcing myself back on the planned path, I forced myself away from the new arrivals and towards the cards. But oh, the temptations along the path . . . new sudoku. . . .oh a new Gregory Maguire . . . oh! oh! oh!

With great discipline, I manage to buy the cards and only two new books, a new Stephen King book, hot off the press, (my son had mentioned it and that it was getting great reviews) and the new Amy Tan book. Rationalization – I am returning to Kuwait and it is a looooooooooooonnnnnngggggg trip, easily a two book trip. But when you have an addiction, any excuse will do.

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Amy Tan is always a rollicking good read. For one thing, her books focus on that big favorite theme of mine, cross cultural communication – and miscommunication. She has a keen eye, rapier sharp wit, and filets her characters neatly, but humanely.

Saving Fish from Drowning is about a tour group en route to China and Burma, told from the point of view of the tour group organizer – an art and museum patron who dies before the trip begins! She is with the group, however, in spirit – able to see everything, know what people are thinking, but not to intervene. Without her guidance, the group goes desperately awry – and it is funny, but also very very scary. You know something BAD is going to happen, and it isn’t going to be pretty.

Tan writes some great prose. Here is an excerpt about the main character, as she looks back over her life:

“But I ask myself now – was there ever a true great love? Anyone who became the object of my obsession and not simply my affections? I honestly don’t think so. In part, this was my fault. It was my nature, I suppose. I could not let myself become that unmindful. Isn’t that what love is – losing your mind? You don’t care what people think. You don’t see your beloved’s faults, the slight stinginess, the bit of carelessness, the occasional streak of meanness. You don’t mind that he is beneath you socially, educationally, financially and morally – that’t the worst I think, deficient morals.

“I always minded. I was always cautious of what could go wrong, and what was already “not ideal.” I paid attention to the divorce rates. I ask you this: What’s the chance of finding a lasting marriage? Twenty percent? Ten? Did I know any woman who excaped from having her heart crushed like a recyclable can? Not a one. From what I have observed, when the anesthesia of love wears off, there is always the pain of consequences. You don’t have to be stupid to marry the wrong man.”

Whew! Amy! You said a mouthful!

October 26, 2006 Posted by | Adventure, Books, Cross Cultural, Fiction, Shopping | 7 Comments

A Visit to Williams Sonoma

I am visiting Williams Sonoma looking for the elusive white truffel butter required in The Equalizer’s recipe for Pumpkin Risotto. Can’t find the white truffel butter, but I did find some very lovely things – things we can get a lot cheaper, maybe even better, in the Middle East.

First is what they call a Greek pepper grinder, for a mere $79.

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I bought the same, beautiful pepper grinder in the Diraa souk in Riyadh for $10 – and I believe it came from Turkey. It grinds peppercorns beautifully and stores the grindings airtight in the bottom until you need to use them.

Then these two pots. The first one is $200, and the second ranges from the low $200’s to $320, depending on the size . . .
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they are beautiful, hammered copper from Italy . . .and we bought beautiful, heavier pots with beautiful handles in Damascus for a fraction of what these cost. If I had to choose, I would choose Damascus any day for shopping, over Dubai. 😉

Is there anyplace in Kuwait where you can get copper pots re-tinned? Or has that, too, gone by the wayside?

(And a BIG shout-out to Joan of Arc who patiently taught me how to link pretty)

October 26, 2006 Posted by | Cooking, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Middle East, Shopping, Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Dubai 2010

My niece (Little Diamond aka adiamondinsunlight) doesn’t have her own blog yet. Until she does, I get to share all the information she shares with me.

This one is from New Left Review and is a fascinating article about the Dubai of the Future, a playground for the rich and idle, with unimaginable luxuries – but at what cost?

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October 25, 2006 Posted by | Adventure, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Middle East, News, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

“Trending” toward Democrat

I love to watch language change and evolve, and it’s happening all the time. Today on NPR the announcer was talking about the upcoming mid-term elections in the US in November, and he was talking about states that are “trending towards Democrats”. I haven’t heard “trend” used as a verb before, but why not? I “google”, and been googled. I blog! All kinds of words are transitioning from noun to verb. I wonder if the same thing is happening in Arabic?

October 25, 2006 Posted by | Communication, Cross Cultural, Language | 1 Comment

“How Can I NOT Help You?”

Today I was steamed. I don’t get really steamed often, but man, I was red hot steamed. It is my last week here. I have been focused on family business, but now it is time to scurry, to take care of business.

I remembered that the battery on the Apples around the time when I bought my Mac laptop has been recalled, so I went, first thing this morning, to CompUSA nearby. There isn’t a customer in the store. A guy asks if he can help me and I tell him I need to know if my computer should have a new battery. He blah blahs saying I need to contact Apple. He takes me to the customer service guy. He says blah blah I need to contact Apple. He also says there is an Apple tech at the other CompUSA, three miles away.

I know where it is – that’s where I bought it. So I drive the three miles and the Apple tech says blah blah blah you have to contact Apple.

EXPLETIVE DELETED.

I could have contacted Apple from Kuwait! I bought the computer in THAT store, but now it’s all “go away, we can’t help you.” I remember when you bought Apples at Apple stores and they always knew what you were talking about when you walked in and they could fix anything.

Rant. Rant. Rant.

But it’s a good reminder. We always complain about indifferent customer service in Europe and Kuwait. It’s nice to be reminded that we also have great customer indifference here, too. (sarcasm, in case you don’t recognize it because I use it so rarely. I really am still steamed.)

October 25, 2006 Posted by | Customer Service, ExPat Life, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Hiking With Robin Pope in Zambia (4)

We hear the drums waking us the next morning and we are SO ready. We have met with Robin Pope, who oriented us with maps to the area of the Mupamadze River we will trek, and has given us all kinds of hints as to how we will need to dress and to take care of ourselves and one another.

After breakfast, we load into a land cruiser specially built in Tanzania on a Toyota truck base. It is sturdy, tough, and very practical. We choose our seats, we tuck our long pants into our socks, we pull our sleeves down over our hands, and wrap our kikoy around our faces – we will be heading into tzetze fly territory.

From the very beginning, we understand what is so special about travelling with Robin Pope. This man knows so much. We stop every kilometer – here is a bird rarely seen, and here is a lion track, and here is a lagoon where we might see . . . ! Things we might pass right by without knowing anything are examined and are illuminated; we see the world in a tiny pond, and we see the miracles in a leaf.

We come to a great sand river, full in the rainy season but empty and sand-filled now. Robin gets a running start, but still, almost to the other side, we bog down. Yes, I am taking the photo, but as soon as I took it, I had to go and push, too. . . .
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these trips aren’t for the lazy bones! It took all of us pushing and Robin rocking the truck back and forth to get it going again, and get us to the other side of the sand river. Great exercise!

Almost to the camp, we saw a family or warthogs and five little warthog babies along the right side of the road, and and a duiker kill on the left side of the road – two more stops. It’s waaaaayyyyyy late when we get to camp, but . . . who cares? Vultures circle – and we learn to identify five different kind. We are having a ball.

These temporary camps are not so elaborate as the camps at Tena Tena, Nkwali and Nsefu – they are put together and taken apart as we hike along the river. We stay one night at the first camp, two nights at the second camp and two nights at the third camp. The tents are small, but still tall enough to stand up in. There is a nightstand between the two camp beds, with a candle, matches and mosquito coil. Each bed has a folding type stand for a piece of luggage. Outside, there is your washing stand, two camp chairs, a mat, places to put your toiletries, and places to hang your wash.

There are separate “long-drop” toilets for the men and for the women, a shovel and a bucket of sand as part of the etiquette so that whoever comes next won’t be grossed out. The shower is a gravity drop shower, with nice warm water. We have to arrange with one another how we will schedule our shower time.

At lunch the first day, they serve a green salad, spinach crepes, pumpkin, onion bread, beef salad, potato salad, melon and cookies (biscuits). Amazing – out here in the middle of nowhere, a beautiful table, nice wines, tablecloths, napkins and great food. Best of all is that we have good travelling companions, and the conversation is fast and furious and a lot of fun.

We travelled lightly, so almost every day we have to wash and hang socks or a shirt, or even once a pair of jeans. They dry very quickly in the hot hot sun of late August. The days start out chill, rising around six to be on the path by six thirty, but by the time we get to our next stop for lunch, it is hot hot hot. Although we are hiking six hours in the morning and a couple hours in the afternoon, it is easy hiking, maybe some brisk walking but always stopping as Robin spots a martin, or a rare bird, or hears buffalo, or even – spots a lion!

After a rest and time for settling in, we take a late game walk with Robin to the top of a nearby hill where we can look off into the far away hills, and watch the river meander out of sight. He points out where we will trek the next day, and we head back for camp.

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The plan for the trip is to do about 10 km a day – we hike for six or so hours in the morning and then another two in the afternoon. OK, here is the truth – I am an introvert, and I don’t like to feel rushed about taking my shower, so I skip the afternoon walk just to have some quiet time and a leisurely shower. The walks are not rigorous – during the mornings, we may hike, but we stop so often to look at things or to take photos that we never feel pushed or tired.

My very favorite part of the hiking is crossing the river. Robin finds a safe, not-too-deep place, away from the crocodiles, and we all strip off our shoes and socks and carry them as we wade across the nice, cool river. Early in the morning we see herons, and buffalo as well as crocodile, and it all has an unearthly feel to it. Robin knows where all the good paths are, so we will cross and spend a while on one side, and then cross back over to see something special on the other side.

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Sometimes after the morning hike, we find ourselves at the next camp. Only twice were we at the same camp two nights in a row.

The food was absolutely amazing. Beef Wellington. Tilapia. Wonderful sweet desserts. And once, oh what a treat, a selection of locally made Zambian cheeses, chevres, a brie-like cheese, a Cantal like cheese – oh my heaven.

On the last night, I scurried with the crew to meet the hikers down the road about three kilometers by the river. When we got there, the crew set up deck chairs in the shallows of the river, and the hikers got there just as the sun started to go down. There was a huge Goliath heron fishing nearby. There were hot hors d’ouevres, there were mixed drinks and good wine, and a great big full moon rising as the sun went down. Sitting there in that river came a sudden self-awareness: “How cool is this, sitting in the river with Robin Pope watching the sun go down after five days of trekking? Life is good.” It was a thrill.

Dinner that night around the campfire – I think it was fish curry and vegetable curry, a caprese salad (tomatoes with Zambian mozzarella di bufalo), a big green salad with toasted sesame seeds, and something sweet and chocolate for dessert. The meal itself is hazy – the conversation was so good, so much fun, we had a lot of fun with Robin and with our fellow trekkers. And then. . . as the embers started to die down, we could hear a drum, off in the distance, and singing. We could hear clapping. And it came closer. We all fell silent, wondering what this was?

The entire crew approached slowly, all dressed in their best clothes, singing in multi-part harmony, singing Zambian songs, some gospel songs, bush songs. . . moon glowing overhead, the smell of woodsmoke, after a great meal – the singing was haunting and magical, and utterly unforgettable. We were all sad to be ending this adventure, and the beauty and delight of this Mupamadzi concert put it all over-the-top.

The concert ended and we drifted off to bed.

The next day, we broke camp, leaving the Mupamadzi and heading back for Tena Tena. Travelling with Robin Pope, the adventure continues – a huge old boabab tree here, hills they are exploring for future walking treks over there, and uniting it all, Robin’s gentle wry humor and keen observations. Time has no power over Robin, it is the moment and the opportunity that are all important, and our last day is every bit as great an adventure as the first.

There is a lot of world out there – and yet. We know we will be heading for the Robin Pope camps in the South Luangwa Valley again and again.

The link to Robin and Jo Pope’s home page is here.

In addition RPS puts out a wonderful weekly newsletter all about happenings at the camps – new animal babies, leopard killings, flood season, what’s going on at the Kawazaa school, and daily life in the year-round camps. You can subscribe to “It’s Monday” here.

October 24, 2006 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Lumix, Travel, Zambia | | 10 Comments

Colorful Season

These aren’t even my favorite colors; I just can’t stop taking photos because it has been so long since I have seen autumn. The weather changed overnight, though, from warm and sunny to cool and rainy. (shivering)

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October 24, 2006 Posted by | Lumix, Photos, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Hiking with Robin Pope in Zambia (3)

There’s a lot of world to see, and we never intended to repeat a trip. The Robin Pope camps are so exceptional that – we made an exception. The very next year, we are back in Zambia, and eager – we are going hiking with Robin Pope himself.

Who is Robin Pope? He is a native African, and a staunch Zambian. He knows so much about wildlife that he probably doesn’t even know how much he knows. He is quietly and dryly funny. He started guiding as a very young man, and then, together with his wife Jo, began building a very particular kind of tourist experience. When you reach the Robin Pope camps, Nkwali, Nsefu and Tena Tena, you become like family. Well, family who live very luxuriously – the cabins are large and spacious, and beautifully appointed, with fine linens, mosquito netting, shelves, toiletries, all the comforts – a million miles from anywhere.

Each camp holds only a very limited number of campers, supported by enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff. They grow their own vegetables, or buy from local farmers. They employ people from the nearby villages. Black and white people work together equally.

One of the things we were able to do was to visit Kawazaa village, to visit the schools re-built and supplied by Robin Pope Safaris, to visit the local clinic, to visit with local villagers. We can’t wait to go back. The second trip, we bring one big suitcase full of school supplies – calculators, books, paper, pens, pencils . . . it was fun for us to find these things, having met the students who would use them, and the teachers who would benefit by having resources. Everywhere we go, we have to sign a book – the villagers get specific monetary credits for every visitor they entertain.

There are six of us who will trek with Robin Pope, and we meet in the Land Rover that picks us up at Mfuwe International Airport. I love that name – don’t you just see big jets flying in and out? In reality, it is a tiny little airport, handling only small planes. There is one small arrivals gate and one equally small departures gate. Because it also gets an occasional flight from Malawi, it can call itself “international.” We arrive at Nkwali, enchanted once again to find the hippo pod right under our window.

Lunch – how do they do it? Fish cakes with lemon mayonnaise, leek quiche, potato salad, avocado salad, green salad, cheesy corn rolls and butter, finishing with coffee and tea.

On our game drive the next morning, Jacob takes us out to see Thornicroft giraffe, and we see lots of elephants and baby elephants, and a herd of over 300 buffalo. After lunch, it is hot and we fall into a dead sleep, awakening in time for our afternoon game drive which starts with a boat ride across the river.

And what a boat ride! The hippos have spread out, and we THINK we are safely past when one of them lunges at the boat, missing us by a thread.

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Thank God, it is hot for another hour, as we are all totally soaked, but also energized by the huge jolt of adreneline shooting through our veins at escaping unhurt from that lunging hippo. On our drive, we see leopard, genet cats, civet cats and a great big lumbering porcupine.

We have dinner down by the river, under the stars, with napkins folded like guinea fowl. It starts with spinach soup, and then there is pork tenderloin, pumpkin, mange-tout peas, cauliflower with a cheese sauce, lentils and for dessert, butterscotch pie. Somehow, we manage not to gain weight – we can’t figure out how.

October 23, 2006 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, ExPat Life, Lumix, Travel, Zambia | | Leave a comment