Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Sunrise 29 December 2007

It may look like just another sunrise to you, but I LOVE this sunrise! Look at that flash!

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December 29, 2007 Posted by | ExPat Life, Kuwait, Lumix, Photos, Weather | 8 Comments

Fresh Start

I always get a burst of energy between Christmas and New Year’s. Truly, for me, new hope has come into the world. It doesn’t have to be rational, it’s just the way it is for me. I get all kinds of old messes cleaned up, I sort, I organize, I throw out or I hem/mend/ cut down to make something useful once again.

It made the dark months of winter pass more quickly in Seattle and in Germany, where many days go from black to dark grey and then back to black again. Here in Kuwait, with all the sunshine, it is just so much easier. Every day dawns in blues and pinks – how can life be bad when a day starts so beautifully?

There is one sharp sword hanging over me – taxes. *gnashing of teeth* I am pretty good about keeping receipts all in one place all year, but taxes for xpats can be complicated, and our tax guy sends a worksheet – like 14 pages – for us to fill out every year. It really isn’t that hard, but I dread it.

Over a year ago, the US government changed the way expats are taxed. Even worse, they snuck it in as an amendment, I think to a military appropriations or budget bill, and no one was aware of the implications until it was a done-deal. It is a nightmare. In one year, we went from qualifying for refunds to owing a burdensome debt of taxes. Aaarrgh.

I have a list of projects I want to do this year, some challenging, some just fun. Some projects left over from previous years I want to get done once and for all. I see 2008 as a great luxury, all those days, an entire year, stretching out before me in which I can get these things done. Woooo Hooooooo!

December 29, 2007 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Cultural, ExPat Life, Financial Issues, Kuwait, Leadership, Living Conditions, Political Issues | , , , | 10 Comments

The Great Migration (2)

After two wonderful days in Grumeti River Lodge we transfer to the CCAfrica’s Serengeti Under Canvas Program, with the first camp being a short drive from the Grumeti River Lodge.

We LOVE tent camping. We used to camp out of a Volkswagon bus across the US with a baby and a cat (now that was an adventure!), in Tunisia, in Jordan. Now, I still love camping, and I particularly love it CCAfrica style – maximum 8 tents to a camp, a huge bed with good linens, an indoor shower and toilet, brass water containers, all very Hemingway in feeling. I love having coffee brought to the tent early in the morning, and I love the quiet shuuussshhhing of the wind through the high African grasses. We have our own dining tent to the side of our tent, which is high on the ridge, or we can choose to eat with the others.

Here is a view looking out from our tent across the Serengeti Plains:

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There is one little fly in the ointment – to get in and out of this camp, we drive our open vehicles through an area infested with tsetse flies. I am terribly, horribly allergic to mosquitos and to tsetse flies, and of course they find me irresistible. I am totally wrapped up in local large cotton wraps called kikoy – I look like a very colorful bedu woman, all covered except for my eyes.

But it’s worth it. I take tubes of Benedryl2 with me and lather it on morning and night to keep the size of the bites down.

First trip out of the game camps we find gnus at a water crossing. No hungry alligators, but it’s wonderful getting to watch them crossing:
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There are only four of us in the Rover, so we can spend all the time we need watching the elephants. It’s always a delight to find a mother with a baby. The elephants are so sweet with the babies:

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Early one morning, we catch a group of hyena:

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Even better, as sundown nears, we find a pride of lions, catching the last rays of the day and preparing to hunt:

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I have one of the early Lumix models, an FZ10. It takes beautiful photos, even under very low-light conditions. It is small, lightweight, fairly fast, shoots movies as well as stills, captures audio, and oh – did I mention small and lightweight? It has the equivalent of a 420mm lens, in a small body. It is an amazing camera and gets amazing shots.

Sundown has it’s own rituals, with a stop every night for refreshments and a toast to the setting sun:

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We spend two nights at the Grumeti River Camp, following the herds, photographing as they drink, as they trek, but in truth, you simply can’t imagine the scale of The Great Migration unless you see it for yourself. At one point, we sat in the center of a road as thousands of gnu and zebra filed past.

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We sat for an hour, shooting stills and shooting movies, and when we left, the line just kept going. We were surrounded. Sometimes it would thin a little, and sometimes the gnu would start to gallop and they would all start to gallop and the sounds of their hooves would thunder on the ground.

Other times, we would be sitting, and we would hear the sound of the gnu just shhhhussshhh, shhuusssss, shuussshhhhhh, interspersed with the occasional “hungh? hungh? hungh?”

Watching the zebras drinking, all would be quiet and then all of a sudden one would twitch or panic or something, and then you would hear loud “SWWWOOOOOOOSSSHHHing” noises as they rushed out of the water. We loved the vastness of the Migration, the enormity of it, the huge, grand overwhelming scale of it all, but for me, it was these sounds that have stuck in my memory.

AdventureMan and I find these experiences nourish our souls. We feel close to God in the African wild. We love the sights, and the smells and the sounds. We love meeting the African people. When we get back, we can still sniff the smell of wood-burning campfires lingering in our clothing.

Next, we head for Klein’s Wilderness Camp.

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December 29, 2007 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Health Issues, Living Conditions, Lumix, Marriage, Tanzania, Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

   

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