Friday, September 30, 2005

Trying to Be Zen Here

My favourite purse, the black and white cloth one from Ecuador that I have carried across the world with me many times, is finally beyond hope of repair. The lining is ripped. The zipper has broken. It's more grey than white.

It's trashed. Kaput. It's time to throw it out.

To make myself feel slightly better about this sad event (waaahhh!), I re-read a little Zen story about a famous Buddhist monk called Ikkyu:

"As a young monk, Ikkyu got himself in trouble one day when he accidentally dropped his master's tea cup, breaking it into many pieces.

This was serious, because the tea cup was the master's favorite. It was a rare treasure, beautifully crafted from precious material. Of all of the master's possessions, it was probably the one thing he cherished the most - and now it was hopelessly smashed!

Ikkyu felt guilty, but before he could formulate a plan to get away, he heard footsteps approaching. He swept the broken pieces together and, blocking them from view with his body, turned to face the door just as the master entered.

When they were within speaking distance, Ikkyu asked: "Master, why must people die?"

The master replied: "It is perfectly natural. Everything in the world experiences both life and death."



"So it is not something we should feel upset about?"

"Definitely not."

At that point, the crafty Ikkyu moved aside to present the broken pieces. "Master... your cup has experienced its inevitable death..."

Boy, I bet Ikkyu's master was really ticked off.....

Sigh. My purse has experienced its inevitable death.

(Spider Girl-san contemplates her navel wisely for a moment and resolves to put the purse in the trash come garbage day.)

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Vampires on Broadway

I just learned today that "Lestat", a Broadway musical featuring the music of Elton John and the lyrics of Bernie Taupin is opening in San Francisco late this year. It is based on the books "Interview With the Vampire" and "The Vampire Lestat" by author Anne Rice.

Oh, some things are NOT meant to be. I hope this isn't one of them. I have a bad feeling.

I had a nice long chat with my friend Kim this evening, in the course of which I mentioned that I'd been to see "The Woman in White" (an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical) while I was in London this past month. Kim, who admits to being jaded about theatre productions in general due to years of being uneasy room-mates with actors and theatre people, is not particularly a fan of Sir Andrew, and so I could not whole-heartedly recommend the production to her even though I was fantastically entertained by it.

Nor can I recommend musicals (even REALLY funny ones like "A Dream on Royal Street") to my friend Tai, who makes a moue and complains: "But why do they have to SING everything?"

But I WANT to recommend them. I LOVE musicals. Usually I'll defend the right of anybody to leap out on stage and belt out a show-tune on the subject of their choice. ABBA. Greasers. Cats. Fat ladies with horned helmets. It's entertainment, right?

But the Vampire Lestat?

Darn it all, I love that book. Please be gentle with it.

The fellow who wrote the lyrics, Mr. Taupin is assuring us: "Anne has always loved the idea of seeing her Vampire Chronicles set in some sort of serious and seductive musical setting and for all of the parties involved this is the opportunity of a lifetime. Our intention is make a classically-based show that is stripped of gothic clich├ęs and that shows the vampire dealing with his damnation on a more realistic and human level. Please let me make this clear this is NOT a rock opera. Our hope is that it will be stylish, sexy, intelligent, rich and hypnotically dark."

Yes, please, by the gods, NOT a rock opera.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The Holy Chicken Performing Arts Society

I just got back from a concert at The Abbey in Cumberland. The group was called "Vandhana" and they are a Classical North Indian Kathak dance ensemble accompanied by musicians on such exotic instruments as the sarod, tamboura, and tabla. Goosebumps, I had goosebumps!

It was yet another fantastic group sponsored by the Holy Chicken Performing Arts Society. Isn't that a great name? It makes me want to buy seasons tickets so I can be a founding member of it.

I love The Abbey--it's such a great old building. And the enormous iconic painting of a rooster giving a benediction is just so appealing.

The Abbey/Holy Chicken Performing Arts Society

Werewolf Theme

I was waiting for my photos to develop last night so I wandered around looking for things to spend my hard-earned money on.

They have all the Halloween things out on the shelves now: mostly tacky plastic junk but one year I found a very nice metal candle-holder with dancing skeletons in a big-box store so I always look.

They had a rack of horror movie and I scored an"An American Werewolf in London" DVD for only eight dollars! Sigh...I'm happy. It is one of the truly classic films of that genre.

But no good zombie movies. They had everything BUT what I was looking for. They had Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead. Geez louise, they even had My Boyfriend's Back (which was simply dreadful zombie movie but in a funny eighties romantic comedy sort of way). But no "Return of the Living Dead, Part 2", can ya believe it?

The clerk even checked the computer for me, with the air of one who deals with freaks all the time.

But "Werewolves of London" was playing on the store's sound system, so maybe that was a sign werewolves were enough for me tonight.

Speaking of werewolves, Kim Bannerman's book "The Tattooed Wolf" is now available at The Laughing Oyster bookstore in Courtenay, so if you're a local run down and grab one. I highly recommend it. :)

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Can't Forget the Elephants

I've just finished putting real actual photographs into an album to take into work tomorrow. I just love digital cameras, bless 'em, but I had over twelve hundred images to sort through and weeding them down to one hundred and fifty or so favourites to show to people like co-workers was a challenge.

I want to share the magic and excitement of my safari, but I don't want them to fall asleep on the six hundredth photo or so. How many zebra and jackal photos can one person vicariously stand?

Also, I want them to be photos the children can look at too, so I made the decision to leave out such gems as the picture of the rock hyraxes copulating. Truly a Kodak moment.

These are two of the elephant photos I printed. I can't show photos of my trip and then leave out the elephants, can I? There were lots to choose from: elephants moving in a herd, elephants taking dust baths, elephants standing around looking big, elephants crossing the road in front of excited tourists.

There was even a photo of three elephants trying hard not to be seen by hiding behind skinny trees. They were doing a surprisingly good job of it. For such big animals, they can move quickly and quietly and blend surprisingly well with shrubbery.

There is an American Express advertisement on foiling thieves that I saw in a magazine recently showing an elephant pick-pocketing something out of a tourist's knapsack with his trunk while the tourist is snapping away with his camera in the other direction. It could happen. :)

One thing for sure is that elephants are amazing to look at in person. Okay, it's obvious, but they are big. Big! And majestic. And intelligent-looking. And, er, big!

In the flat landscape of the Ngorongoro Crater you could see them from miles away. I have a series of photos that made me realize how camera-happy I am. In each frame the animal gets a little bit closer and a little bit bigger...closer, closer, CLOSER....okay, there he goes...SMALLER, smaller, smaller....

If I printed them all into one of those little flip-thru animation books I liked when I was a kid, I could make the elephant move.

Pictures to Get Me Through the Winter

Brrr...I woke up this morning and shut the sliding door that leads off our bedroom balcony. It's COLD out this morning! So much for summer. At least first thing in the morning.

And I turned on the gas stove (my lovely fake woodstove which feels so cozy) for the first time the other day, just for a few minutes to take the chill off.

I'm going to have to practice putting on a cardigan and looking at pictures of Zanzibar to keep warm through this next season or two I think.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Blogging in my Native Environment

Me in my kitchen last month, blogging away.

Thanks Jeff, for figuring out how to put a picture on my profile. My very own computer techie. I knew there was yet another reason I married him.

Musings on my Junky Basement

I am looking at all the boxes in my basement and garage, full of things to sell at the flea market and my never-ending garage sales, with a weary eye. I need to get in there with a back-hoe and get rid of about half of it. Anything that I haven't sold in the past two years is going to go.

I tend to say "yes" when people ask if I would like to take their junk for my sales. And it just makes sense to take it ALL off their hands. They are relieved that their clutter is out of their lives and I am happy to sort out the wheat from the chaff later on. Trouble is I'm not doing a very good job sorting and things that are broken and just plain unsaleable are stacking up.

And then there's the stuff I'm storing for the daycare where I work. Now that they are finally getting more storage space, it's time for them to have their stuff back. Yay! (It was supposed to be just a temporary measure, but it's been over a year.)

Not that I don't have the space to store it. The upstairs floors in my house have wide-open spaces and I'd HATE for junk to pile up there. I don't like clutter all around me.(Ahem, I'm messy, but it's mostly temporary mess.) It's all hidden down in my cavernous basement and on the huge shelves in my garage.

But I think it's just time to get the chi flowing, ya know?

It's going to feel marvellous to have a few empty shelves.

I think I may be feeling this way because I've just returned from travelling and for the space of, oh, I dunno, a month or two, the travel bug typically lies dormant. I am not yet frantically socking away money to pay for the next plane ticket.

Although I am still thinking about Italy in the spring of 2007, so I will need SOME new knick-knacks to sell before too long.

I'm just going to enjoy the zen of empty shelves for a bit.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Gardy-loo! (Monkey-style)

One day on our trip in Africa we stopped and had lunch in a clearing with a cheerful wooden sign tacked to a tree: "WARNING! ANIMALS MAY ATTACT HUMAN BEING!"

We were just outside the gates to the Serengeti National Park so I don't suppose the sign was misplaced, but I wasn't expecting the attack to come from such a cute little creature. And I wasn't expecting the attack to come from above!

Yes, be careful when you are sitting underneath trees and monkeys are about. They laugh like crazy when they find somebody to pee on.

Pol, sorry about the shirt I borrowed. It was just never the same again.

By the way, the monkey mommy and baby pictured are totally innocent. It was one of her evil friends in the next tree who did it.

Smart Cars Are Starting to Look Better and Better

My car wouldn't start when I left work on Thursday. Drat it all. But maybe there was a bright side to our broken head-gasket as it got me thinking about how much we use our car.

We weren't able to use our car for about three days (Jeff's brother the mechanic kindly worked on it for us), but it turns out it wasn't really that much of an inconvenience. Jeff doesn't have much of a commute to work and frequently rides his bike in good weather anyway. And for me, work is only about a half hour's walk away.

(It might even be a shorter walk if I didn't walk and read a book at the same time. People who see me doing this later ask how I am able to navigate without tripping or wandering into traffic.)

Maybe it's time to leave the car in the garage more often, and get some fresh air and exercise while we're at it. Gas is up to $1.16 per litre at the station at the bottom of the hill, and the price is rumoured to go much higher.

Then again..there's the Canadian winter weather coming soon, so I don't know if I'd be able to view it as sensibly and cheerily when the November rains roll around.

Our car really hasn't let us down too often, but it's beginning to show its age. It's always been brown like dirt, but there's a little silver starting to show through in places, both literally and mechanically it seems.

When it's finally time to trade the old Dodge in, Jeff and I have talked about getting one of those fuel-efficient yet cute-as-poo Smart Cars that we've been seeing more and more in town. I mentioned it to Pol this morning.

My friend pointed out that Smart Cars only have two seats in them. "Yes", I said, "but there's only two people living at my house".

"But what about when Tai and I have been drinking after an UnChristmas celebration, who will drive us home then?", she countered.

Hmm...that is true...

But then she suddenly realized that with all the money we would have been saving on fuel, we can afford to call a cab for those occasions.

A Little Map for Interest's Sake

This was the route of the trip we took in Kenya and Tanzania.

My Friends all Know I'm Exploring my Inner Barbie Right Now....

Cutesy Goth
Cutesy Goth

What Kind of Goth Are You?
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I take a quiz and look what happens. All is revealed. :)

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Float Like A Horsefly, Sting Like a Bee

Pictured above, a funny little critter trundling around our campfire one night. Nobody ever did figure out what it was, but it DID make those of us wearing sandals reassess our footwear.

(Scientists out there in Internet Land are welcome to take a guess and tell me what it was.)

Anybody who knows me will probably not think it's very strange if I say that I'm a little disappointed that I didn't see more strange insect-life while I was in Africa. It wasn't just the four-legged kind of wildlife that I was hoping to see.

Upon reflection, it was probably because I was personally repulsive to them. Me and my buddy DEET made sure I wasn't going to have many close encounters with my LEAST favourite beasties, mosquitoes, and who knows what else took offense to my Eau de Bug Repellent. (Well, for instance, Jeff had to share a tent with me, poor fellow...)

But when our truck entered the Western Corridor of the Serengeti, a wild vast plain, we had to run a six-legged gauntlet of testse flies who drank DEET for breakfast.

Wayne, our driver, told us: "The best thing to do if a tsetse fly lands on your friend is to slap them hard. You're doing them a favour."

He told us he was going to drive as fast as he could through this particular area where the flies always hung out and he would just ignore any screaming he heard coming from the back of the truck. It would just be the ruckus made by us running around and slapping one another.

Tsetse flies are a scourge in Africa. They cause fun diseases like sleeping sickness (trypanasomiasis), are largely immune to insect repellent, and can inflict a bite through multiple layers of clothing with a long, stinging proboscis. They look quite a bit like the Canadian horsefly, but with none of a Canadian's politeness. We prepared for battle.

Off we went, hair whipping in the wind, red dust swirling in our wake, vigilant for the flies that blew willy-nilly into the back of the truck through the open sides. It's probably sad that I felt so exhilarated by swatting insects, but I did.

Loud shrieks and giggling mixed with cries of triumph as the little blighters met their ends at the ends of rolled-up magazines. They were hard to kill though and sometimes they reminded me of Freddy, Jason, and that guy in the hockey-mask in the Halloween movies: you THINK they're dead, but they come back....

But we made it through the Corridor with only a couple of us bitten. Though many of us got slapped. What's a little pent-up aggression between truck-mates anyhow? :)

Aside from our encounter with the flies, the only bugs of note I saw were the strange brown thing in my photograph above (it was about as big as my thumb), a few shiny little beetles that reminded me of things I find in my own garden, and one jolly round dung beetle that whirred with a noise like a tiny helicopter into our campsite and smacked poor Helen in the side of the head.

I was quite pleased to see a dung beetle. They've always amused me when I've seen them in nature films, and they are the insect I always think of first when I think about Africa. I believe they are also known as scarab beetles, which has a mystical Egyptian air about the name. In person, they are fat and trundle about with no air of mystery whatsoever.

I picked it up and let it crawl in my hands. It was quite heavy. There was a mixture of interest and revulsion around the campfire, but I showed it to anyone who wanted to see it. Helen probably thought I was crazy, but I'd be feeling poorly toward anything that hit me in the head too.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Weekend Reading

Well, I'm looking forward to the weekend. I brought a stack of books home from the library yesterday and I plan to read and read and read. That's one thing I didn't do on holiday and that's very uncharacteristic of me.

I usually manage to squeeze in a novel or at least a few guidebooks, but I didn't even crack the cover of "How to Speak Swahili" or finish perusing the guide to French countryside real-estate that I found in my British hotel room at the beginning of the trip.

I did manage to do a few "Su Doku" number puzzles though, which I'd never heard of before, although it is apparently a craze sweeping various nations. Jen showed me how to do them while we killed time at the Vancouver airport. Half the people on the overlander truck(who were mostly British) had a little book of Su Doku with them.

But once you are jet-lagged, anything which requires logic is no longer an option.

These are the books I'm hoping to at least open this weekend:

"Dance of the Happy Shades" by Alice Munro (Canadian short stories. I'm halfway through it and I like her descriptive style, but I'm finding the stories a little melancholy.)

"Downsize This: Random Threats from an Unarmed American" by Michael Moore (I like his inflammatory style, and he's usually preaching to the choir as far as I'm concerned. Yes, he's my favourite muck-raker, bless him.)

"The 20-Minute Gardener: The Garden of your Dreams without Giving Up Your life, your Job, or your Sanity" by Tom Christopher & Marty Asher (Well, really, it sounds like it has a good concept).

I WAS going to tackle the mountain of local newspapers that piled up in my absence but then decided there are more interesting things to read and recycled the whole lot.

The only thing note-worthy I might have missed was an article about my friend Kim and her book "The Tattooed Wolf", but at least two people saw it and cut it out for me. Congrats Kim! I think it's a lovely picture of you. :)

What's everybody else reading this weekend?

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Did A Shark Eat You? (with a really gross photo of my arm, be warned)

Well, the bandage has come off my arm and quite frankly it's not a pretty sight. Seems I finally might have a pirate-worthy scar, although I've been doing some research on the mayhem caused by allergies to "black henna" and it might be that any scarring will fade in time. Here's hoping.

Actually this photo was taken yesterday and even since then the bottom part of my arm has healed's a really shiny pink beneath but much better than the scabby and blistered look.

I didn't really want to traumatize the children at work, but having my arm all wrapped up was making it itch like crazy. I needn't have worried. Adults are far more grossed out.

"Did a shark eat you?", one little boy asked wonderingly.
"No, silly, it was a lion", said another four-year-old authoritavely.

I wish it was as interesting as all that.

But one grown-up really annoyed me today. I don't mind if people ask me what happened to my arm. I'd be curious too. but one person today was just so rude. It really took me aback.

I was sitting reading a newspaper over at the college cafeteria on my coffee break and a fellow I'd never seen before paused at my table and asked me what had happened.

I gave him the short version and he pressed for more details. So I told him about the way toxic hair dye etc. was obviously used in place of actual henna and how there was probably some other chemical in the mix too, but I wasn't sure what it was that my skin had reacted to so strongly.

He got this really skeptical look on his face and said forcefully, "Liar! You're lying. There's no way you could get some chemical put on your skin and it does that. Look."

And he points accusingly at my hand. "First degree, second degree, third degree burn. There's no way." He'd never even heard of henna. (Obviously he's never heard of sulphuric acid either.)

I looked at him with some coldness. "Nevertheless," I said, which is the word I say to some children when I am ending the conversation. "That is what happened."

How rude!

Roast Beast Mystery Solved

Remember the Grinch Who Stole Christmas?

"It was he--HE HIMSELF---who carved the Roast Beast!"

Just what did those Who-villers have cooking do you suppose?

(I'm pretty sure this is photographic evidence Dr. Seuss was thinking about a wildebeest.)

Please Don't Tie a String Around Your Sister's Neck

I was rather hoping I would meet some children in Africa. And I did. Lots of them.

In Kericho,on the edge of a tea plantation, a young group playing soccer waved and shouted ,"Jambo!"(hello in Swahili) and invited me to play so I walked over and met Dennis, Nixon, Jaqueline, one whose name I didn't catch, and the littlest one, Gideon.

On Zanzibar I met James who made me a bracelet and a very clever and complicated frog out of woven grass. I gave him some coins and asked him what he would spend them on. He told me he was saving up for a watch and also he would like to buy more marbles, which seemed to me like a good use for his money. He took some marbles out of his pocket and demonstrated his skill with them in the dusty road. He decided to hang out with our group until he had to go to school.

I also visited a Masai village near Arusha in Tanzania(arriving in no-doubt comical touristic- style on camel-back)and met the twenty or so children of one large extended family. If I understood correctly, the children all had one father and were the progeny of seven or eight wives. They lived in a collection of round mud houses thatched with grass and shared the space with a smattering of goats, donkeys, and chickens.

It was DUSTY. The children were COVERED in it. They didn't seem to mind, happily throwing themselves down on the ground to doodle in the dirt. I am so used to wiping off dirty faces at the daycare where I work that my fingers itched for a damp wash-cloth to come to hand.

But aside from the dust, they were pretty cute I have to say. They were curious about our watches and other jewellery and some wanted to try on my hat. They peered at their little digital images in the window of my camera with delight. A few clambered onto our laps.

After a while many of them wandered off and returned to their normal daily activities, many carrying younger children with them in their arms or on their backs.

I couldn't help comparing them to the privileged children I know back home. Not a single plastic toy was apparent. No television. No video-games. No playground equipment. No bicycles. Just sticks, rocks, and siblings.

I wouldn't wish this extreme kind of poverty on any kid I know, but I just wonder if there is some sort of happy medium in between. Because I am almost positive that these African children had something North American kids are in short supply of: attention span.

Fascinated from a cultural perspective though I was, daycare-worker instincts die hard, and I felt compelled to step in and unwind the string one little girl had tied tightly around her sister's neck to lead her around. Of course, as soon as I'd walked a little distance away, the string was back on.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

A Rhino for Tai

They are rather like prehistoric cows. Viewed from a distance, they are like a boulder with legs. From a closer viewpoint, they are like a boulder with legs with a horn and more personality. :)

Happy Birthday Duncan!

Hey Duncan!

You seem to be a regular peruser of my blog! Thanks for all the comments, dearie. :)

And happy birthday, old chap. It's too late to call ya but I'm sure you'll read this before too long.

My Sweet Little Giraffes...well, Not Little

Before I left, I mentioned that I really would be happy if I saw giraffes. They just have a certain something about them.

On the second day of our safari, after a very civilized caffee latte in a thatched gazebo on the edge of Crater Lake in Kenya (a peaceful morning-misted place frosted pink at the edges with flamingos), we drove in matutus(local mini-vans)up a horrendously-pitted trail to a reserve area that was special because we could walk safely outside of the vehicles with no fear of large predators.

There were signs warning about buffalos actually but we were assured that they hadn't been seen around in a while.

Here we could wander among animals like impala, zebras, wart-hogs...and giraffes. Lots and lots of giraffes.

The first time I saw one we were still riding in the van and there was a collective gasp from everybody as a long neck suddenly rose above the shrubbery next to the road and peered at us with long-lashed eyes as we passed.

The impalas kept their distance. The zebras were skittish. The wart-hogs jogged coyly away. But the giraffes didn't seem to mind us at all.

If you got too close for their taste, they'd casually take one or two rocking steps away in an unhurried fashion. They were big steps, of course. They were big animals.

They were as beautiful and magical as I'd always hoped they'd be, and they seemed to project an air of tranquility and peace.

I sat on the ground for a while watching one who was sitting nearby me. I had never before seen them sitting on the ground with their incredible legs folded up so awkwardly underneath them.

We probably saw about thirty separate animals. They seemed to like to move in groups of three or four, but some wandered off into the forested area and grazed the trees on their lonesome.

It was a big enough space that you could feel you were all alone with the animals if you wanted. I wandered far from the group and watched one animal stretching her neck high into a tree and curling her tongue around the leaves.

This was where I found the obsidian rocks that I kept and brought back, one for me and one for my friend Melanie, who had requested a rock from Africa. So Melanie, it was quite a magical place your rock came from.

Did I Mention the Skies Were Pretty?

Gee whiz, just when you think you have a nice sunrise photo another one comes along... :)

I have a LOT of photos to go through...we were travelling with four cameras between us after all. It was heartening to know that even as you cursed the limitations of a paltry 3X zoom lenses, you knew you had a Canon Powershot beside you on your team.

So, in answer to a friend's question, we got REALLY close to a lot of animals. We could often hear them blowing air out of their nostrils or scratching themselves, we were that close. Many animals seemed to be totally oblivious to the presence of motor vehicles suddenly pulling up alongside them and making oohing, aahing, and clicking sounds.

And when we weren't, we had a lovely zoom lens along.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

African Skies

The night sky in Africa was different than back home. I had never travelled below the equator before and had never seen the crescent moon turned with its horns pointing up, as I've seen it depicted on some magical amulets. Once I saw the planet Venus through a telescope when it was in phase and that's what the moon looked like here.

The constellations were different too. There were many I had never seen before, but Orion the Hunter, a familiar sight in Canadian winter skies, was here too, but languidly lying on his side instead.

Dawn and dusk are more elusive in africa, although in many ways more spectacular than I've seen before. In the moment before dawn it is completely dark and then the sun rises like a great orange ball and seems to move as you look at it. It is over so quickly. Sunsets too are amazing but fleeting. There doesn't seem to be the lingering dusks of summer evenings at home.

Oh, but the colours are wonderful. One night the sun itself looked bright pink and heavy over the horizon as it sank toward the ocean. I've NEVER seen it before like that.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Shall I Start Out with the "Serengeti Loo Song" Perhaps?

This trip to Africa was probably the most amazing trip I've ever been on. I kept a really good hand-written journal while I was away too, which took some dedication, believe me. Have you ever tried to write while sitting in a post-apocalyptic Mad-Max-type vehicle that is rocketing over the pot-holes of Tanzanian bush-roads? The secret is printing in block capitals. Block capitals and lots of strategic pauses, my friends.

So my experiences are all down in black and white, I suppose, and should be easy to copy down verbatim into a blog, but somehow I feel that I am going to be more anecdotal around here, and to heck with chronological order.

For instance, today was my first day back at work at the daycare and so I found myself inflicting my singing on my co-workers. Yes, singing the song I composed while backing away from glowing animal eyes one early morn on the Serengeti plain. Whistling in the dark, as it were. :)

You see, on this trip we did some bush-camping, meaning that we put up our tents in areas where wild animals could roam freely. There were no fences or barriers to prevent anything from snuffling right into your sleeping-bag were they determined enough. We know there ARE animals nearby because we had just finished our game drive by a buffalo herd only a few hundred feet away and there are quite a lot of animal droppings all around.

So there were some basic safety rules to follow (instructions given with a cheerful Australian accent so we know that the chances of ACTUALLY getting eaten are slim):

We set up our tents in a circle with all the doors facing in. We were not to have anything remotely edible (even toothpaste) in our tents. If you had to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, don't go alone. You and your bathroom-buddies should scan your surroundings with a flashlight as you go and be on the look-out for animal eyes.

Here's the thing about glow-in-the-dark eyes. If they are yellow or green you are probably okay;they probably don't belong to a predator (although it could still be something cantankerous and dangerous like a buffalo or hippo), but if the eyes are red you should back away slowly and NOT run away because that would make you look like prey. Yum yum.

Okay, so there we were in the early morning hours. It's dark out but nature is calling. The three of us have just finished in the lovely squat toilets that are way too far away from the tent area for a reason, and my sister-in-law Jen has just finished being surprised by a bat that flew OUT of the toilet-hole.

We are giggling about the bat and we swing our flashlight round and there are GLOWING EYES nearby. Quick, quick, what colour? Ah, green. Probably okay. But we still don't know what sort of animal it, let's walk away...casually.. So we do.

A little tune just sort of pops into my head and out a song springs fully formed. The inspiration of nervous adrenalin.

(cough cough) Ahem. The Serengeti Loo Song goes like this:

We're casually walking away
We're casually walking away
So we don't look like prey
We're casually walking away

And if the eyes are yellow
We breathe a sigh of relief
Cuz if they're red
I guess we're dead
We're casually walking away

We all want to see a lion
But not on the way to the loo!
If fact we're happy to see nothing at all
Except maybe some animal poo

We're casually walking away
We're casually walking away
So we don't look like prey
We're casually walking away!

Well, it's not Andrew Lloyd Webber, but it DID fit the occasion. And it has a catchy tune. :)

I sang it to Tai at dinner (after my darling friend picked us all up at the airport), and she nearly choked on her prawns the poor girl was laughing so hard.

As for my own particular trip, only one person (hi Lizzie!) saw anything coming out of their tent. It was a hyena, which is not a good thing to meet, but luckily the hyena went on its way and Lizzie decided she really didn't need to pee that badly so it all ended well.

Apparently,on one trip a wild pig got inside someone's tent and it panicked and ended up running out the back of the tent. That was pretty much it for the poor tent.

On another over-lander trip, a couple was making out near the campfire after everyone else had gone to bed, when a couple of lions walked by SO close they were BETWEEN the people and the campfire. Well, so much for a romantic evening. They totally forgot about the don't- run -away -and -look- like- prey rule and high-tailed it into the tent where they spent the rest of the trip crying and would only come out for psychiatric therapy.

Awww....and I only got to see EYES.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

I Have Arisen from My Jet-Lagged Coma

Here I am in my own kitchen again, glad as I always am after a trip, to be home among my own things again.

I was just wondering aloud to myself how I should start this blog entry, my first since returning from Africa and England. "How about...", said Jeffye, placing a steaming mug of tea at my elbow, "...saying how nice it is that your husband is bringing you a cup of tea in the middle of the night?"

It is, indeed, a very nice thing. Other nice things in the past twenty-four hours have been relaxing in a bath-tub for the first time in three weeks, and having my lost cat come home again.

Colby jumped off the balcony over a week ago and ran away. My mother, who was taking care of the cats while we were away, was beside herself and alerted everyone (except for me thank goodness)including the local media that my kitty was on the lam. But as I was drifting off to sleep I heard small mews coming from outside and wandered out in my bare feet to find Colby running toward me to our mutual relief.

So all is well again. And except for one arm that remains bandaged, my trip was also most enjoyable.

Yes, there is always ONE thing that has to happen on each trip that makes me wonder if NOW is the moment to use my coupon good for "ONE credit to go Back in Time and Change One Thing". I thought I'd get the sordid tale out of the way now because when my friends see me they will probably notice that my arm is done up like an Egyptian mummy.

That thing would be a moment on a paradise-like beach in Zanzibar when I sat on the glistening white sand and let a nice lady paint a delicate design in black henna on my right arm.

I had a henna pattern applied on my trip to Morocco a few years back (and at least five belly-dance parties since) so I was not expecting to end up riding in an ambulance from Heathrow Airport in London to the nearest hospital after an allergic reaction on the flight from Nairobi in which my arm mutated and blistered to an alarming degree and I contracted blood-poisoning (again).

I found out later that black "henna" is illegal in Britain for just this reason and it's not henna at all but a cunning mixture of: coffee, black hair dye, lighter fluid, acetone, who knows really. Maybe one in ten people react to it (apparently) and being the delicate flower I am.....

And I thought it would be lions and hippos I'd have to watch out for. :)

To make a long story short (for now, I'm sure I'll expound upon the subject later), after being treated for a chemical burn(because that's what it is) and realizing firsthand that the British medical system is just one of the top-notch ones there is, I got better and went on to tour London and attend musicals and museums and have a great time there despite all the kind blokes who would spy my swaddled arm and say, "So did you fall off your bike, luv?" to which I would laugh and nod.

Stay tuned to my blog in which I will regale you with my tales of all the OTHER days of my vacation in which I didn't even go NEAR a hospital. It really was a wonderful trip. Really. :)

For now, I am going to while away the rest of these early morning hours reading and surfing and enjoying my house (perhaps another hot bath) and then perhaps go to bed around five a.m. and set the alarm clock for eight. My attempt to get my internal clock on Canada time again instead of Greenwich Mean.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Here I Am In Zanzibar

Hi everybody,

I didn't think I'd really get near a computer during this holiday in Africa, but here I am in the heart of Stone Town on the spicy island of Zanzibar, maybe a block away from the Indian Ocean.

I'm just here for a few minutes while some people I'm with are checking their email. And I thought MY computer was slow. It's interesting though: this keyboard is half in English and half in Arabic so it makes the hunt and peck method of typing a bit of a lark.

I am staying in the Shangani Hotel on the main street here in town, but there is about room enough for about a donkey-cart and a motor-bike to carefully pass one another. It's a very laid-back place and its been fun losing myself in the alleyways and bartering with the merchants. I'm always up for a bit of haggling. :)

This morning I went on a tour of some spice plantations, eating ginger root fresh from the ground, nibbling lemon grass, and chewing cinnamon bark. i ate fresh jackfruit, mangosteen, coconut, and pineapple for a snack sitting under an enourmous mango tree and sipping marsala tea and then got to have lunch at this nice Muslim lady's house (her husband was our guide) and she cooked us this most amazing pilaf with peppers and nutmeg...mmmm....

Yes, actually the living's been pretty good this trip. Even camping in the bush was surprisingly agreeable. Apparently I'm made of tougher stuff than I thought.

And I've seen some amazing things. I saw a lioness hunting a gazelle not twenty feet from where I was (safely in a truck, mind you) and hippos mating. Oh yes, a very educational trip.

I'm looking forward to writing about it all soon, but for now I'm off to watch the local dhow boats sailing into an amazing sunset from the rooftop of the Africa House Restaurant.

See you all soon. :)