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My Days with a Balinese Princess — Part I, THE ARRIVAL

As I exited the airport there was a crowd of people behind the waist high fence waiting for new arrivals. Most had signs with names written on white paper, but some were there just hoping to pick up a new customer. I scanned the line up and soon saw my name in all caps. I looked and waved at man holding the sign. He looked hopeful and points to me and then again at the sign. I look him straight in the eyes and smile as I shake my head “yes”.

We were quickly on our way. I had arrived during afternoon prayer and could hear the call to prayer over the busy traffic. I would soon learn that Islam is practice in ninety percent of the county. However here, on the island of Bali, Hindu is the predominant religion.

The accommodation I had arranged was located in the city, a short distance from the Sanur beach. It was the home of a Balinese Princess and I would learn the 1982 crowned Miss. Indonesia.

Stepping out of the vehicle it would be hard not to notice the massive white statue of Lord Ganesh, the Hindu elephant god, as I came to the entry of her home. On either side of the statue there was a pathway. Once around the statue, an immense lush and hidden garden revealed itself. There was green everywhere. Trees, broad leaf plants and ivy filled the open spaces. Fluorescent lime green moss covered the cement statues and rock work in the garden. There were serval buildings in the complex. All structures had the same white exterior, red clay roofs and intricately carved doors. Many colors detailed the woodwork on the doors, windows and rafters but most impressively the gold paint provided a striking contrast against the clean white building. I could hear the sound of water falling into a pond and the soft chimes blowing in the wind. I was suddenly and completely relaxed.

Reaching the second house of the compound, I was surprised to learn that I had an entire house, not just a room to myself for the next few days.

It was not until the next morning that I noticed a black and white picture hanging in the downstairs living room. I was sure I had seen as a child. However, I was positive that I had remembered this photo in color. “Is that you?” I asked. “Yes. That was from a very long time ago.” “I think I have seen this picture before?” “The photo was used as a travel advertisement for JAL Airlines in the 80s.” Ratih, my hostess, replied.

Only then did I recall that I had seen this photo in Seattle airport. I remember wanting to go wherever that photo was taken. Now not only had I arrived here, but it was hard to believe that I was speaking with the girl in the photo.

Ratih was a perfect hostess and helped me to arrange the plans I had in mind for my stay in Bali. My favorite day would be the day we went to the Temple and she taught me how to pray.










My Favorite Place

Everywhere I travel, the question I am asked most is “What is your favorite place?” That is a very hard question as so many countries are so different and I have had so many unique and wonderful experiences in so many of them. There have been many places that I have loved and would return. And many of these places have truly affected my outlook on life, the world and even myself.

For people who love history Egypt or Turkey would be the place I would venture. I you want see amazing mountain beauty then Switzerland would be my choice. If you are wanting to trek and see primitive cultures, I would travel to Thailand. For big game the is no place that stole my heart as my first big game experience in Kenya. Though seeing the tiger in India or the gorilla in Rwanda are both included as two of my favorite memories. Most spiritual experience, definitely would be Rishikesk, India. However, after a lot of thought, after being asked this question countless times, I have determined that none of these places are my favorite.

My favorite place is the place that I am always very excited to return to and always a little sad to leave. That place is my home in the Pacific Northwest of the Untied States. My home state of Washington is an absolutely beautiful place to live. We have the Cascades Mountains with the striking Mount Rainer taking center stage. We have rainforest to the west with the Olympic Mountains off in the distance. Whale watching in the San Juan Islands is an unforgettable experience. In the North Central part of the state, the forest and and secluded lakes can find peace for any adventurer. In the south there are vineyards that grow in the dry heat of the summer and even a desert in the south-west corner of the state.

Since our state has four distinct seasons we there is always something to look forward to with the changing holidays around the year. The tulips and the apple tree blossoms in the spring, the hot days of summer, the changing of the leaves in the fall and the pristine snow in the winter.

My latest journey took me home to spend time with my friends and family. It was a wonderful to take drives to the mountains and see the wildlife. It is even better to share these actives friends and family. It seemed as there was little “downtime” during this break from my world travels. There were school performances to attend and holiday gatherings to enjoy. Here, I am reminded that no world monument can ever compete with the smile on a child’s face, and especially a teenagers face, when you showed up to their school event. Like any place in the world, it is the people that make this place special. It is my connections here that make this beautiful place my home and my favorite place in the world.

Then today, I see a photos from a fellow traveler of the place I am heading next and my heart pulls to follow. My mind travels to where I will go next and I ready my backpack. Excited for my next journey, I wonder who I will meet and what I will learn in these new adventures. For certain I will be excited to return to my home again. Eager to share my experiences and hear of their stories of what happened while I was away. I will be excited to share in the outdoor activities of the summer season. But for now I journey on and invite you to join me in this next adventure.



















“Forgiving is not forgetting; its actually remembering–remembering and not using your right to hit back. Its a second chance for a new beginning. And the remembering part is particularly important. Especially if you don’t want to repeat what happened.”
– Desmond Tutu, Archbishop of Cape Town, Anglican Church of South Africa

I loved learning about the history of Cape Town during my time in South Africa. I was grateful for the time I had to reflect on my journey thus far. I especially enjoyed fitting the pieces of the historical “world puzzle” together in a new way while I was here.

Learning about the age of exploration while in Spain and Portugal just a few months ago had a great influence on my understanding of world history while I was in South Africa.

Now, I was able to hear the other side of the story. Now I had a chance to hear the side of the story from a country that was explored. I was able to gain new insights of the effects of the explorers from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries on these other lands. The lands where the riches and gold were taken. The people were taken.

One thing I finally realized during my time here is that in every country I have ever traveled, there was a people who were injured, wronged and even wrongfully put to death. Sometimes the victor becomes the loser, and sometimes the wronged become the oppressor. I also realize at some point, for the cycle to stop there must be forgiveness. The countries where I have seen an end to cycle of revenge proceeded through a process of forgiveness and reconciliation.

Unfortunately, all over the world we are reminded of peoples that have not forgiven the past and do not seek peace. Demond Tutu also said that “Without forgiveness there can be no future for a relationship between individuals or within and between nations.”

Countries must forgive to get past hurts and move forward. And, likewise, individuals must have forgiveness to move on from the past. I think this is something we all should consider as we move into a fresh new year and do our part to spread peace.

“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”
― Desmond Tutu, Archbishop of Cape Town, Anglican Church of South Africa


Experiencing Total Distraction In My Shiny New City

I had so much time to get things done in the final two weeks of my African adventure. I thought that I would just stay a while longer in one spot instead of trying to navigate through the Garden Route along the coast of South Africa. Instead, I was excited to rest in the summer warmness before heading to the cold snowy season of my hometown back in the states.

Sure, there were things I wanted to “get done.” The museums and the top tourist attractions. But it is so easy to get “off track” by the glam of this city where there is always something to do; I found myself often distracted and the time seemed to slip away.

I amazingly I did get to all the major tourist destinations during the time I spent in Cape Town. Table Mountain, one of the seven new wonders of the natural world. The tour to Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was held as a prisoner for eighteen years. I also fit in viewing the penguins that sit on the shores in South Africa.

I explored the castle built by the Dutch when they “set up shop” here during the age of exploration. I witness the key ceremony where they continue this daily formal tradition when opening the castle gates. I traveled up to see the noon cannon fire at the top of Signal Hill. These cannons happen to be the oldest functioning cannons still in daily use in the world. I spent time in the city center, in the company gardens and the famous, yet touristy, Long Street. Additionally, I spent an entire day exploring the wine region north of the city.

I was also able to fit in a couple of “off the beaten path activities” during my time in Cape Town. Such activities included attending two lectures at the planetarium and attending Sunday mass at St. George’s Cathedral. St. George’s is well known as the cathedral Desmond Tutu served as arch bishop. It also was where the peaceful marches of resistance started that would change the social and political course in South Africa. Below the church I visited the tribute open to the public to remember the acts of courage during the anti-apartheid movement of the eighties.

Cape Town sits on several harbors and the smell of the salty air reminds me of my college days in Seattle. When it is nice outside it seems as though everyone is “out and about.”

The when the wind picks up the locals are not deterred. It is amazing to watch the cloud swirl around in the sky when looking up toward Table Mountain. Looking down, just off the beach, the wind somehow causes the water near the shore to mist upward to the sky like it is raining from the ocean up toward the clouds.

I loved wasting time just hanging out at the waterfront and watching the creative artists and musicians display there talents. It was almost more fun to watch the everyday people at the waterfront than anything else. The lights from the giant ferris wheel and the holiday decorations made the waterfront seem magical at night.

There is a wide range of non-tourist activities from outdoor music concerts and markets to an outdoor movie theater in one of the botanical gardens. I loved watching Forest Gump while sitting under the stars. It amazed me that no one talked during this outdoor showing. Even the teenagers sitting in a group beside us were totally quiet and intensely watching the show. On another day of city discovery, we just rented bikes and cycled up the coast past the lighthouse.

I loved all the “must see sights” but I think I just loved hanging out in the city and enjoying the entertainment it had to offer. And oh….The restaurants! And oh…The fresh seafood! If I would have stayed another month in Cape Town I am sure I would have gained ten pounds!

My favorite day included taking a drive along the coast of Cape Town. It is apparently very easy to rent a classic car or motorcycle here. I have a new friend and fellow traveler who rented a Cobra, and I was happy to ride in the passenger seat. The car seemed as through it was made to take the looping bends around the hills and the coastline at high speeds.

Back in the city, I laugh as I notice that most women on the street do not notice the car until my friend revs the engine. However, the eyes of all the men seem to be drawn to it. What is it about fancy cars and men? All I know is that riding in a fancy car with the wind blowing through my hair on a warm summer’s day seemed to be the best way to take in this breathtaking part of the world.

























Where The Rivers Ends….Does It Actually Begin?

Where the Rivers Ends – The Land of the Red Sand Dunes in Sossusveli, Namibia

Namibia is the least populated country on the continent of Africa. The long roads are lined with vast landscapes giving little notice to any civilization. Most people in Namibia live near the capitol of Windhoek or on the coast by the sea. The highlight of my travels in Namibia was a three day trip to see the famous red sand dunes of Sossusvlei, and here, Namibia’s number one tourist destination, did not disappoint.

We traveled nearly all day from the capitol city of Windhoek, mostly on unpaved roads and over three mountain passes, to reach our camp site in Sesriem. The landscape changed from semi-arid desert to dramatic rock cliff hills to open grass savannah. Late in the afternoon we stop in the small community of Solitaire where the land was dry and several varieties cactus flourished in the unrelenting heat.

On the way to the the lone gas station in Solitaire, there is an old car cemetery marking the entrance of this small settlement. The old cars and trucks are partially covered by the earth. On the outside of the general store there is a chalkboard which records the annual rainfall. We notice that 132 mm of rain has fallen to the earth so far this year. At the next shop we stop for a taste of the famous Solitaire Apple Strudel before heading onward to our camp.

once at camp we quickly set up our tents before heading out to watch the sunset before dinner. Our campground is the only campsite located inside the Namib-Naukluft Park gates. This park is known best for Namibia’s number one tourist attraction, the dunes at Sossusvlei. The dunes are part of the Namib desert and stretch 2000 km along the coast from the Oliphants River in South Africa to Angola. The dunes are comprised of 32,000 square kilometers of sand. The formation of the dunes started about five million years ago and were created from the sandstone off of South Africa’s Dragon Berg Mountain. The sand from the rocks flowed to the Atlantic Ocean from the Orange River. Then the current from the Atlantic Ocean pushed the sand onto the beaches in Namibia and the strong eastern wind blew the sand inland which eventually created dunes of Sossusvlei. These dunes are called Star Dunes, as the top of the dunes come together at a point. Winds from three directions blow together to create a point on the top of the sand.

Elim Dune was my first experience walking up the red sand. My feet sank down between the grains and left footprints in the pristine formation created by the east wind. At the top of the dune, we sat and watched the setting sun change the colors on the landscape. Some of the troop rolled down the hill like school children playing in the snow and they provided additional entertainment for the rest of us. The warm red sand stuck to their skin as they climbed back up the dune. All had smiles on their faces. Finally darkness overtook the sky and we turned on our flashlights to make our way back down the hill.

The next morning we woke up early to be on the road by five to catch the sunrise from the top of Dune 45. I loved to sit and watch the colors on the dunes change as the sun became more brilliant. As the sunlight increased, the dune became more orange in the daylight providing a very different show then in the previous evening when the landscape reflected the golden-pink sunset.

It was fun to jog down the side of the steep dune after the sunrise; And it was definitely two thousand times more quicker to jog down than the brutal hike to the top.

After breakfast we drove to the lot that would start our five kilometer hike further into the desert. Five in our group decided to skip the hike and have rangers drive them directly to see “Big Daddy”, the largest sand dune in the world. I actually preferred the hike. We were able to learn about the local plants and animals along the way. Though it could be difficult to walk in the sand, it was fun to watch the oryx and springbok run in the isolated dunes. It also was nice to have a bit of excise after the long ride from the previous day. The payoff for each climb was the decent off each mountain of sand. It was always fun to jog down the from the top.

It was amazing to watch the dunes get higher and more pronounced as we walked further through the valley where a river once flowed to where Big Daddy was located. Big Daddy is three hundred and twenty-five meters tall; The tallest in the world. Sossuveli name translates to mean “Where the River Ends”. This name is appropriate as this dune was near the end of an river bed which has been dried up from the desert heat more than 2,000 years ago. Beside the dune is a dried up lake appropriately named Dead Vlei or Dead Lake. The trees here have been dead for seven hundred years. It was here I saw my first mirage. I had to ask if that was really water out there. It looked so real.

By the time I had reached the lake bed I was quite thristy. I had finished more than two liters of water by half past ten in the morning. I thought that I had brought enough water but I had not. It was quite hot and I thought we had been out there hours longer than we actually were due to the extreme heat. I was so glad to find some water and shade once we made out way back to the parking lot where we would get a lift back to our vehicle.

The lift back was really fun. It was more like a large 4×4 dune buggy and I could tell the ranger loved to drive it in the sand. Upon returning we found the five who had chosen to ride in the ranger vehicle both ways to and from the main dunes. They already seemed well rested from their morning adventures.

I later found the swimming pool at Sesrim Camp was emerald green. I could not see six inches below the level of the water. In my life, I never thought I would ever enter such a body of water; But the camp was overwhelmingly hot and inside our tents was even hotter, so I thought I would take the risk. “What if there is a crocodile in the pool and we just can’t see it?” I asked before I entered the water. Then someone from my group replied, “Only an American would think that. It’s fine.” I entered only because there were others who had already taken the plunge even though I was sure I had heard news reports of alligators finding their way into pools in Florida.

At sunset we walked the Sesrim Canyon which is now dry but some years holds water in the rainy season. We were met with another amazing sunset to complete our day.

The long trip back to the capitol city was broken up by a “walk with the chetahs”. This was something that I did not know was included as part of the three day tour. It seemed like a dangerous thing to do especially when I realized that our guide was a gal under five foot with no weapon. Everyone was going and I was pretty sure I could outrun at least a couple of people in the group, so I went headed and signed the indemnity form.

The Nla’an ku se Namib Conservation Center is situated on a 500 hector enclosure and there mission is to research, attempt to rehabilitate and return carnivores to the wild. Tracking the chetah’s was easy since each wore a collar with a different radio frequency.

After we entered the gate our short statured guide bounced up on the hood of her jeep with what looked like an old “rabbit ear” tv antenna. She waved the antenna from right to left listening for the frequencies of her cats. She would get down and drive a little bit then she would jump up top her rig again. This happened several times before she decided that we were close enough to walk the rest of the way. I thought it was cheating to use the radio frequencies, but after yesterdays hike I was not one to complain.

We toke the short walk to where the first cat sat under a bush protecting her zebra meat staff brought into the enclosure a couple days ago. She was full and not moving, but I made sure that there was always one person closer to the chetah than me. I was glad she opened her eyes so I could take a picture.

Returning to the vehicle we drove a short distance before finding two more chetahs laying in the shade of a large tree right by the road. Close by them were two young male chetah’s. The male chetah’s looked a little scary like they were after something….. And they were.

“You get away from those girls.” Our guide yells to them as she slaps her hat and approaches the two males. They jump back like scared kittens. Then she looks back to us and explains that they are three years old and just started their sexual maturity. “They are two little teenage boys. But don’t worry they are not interested in us.” I spoke up, “I am pretty sure they are just interested in you.” She looked back to the chetahs. “Yes. You are right.” She smiles back. Meanwhile, the chetahs hunch up their backs and look over to our guide. I can tell they are scared of her. I feel more confident and have a picture taken closer to the cats.

My adventure in Namibia will be one I never will forget. I feel truly blessed to have witnesses a nature wonder of this world with so many amazing people. The chetah walk was an unexpected bonus.

Upon my return to the capitol, I met a friend from long ago. I had met Antoinette fifteen years ago when we both were traveling in France on a two week Contiki Tour. These tours were tailored for the eighteen to thirty-five year old crowd. That had been my first venture to Europe. Antoinette and I had lost touch, as I had with so many in our little group, but it seems that we were able to pick up right where we left off fifteen years ago.

It was fun reminiscing the past and reminding each other of the good times we experienced with fellow travelers on that trip. We promised each other to not let another fifteen years go by before meeting again. I know we were both left more curious about what happened to our other friends we met so long ago.

As I reflect on my trip to Sossusveli, I wonder… who on this trip will I see again in my future. I guess we will just have to wait and find out.
























Something for Everyone in Livingstone

I find it difficult to leave this little piece of paradise. One can truly lose track of time in a place with sun, a pool and amazing travelers to visit and share experiences. Did I mention I am staying here for ten dollars a night and the bar has glasses of South African wine at two dollars a glass? It seems hard to believe that I have been here for two weeks but I look at the calendar and the holidays are approaching so it is time to move on.

If you wish upper class digs then Livingstone can accommodate you at one of the premier hotels right on the Zambezi such as the Royal Livingstone. In my current accommodation, I have to share a television and had to watch more soccer and rugby than I will ever watch in the rest of my lifetime; But hey, traveling is experiencing another culture and I have done that here. I have also enjoyed visiting with other travelers and learning from their experiences. Another nice thing about this spot is that people staying here do not have a set tour schedule and we learn and change our route by the people we meet.

Livingstone has the low key canoeing on the Zambezi to high adrenaline sports such as river rafting, zip lines and bungee jumping. You can walk with the rhinos or the lions cubs or you can ride on top of an elephant. You can join sunset cruise or choose a microlight or helicopter ride over the falls.

If you are reading my blogs you already know that early on I choose dipping in Devil’s Pool and feeling the water fall from the edge. You also know I dressed up and attended high tea at the Royal Livingstone. From my last blog you know another highlight was going safari in Chobe National Park in Botswana.

For my high adeline activity, I choose to go white water rafting on the Zambezi. Looking back I think I should have researched that one a bit more as it is common to have that “drowning feeling” at least once during the trip. One day when I was at the pool two girls were joking with a friend and wanted to recreate that “Zambezi Experience”. One girl grabbed his legs at the knees and moved them up and down. The other continually pushed his head under water. After a few minutes they had had enough and they allowed their friend George to resurface. He said, “Wow. That pretty much felt exactly like the Zambezi.” I said to him, “You felt like you were going to drown too?” He responded, “Yes, I was not sure I was going to make it.”

For me, I had fell out of the raft three times on rapid five, six and seven. On the first rapid I was pulled in by the girl behind me searching for something to hold on to as she was falling. I was surprised that I was to “keep my wits” about me, get my feet forward, stay in the middle of the river and keep my paddle up as I had learned in the states. Even though I never had to use that knowledge when river rafting back home. I thought, “Okay…that’s done. Everybody falls out once in a lifetime.”

The very next rapid I am bounced out again. This time I had chugged a bit of the Zambezi while I was out of the boat. I get back in and then comes rapid seven. This is the longest rapid in the chain. Here the entire boat flipped. Guide and all were in the water. As a former lifeguard I knew to swim to the light. When I reached near the top I was pulled down again. I swam up again to the light and I was pulled down a second time by the current. The third try I made it to the surface. This time I had no idea were my paddle was but didn’t care. I was still in the rapid and had a hard time moving through it. Needless to say I was not hungry at lunch as I was full from all the water I inhaled.

I admit that I was a bit shaken up from that ride without a raft or a paddle. I guess you could say I literally experienced being “up a stream without a paddle”….I was worried what was in store for the next eighteen rapids. It is not like I could just just climb out of the gorge. I hung in there and luckily did not fall out again. The next day I decided on a different activity, one more in line with my new philosophy that I was too old to put myself in such high adrenaline situations, so I went back to the Royal Livingstone for a facial and massage in a gazebo by the river. I decided to leave those “other activities” for the young ones.

While in Livingstone I also went on a sunset cruise and did a walking safari to see the rhinos. I really enjoyed having a chance to experience a walking safari in Livingstone. My guide told me several times that I must not run. “Rhinos have poor eyesight and can not see you. You must not run or move quickly. You are just a blur if you don’t make noise.” He continued, “If you get scared then grab on to my belt but do not run. You may only let go or do what you want if I am dead…If I am dead, then you can make up your own mind, but until then you have to listen to me. It is my job to bring you back the way I found you.” I told Charles okay and that he was in charge. I also told him that my mother would be grateful to him for bringing my back in one piece. He smiled and we had an understanding.

I really did not have a worry in the world when I was walking with Charles in the wild. In addition to my guide, I also had a military scout with a automatic riffle. After the Chobe experience, and having two people looking out for my safely, one with a gun, I was sure things would be fine. After the safari we drove back through Mosi-o-tunya State Park. Charles asked, “You did not seem scared to walk with the Rhinos?” I said that I was not after my last safari. Shortly thereafter we drove up to some elephants. The guide had the driver drive in a way that caused the male elephant to charge towards the back of the vehicle. He said, “How about now? Were you scared with the elephant?” I smiled back. “Yes.” He laughed. I knew we were far enough away that we were did he. “That’s okay. He got to do his duty.” Charles added. Then elephant walked off the road respected by his herd for protecting them from our vehicle.

I really enjoyed the activities I choose to participate in here. I must admit that my favorite days were sitting by the pool and talking with the people I met. Today, from the poolside I sheepishly state that I will leave tomorrow and will need the bill. “You are not leaving so I am not giving you the bill.” Stanly, one of the staff, tells me a second time and walks by again. Yes, some of the people I met here were starting to feel like family and it made leaving difficult. I know that the friendships I made here have forever change me.














Just When I Thought A Safari Could Not Get More Exciting! – My Botswana Adventure

I thought I had several great safari experiences so I was not looking to add another safari outing to my itinerary. However, I had several recommendations to go into Chobe National Park in Botswana so I thought I would make a detour and check it out.

It was about an hour taxi ride from my hotel to the confluence of the Zambezi and Chobe Rivers, where the borders of four countries meet. Namibia is off to the right, Zimbabwe across the river and off to the left and straight across the river from Zambia is Botswana.

The water safari on a large barge was a great way to view the crocodiles, water monitors, hippos and other wildlife in the water. In the center of the river, the marshland island provided a feast for grazing animals in the dry season. In the wet season this island would be covered by water again. The animals swim across the water to get here. I am surprised to learn that so many animals, even the buffalo and the elephant, are good swimmers.

The island is located right between Namibia and Botswana. The guide tells us that the flag of Botswana was placed on the island after the Netherlands solved the island property dispute between Namibia and Botswana in the nineties. Namibia wanted the land for farming and Botswana wanted the land as conservation for the animals. After much study of the geological area the island was determine to belong to Botswana.

The are many impalas, cape buffalo, birds and other animals enjoying the water and the green vegetation. Elephants, kudos, and giraffes come down from the parched earth of Botswana to the drink water. Crocodiles find a dead baby elephant in the river and have a feast. They point their snouts up then chomp and gulp their meat. More crocodiles join the party late but there is enough for everyone. One elephants stands motionless and watches the scene.

Later in the afternoon we pack our bags in the jeep and drive to the national park. On our first game drive we see a lion resting in the shade under a tree. All the usual subjects are in the park as in previous safaris. Then we find a leopard resting in a tree with a full belly. All four paws hang down; He doesn’t move an inch at first, then he passively looks over to us. I know that look……It’s the same look as we Americans get after eating too much at the annual Thanksgiving meal. His eyes lazily look over as if to say, “You’re not even worth it.” Soon other jeeps find us. The leopard gets a little annoyed then sits up and shows a few teeth. Lacking energy to do anything else he lays back down and just lets us watch as he goes back to sleep.

That evening we went back to “check on our lion”. It is nearing dust and at first we spot an impala standing still and watching a lioness intently. The female lions eyes do not move off the impala and it is like a contest of “who can blink first” between the two. A male lion, with a full mane, lays under the tree, behind his mate, watching her, the impala and all the jeeps accumulating on the dirt road nearby.

We all whisper under our breath to the impala, “Back up, back up.” and “You need to move.” but she does not understand or just does not heed our advise. After some time, she moves a few meters but stops behind a nearby bush. “Keep going. Keep going. Don’t stop.” We all hope for her. The lioness moves first, then the male stands and follows. They do a slow jog to the end of the bush and halt. The lioness peers through the green bush and stands motionless. All at once the chase is on and the lioness is out of sight. Neither she or the impala reappear.

We follow the male lion who stops to roar at the other jeep on our tour. We speed to where the lion stands. It is apparent that he is not happy with either of us but we are safely in the vehicle so we watch. He is not going to let us proceed to look at the nearby kill.

Just then another male lion with a large mane appears from behind. He jogs toward us, marks his territory and then lays fifteen meters behind us on the right of our jeep. The other male lion continues to walk back and forth from the left side to the front of our jeep and every once in a while roars. At some point I realize we are all alone.

It is getting dark now and tourist not camping inside the park had to leave the area. I am not sure if they had even seen the chase. I never noticed their exit. The other jeep in our party has now left. We are alone and the lion behind us gets us and approaches. I think, “Shit. We are the impala.” At some point, both lions are roaring and we feel surrounded. When X, our guide, tries to drive one way the lion in front changes directions and he has to stop. He backs up a little and tries to shift directions. Blocked again. “X, I think I am okay not to see the lions anymore tonight.” I state calmly.

At this point the girls from Northern Europe who were sitting on either edge in the first row of seats behind our guide have moved center. They are now sitting together in the center seat. Anika continues to film. I have put my camera away and I am watching the lion from behind stare at me. Everyone chirps in to let our guide know where the lions are as he drives. Just then I hear X call “391” and then say something in another language. I know he is calling the other guide whose jeep code is 391. I think, “Okay someone will come to help us.”

Sinker, the other guide, drove back to us straight away. I was feeling better to have two rigs there. However, the lions were not deterred. Our guide was able to get back on a road and drove conservatively along the bumpy dirt road. Sinker drove in the opposite direction. From behind me I hear Steve, a fellow traveler, say, “X, one is coming behind us.” Then I hear, “They are both coming now.” I hold on as I look behind and see that both lions decided to run after us. X turns up the speed and the guys in the back continue to relay how far the lions are behind us. They are still running. It is dark.

The lions chased us for about two hundred meters after X was able to safely speed up the vehicle. We arrived to our based camp, in the middle of the park, just minutes away from where the lions were chasing us and then had our first view of the small tents we would be housed.

Several people started drinking to calm their nerves. When I heard that there was not a night guard, as I was used to I in the other safari camps, I decided not to drink anything, including water. I decided right away that I was not going to have to leave my tent for any reason until morning.

That night the guides had most of the safari goers believe that that type of lion encounter happened all the time and we were safe……but I was not buying it. “What if we would have gotten a flat?” I asked X when we were alone. “Well…That would have been a problem.” When I asked if he was nervous at all, I could tell he was giving a line. Though what else was he going to do. No one would be able to sleep.

A couple hours later, I asked our guide to walk me to the toilette, behind the camp, before I retreated for the night. As we walked back toward my tent he laughed, “I see you have the tent in the center.” “Of course! I choose this tent because if the lions do something else “non-typical” tonight I did not want to be in the first tent he reached.”

The next morning both X and Sinker admitted that particular situation had never happened before and was quite unusual. We all had a sense of humor of the encounter by morning and could laugh about it. “Did you see the girls move and sit in one seat together?” X then laughs in a deep voice. “I will never for get that. I will surely remember this trip the rest of my life.”

Happy to be in the daylight, we head out on a morning drive and were lucky enough to not only see the rare wild dogs but also a chase and eventually chomping on an impala. “It’s just nature. Everyone has to eat.” our guide says. Later we find another impala taken down by a leopard. The leopard has hidden the remains of the impala under a bush to save for an afternoon meal. I think to myself, I am so glad that I came to Botswana and I realized that just because you have an exciting “first time” predator experience, it does not mean that the unpredictable wild won’t have more exciting adventures in store for you. I loved my Botswana safari and I am even more grateful that I survived it.

YouTube link to video of lion encounter:
























High Tea at the Royal Livingstone

Gazing above me is a large portrait of Dr. David Livingstone. Yes, the same man who the New York Herald had sent a search party to find in Africa in 1869. Two years later, when the man in charge of the search was sure he found him, he spoke those famous words, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume.” Years later, when David Livingstone passed away the local people cut out his heart and only sent his body home. They said they would return the body but that his heart belonged to Africa. I look up at the portrait at the man who traveled before traveling was easy, especially in Africa. What an adventure that must have been.

“Mam, here are the selections of teas. Let me know when you have made your choice.” Looking at the long list I replied, “What would you recommend?” “I would recommend the Emperors Green Tea.” “I will have that one.” “Yes, Madam.”

I sit and take in the rest of the room, as the music flowing from the grand piano in the bar takes me back to a time when Livingstone lived. Large china closets sit on either side of the portrait above the grand fireplace. They are filled with leather covered books, large vases, old cameras and spy scopes. There are large folding mirrors in the corners of the room. Couches, oversize chairs and small side tables fill the center of the room. On the side of the main room there are tables for two. Above me are two large wrought iron chandlers. Wood ceiling fans hang down and turn slowly making pace with the lazy afternoon. Past the grand piano in the other room I see the bartender wiping glasses spotless. Most staff are wearing gold and black silk vests covering their white button-down shirts. Other staff have blacks suits and wear a black bow tie. All staff wear a gold name plate. Ones not busy wait at the side of the room and look for the glance of customers who may be in need something.

“Would you like a tea sandwich? There is cucumber, egg, salmon or grilled vegetable sandwiches.” “Yes please. I will have the salmon and grilled vegetable. Thank you.” Later, I am taken to the center of the room to select my own deserts. “How to choose?”, I wonder to myself. It is a feast for the eyes. I am not wanting to take anything from the perfectly set up selection. “Can you tell me what deserts there are?” One of the staff begins listing off the selections. The are several types of scones, mini pastries, fancy small cakes, quiches, muffins and oh, the amount of chocolate. The chocolate truffle cake was an artistic work of perfection. It had white chocolate shooting up from the side of the cake and chocolate truffles on top in the center. “Can you cut that one for me.” I point to the truffle cake. “I am afraid I would ruin it.” “Of course.” I make my selections and return to my table as a staff member brings a tray with my tea.

The red and yellow rose china pattern remind me of home. I sit back and take in all that surrounds me. The piano music wafts up into the rafters and takes me away.
Henry James once said, “There are a few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.” I could not agree more. When I return home I think I shall dedicate more afternoons to it.








Catching Rain Water (My Peace Corps Experience — Part II)

It takes just over thirty minutes to travel the fourteen miles from the nearest city to Scott and Gina’s village. We have completely left civilization as we know it. There is no electricity, no running water, no stores for supplies and no taxi’s that drive past this place. Therefore, it is not possible to easily “just make a run to the store”. Women walk the entire way to the city with large baskets of garden vegetables on their heads that they will sell at the market.

We are definitely living the simple life here and no one is in a rush. We seem to wake up and go to bed with the sun around here. It is just easier than using your headlamp or dealing with the mosquitos that come out at night.

Everyone has time to welcome the new visitor. Villagers hold their right elbow with their left hand when outstretching their hand to shake mine. They give a little bow then clasp both hands together and reach to shake my hand a second time. “You do realize we are going be stopped by everyone to shake your hand on the way to the clinic.” Gina said after the third formal greeting. “I thought it was nearly a three mile walk? How will we get there on time?” “We are on Africa time. It will be fine, whatever time we arrive.”

That was definitely a different way of looking at things. The school house was the only place that seemed to run on time. I spent several days assisting at the local school, while I was in the village, teaching a math review class for ninth grade students. These students were going to take their end-of-the-year exams the following week. Only students who passed the test would be allowed to attend high school the following year. Student who continued to high school next year would have to board at the school during the week since the school would be so far away.

I don’t think I ever had students so eager to learn. We reviewed about two-hundred pages of the required math textbook. I had to write important concepts for the students on the board since the students did not have a textbook for math. Only the teacher had a book.

The first day I started teaching I had not realized that I had missed their ten o’clock break until ten minutes to twelve. I asked, “Do you want to take your break now?” I heard a unanimous “no” coming from the group. “Well would you like a five minute break?” Then one boy answered for the group, “You have already missed the break; Just keep going.” I looked at the class who were seemingly agreement and continued on. I thought to myself, “That has never happened to me in America” then continued teaching.

In the middle of my class on the first day a student rapped on the door. “Can I join your class?” “Come on and sit down.” I replied. The boy did not have a uniform on but I did no think very much of it. Not all students in the lower grades could afford uniforms. After class the same boy caught me outside the door with his brother who had been listening to my class from the window. He was actually an eleventh grade student and he wanted to prepare for his twelfth grade exam that he would take in one year. He has to pass all portions of the exam to complete his diploma or he would have to try again the following year. His brother was a twelfth grade student and he wanted help with preparing for his exams in a week. I spent a little extra time with the two students at the clinic until Gina was ready to walk home from work. They seemed grateful for the extra help.

The other comment that through me off guard while teaching was on the last day when we finished for the day. I had already returned one additional day more than planned. Since I was leaving the next day I told them I could not return but I was going to have Scott and Gina report back to me on how they had done on their test. All the kids said thank you and I hear two students shout, “God bless you.” Again, that has never happened in America. I found that the students really wanted to learn and were grateful for help in their studies. It was a pleasure to assist with their learning.

Scott had assisted with me when he was able to break away from his duties. I understand that he is continuing to help the students review as time permits. It sounds like both he and the students are enjoying it. Gina worked nearby at the clinic. Since I was teaching four to five hours straight when Gina popped to in I had her do a few stretches with the kids. They both loved it.

I spent about two hours a day walking to the school or clinic. One day the rains came on the way home so Scott and I ducked in for cover until the rains subsided. Luckily Scott had brought the cards so we could play another game of cribbage. Scott and Gina had wanted to learn how to play cribbage in order to play with the other Peace Corps volunteers. Needless to say we practiced every chance we had on the trip. However, when we stopped under the shelter to play during the rain, it did not take long to amass a small crowd to watch. The kids laughed when I shuffled the cards.

The simplest things would collect a crowd especially when Scott, Gina or I were around. Everyone was interested in their friend from America that looked so different than them. Gina and I sang songs or invited groups to do art activities in the afternoons. Gina had to try to set certain times when the children could come over so they had something to look forward to during the day but would not be outside out hut all day. Gina would make them “do work” before playing. Such as pick up a piece of trash. This helped instilled some type of work ethic as well as the importance of keeping the village clean. However, after it was time to “go home” the children never stayed home for long. The adults are so busy in the village, farming and maintaining daily life, that young children did not do much all day and loved any and all attention.

Scott, a fisheries volunteer for the Peace Corps, walked us to one of the community fish ponds. Some villagers recently sold their fish and made their first ever profit from the man-made fish pond. This had been very exciting for all villagers and provided the needed boost to keep working on the project.

Life in the village is mainly spent doing things which we take for granted; Fetching water, boiling water for drinking, heating water for bucket showers, maintaining your garden and animals (aka: one of your main food supplies), washing laundry by hand, washing dishes in a basin, preparing water with bleach to wash you hands and providing your own transportation by walking or biking to places. One of the most difficult tasks is getting the coal for cooking to burn and stay hot throughout the cooking process. My last day in the village, Gina and I cleaned a large steel drum in order to catch rain water in the rainy season. They are hoping that this will ease the number of trips to the stream to get water.

Next door to Scott and Gina, the family has two young brothers that seem to take advantage of all the experience Scott and Gina have to offer. These brothers have goats, cows, sheep and chickens. They also have made four fish ponds behind the house and dug there own well with a bucket. When I asked how they got the hole that deep they showed me where there were vertical steps straight up in the wall. I could not believe that they had dug this over one-hundred foot well without a machine. They told me they still wanted to go deeper, “until the water was to their waist.” Finally, the last day, I was in the village their pregnant goat birthed twins. They would have the first goats in the entire village that would be used for milk. Gina, who had worked with goats extensively back in the United States, had worked with the family for weeks to get this goat prepared for milking. They decided to named the goats Gina and Evon. So, now I have a goat named after me in Zambia.

I had a wonderful time with my friends and getting to know their village. I know that I was deeply touched by the people I met while I was there. One lesson learned is that the people in the village do not have much, but are happy and grateful for what they have. My stay in the village reminds me to also be grateful for the blessings I have in my life and not to take anything for granted.



















Swimming in Devils Pool within the Smoke that Thunders

I look out across the Zambezi River and see what at first looks like smoke towards the end of the river but it actually is mist coming from Victoria Falls, the second highest falls in the world. Victoria Falls was named by David Livingstone who first came to the island beside the falls on November 16, 1855. However, the local people have their own name for this place, which I think is far more appropriate, “The Smoke that Thunders.”

We embark on our journey from the shore beside the famous Royal Livingstone Hotel. It was a short trip to the island. We walked to the cliff where Livingstone stood and looked out at the falls. When Livingstone witnessed the falls for the first time he said, “Scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight.”

It was lovely. Cliffs so steep and water misting up in all directions. We observe the plaque in honor of Dr. Livingstone and then make our way west on a trail lined with dry grasses. A double rainbow circles the falls where we are heading.

We come to the edge of the river and prepare to climb into the water. We wade in and after a few steps, we push off with our feet and glide toward the basalt rocks in the center of the river. It is a short swim to the rocks that are covered with water half of the year. It is only possible to reach Devil’s Pool in the center of the Zambezi from August to January each year. After the rains, the falls are too high and fast to reach this special area.

We reach the center and carefully maneuver the sharp jagged basalt rocks worn by years of the powerful moving water. My lifeguard explains where to jump in the pool near the face of the falls. “Jump out. It is too shallow right there.” He points to the three to four foot area under the water near the rocks. “Jump there. Where the water is greener. I will go first. Watch were I step to get to the jumping off point.” He walks out carefully and then jumps. He glides out to the edge of the falls and positions himself.

“Okay. Now you can go.” He points and verbally guides my every step to the edge. “Your left foot needs to be where your right foot is standing.” I reposition and look up. He stands ready. I jump.

Upon resurfacing I swim out to the edge. We sit and look around from all directions. “If something bites your feet, they are just fish. All you have to do is move your feet and they will go away.” A little later he guides me to turn and look over the edge. “Don’t worry….I will hold your foot the entire time.”

I turn and put my arms over the falls. It may be the low water season but I feel the water move powerfully over the cliff. I see the mist rise and the water shoot giant splashes up from the rock all the way down the side of the cliff. I hear the water crash over the side. I see the river below and small falls in every direction beneath. The double rainbow I saw earlier circle all the way around the falls. I grasp the full meaning of Livingstone’s statement when viewing the falls for the first time and I am sure that there are angels watching with me.