This Adventurous Life

A young couple exploring the world…and their 30's

Posts from the ‘Africa’ category

Cayle recently introduced me to Gunnar Garfors website, Garfors.com, which I also ran into over at Business Insider when I could not help but click on the article titled“The 25 Least Visited Countries in the World.”   If like me, you have traveled somewhere and unexpectedly were assaulted by the CRAZY amount of tourism you encountered, then read his article in Business Insider and get ideas for your next trip.  Sorry for using the word “assaulted” but really, that is how it can feel.

Cayle and I have said before that some of our favorite trips and destinations have been the hardest ones to get to.  We have relatives that will ask us, “Why are you going THERE?” (with a “that’s so weird” tone in their voice)… and being asked this question will actually reaffirm our decision to be a great one.  The two 747’s to the taxi ride and then on the little propeller pane, to the bus, to the sketchy taxi ride… gets us away from exactly what we are trying to escape in order to find a more natural world and a place that hasn’t yet been assaulted by the human race.  Don’t get me wrong, Paris is my favorite city, but … you know.

Garfors bases his list on these factors:

Remoteness

Visa regulations

Governments

Available information

Number of visitors

Some of the countries on this list I am really considering.  A few of them would be potential destinations except that at this point in our lives I’m feeling less inclined to hire a security detail and/or armored vehicle for traveling.  Here are the countries on his list of least traveled places that are now higher on our travel wish list:

Bhutan

Sierra Leone

Equatorial Guinea

Tonga

East Timor

Marshall Islands

Kiribati (Ever read Sex lives of Cannibals?  If so, you probably want to go here too.)

Tuvalu

We leave in two days heading to Chile.  While Santiago will be exciting and awesome, it is the land of Chilean Patagonia that we have dreamt of visiting for years.  3 plane rides, a bus and taxi ride later we will arrive in Puerto Natales to prepare for hiking the “W” in Torres del Paine.  While this is not the least traveled destination, it is definitely the land of the less traveled… you could say it is the anti-Rajasthan.  Here we come.

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It is camera upgrade season in our household.  With multiple new contraptions arriving, I am inspired to think about some of my most favorite captured moments.  Some of the photographs I take carry sentimental meaning, some are (frankly) tough shots I’m proud of, and some are great surprises.  Since there are too many to include in one post, I will stick to a gallery posting of “strength in subjects.”  You will get my drift, I hope.  Here are some of my favorites (minus a few I snapped in Cuzco, Peru that may or may not be included in Cayle’s upcoming post).

Try shooting out of the window of a moving matatu while also attempting to hide your camera.  It’s not easy, but not as hard as pulling all of that produce. I like that the trailer has a vibrating look to it, appropriate for the location and the action taking place.

The camera is held down at my side as if it isn’t on, my thumb resting the button.  They are looking up at our faces.  Beautiful, enduring children.

A solitary Acacia, winding and well trodden path, ray of light casting onto a Sub-Saharan plain and vast horizon… interpretations and representations are all too many to list.  I cherish moments while traveling where at an exact moment in time you know you are right where you should be.  There is unparalleled strength in such a feeling.

An icon of Mayan civilization, Temple of Kukulkan, Chichen Itza circa 2008.  On the spring and summer equinox, shadows are casted revealing a serpent’s body down the staircase.  If visited now, the pyramid is fenced off and the land is quite barren.  

Whatever camera I had in 2007 (Kodak maybe?), I can’t fault it much because it gave me this.

On one very hot, very sunny day I fought to ignore the chorus of “Jump Around” repeating in my mind while trying to absorb the cultural significance of a tribe’s deep tradition.

A great blue heron looking dignified.  What I like most about this photo is the trifecta of landscapes ranging from the foreground and into the farthest distance with the green vegetation contrasting the detail of the bird.

If only this llama new it was so hip!  The “greenest” way to mow your lawn.  And the Andes, oh the Andes.  Is there a better mountain range?  P.S. it really was that green.

A moss covered Buddha surrounded by the tallest and brightest colored bamboo I have ever seen.  Allerton Garden, Kauai, Hawaii.

What I love about this photo (other than the man in it), was a complete accident.  A raindrop hit the lens of our waterproof digital right before I took this photo creating a motion effect at the rear of the kayak.  How speedy Cayle looks!

A director’s chair.  How many amazing people have sat in it taking in a view of the Ugandan hillside? Or, should the emptiness of this director’s chair be a metaphor for the political leadership of a country?

Some detail is lost in the highlights of the petals, but I still love the reflection of the waterlilly.

Another iPhone shot, which is forever the lock screen on my phone. We can’t get enough of our Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and are very lucky he is so welcomed and loved by his grandparents while we travel.

Can’t wait for our new cameras to come in!  We have some major photography candy coming up finishing 2011 in Paris and starting 2012 off in Rome.

What about a photograph of yours qualifies it as one of your favorites?

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Very few of us make the Journey to East Africa and fewer still leave the well worn tourist trails of Serengeti Safari’s and Mt. Kilimanjaro. The majority of Africans still live well outside the view of the worlds eyes and sadly, unless great tragedy befalls the people of Africa, few of us think much about what life is like there. A couple of years ago I traveled to a remote area of western Kenya to work in a mobile medical clinic trying to give what little help I could to people who are all too used to fending entirely for themselves. I was fascinated by the world I found in this little corner of Modern African countryside. Here is my attempt to show a little from this trip and a small glimpse into these ordinary and extraordinary peoples lives.

Some of what I found was beautifully rural, and African, and everything I had hoped it would be.

Although still mostly a very rural, farming culture; Kenya is dotted with small cities rarely seen by western eyes. Downtown Bungoma is a place to behold. Dirty and hot; crowded with bikes, cars, buses and people. Overwhelming the senses and leaving me wanting to at once sit down and watch the city go by and also to quickly get as far away as possible.
As is the case with many little corners of the world, the markets are center of everyday life here. Very small, very smelly, dried fish…in case you were wondering what that is being sold on the tables.

Homes here are simple but often achingly beautiful. Behind this house you can see the friendly woman who cares so meticulously for this one room house. It is not easy to care for a property like this, I saw people both sweeping dirt lawns and cutting grass by hand. 

 

Childhood in Africa is one of play and school balanced soundly by the hard work required of everyone for a family to survive here.

I found myself amazed at every turn by the ingenuity and hard work of the Kenyan people. I challenge any of you to find a better way to transport seven unstackable wooden chairs on a bicycle.

The children were infectiously happy and resilient.

The food is simple and bland(and entirely without protein). Seen here is the staple food of the region, Ugali(cornmeal) and  Sakuma wiki(boiled greens). Occasionally a chicken or goat is slaughtered, however this constitutes something like the loss of a pet and daily food provider so is only for special occasions.

Is there a place in the world you can’t buy a coke?

I was endlessly fascinated by the combination of old Africa and the modern west that was often combined, usually in awkwardly comical ways.

This boy, who I met while on a walk with one of my translators, was earning a living by paddling people across a river that had no bridge for miles in either direction. He seemed to be doing a brisk business on the day I visited. In case you are curious the fare was about 10 cents, making this one of the more profitable business models I saw(at least until the government builds a bridge).

Scenes like this reminded me that Africa is still a beautiful place, but often left me wondering if the western culture and technology that is being so rapidly adopted is actually improving any aspect of the peoples lives here.

Modern Kenya is wonderful and confusing. It’s amazing people are struggling daily with extreme poverty, corrupt leaders,  malnutrition and illness. They are living on the fringes of the modern world, living equally off of the land and off of the excess of the west. Spending time in Africa is an important step to understanding life in what is frequently called the third world and helps to remind us that in reality we all share the same world.
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While we are celebrating our lovely anniversary adventure bicycling through vineyards in Napa and Sonoma Counties, we scheduled a unique type of adventure for you to read about from travels in Kenya.  We’ll be back soon with massive quads and good wine.  Hope you enjoy this post!

One of the many great aspects about studying international public service management is traveling to places like Kenya, a land of extremes, and seeing the world through different lenses.  I truly hold onto organizations and some of the people I have met that leave me hopeful of the goodness in the world.  In this post, you will see a few organizations that should definitely be visited if you happen to be stopping in Nairobi.  Such great products and opportunity are being created.

Kazuri is a ceramic goods factory and store that practices socially responsible business and advocates for different worthy causes in Africa.  The factory employs hundreds of women providing a secure and enjoyable environment for producing beautiful jewelry and household goods sold around the world.  The women employees are provided transportation from the informal communities where they reside to the Karen suburb, free childcare, health insurance, and fair wages for their work.  I toured the factory in 2009 and have since encouraged a few friends to visit also.

Here are some of the women at work creating ceramic dish sets.  Having a grandmother that is a ceramics artist still teaching classes at 84 years young, this experience really meant a lot to me.  I wish she could have been there!

Here are hundreds of beads glazed and ready to be fired at very high temperatures, soon to be turned into beautiful jewelry.
Such as this necklace.  You can purchase Kazuri pieces in the U.S. by visiting this website: Kazuri USA  (Photo Credit: Kazuri Beads, LTD.)

I also highly recommend a trip to Kibera Paper.  This is a small organization of women who pair up to turn recycled paper into beautiful, handmade greeting cards.  They collect bags of shredded paper from businesses in Nairobi, turn it into pulp, and design unique images to display on the fronts of cards.  This work helps them to earn a more sustainable living independent of other household incomes.  Some of the women I talked with support their entire family including the costs of school for their children.  

Based in Kibera, one of the largest slums in the world, Kibera Paper is easily accessible to the women from Kibera who work there.  They were very informative teaching us their process and showing us a day in their life at work, which of course included tea time with cookies.  Cayle used these cards as thank you notes sent to places he interviewed with.

Here are a few of us turning the paper into pulp.  I could have spent weeks with these women!

Once the paper is pulped and dyed it is blocked and dried.  All of the materials they use are recycled.  Considering Kenya doesn’t have a formal refuse system, there is much opportunity to “upcycle” materials.  

Look at this pile of rubber and plastic trash!  Most of this washed up on the shores of Kenya’s beautiful Indian Ocean beaches.  Unique-Eco collects this trash and turns it into amazing art, house ware, and jewelry.  If you are in Karen, definitely stop by for a tour of the grounds and to talk with the women artists who consider their workplace a refuge from life in Kibera, where most of them reside.

Flip-flop, I was.  Now I am a beautiful curtain.  Definitely check out the items they have for sale here: Unique-Eco Shop.  The Champali Mirror has my name on it!

Instead of cubicles or small shops, these women get to work on picnic blankets while watching their babies roll playfully in the grass.  (In the foreground of the photo are pieces of material that for whatever reasons can’t be used without degrading quality of product.)  

This was soon to be a fun trivet made out of small pieces of flip flop strung on wire.

Before you travel somewhere, I recommend doing a thorough search of efforts to promote women entrepreneurs and socially responsible businesses.  You will gain a different appreciation for culture, society, and the affects of globalization.  Not to mention, you get a chance to support the handmade creations of artists right at the source.

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New experiences and far away places are probably on most people’s travel hit lists (a.k.a. bucket lists).  I know I have a few stored away in the back of my mind.  I was reading a really cute article in Verge magazine challenging its readers to create a list of meaningful travel experiences they’d like to have “before it is too late.”  The article had me contemplating my own grassroots travel hit list.  It also led to a long moment of reflection allowing me to proudly and happily review all of the things I have already done and places I am lucky to have already seen, however incomplete the list actually is.  As I am flipping through the pages of the article, I realize I have accomplished Verge’s proposed grassroots travel bucket list!  Here it is:

1. Volunteer to make a difference.

While the goal may be to make a difference in the lives of others, the biggest difference is made in the person doing the volunteering, who will forever be changed by the things they learn and people they meet. Nyeri, Kenya 2007- Here I am with a super great group of boys, who attended the school where I volunteered.  My first trip to Kenya is still the biggest learning experience of my life. 

2. Eat something your parents wouldn’t. 

Mbuzi nasty bits anyone?  (goat, that is) I tried the liver, blood stuffed stomach lining, and sweet goat meat.  All followed by very large swigs of an alcoholic beverage.  Anthony Bourdain would be proud. 

3. Sleep in a strange spot. 

Being seat belted into the top bunk of a train riding from Nairobi to Mombasa.

Why is this strange you ask?  It’s not exactly a highly reputable mode of transportation.  As seen here and in this list of common derailments. Apparently it is nicknamed the Lunatic Express.  I’ve just learned this.  My father-in-law has notably pointed out how many of the world’s most dangerous modes of transportation I have travelled on…….and slept on.

 4. Learn a new skill.

Surfing on the North Shore of Oahu.  We were pretty good at it and even ended the afternoon doing tricks on our boards while riding the waves.

5. Get up close and personal with nature. 

Akumal Bay, Mexico.  This organization is doing preservation and development work to sustain the ecosystems marine life depend on.  It is quite peaceful swimming around with these beautiful creatures. (Heading back in 10 days!)

6. Immerse yourself in another culture. 

Swim.
Bike.
Run.
The world of endurance athletes is deserving of its own culture.  I am immersing myself into it slowly by doing my first triathlon this summer in Door County, Wisconsin.  So, you could say this is a combination of one part reflection and one part future challenge.   I could have posted about the many tribes I have spent time with in Africa or the Incan descendants I have met in Peru, but the triathlon culture has been the toughest immersion challenge thus far.  Brick workouts are rough!

7. Explore your spiritual side. 

In the vastness and strength of the natural world is where I find my spirituality, my peace and sense of being.  
Also, wine country = my Mecca?  It truly felt like it!  Photo taken in Napa Valley.

8. Visit a piece of history.

Machu Pichu, Peru
This 15th century Incan archeological site is the most well known icon of Incan heritage.  The quality of craftsmanship and masonry work is unbelievable.  Stones are so well carved and fitted together using a technique called ashlar that mortar isn’t needed. One of the sayings is not even a strand of hair can fit between the stones. We hiked for 4 days on the Inca trail to reach Machu Pichu in 2008.

9. Speak another tongue.

My broken Swahili (and Spanish) need a lot of work, but I keep trying.  Maybe French will stick?
My version of grassroots travel is when you study the guide books and then valiantly throw them out.  Travel off the beaten path to places more authentic and/or under rated.  Also, help to preserve history, culture, and ecosystems and if needed use a tour company that pays locals fair wages.  Whatever your motivation, be sure to put value on the experience rather than the amount of stars something is rated.   
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There is this ad on Honolulu radio for “Zanzibar Night Club”.  Very strange considering we are in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and I just posted about Zanzibar.  Of course, I asked Cayle if we could go.  Eventually the conversation jokingly resulted in a rule that will keep us out of clubs named after far away locations we have actually been to.  We have lots to share with you from Hawaii when we return.  Until then…

After spending a wonderful few days in Stone Town, we took a taxi to the north coast of Zanzibar.  Nungwi is a little town with breath taking beaches, endless amounts of sunshine, and our favorite resort manager named Sele.  We stayed at Langi Langi.  This required booking ahead of time because the resort is in high demand, rightfully so.  After reading Tripadvisor reviews, I determined this was the place to stay based on what everyone exclaimed about the amazing food.  We arrived to a bit of a late check in due to guests leaving their things unpacked in the room we were supposed to have.  The resort took care of it very professionally, and even gave us a free dinner for use that night to make up for any inconvenience.  Sele, the manager and top chef came to our table that evening and said he was creating a new dish, which he wanted us to try.  He was sure we would love it for our free meal.  This meal was the start of our love affair with Sele’s cooking.  I would label it as East African/Middle Eastern fusion cuisine.  His way with spices is incredible!

The entryway to Langi Langi’s restaurant, ocean front, and lounge chair area.  Beauty is in the details sometimes.

Due to currency differences, it looked as if we payed $1,000,000 for our stay…really it was in Tanzanian shillings.  This resulted in lots of joking around with Sele and staff.  I left Langi Langi being called their “Million Dollar Baby”… and we will never forget our Morgan Freeman.  Sele, thank you for your hospitality and friendship.

Sele goes out in Rasta Baby (his boat) and catches some of the fresh seafood served for dinner.
High tide nearly brings the water up to the deck!  Great camera setting configuration, Mr. Cayle!
Langi Langi is the white, thatched roofed building.
My favorite photo of Cayle from this trip.  You can see below the deck the tide is starting to retreat.  The resort is fantastically perched over the ocean, complete with pool and beautiful gardens behind the main building.

Low tide brings  a dramatic 100 yards of white sand beach.
We spent one nausea inducing but unforgettable day on a dhow sailing around Zanzibar,  snorkeling and trying out my new canon waterproof camera.

Happiness is a great beach, great food and great people. Thanks Langi Langi!
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Zanzibar archipelago.  If you are unfamiliar of where this island may be, click here.  It is known for being the cornerstone of the spice trade and slave trade in the early 19th century.  

I couldn’t get enough of Stone Town’s charm.  I hope you enjoy seeing the streets through our lens.

A labyrinth of alley ways mostly only fit for people and bikes.  Stone and intricate carvings are everywhere.

One of the views from the balcony of our Inn.

The Old Fort.  Stone Town is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Fishermen’s dows retired after a days work.

Stone Town’s cultural charm and artistic lure greet you around every corner, if you let it.

We purchased a metal Rift Valley Coffee sign from this gem of an antique shop.  I personally love  President Obama’s portrait hanging over the door.

Be sure to hop over to Zanzibar as a wrap up after your East African safari!  We’ll show you more of the island later on, and we promise it won’t disappoint you.

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