It’s funny. I’m sitting here in Frankfurt, in the same airport bar that I did exactly one year ago today. Drinking the same coffee with Bailey’s. 🙂 Heading home for the holidays. Thinking about my how my life has changed since I made this move. I know, I know….I haven’t written here in a while. What can I say? It’s my second year here, and not a lot has changed – or as they say here, “same-same.” One thing that was a nice change of pace was having my parents come out for a visit. It always makes things feel brand new when you get to see this crazy, amazing place through someone else’s eyes. As I move over the hump of this crazy 2-year adventure, I think my favorite perks have been the traveling opportunities.
For instance, a couple of weeks ago, the United Arab Emirates celebrated its 42nd birthday. Think of it as 4th of July and multiply it by about a billion. And what does one do during this extended weekend? Travel to Africa, of course! I mean, when will I ever have an opportunity like this again to be so close to this wonderful place. It was time. And I have amazing friends here that share my thirst for travel that I had with me. I would like to share our 4-day experience.
There are two very different Africas we saw. One had poverty and slums. Another was like a scene right out of Lion King. (I mention this movie due to the many times I heard “Hakuna Matata” there!) I don’t know if you could say there was any part that was unsightly. Every scene we came across had a certain charm and personality about it. From the streets of Nairobi, to the greenery of Lake Naivasha to the rustic Masai Mara. There was so much to breathe in. So much to admire. So much to wonder about. It is a place that seems untouched by all of the construction we have become so used to in Abu Dhabi. There was a blessing in finding simplicity again.
Africa can seem like an intimidating place when first stepping off of the plane. But the pleasant surprise came in the absolute friendliness and humility of nearly everyone we met. People were so open to showing us their world and teaching us their language. We had the added bonus of visiting the Masai village where we were invited into their homes, participated in their welcoming dances, and were encouraged to ask questions about their ways of life. It was like nothing we have seen. Sometimes, when you travel outside your country, there is an initial feeling of isolation as you adjust to the local culture. We did not experience this. We were immediately at ease and felt welcomed from start to finish.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this component of Africa. I think when most people dream of visiting Africa, it is to go on a safari to see the wildlife. We went on several and were never disappointed. Our goal was to see “The Big Five” (lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos and buffaloes). Not only did we see 4 of these (rhinos were being stubborn) but we saw cheetahs, zebras, giraffes and more gnus then one would EVER need to see. ***Lion King reference- yes, we saw Pumba!*** The best part is, they were always within arm’s reach, seemed completely unperturbed by our presence, and were in their own element. I’ve never seen such beautiful animals completely at peace in the world they know best.
If you ever have the opportunity to visit Africa- DO IT! It is one of those trips that change you somehow. You walk away from it feeling more connected to the world, and less affected by the mundane daily dramas. And if you do go, we compiled a few helpful tips and phrases to get you started:
- Pick travel buddies that share your wonder and zest for travel. No drama allowed!
- Understand that you will be roughing it a bit. Think outside 5-star resorts, and aim more for “glamping.” Some places run off generators that cut electricity at certain times of the day. Get used to bugs! And appreciate the sounds of nature, as they will wake you up at crazy times throughout the night.
- If you are prone to any motion sickness, bring Dramamine or the equivalent. Your safaris will not be on paved roads, and there is a LOT of crazy driving going on!
- Be prepared to pay more for a bottle of water than a good beer or glass of wine.
- While we chose not to take any pills or shots for Malaria, it is a real concern there. Be sure to cover up with a good bug repellant.
- Be sure to get all the cash you want out before starting your adventure. There will not be ATMs once you get out into the less developed areas, and many people will accept only cash. Do be prepared to haggle prices. A lot of the gift shops won’t put price tags on their merchandise, so you need to know what you are willing to spend, and be ready to walk away.
Helpful Terms in Swahili:
Jambo! = Hello
Asanti – Thank you
Karibu- Your welcome/welcome
Hakuna Matata- well- sing the song! “it means no worries……”
Please visit my friend, Jil’s, blog at : http://www.aroseinconcrete.blogspot.com/
Also, if you decide to go to Africa use HTT Holidays and Incentives http://www.travelhtt.com
tours and ask for Steve for you tour guide. He was the BEST!