My World Tour - Bruce's Emails While Traveling
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|2 month update on my world trip
Hi everyone from Turkey!
It has been over a month since I sent out a mass email telling you about my world adventures. Due to the bombing, I didn't want (or feel up to) sending people messages about being on a great adventure, nor did I want to go into much detail about being an American overseas. It should be told that while in Europe, we (Americans) have received nothing but the most sincere comfort and support from the locals, and other non American travelers. The press coverage outside the US is dramatically different (for those who have not been abroad for a length of time). Many perspectives and information that is not given to the American public, and the other side of propaganda and interpretations presented from the US media and military. We feel very secure and will continue on our trip as planned, but ready to change the itinerary very quickly as needed.
that all being said, here is what's been happening for the last 2 months.
Some photos have been uploaded to the site in Spain and morocco (oct. 10th, but not noted on the home page). it's been quite a pain putting up photos, as they take a long time to load, not to mention going to an internet cafe for 6 hours is not how I like to spend my time. I also sneak in my software, which takes about 30 minutes to load, and don't want the owners to see me putting software on their computers.
Toilet alert: many places in Europe don't put a seat on the bowl, so start working on those quad muscles for squatting.
Shower alert: almost every place we stayed in, from $ 8 a night places, to $ 75 a night, do not provide shower curtains in the bathroom, and many shower floors do not have anything to prevent the entire bathroom from getting soaked, as the drain is just in the middle of the room. It takes a new skill of aiming the shower head towards the wall and not soaking everything up.
Spain: Julia was sick for 6 days, so Seville and Granada were brief, but cool. Seville we saw the oldest bullfighting ring in Spain, went into one of the largest churches in Europe, which houses the tomb of Christopher Columbus.
Granada use to be run my the Moors for a few hundred years, so it has the cool windy streets common in Muslim countries.
We also went to the beach town of Marbella on the southern coast, for a bit of sun.
On to Morocco:
Toilet alert: byop, bring your own paper.
Then an overnight train to Marrakech (just like the song, Marrakech Express, which was stuck in my head for at least 2 weeks). Morocco is a nutty place, with people driving crazy, very few stop lights, dodging donkey carts, carriages, pedestrians and scooters.
The medina is a square that at night is like a circus carnival with street performers, snake charmers, and hundreds of stores all in windy streets that turn you around in circles.
The big highlight was a 2 day trip to the Sahara desert (see photos)
We left morocco on a flight to the island country of Malta on Sept. 10th. We stayed with a very nice, and fun woman who we met via the internet on www.globalfreeloaders.com which people put you up in their homes around the world, as you do the same for others. Janice took us around the town, out to dinner, and gave us well needed home comforts of a couch and laundry. This was the time that we got the news of the NY deal, so it was good to have a TV and internet available.
Malta is a great island (country), just south of Sicily, and has been conquered by every nation around the Mediterranean for thousands of years due to it's strategic point. This century it was under British rule, and about 30 years ago, given it's own rule, as an independent country. People drive on the left side of the road, and I kept getting in the drivers side of the car by mistake. It has the coolest ruins, actually the oldest man made free standing structures in the world, 1000 years older than Stonehenge.
Food alert: pasta, pasta, pasta, and then some gelati.
Traffic alert: Italy has about a billion scooters flying around the place, and are very noisy. It's like a gang of middle class people not daring enough to get on a hog and get a tattoo.
We took an overnight ferry to the bottom toe of the Italy boot. The funny thing was there were only 10 people on the entire ferry, which could hold several hundred with 50 cars. They actually chewed us out for delaying them being the last ones on board, but we were there 15 minutes before departure.
While on board we met 2 cool Aussies (not the Osborne's, but Australians), Drew and Holly, who were finishing up a several month trip. We all traveled by train up to Naples to visit the near by towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum.
Food alert: Naples is the home of the pizza. very thin crust (yummy) with great sauce. baked in stone ovens, by the tables, that look like little igloos.
They were both covered by Mt. Vesuvius, Pompeii by ash, and Herculaneum by lava. Herculaneum was more fun as you got to walk inside the buildings more, and the frescoes and tiles were all intact. Very colorful.
Off to Rome: While in Rome we did the usual stuff of the colloquium (sp) Sistine Chapel (god touching man outstretched) and the very cool and gigantic St. Peter's church, where all of the popes are buried underneath. Big highlight, we got to see the pope give a weekly address in the square. He cruised on an open air pope mobile only 5 feet away from me. very cool.
Up to Florence:
More museums, pasta, and big statues. The famous statue of David by Michelangelo (sp) was truly awe inspiring.
Venice: It's actually over 100 islands connected by little walking bridges, with no cars. Nice and quite, Simply said, and photos not yet available to show, Venice is just cool.
Cheap flight to Athens.
a few days here, it's a noisy dusty giant mega polis of sprawl, but had a cool ruins, the Parthenon, temple of Zeus, Olympic coliseum. We met up with our friend Paul from Chicago, who flew in to do the Greek islands with us.
For all of you animal lovers, you wouldn't believe that there are hundreds of thousands of dogs and cats who are stay just walking about town like the owned the place. It's too expensive to neuter them, so they are everywhere. The cats hang out by the restaurants, so they are well fed and patrons pet them as well. It's very bizarre.
Toilet alert! : You can't flush paper down the toilets, as they will clog up, so you throw it in a can provided.
Food alert: a Greek salad is a block of feta with a side of salad, yum. lamb, gyros, and big methos beer. the Greeks double the portions as the Italians, Spanish, and Portuguese. good for us fat ass Americans
hop a ferry and see a wide variety of funky little towns, tacky gold jewelry shops (in Mykonos and Santorini), beautiful beaches (topless, and some nude), are more cats. Very relaxing, sunny, clear blue waters. Relax a few extra hours waiting for that late ferry on Greek time. If you want to know how far anything is, it's only a 5 minute walk, even if it's 3 miles away. no worries. don't worry about finding a place in low season, there are dozens of people with private places right at the port who are actually fighting each other to get your attention to go with them. very nutty. makes me feel like the prom queen and everyone wants to dance with me ;-)
we went to Santorini, Ios, Mykonos, and samos. did a bit of scuba diving, eating, tanning, snoozing, and drinking.
Turkey: just got here a few days ago, it has a bunch of great ruins, fun things to do, beautiful med. waters, funky formations in the mountains and carpets, carpets, carpets. I will update you all in a few weeks.
time to go wander around for a month.
not a dull moment visiting the local
gobble from Bruce in turkey!!!
merhaba from Turkey!
It is going on 4 weeks in Turkey and this country is one of the best vacation and travel destinations in all of Europe. It has everything, great beauty of land, Mediterranean beaches better than Greece and France with 6000 foot mountains overlooking the shores. The forests are lush and green with level 5 rafting. Inland to the east is breath taking sites that are as gracious as Montana with 8000 foot snowcapped mountains overlooking a crystal clear blue lake that is one half the size of lake Michigan. Mt Ararat tops 16000 feet and is said to be the resting spot of Noah's Ark. The middle of the country (Cappadocia region), has landscape that looks like a mix of the grand canyon and the bad lands. There are ferry chimney rock formations and canyon sides that people have been living in for 5000 years that look exactly like the Flintstone homes in Bedrock.
Culturally, this is the place where east meets west. The western coast is very Mediterranean modern Europe and the east is more country living with small villages and traditional Muslim living with the woman in shawls or veils.
Typically the Turkish men don't work much, play backgammon and have the woman do all of the labor in the fields. The Kurdish people in the east have the men do the labor and the women do the cooking. Of course the city life is more modern and western with more education and jobs for both.
If you like ancient ruins, this is the best place in all of Europe (though most of Turkey is actually on the Asian continent). They are everywhere and in great condition. The entire country is full of biblical places if that floats your boat (reference to Noah, ha ha).
The best part is it is dirt cheap. A pension with breakfast is about 7 US dollars a night. A nice dinner will run you about 3 bucks. A big highlight was taking a 4 day yacht cruise with 10 other people on the Mediterranean for only 100 US dollars, food included. One port was where they filmed the movie, Blue Lagoon. The water is crystal clear and turquoise blue. At night we swam in the coves and the water turns phosphorescent as you splash it from the microbes.
The people are the kindest you could ask for. The entire culture prides itself on Turkish hospitality. In the east, the Kurdish people are inviting us in to their homes for lunch and tea (I drink about 4 cups of it a day as you can't meet anyone without being offered tea). On lake Van, there is the local guide, Memmet, who is known everywhere for letting people stay at his home or to camp in his yard up on the mountain. He has a big farm and just loves to entertain people from around the world. His daughters make a great dinner for you too.
As far as any concern about this being a Muslim country and the problems with the war, Turkey has always been our ally and they are now sending troops to help out. The people here feel that America is their best ally in the world and better friend than Europe. The country is a non secular state and though it is 99 percent Muslim, they have always lived with christens and Jews. Actually there are so many Christian ruins here, you can't fall out of a tree without landing on some old church. Actually, Mary mother of Jesus spent here retirement days on the east coast and her house is still there. Turkey is a very safe place to be, even as I am currently 60 miles Iraq and 100 miles away from Iran way off in the east.
here is a link to a map of turkey as well, photos will be up from our adventures in a few weeks (hopefully)
|4 month update on the trip around the world
Salaam everyone from the country of Jordan,
Here is my 4 month update on the trip around the world...
During our last episode, Bruce the hero of the story had just finished up in Cappadocia, a perfect model for the Flintstones, and his sidekick, Julia had flown home for a 2 week wedding. Here's where the story resumes...
I traveled around the eastern part of Turkey for the next 2 weeks. 1 week with an Israeli student (Noam) who had just finished an internship in Istanbul. With all of the conflict going on in the Middle East and the Israel/Palestine mess, it was very interesting to get the view of someone from Israel. His opinion was that the US was a big supporter of the Palestinians, which seemed quite the contrary to the portrayal in the US media. Later, Muslims from Turkey and Egypt gave me their opposite views of US involvement. There is always 2 sides to a story and it's rare to really understand someone's problems until you see them 1st hand.
The east of Turkey was really a visitor's (including other Turks) no man land during the last 10 years due to terrorism. The people of the south east are Kurdish and have been repressed by the Turkish government for quite some time. Until 1991 it was illegal to even speak Kurdish. There was no newspapers, radio or TV allowed to be in Turkish. Therefore the PKK was a revolutionary organization to try to get the Kurds rights. Unfortunately the way to get the attention was through terrorism including killing tourists. Last year the US helped capture and convict the leader of the organization, which has put most of the thing to rest. This is also why Turkey is a big supporter to the US in the war on terrorism and the only Muslim country to send in troupes to help the US.
The Kurds are a very friendly people, and the Turks, who are known for hospitality, will say that the Kurds are even nicer.
Anyway, back to our hero. Traveling in the east is where the "real" turkey is, as they say. No tourists, prices are listed in lira, not the US dollar. In some towns, the 2 of us were the only tourist in town, and we could not walk down the street without every store owner poking there head out to see who was in town. There were dozens of kids following us down the street talking there few words of English to us. We were the Pied Pipers of Turkey. After a while, it gets really old, and you just want to get a bite to eat, but these are the interesting things of travel. I went to the towns that boarder Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Armenia. There were military check points along the way every few hours. One place near the Iran boarder, our driver told us not to pull out our cameras for a bit, as the military had scopes on us. If you photograph any military instillation, even by accident, you can expect to be put in jail for spying. This is actually true in every country you go to and happens quite frequently with unknowing tourists.
The small towns seem like a twilight zone episode as there are hardly any women to be found, especially at night. Every store is open to midnight with the men hanging out smoking and playing backgammon. In the east, most woman dress very conservatively Muslim with the scarf and veil. The men smoke like chimneys in Turkey, but none of the women do (except in Istanbul in the west). The small towns are really weird, as there are internet cafes and mobile phone stores while donkeys, cows and chickens seem to walk by on a stroll. There is an electricity shortage, so the street lights are out at night.
One place way in the east, was lake Van. It is the largest lake in Turkey, but has a high alkaline content so it is not drinkable, and there is no aquatic life. It has mountains around it that are 12,000 feet tall and it looks like the best of Montana. There is a man in town named Mahomet, who gives tours around the mountain, and lets all of the backpackers stay at his home and tent in his yard for free then has his daughters cook them food as well. He just loves being the man of the village with the heart of gold. I think he really represents the people of turkey.
Near the Iran boarder, I went to Mt. Ararat, the tallest mountain in Turkey. It is reported to be the resting place of Noah's Ark. Of course I said, "yeah right". The funny thing is, when we drove to the site, I was expecting some hokey tourist thing, like the world's largest gofer I say in S. Dakota. Actually it was an object that looks like petrified wood in the shape of the bow half deep in the dirt. There has been allot of research on it, and the dimensions seem to match those specified in the bible and has 14 % carbon so it is not stone, but probably petrified wood. There are also detections of medal (by a detector) every nine feet (or something, as I can't remember). I took photos of it which will be put up on our site, but here is a link of a site that has the identical info and photos. I use to think it was all a bunch of hooey, but after looking at this, I definitely cannot dismiss it. http://www.arkdiscovery.com/noah%27s_ark.htm
Ok, kiddies, are you still there reading this while you are pretending to work. Here's a little side note. While visiting a ruined city, on the boarder of Armenia (the river dividing the countries was right there, including military watching the boarders), I left and got a nice dog bite from the hound of hell. One thing about Turkey is there are dogs and cats everywhere in towns. The dogs all walk around minding there own business out for there Sunday strolls, so there is never any problems. This complacency with the stray dogs, lured me into forgetting that out in the fields, the dogs are sheep dogs, and are vicious monsters. This one was on a leash and got one bite out of me and backed off. The little adventure of going to the hospital 2 times during the week to get my rabies injections is a good exercise in pantomime. Woof woof, dog bite. I need a shot. Luckily the travel clinic nurse in Chicago talked us into getting our vaccinations for this (at $ 600 bucks!!!), which prevented any real problems. (there's a little tip for you boys and girls out there who don't listen to your doctors). By the way, we have a year's worth of travel insurance that covers everything, including flight evacuations (usually when you are stuck up in a mountain and dying), and even having our remains brought back home (yuck).
Well, this is enough of the long version of Turkey, here is the short notes, which I may expand on one day...
carpets, squat toilets, tea, every man in turkey where's a suit, men walking arm in arm, currency is 1 us Dollar equal 1.5 million Turkish lire, staying in tree houses http://www.olympostreehouses.com , staying in cave house in Cappadocia, http://www.focusmm.com/cappa_01.htm . Turkish bath houses (hamams), Turkish breakfast (cucumber, tomatoes, black olives, bread), shoe shine boys, stone houses, the worst drivers in the world (they believe in fate, not good driving), Turkish barber shops.
by the way, as it is the season to be jolly, did you know that the real St. Nicholas is from a small town of Turkey on the Mediterranean. His grave is there at his church.
Here is a cool place I visited called nemrud mountain (though there are 2 mountains with the same name)
One bit of advice... don't take Egypt airlines. It seems that they like to change flights, drop people, not answer there phones, and don't really care too much.
Other piece of advice... don't make Egypt your sole destination if you travel really far to get there. The sites of the pyramids and temples and mummies and all of that is great, the traveling in the country is the pits.
Cairo, a city of 18 million people!!! (that's more than the population of Australia). It is a city to experience and get out while your lungs are still pink. Everyone smokes, drives old cars, and throws there litter on the streets. If you can picture a 4 lane highway trying to fit in 6 lanes of traffic with a horse pulling a cart, a man riding a bicycle with a basket of bread on his head, and a woman with a baby carriage crossing over the street while every horn is honked ever 10 seconds, this is Cairo. The amazing thing is there are no traffic accidents. The horns really will drive you to drink. A place to see, then get out quick.
The pyramids are awe inspiring, and it's like being on a movie set, as it doesn't seem real to stand on and in something so famous.
Now here's the good thing about Egypt, there are no tourist here. everything is down 80 percent! There were only l5 - 20 people at the pyramids the entire 2 hours we were there!
After this we took an overnight trip down to Luxor, and Aswan to see the valley of the kings and queens. When the photos are up, these are amazing. We also took a 2 day felucca trip (little sail boat) down the Nile river. A nice escape from the traffic.
The best highlight and a place to return to is on the Sinai peninsula on the red sea in the hippy town of Dahab. The red sea is amazing to dive and snorkel in. It is like going to a city aquarium and seeing every colorful tropical fish in the world and coral formation and putting them all together. Truly amazing, and dives are cheap, only $ 25 for a dive.
Getting to the red sea involved a 14 hour overnight bus ride, that turned into a 24 hour disaster as the bus broke down at 2 am by Suez in a shanky neighborhood. We awoke and found the entire bus empty, including the bus drivers. It was like the twilight zone. the other 15 passengers were all gone. I thought we were hijacked and they missed us. I later found the drivers trying to fix the engine at the back of the bus. 7 hours later, we hopped in a cab, drove to a gas station and waited for another bus to take for 8 more hours. ah, the glamour of world travel (it still beats the job you are sitting at while reading this, ha ha)
We bypassed climbing mt. Sinai to see where Moses got the 10 commandments, as I saw the movie, so climbing at 2 am in the snow was an easy call to pass on.
We are now in the country of Jordan. This is just east of Israel, and Palestine use to be part of. A very clean, quiet and modern middle eastern country. "he king's mother is American". We went to an ancient city of Petra, which is shown in the last scenes of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The buildings are carved out of the mountains, so the photos will be needed to do it justice.
We are off to Kenya in a few days, for safari and adventure.
the website is still in process of updating, but there are newer photos of some of the earlier countries.
see ya later
ps, for anyone who would like to do something nice at
x-mas for a GI out in Afghanistan, my friend, Isaac is in the special forces and has just been sent out there for 1 year. I think a card or cookie gram would lift the moral of our fighting men and woman. Just reference that I gave you his info, so he knows that the cookies aren't Bin Ladin laden
other thoughts on traveling around the world
Jordan, quick update
I am in the Country of Jordan, at Petra today. The final scenes of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade were filmed here, so it is played almost every night at the hotel. We slept in the desert the other night, which is where Lawrence of Arabia was filmed, to coincide with the book, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, by DE Lawrence. You should see this movie, but it is about 3 1/2 hours long. The irony is that the film was at the hotel, but some dumb ass ruined the tape.
We go to Amman tomorrow until the 19th then fly to Cairo for a day and a half to catch the 00:15 flight on the 21st to Nairobi. It seems that email access is pretty shotty in Africa, so we will see. We are not going to Bethlehem for xmas as it is far to nutty there now.
Egypt is really nutty. 18 million people in Cairo all honking horns and littering and smoking at once. the pyramids were really cool, and a 2 day boat trip down the Nile was fun (it's like a little sail boat for 6 people). but the place is very poor, there are no tourists due to the WTC bombings, so everyone in the tourist industry is down about 80 percent. Still, it's everyone trying to sell you something and rip you off, so it's no vacation. past that, people are friendly and keep asking why Americans won't visit.
I went for 2 scuba dives in the red sea on the Sinai peninsula which is completely amazing. It is debated to be the best diving in the world. There must have been 100-200 different fish all at the same place just in one dive. Imagine every tropical fish, and coral you've seen at the shed aquarium and then double it and throw it all in crystal clear waters. It was also a relief to get some information on the problems I had when diving in Greece. It seems that I went down to quick, which put the water in my ears, that later got infected, and 2nd by accident I came up to fast, which gave me narcosis, which is made me very tired and woozy for a week. This is actually something you can die from if you go deeper. I had a refresher dive, which also helped. I took a 2nd dive for fun. I'll try to stay out of trouble. This is the only place in Egypt I would return to, but I am glad I saw the country.
Will see ya later
|merry Christmas from Kenya!!!
Jambo (Hi) Dad,
I am now in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya. We leave xmas morning for a 7 day safari. Lions, hippos, elephants, rhinos, giraffes, buffalo, flamingos, cheetah and plenty of misquotes. I am really excited as this is the # 1 thing on my trip around the world. I have been looking into going on a safari for 3 years. We may do another one in Tanzania in a crater (I don't have my book here to spell the name) that is suppose to be one of the largest in the world and has a giant lake in it.
It is nice being in a predominately Christian country for xmas. I heard the little drummer boy on the radio today, and the grandma got run over by a reindeer is on the radio right now. We may try to get to a catholic xmas mass tonight, but we need to pack and we're a bit dizzy from the malaria medication we took yesterday. We need to take a pill once a week for the next 4 or 5 months as we will continually be in malaria countries. The side effects are suppose to show up on this 2nd week of pills.
|6 month update from Bruce from
Jambo, Habari? Nzuri, asanti. (Hello, how are you? I'm fine thanks. In Swahili).
Today marks the 6 month anniversary of my trip around the world. The first 4 ½ months were action packed, but since New Year's, we've gone from travel mode, to relax mode. The last 4 weeks we have been on the island of Zanzibar, off the coast of Tanzania in the Indian Ocean. (pull out your maps for that one). It's about 5 degrees south of the equator on the east coast of Africa. The sun is so strong on and around the equator, that it feels like we are being pelted with the sun's rays. They bang down on you like it was raining radiation. We currently are 9 hours ahead of time than the US, so if anyone is expecting a call, we'll find you at work in the morning, or around your time midnight. We had a 9 am countdown on January 1st, to celebrate the Chicago. At the time of writing, I am sitting in my hotel room ($ 5 a person a night), in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on the coast. We are waiting for our visa to India to come thru after here waiting 3 days, and now we find out we need to wait another 3 days over the weekend as it didn't get processed yet. Funny thing is they have to send a fax of the application to the US and check our records and references. That fax went for the small price of $ 20 US! The visa is only $ 40 US. Yikes, what a scam. Next week, we're off to India next week for 3 months!
Besides the normal "having a great time, wish you were here", email of adventure, I thought I would tell you about life on the road.
The real life adventures of world travel involve protecting yourself from being sick on a daily basis. Malaria is reported to be the biggest killer in the entire world. Sub Saharan Africa, India, and most of Asia has malaria, so we need to protect ourselves from being bit by mosquitoes and take preventative medication. The big problem is the drug we take once a week has a multitude of side effects which almost make it worse than the disease. We get very dizzy 2 days after our dose, we have crazy dreams every night, with most of them nightmares, Julia gets some visual distortions while reading. Paranoia is also common, but I didn't want to mention it while these people were looking over my shoulder.
What is life like in East Africa?
Hakuna Matata is not just a song from the film " The Lion King" it's really means "no worries". I think the Aussies relate to this. Life is slow in East Africa, especially on the coast where it is very hot. Pole, pole (poley), means slow down. Also a favorite expression here. Expect life to take a bit longer in Africa to happen, making a phone call, getting a bus, everything is slower.
Being a muzinga (white person) in a black country was also a bit of a culture shocker at first. There really isn't a race problems to speak of in either Kenya or Tanzania as the government, though corrupt, represents the black population and is not an apartheid like South Africa. The rich land owners are reportedly snobby ex pat British who think they are lord and master of the people. There is always resentment with the divisions of wealth in a country, so that isn't really a race issue. We are just the easy targets of every tout looking to sell us a safari or to take his taxi. What we do know to combat this is to tell them that we are locals teaching English at a school or orphanage in town or nearby. We say we are volunteers or are missionaries. This usually drops the price quickly, and opens up the conversation a bit more. We also sometimes tell people we are from Poland, as they aren't know for having money. Some people may have a problem with us lying, but life on the road is to survive and not be a target.
Everything here is a haggle.
The cost of a bottle of water, a taxi, a room, a tour, a bus ride to the next town, any trinket you buy. The average salary for people here is $ 30 USD a month, so every one is fighting over every last cent they can squeeze from you. The enclosed photo is real life travel at the bus terminal in Tanzania. One company tried to charge us the "tourist" rate, about US 50 cents more than the other company. Our bags were on one bus, but we liked the 2nd one better and got the real rate, so it took nearly a dozen people involved to settle it out. The difference between traveling for a year and coming here on vacation for a few weeks, is that every penny matters with no job at home. We have to bargain for the market rate of goods and services though they may be only 20 % of what they are at home and still a relative bargain. It's difficult to explain why we will stop for 30 minutes to save 1 dollar, but we can't afford to be taken advantage of. This is the real life on the road.
The country has been relatively safe for us, but there is always a big target on our back while walking down the streets of larger cities. We always have to be on guard for who is talking to us, as men will approach us day and night eventually trying to sell us something. They know which hotel you are staying in as they have nothing to do until they find someone to sell something to. That's the unsettling part of budget travel. For those who worry about the dangers of travel now, the most dangerous things are getting hit by traffic as some places it's completely a frogger game on the street. Also, Kenya and Tanzania were once British colonies, so they drive on the left side of the road. Crossing the street was very hair raising when we first arrived, but now I keep forgetting which side America drives on and what is what. I guess I'm in limbo a bit on that one.
Being an American on the road is especially strange during war time. We tell people we need to buy thing from that we are Australian (if they can tell from our accents that we aren't Polish), otherwise when just having a conversation with the locals we tell them we are Americans. It always brings up the war. Until a month ago, we had somewhat of an idea what was going on in the war and life in the US (from or friends), but now we're a little behind with the events. Sometimes is a bit risky defending the US in the war, it's obvious to us that Bin Ladin and terrorists responsible for the attacks need to be caught, but you never know who you are talking to on the road. We no longer have information on the war efforts to discuss with an informed opinion. Being out of the country at the start of the terrorism and war at first was very difficult as we wanted to do something, but couldn't even give blood (we had too many vaccinations). But staying away from the constant coverage of the war and the sinking economy has been the best time to be away for us. Sometimes it feels like we are in some old black and white WW II movie being the expats going thru the countries just before the war comes. As we are heading off to India, we will hopefully keep our distance from any problems, as the country is huge.
A little info on the fun of our trip:
Zanzibar is one of the important "spice islands" of the world and was a huge cash crop for the world trade over the past 200 years. Spices at one time were worth more than gold. Zanzibar grows cloves, black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, lemongrass, along with a bunch of other goodies. It was also the major trading post of the east African slave market. We spent a week in Stone Town, a labyrinth maze of windy streets about 10 feet wide with people cruising thru on a bike or scooter. From here we did an excursion to swim with dolphins out in the ocean. Africa isn't like going to Florida (as my mom thinks) where you are orientated about the dolphins at a resort. Here, you hop in a little dhow (old rickety sailing vessel), grab a snorkel and mask, and hop overboard when a group of dolphins come cruising by. It was very exciting swimming right in the middle of 20 wild dolphins. I could cruise with them for a few minutes with my fins and could hear their squeaking. When they wanted to take off, they shot away about 30 miles and hour.
For those of you in Chicago and were fans of "Bozo's Circus", I landed the biggest prize so far of the trip: The Stone of Zanzibar! There was a magical wacky wizard on the show called Wizzo (of course) who came from Zanzibar (an exotic sounding place as there could be on) who had a pendant with the magical "Stone of Zanzibar" on it which he would use to perform his acts of magic. Well, I have one now, my childhood mission has been successfully completed to obtain the magic stone! It's all down hill from here. If anyone knows Wizzo, I picked up an extra stone for him as well. Doo de, doo de, doooo! For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, I'll just blame that little blurb on the Lariam (malaria medication).
The other 3 weeks were spent on the north end of the island sitting on the white sands. We picked up a laptop computer while in the country of Jordan and decided to get this monkey off our back with our photos and web site. Having a digital camera is a lot of fun, but if you can't download the photos, you are out of luck because the discs are too expensive to buy. We've shot over 4000 photos (800 on safari), and some digital video as well, so we have been editing them down, writing about the last 6 months of our trip and creating our fun project on a web site. We will burn the site on a disc and ship it home within a few weeks. When you see it, you'll have a good time seeing and reading about our adventures and follies of world travel. Hopefully we won't get too many people in trouble while sitting at work laughing. A preview of some extras that evolved are: Real life travel, toilets around the world, sunsets around the world, Julia's hair page, a revised question and answer page, and the people of Zanzibar. I will send everyone an email in a few weeks when the new and improved site is up. We created it to keep in touch with people, share our stories of the world, and just to crack our selves up.
Here are a few facts and opinions about Kenya and Tanzania in the mean time.
Kenya: Well, the poverty and lack of opportunity is just shocking. In the last 15 years, Kenya has become so corrupt, that the money for a free primary and secondary school education has disappeared. No longer is there education for the people unless you have money for a private school.
Economy: The GDP per capita is $ 372 and Kenya is the 22nd poorest country in the world with the 3rd largest gap between rich and poor. While the people are very poor, the land is very rich. Everywhere we could see that wasn't a wildlife reserve, there were farms producing fruit and coffee. To our surprise, the people looked fed and healthy, but we don't see many people who are old. An attached photo shows how many people live in rural areas. Many people live in huts made from mud and straw. Some live in homes made from cinderblock and tin roofs. Most of these have no electricity and no running water. While driving down the road, we could see women walking miles with a bucket on their head full of water from a well. One of our friends that went to the far northern region, where it is too hot to grow food did report seeing the opened packages of food relief from UNICEF, which after a brief scandal with them, have got their act back together. One of the things I wanted from this trip was to see the world for all of its beauty and it's sorrow and to see how I would come out from it. While the extreme poverty is yet to come while in India the next 3 months, having the reality of what 90 percent of the world has for a reality has already had it's effect on me. It's difficult to describe how fortunate I feel to be born into the western world, where opportunity and health are provided for us. It's almost a cliché to write about seeing the world in another light, while the world is on the brink of war and my friends are getting laid off, but the hard truth is regardless of the economic situation in the US and Europe, opportunity
and healthcare, not to mention drinking water, are accessible to us at home, where here it is not. I hope this doesn't sound like Sally Struthers infomercial to give your spare change to the poor children plastered on the TV, but the next time there is a food drive, or clothes drive at church, a pair of shoes on a child goes a long way.
Religion: 70 % of the population is Christian, as a result of the missionaries during the last 2 centuries. The other 30 % are mainly Muslims, with the majority of the population on the coast, from the heavy influence of the trading and settlement of the Islamic states in the 18th and 19th century. We have not encountered any problems in the Muslim communities, and actually several Muslim people have mentioned that they do not feel safe traveling to America at this time. It's natural for us all to go with the safe route during the uncertainties of war time, especially with the one sided sensationalism of the news media, but travel has been safe for us (just our perception) in the Islamic areas of the world so far. We'll stay out of Indonesia and Kashmir, India just to keep our batting record safe.
Health: 47 % of the population has access to clean drinking water and 23 % to adequate sanitation. We saw many people walking for miles down the road with buckets to fill them with water. AIDS is a huge problem in Kenya, with an estimate of 25 % of the population infected and approximately 50 % of hospital cases are HIV related. The life expectancy is 52 years and the infant mortality rate is 57 per 1000
births. The people are still wonderfully optimistic, but not naive to changes they need to strive to make.
Tanzania: Life in Tanzania is a similar to Kenya with the per capita yearly income at $ 260. The corruption in the government seems to be much less than Kenya and there is free primary education. The life expectancy is also 52 years with a similar rate of HIV infection in the country as Kenya. Religion on Zanzibar is 99 % Muslim. There are signs in hotels and at tourist information to ask tourists to dress very modestly to keep the culture of Zanzibar in tact.
As Porky Pig would say, "That's all folks".
Bruce and Julia, World Travelers and
Adventure Seekers Extraordinaire.
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Revised: 05 Feb 2007 20:21:29 -0600 .