Saturday, 31 October 2009

Happy Halloween is kinda crazy with a spooky little girl like you...spook-ay...

my favorite memory from last year's Halloween was answering the door and finding a tiny Mexican boy, couldn't have been more than 2 years old, dressed as the devil. Complete with a grease mustache. It'll be hard to top that in cuteness history of trick-or-treating--

(it's the'stache that did it for me).

Thursday, 29 October 2009

all the babies.

When we were there, it was springtime in the Mara. That means babies. We were tremendously lucky (have I mentioned how lucky we were?) sighting lion cubs, leopard cubs, cheetah cubs, baby elephants, baby warthogs, baby zebra, baby cape buffalo, baby gazelle...

So seeing babies meant seeing babies be babies. I can't describe the glow that sets in watching the lion brothers playfully bite each others' tails, or play with a stick (MOM I HAVE A STICK!! MOOOOOOOM, LOOK AT MY STICK!), or nuzzle with their mamas, or teeter-totter on their knobby legs (zebra I'm talking to you), or act tough (lil' leopard I'm talking to you). Some things are universal no matter what species you are.

p.s. these are just a few shots 'cause we're in that lovely purgatory known as moving. with no cable hook-up yet. more baby shots to come.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

last night

Steve and I went to bed late re-reading old diaries of mine from high school. There was a lot of laughing and blushing involved--apparently I had a lot of teenage angst.

above is my vain attempt at the party last weekend to squeeze my size 7 feet into lamb's 6 1/2 heels. by midnight i was barefoot.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

anatomy of a yawn

when an animal yawns in the mara and there are people lucky enough to witness it, the only sound to be heard is the click click click click of everyone's cameras on burst mode. it is magnificent.

Monday, 26 October 2009

and they shall come two by two

With them went every kind of animal, domestic and wild, large and small. -Genesis 7:15

happy halloween week

it's started. this is the fun list of what i need to do. the boring list is downright depressing; i shan't be sharing.

  • put our costumes together, i've barely begun
  • buy ingredients for the caramel apples
  • buy soup and cider ingredients
  • get carving tools
  • start our dia de los muertos altar 
I think seeing Where the Wild Things Are will have to wait.

Friday, 23 October 2009

happy weekend.

we are getting out of dodge. celebrating the newlyweds (stateside, for a change) and then on sunday, something very thrilling. we are thrilled to be part of it again. hee. can you guess? or do you need to cheat

Above is the advice book we made for Lamb's shower. It's still making the rounds.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

today's best moment

it came about 45 minutes ago when my girl ruengie called to tell me she had gotten engaged tonight.


i love knowing my peeps are happy and in love.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

life when one is on safari.

First off, I feel like such a brat writing 'on safari'...squirreling money away for this trip made all the nights sleeping on the futon and eating on a card table--oh! and having the other card table which our computer rested on collapse on me twice last August--worth it. We certainly don't have an endless supply of funds but this trip became a priority while other things took a backseat. That, and I'm lucky to have such a fun husband. He is the absolute best.

From some amazing guidance, we had planned to divide our time in the Mara between two very different places. After it was all said and done I decided that I loved them both but for different reasons. Sounds like a cop-out but if given the chance I wouldn't change a thing about the experience, honest.

I never want to forget the simple rhythm of our days there.    

At Porini Lion camp, we'd be given an awfully early wake-up call made sweeter by tea and cookies outside our tent. Then out on game drives for the day with a picnic lunch 'neath a tree somewheres at some point. Sometimes stopping at the Mara River to wait out the migration--are they gonna cross? should we come back? do we wait?  Lots of driving around trying to remember a time in your life when it wasn't completely normal to see zebras and wildebeests everywhere. Stops for the big cats. Stops for all sorts of incredible animals from cheetahs to baboons and even the gentle tortoise got its moment in the sun. We'd all be click click-ing our cameras and whispering understated exclamations like she's soooo beautiful and this is incredible or even trying to will the animals for that perfect shot--c'mon, can't you just turn your head a little to the left? This place would make even the hardest of cynics smile. And sometimes you'd watch the sunset in a glorious spot while sipping something delicious (it's an open bar on the Mara, you see). But not only would you be balancing a wine glass in one hand and camera in the other, but you'd have to choose between photographing the pride of lions or the sky lighting up better than Christmas with all the pinks, yellows, and reds. A tough life.

After getting back "home," there was hot tea and quick showers, in that order (more on showers below)--then drinks around the campfire before a yummy and filling dinner. And then a night game drive. Wow to those night drives--hanging halfway out the land rover, my butt squarely planted on the open window, intent on following the guides' powerful beam of light as it was finding roaming hippos, lions, spring hares and more. The wind was whipping my hair into a frenzy, the air was cold on my face, but it was one of the most joyful things I've ever felt connected to. And the camp was completely open and vulnerable to roaming animals, so after dark we had to be escorted anywhere and everywhere by the Masai tribesmen who stood sentry throughout the night. We were so excited about the prospect of animals being right there that each night we'd roll up the canvas and lay in bed listening to the lions grunting and hippos snorting (I swear) with only the mesh part of the tent separating us from them.

A month later, I can't really comprehend that all this happened.

When we would collapse into bed from sensory overload and too much excitement, we'd find a hot water bottle tucked under the covers. I was so grateful for this sweet gesture (loved it so much that a hot water bottle was bought within hours of leaving Africa) as the big tents were wonderfully spacious but not exactly warm by night.

{showers-- first you alert the Masai staff. they'll promptly bring buckets of hot water, fill the cistern and from outside your tent a gentle and heavily-accented voice will cheerfully call out, "ready!" You hop in, do your bid-ness and try to get everything done before the water runs out. Good times.}

Full, full days. We heard another couple grumbling about the lack of time to clean up and rest, and they passed on a few of the offered drives--you people are in Kenya for gosh sakes! You can luxuriate in a shower and take naps any old time when you get back to Britain! What is wrong with you?! I bit my tongue like a good girl.

At Mara Intrepids lodge, things started out with a wake-up call involving the room steward unzipping the tent fly to actually bring the tray of tea/hot chocolate/coffee and cookies (the best cookies!) inside. We'd be in the rover by 6:30 and our wonderful guide, Dixon, would keep us out until early afternoon at times. At just the right moment he would stop at the perfect place--maybe above a hippo pool or atop a hilly lookout--grin his Dixon grin over his shoulder and announce: breakfast! And we'd picnic on boxed goodness he would arrange with the kitchen: sausage, ham, croissants, hardboiled eggs, yogurt, fresh fruit. Just a crazy amount of food. Dixon had little cups for ground coffee, to which he would add hot water from the mongo thermos. Now at home I'd probably be really bratty about drinking ground coffee (what can I say? my parents live and die by coffee), but here it was good. For reals.

After more game viewing it was back at Intrepids for lunch (but we just ate!) and we would squeeze in a nap or time by the pool before the next drive, mid-afternoon. (Those Brits should have been here.). Back "home"  as the sun was setting. No night drives here--not allowed since you're on national park land. But there was this one great thing. Let me explain...

...when we honeymooned five years ago, I felt like a little girl playing house. Every morning we'd wake up in our bungalow, go about our day which meant sometimes being lazy and sometimes being adventurous, then shower and get all gussied up for dinner. Because dinner meant taking a boat across the bay and being shuttled to romantic restaurant # 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5. And we were surrounded by other honeymooners, all of us in this ridiculous but terrific cloud of happy fog. The place was so romantic that in the one or two instances that we met a couple who weren't honeymooning it was like my brain had stopped all independent thought and I nearly caught myself saying, but then why are you here?

I have a point to this, promise. At Mara Intrepids it was back to those wonderfully simple routines echoing our honeymoon. Wake up, adventure, relax, adventure, doll up for dinner, get seated at 'our' table, have 'our' same waiter again, gaze and coo at each other and everyone's like get a room already. And when it starts pouring buckets before dinner's done we'll just grab hands and make a run for it when it's time to go. Uber romantic. And that, aside from Dixon, was why I loved Mara Intrepids. It made me feel like a honeymooner again. What souvenir could possibly be better?

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Monday, 19 October 2009

that first day in Kenya.

The flight landed in Nairobi around the ridiculous hour of 3:45 am.  So after easy-peasy customs (I guess we told the intimidating man what he wanted to hear) and picking out a taxi driver from the swarm we headed straight for the municipal airport, dropped off at the curb when it was still dark. Now what? Everything was closed, as it should be at 4:30 in the morning. Thank God for the kind security guard who immediately let us into the "terminal" (picture the one from the TV show Wings) where we promptly dumped our packs and draped ourselves over them, blissed out in sleep.

So an eternity later (6 1/2 hours), we get put on the plane for the Masai Mara with purple paper tags tied to our baggage that said Olkiombo Airstrip. We were super duper excited. It was a 45-minute flight but I think I expected to see giraffe and zebras grazing immediately after we left the urbanism of Nairobi. Not quite. And when I heard the landing gear come down I, all smushed up against the window, was like, where are the elephants? Darn. Maybe animals aren't everywhere here like I had thought.

We landed. Somehow in the crazy crowd of people being matched up with their reserved camps we found ourselves in the right land rover, sitting in the rear two seats. We were both in a fog, numb. Probably exhausted. I went to the loo, came out, stopped for a second on the path...and there in front of the toilets really took it all in for the first time.

Holy moly. That's when it hit me-- here we were, sitting on this red, dusty "airstrip." No other spreck of civilization in sight aside from the land rover. There was one of those lone trees with the flat green scrub top (later learned those are umbrella trees) against the stark blue sky. There were Masai tribesmen dressed in red and draped in beads. WE'RE IN AFRICA. This is it! It's like the movies, the pictures, the documentaries, but...more. More palpable. I got back to the rover and Steve was looking all around as well. I knew he was thinking the same thing. We are in Africa!

We then proceeded to turn all shades of idiotic. From the Mufasa voice (as far as the eye can see, all this land is ours...), singing The Circle of Life, even repeating Maybe the dingo ate your baby! even though dingos are an Australian thing and we know that but yet had turned into an even dumber version of ourselves, if that's possible. You know when Rafiki lifts up Simba to baptize him and the sun shines down, all the animals bow, and suddenly a lump the size of two sugar cubes lodges itself in your throat as you furiously blink back tears? Yes, that. That's what it was like realizing we were in Africa. Not Egypt Africa ('cause it's different)-- Africa Africa.

And to think we hadn't even left the airstrip yet.

When we set off, life just kept getting sweeter and sweeter. Our guide had casually said, "We're just going to head to camp and see if we can spot some lions." He had to have known what was coming. Within the first five minutes we had seen gazelle, warthogs, zebras, giraffes with their luscious eyelashes, and of course, lions. Lions less than 10 feet away. They're all just blinking at us hello yes hi how are you cheerio hip hip good day thank you for coming.

I was shaking and thanking God for giving us this. It was just such a powerful moment. Creatures that before we had only seen and exclaimed at on tv or in zoos-- now running and lounging about in their own home. We were on their turf. Soon after, the vehicle was coming upon a riverbank and an elephant literally rose up out of the water. As in, at first all I saw was the grey tippy-top of his head, then his ears, and then OH MY GOD THAT'S AN ELEPHANT. I turned to Steve* on my left and was like, are you seeing this??! as he was busy open-mouthed gaping at topi and impala.

And that is how we popped our safari cherry. I'll never forget those first 30 minutes that set the stage for the next 6 days amazing days.

*happy 59 months, love.