Tag Archives: travel

דוד (David)

My friend Abner was recently traveling over in the Middle East.  “Meet up with me for a few days in Israel”, he messaged me.  He would cross the border from Jordan, and I would fly into Tel Aviv where we would connect and head to Jerusalem.  I’ve been wanting to go to Jerusalem for a long time, and if I could work out the details, I wanted to go.  I got the time off almost last minute, arranged for a cat sitter, packed a backpack, and went.

Being a person who is both fascinated by and terrified by politics, seeing the Knesset and watching the public debates was on my “to do list”.  We were only there for four days and saved the Knesset for the last day, Tuesday.  Unfortunately, that is the day that the Knesset isn’t open to the public until 4:00.  We got there at 11:00.  This is as close as we got:

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So we went across the street to sit in the Wohl Rose Park to discuss our Plan B.

The first thing I saw in the garden was a tent.  A tent that looked like it had been there for a long while.  Repaired with strips of colored tape and surrounded by stones, it seemed that someone was living there full time.  The area around the tent was neat and tidy and it looked like it might be cleaning/airing out day as the fly was open and bedding was folded and piled onto a chair outside the tent.

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Then I saw the probable occupant of the tent.  An elderly looking gentleman was washing dishes at the drinking fountain nearby.  As a lover of people’s stories, I knew I had to talk to this man.

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So I put some shekels in my pocket and although I had a full Nalgene bottle of water, I headed over to use the fountain using the pretense of wanting a drink to strike up a conversation.

I asked him if that was his tent, and introduced myself.  It was.  His name was David.  He spoke English very well, but in a thick Hebrew accent.  “Do you live here all the time?” I asked.  He did.  Under my questioning he told me was there to protest, “a private matter”, he said.  He’d been protesting there for eight and a half years.  He asked where I was from.  He’d never been to Colorado, but wanted to go some day.  He had lived in the states before and served in the U.S. Army.  I could tell he wasn’t used to casual conversation, and I didn’t want to pry further.  I offered him a blessing and asked that God would incline his ear towards this man through the Knesset so that his issue could come to resolution.  I gave him the money I had put in my pocket, and we shook hands.  He told me I was a “very kind lady”.  I thanked him, wished him well, and left.  He returned to his dish washing and I to planning Plan B.

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The List of Fifty – “Go To Machu Picchu”

“Go To Machu Picchu” has been on The List of Fifty since it’s inception when I was a 10th grader.

However, I rather always thought that when I would go, I would go the hard way, you know, by hiking up there on the Inca Trail.

That was not to be.  You see, the opportunity to go came too late…for my knee.  I have a bit of an arthritis problem.  My left knee has just gotten worse and worse over the years and it is no longer trustworthy.  The discomfort it gives is tolerable, but it lacks the strength and stability needed for rigorous activity.

So when I was invited to Peru last month to visit a friend there, even though I was disappointed that I would not be doing the hike, I jumped (not literally, of course, can’t really do that either) at the chance.  🙂

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Mag.  Ni.  Fi.  Cent.


Why I Do Not Make a Good African Woman – Reason #1

And this is a big one!

In many parts of Africa there is a form of transportation called a “bike taxi”.

The bike taxi strikes fear into my heart.

Take a battered bicycle and put a “seat” on the back of it over the rear tire, and you have a bike taxi.

Like this one?

I wish.  No.

Like these ones.  (These have really good seats on them, by the way).

I recently went on another adventure to the African continent.  The trip in a nutshell went like this:

Fly to Dubai, meet up with Abner, hang out in Dubai for a bit waiting for our next flights, and sleep in the airport.  Fly to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania…me via Qatar, Abner direct.  Meet up with Abner again.  Spend night in DAR.  Take boat to Zanzibar.  Spend time in Zanzibar.  Take boat back to DAR.  Spend night in DAR.  Take buses and minibuses from DAR to Malawi.  Spend time in Malawi.  Take buses/minibuses to Mozambique.  Spend time in Mozambique.  Fly from Mozambique to South Africa.  Say good-bye to Abner as he heads to Lisbon.  Fly home.

This post is about the middle part of the trip.  The part where we meet up with friends in Sani/Nkhota Kota, Malawi.  There’s a lot of stories to tell up to this point, but this is as good a place as any to start.

In Malawi, especially in the rural “bush” areas, women wear skirts.  So, I was in a skirt.  And we were backpacking, so I had a big pack on my back, and a smaller one on my front.  And I’m not a young thing anymore…pushing 50 in fact.  And we’d been on the road for over two days, so I was tired and sore.

As we neared the place where our bus would drop us off to meet our Malawian friends, I began to wonder how, in the dead of night (it was after 10 PM) we would get from the roadside drop off point to Sam’s house (about 10 km) into the bush.  Is it too remote for a regular bush taxi?  Would we walk?  Or, please God, no, would he have arranged for bike taxis?

As you have probably guessed, it was the latter.  I took one look at those taxis and pictured myself trying to jump up onto the back to ride it sidesaddle with all my gear, and in a skirt, and I nearly died.  That was SO not going to happen.  “Fortunately”, once the “taxi drivers” saw the color of my skin, the previously agreed to price all of the sudden became seriously inflated.  I took that as my opportunity to encourage their immediate dismissal, opting instead to do the long walk.

Sam was quite amused.  African women have literally no problem with this form of transportation.  Even the very old ones with a parcel on their heads and one grandbaby in their laps with another one their backs.  And they are graceful while doing it.  Of course, they’ve been doing it their whole life.  This would have been my first time.

I seriously hate being a “problem” like that.  I try very hard to do the best I can to just quietly do what needs to be done.  And normally, I am extremely “game” in most travel circumstances.

But not this time.  I just couldn’t do it.  So we walked.  So I made all of us walk.  😦  And I was glad we did.  It was so very dark and the dirt road was bumpy and full of washed out areas, rocks, and potholes.  Even if I’d have gotten up there, I’m pretty sure at some point I would have fallen off, and possibly injured myself.  This is what I tell myself to make myself feel better about not doing it.

Perhaps the next time I find myself faced with a bike taxi I won’t be in a skirt, I won’t be loaded down, it won’t be dark, and there would be a step stool.  I’d give it a whirl if so.

But not this time.

In this particular case, I did not make a good African woman.


La Mort En Rose

Some Parisian cemeteries are destinations.  We (okay, it was me, not we) picked Cimetière du Père Lachaise because it is where Edith Piaf (singer of La Vie En Rose) is buried.  Also, it’s famed for its beauty in all of Paris.

We went on Halloween, just because, well, why not?  This was part of the decoration of one of the “sepulcres”, and seemed appropriate for the day:

There were many other visitors to the cemetary.  And lots of chrysanthemums, which I learned after returning home is the flower best known for remembering the dead (the article pointed out that mums should never be taken as a hostess gift).  So, there were not just touristy types at the cemetery that day, but people coming (often with mums in tow) to honor loved ones and notables who had passed.

I was expecting a large and beautiful gravesite for Edith Piaf.  But it was small and simple.  In fact, if not for the other people visiting the site, we might not have found it.  Edith Piaf was not her given name.

Fittingly, those visiting her grave brought roses…

The cemetery was laid out much like a randomly plotted city.  There were winding cobblestone roads marked with street signs.

In a number of strategic locations there were “roadmaps” to assist in the location of gravesites.

This “city” is also the final resting place of Modigliani, Molière, and Jim Morrison.

The “notable” M’s

We didn’t look for Modigliani’s or Molière’s graves, but we did seek out Jim Morrison’s.  I also expected somewhat of a spectacle for his grave.  But it was even more simple than Edith Piaf’s.  His was, however, surrounded by a low fence to keep his fans from getting too close.

Nearby trees and light standards have been turned into message boards of a sort for those who come to visit.

Even the wads of gum stuck to the tree have messages written on them.

There is no shortage of beautiful art or architecture in this city within a city.

As it was late fall, the leaves had mostly turned color and many had fallen.

Those that remained in the trees lining the cobbled streets made the place just a little bit golden, and a whole lot beautiful.

This trailing vine was hanging on to its smashing color and looking mighty fashionable as it decorated a grave largely forgotten over time…

While it was not in the least a creepy place, I don’t think I’d want to be there during the night time.  But if you ever are lucky enough to get to go to Paris, add “visit the Cimetière du Père Lachaise” to your “must do” list.


La Vie En Rose

“Go to Paris” has never made it to The List of Fifty.  In fact, historically speaking, I’ve never much wanted to go to France at all, despite having studied the language (la langue d’amour) for four years in high school.

But I am SOOOOOO excited to be going!  My friend Abner (same friend of the Timbuktu/West Africa adventure) and I decided we wanted to go on a trip to a place where we could drink the water, not have to take malaria meds, and leave the sleeping bags and mosquito nets at home.  We wanted to eat bread and drink wine, and listen to music while sipping coffee in street cafes, and cross bridges and take pictures of loveliness.  And Paris just seemed like the exact right place to do it!  PLUUUUSS, being late fall, it should be nice and chilly and maybe drizzly and rainy and gray and perfect for taking moody Fronchy photos!  🙂

ALSO, ever since I read about the catacombs under the streets, I decided I needed to see them, if ever I went to Paris.  Other things I am hoping to see?  La Tour Eiffel, l’Arc de Triomphe, the gardens of Versailles, Notre Dame, and I would love to cross all 23 bridges.  I am sure that a week will not be long enough to completely explore the city, but it will be long enough to get a feel for what life in Paris is like.  However, no matter what we do or do not do, if this song ever plays anywhere where I can hear it while I am there, I will consider my trip complete!

I rented an apartment for the week we’ll be there, and it’s in a real neighborhood with real Parisian neighbors.  How cool is that?


Ahhhhh, So True…

“Not to go anywhere, but to go…travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” 

Robert Lewis Stevenson

I wonder what sort of places he traveled to…


Just a Few Days? Or Just a Few Shirts?

As I continue to post pictures here from my trip to West Africa, you might notice that I am frequently in the same clothes.

That’s cuz I didn’t take very many.

Everything I took had to fit into a not very big backpack and a small satchel.  I was amazed at how well we did with our packing.  We did a final pack out the night before we left to make sure we were being as smart as possible with what we were taking as we’d be dragging it all around Africa.  I did well, but I could have been even smarter…I left stuff at various locations along the way…socks I wasn’t going to need, a shirt that got stained and stretched out, underwear I simply didn’t feel like washing…  🙂  Doing so freed up a wee bit of space for a small souvenir or two.

The purple shirt washed easily, dried fairly quickly, didn’t show dirt and didn’t show stains.  It was an obvious favorite.  I also had a big floral shirt which covered me more, rinsed out and dried super fast, and totally hid anything I might have gotten on it. It was especially good for those long day and night bus trips.  So, if it looks like I was only there for a few days, it was just that I only had a few shirts!  🙂

In the purple shirt at the Cape Coast Castle

In the floral shirt for travel...made it to Mopti, finally, after 17 1/2 hours...not our longest bus trip, but a very interesting one! That, however, is another post. 🙂

It was the least amount of clothes I’ve ever taken on a long trip.  Even so, Abner put me to shame with what he brought, or rather, what he didn’t bring.  I’m hoping I get the chance to take even less on another trip one day!


One Day Without Shoes

April 5, 2011 was “One Day Without Shoes” day.

The basic premise is to go without shoes for a day so that you can have a sense of what it’s like for so many millions who go without shoes everyday.  Many of those people live in Africa.

I was in West Africa on April 5th.  It turned out to be a travel day when we would be leaving Burkina Faso and heading to Ghana.

The sad irony of that is that it was literally wayyyyyyyyy too dangerous for me to even attempt to go without shoes on that day…

What WOULD I have done that day had I no shoes??


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