Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Mini World for Mini People

Hello all,

It's been a while since I was robbed by those darn kids in Marseilles, France, and I still want to squash them under my thumb but not matter, I'll let it pass (for now) and elaborate on my new adventure.

I'm in Japan! But best of all, I'm back in our old house and old stomping grounds from 19 years ago. The house is BEAT. No one's lived here in years and it's run down but what continues to amaze me is how parent paint the colors of our world. The house was just as abandoned when we lived in it 20 years ago (belongs to a doc around here) but even then, I didn't realize how warn down it was. Because like I said, my parents only saw the blessing in it (that we had a place to stay during our furlough from Indonesia) and so that's all I blissfully saw as well. And now that I've been here for a 10 days, immersed in the comfort of being home, it looks mighty fine to me!

Another thing I've noticed is how tiny everything is! Even the house looks smaller- I guess I finally 'growed'. But in all honesty, things are really small here.

Take for instance, this intersection. It's not just an intersection but a major intersection and the minivan is smaller than a standard sedan. There are tons of these tiny cars here.

See? They're as big as the scooter. They're rather cute.

And check out mom's kitchen in its entirety! Poor mom. The counters are low and cramped but it's stocked with nifty functions: ninja-style. Like the little stove above. It has a mini-oven just for fish! :) It's designed to keep the house smelling fishy. I need one! :)

And this washing machine, you can't really tell how small it is (it's just a little bit wider than me) but it can draw water from the bathtub to do the first washing cycle so it conserves water! (We take showers outside the tub first and then soak in super how water so the water's cleaner).

And how can I talk about nifty ideas and not discuss our famous/infamous toilet??? It has a sink on top of the tank, so you can use the fresh, tank-filling water to wash your hands with. Conserving even more water! And since Japanese homes don't have central heating (conserving even more energy but also makes me miss the US), the toilet seats are heated. Sitting on ice-cold ceramic bowls just aren't relaxing. :)

So yes, Japan's a mini world for mini people, it's a mighty mini place as well. And what can I say? Mini's are so cute!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Robbed by Kids in a Playground

Unbelievable. I´ve been in Paris and Marseille, France, for the last two weeks taking in the immense beauty of this place. Logan was here for a conference so I decided to depart Kenya for two weeks and meet up with him and my crazy old Spaniard friend, David Abadia. Do you guys remember him?

Everything had been going in fabulously until last night. I watched the Eiffel Tower sparkle in the night, I´ve looked up in awe at so many cathederals that my neck is stiff, I´ve oo-ed and aww-ed over true french cuisine, I´ve made new friends, swam in the Mediterranean Sea for the first time, and read books under the soothing shade of the park trees. All in all, it´s been a wonderful trip. In fact, it´s still a peak in my days of travel. I´m just lucky to have a new story about being robbed by kids at a playground... or at least that´s what I tell myself.
So, I was in Marseille, sitting at a playground in Longchamp Palace Park just two hours before I hopped on a bullet train back to France. I was taking in the view when two boys about 14 years old approached me (He told me he was 16. Yeah right!). They were just being silly and started talking to me in French. I was bored and I hadn´t met many local folke so I figured this was just all apart of traveling so I just laughed at their antics. I could see a group of their friends in a short distance so I figured they were just bored pre-teens kids looking for a kick- and they sure were! I just didn´t know what kind of kick they were looking for. I let them sit next to me and when one kid motioned to my camera, I though, "why not?" and showed them some of the pictures I had taken. While I was doing that ,another boy came over, and my bag fell off the bench. The 3rd boy picked it up for me and when he set it next to me, I noticed that my wallet(which had my phone in it) and back-up wallet (With extra cash) that I had attached to a plastic bag had been torn away. So I jumbed up and yelled for him to stop. At that same moment the other two boys went running after the 3rd boy. For an insane moment I thought they were chasing him for me when I realised that the second kid was running with my camera. So I grabbed my stuff and jet off after them- Ninja style. I gave them a good chase too. I even jumped a fence and got a little bit cut up :). But they must have done this a gazillion times because they jumped another one that I couldnt jump with all my stuff. So I yelled. and yelled. and well, yelled. That was nice. It didn´t stop them but I felt a little better. I wanted to report it the police and chase down his friends at the park but I had a train to catch that I could miss (especially now that I didn´t have money) so I jetted to my hostel and canceled my cards (With the help of a very compassionate hostel manager). I wanted to burst into tears so badly but I had so little time so saved them for poor Ellise, David´s girlfriend, who met me at her apartment door in Paris.

What a day... I was all stressed cause now I´m heading back to Kenya and I thought I had no money. Fortunately, my banks wiring me cash and my other one is issuing me an emergency visa card that will arrive in Kenya the day I do. Did you know they do that? I wish I knew that yesterday or I wouldn´t have been in such shock.

But the shocker is how much those little pricks got away with and the small decisions I had made along the day that lead to it. Like: putting my phone in my clutch wallet when it had been in my bag the whole day and keeping my backup cash so close to my wallet when it had been at the hostel the rest of the trip (I checked out of the hostel so I couldn´t keep it there anymore.) I can think of a thousand things I should have done differently be ses la vie... no use worrying about it now.... I just wish I still had my pictures :( They even took pictures of me kite surfing in Kenya. Fortunately, I have all my other kenya photos and Logan and my other friends took some in France so it´s all good... Just a little sad...

I want to go home...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Monkey Sense: Lesson 3

Did you know zebras can only see in black and white?

How ironic.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Monkey Sense: Lesson 2

When you can't reach an itch, find a stick.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Safari Time!

Park Reserves Tsavo East and West, Kenya. April 11-13, 2009

Safari's aren't the toughest of sports. In fact, it's not tough at all. We just get driven around in these super mini-vans with insane suspension and sweet sun roofs- which gives us plenty of time and energy to take pictures like this:

Or like this:
Or like this:

You get the point.

But besides my unnecessary posing activities, we're also driven around because there's so much to see! 

Hippos in a river

And some things require a really keen eye to notice. 

Check it out: A Five-"legged" (Male) Elephant. Yeah. Our jaws dropped too.

But as amazing as it was to see the multitudes of creatures that roam Kenya, I found that my most memorable moment was watching Africa take in a quiet, deep breath as a new day began.

Hippo Takes a Dip at Sunrise: Tsavo West, Kenya

Sigh... what a wonderful place...

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Ape Man Girl and the Ape Man Club

I think I'm sophisticated cos I'm living my life like a good homosapien.
But all around me everybodys multiplying.
Till they're walking round like flies man.
So I'm no better than the animals sitting in their cages in the zoo,
mancos compared to the flowers and the birds and the trees.
I am an ape man.

I think I'm so educated and I'm so civilized cos I'm a strict vegetarian.

But with the over-population and inflation and starvation
And the crazy politicians.

I dont feel safe in this world no more
I dont want to die in a nuclear war
I want to sail away to a distant shore and make like an ape man.

I'm an ape man, I'm an ape ape man.

I'm an ape man.
I'm a king kong man.

I'm ape ape man.
I'm an ape mancos compared to the sun that sits in the sky.

Compared to the clouds as they roll by.
Compared to the bugs and the spiders and flies.
I am an ape man.

In mans evolution he has created the cities and
The motor traffic rumble, but give me half a chance
And I'd be taking off my clothes and living in the jungle

cos the only time that I feel at ease
Is swinging up and down in a coconut tree

Oh what a life of luxury to be like an ape man.

I'm an ape, I'm an ape ape man, I'm an ape man.
I'm a king kong man,
I'm a voo-doo man. I'm an ape man.
I look out my window, but I cant see the skycos the air pollution is fogging up my eyes.
I want to get out of this city alive.

And make like an ape man.

I'm an ape man, I'm an ape ape man, I'm an ape man.
I'm a king kong man, I'm a voo-doo man. I'm an ape man.

I'll be your tarzan, youll be my jane.
I'll keep you warm and youll keep me sane.
And we'll sit in the trees and eat bananas all day.
Just like an ape man.

I'm an ape man, I'm an ape ape man, I'm an ape man.
I'm a king kong man, I'm a voo-doo man. I'm an ape man.

I dont feel safe in this world no more.
I dont want to die in a nuclear war.
I want to sail away to a distant shore.

And make like an ape man.


Credits: Thanks, Cosmo, Mogli, and Bellena for inspiring and concocting a unforgettable weekend!
Photos taken by Cosmo, Bellena, and me at the beach and sand dunes surrounding the Che Chale Resort, Melindi, Kenya.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Monkey Sense

Africa gushes with life.  From the multitudes of ants that line your room like blinking Christmas lights to the monkeys (with pretty balls) that steal your food, 

it just GUSHES with life here.  So, with this constant reminder of the "circle of life"and creatures that keep it rolling, you can't avoid learning a few life lessons from their prying  hands.

Lesson 1: Carry a Sharp Object
Trigger fish are pretty territorial. I knew this. After all, the only creature that managed to draw blood from me when I worked at the TN Aquarium was an itty bitty trigger fish that found the only whole in my dive get-up (tip of my index finger).  It wasn't the sharks,  barracudas,

                                                     or giant arapaimas that got me.

It was that little trigger protecting its nest. Thus, it came as no surprise that the animal that would try to hunt me in Africa would be yet another trigger- only the ones here are HUGE. They're a little over 1.5 feet long, 1 foot high, fat, and look like bullies on the loose with buck-teeth. They're also known for taking bites off of fins and bruising divers.

So there I was, cruising through the reef with just Saidi, a local dive master, when two (and one in particular) started charging at us.  Repeatedly.  Now here's the problem with underwater assaults: You're defensive moves are in slow-motion and their attacks are real-time. I mean, they're of the sea and you're of low-friction land.  Speed just isn't on your side. The best thing to do is get out of there. So we did. And the darn things kept following us. Finally, in my semi-panicked state, I pulled out my final line of defense: My sharp object- A stream line, state-of-the art pencil. Yup. A pencil. After all, I was doing conservation-related research. What else would I have?

The good thing is that it worked. I held up the pencil bravely in front of my mask and made a few threatening jabs.  The trigger must have realized the game was over because it saw the pencil and ducked away with its mate and never bothered us again... 

(Actually, I think we just finally got out of his territory but I would have taken a chunk out of him if I had to!  Therefore, this story is totally legit. So like I said, carry a sharp object and stand firm.)

Monday, March 30, 2009

Pemba to Mombasa: Photo Journal

Hi Everyone,
I hope you’re all doing well. I’m continuing on my whirlwind adventure and having a great time! I’ve been to so many places and met so many people it’s hard to keep up. But I’d love to share as much as I can with all of you so here’s a photo tour of my last few weeks.
Ok, as you probably know already, I spent the first 6 weeks of my time at the Manta Resort on Pemba Island, Tanzania. The resort is peaceful and filled with many kind folk from all around the world. I’m especially fond of the locals who really helped settle in.

Cpt. Mandela, Cpt. Simba, Me, Dive Master Max, and Guest

The neat thing about resorts is that you also get to learn about places that the guest came from. I’ve met people from and learned about Switzerland, Sweden, Italy, Finland, Canary Islands, South Africa, Ireland, England, Spain, and of course, Kenya and Tanzania. One of my favorite friends was Laura from London. :)
Laura had her 1st Birthday at Pemba

Now, island living can be really calm- too calm- so they best way to deal with it is to go diving! The diving here is first-class. It’s remote and the tourism industry hasn’t hit this area very hard so it’s not crowded either.

Isn’t it stunning? I also got a chance to become and advanced diver AND join the 50m club (Recreational depths is 30-40m and 50m is for extremely advanced divers because it’s dangerous. Lucky for me, I went diving with two instructors so I got an early shot at it.) I also got Narced (nitrogen narcosis). So I was slightly “drunk” for a part of it. It’s normal but that’s also why deep diving is dangerous. Any how, it was a sweet dive.

Ok, so I’ve played a lot but I’ve also worked. But I’d do this kind of work even on my time off. My main project was to conduct an underwater survey of the area they’re planning to build the underwater villas for the hotel. So they set me up with a boat, a captain, a cook, and two assistants to get it done. We spent 5 days living on the boat and puttering around the island. I was in my element doing this project- especially when I finished the day working at a wooden desk that was lit up by an oil lantern. I felt like I had finally joined the ranks of Galileo and Columbus :). Dolphins even escorted us out. It was surreal.

Me pretending to be an explorer.
My wooden desk.
My oil lamp with chai tea mixings in the back

The Crew (Me, Saidi, Cpt Shay, Hurun, and Cook Semeni)

Back at my cool desk and you can see my bed behind me.

I even got injured island-style on the job. I stepped on an urchin on the second day. Thankfully, it turns out that it’s really not that bad and it’s a fear worth getting over. I was back on my feet in 15 minutes after Saidi, my assistant, ran onto the island and brought back a few juvenile papayas and put the sap on my feet. Like he said, it was “Hakuna matata.” – “No Problem.” – by the next day… as long as I didn’t touch it… so I didn’t…

These urchins are tough though. Their needles are so brittle that you can’t pull them out. You just kind of have to wait for your body to pummel it into powder. Later on, Harun, my other assistant, brought me a different kind of urchin and said, “This OK. Step on. Pull out. No problem.” I just looked at him and laughed and told him I’ll go for that kind next time.

After we finished the surveying project, I was swept off to Mombasa, Kenya which feels like a metropolitan city after living on Pemba Island. There’s electricity 24-7 (for the most part) and internets much quicker. AND there’s a shopping center that rivals Walmart. They even have Nutella.

I’ve been here 10 days and the fun’s been non-stop. I went wreck diving with friends the first weekend.
Wreck Diving: Gabriel, Me, and Sylvia.
Moray Eel

And camel racing this weekend. The camels weren’t so into the race but the race was exhilarating non-the-less for the riders who screamed and yelled just the same.

We also spent the day on a sandbar (a small island that appears at low tide) and played bocce ball like it was the World Cup. And when the tide came up and our island disappeared, we just floated around in the water with a drink in our hand.

Life here is sweet and the attitude and atmosphere is well-modeled by my new friend, Cosmo, who’s a native Kenyan and wouldn’t leave this place for the world.