+ Arrivals

A few photos from my African holiday; more details to come when both my head and body are back on Arizona time.

heathrow

Reflection

Sitting in front of the departure board at Heathrow is one of my favorite moments in international travel. I imagine what I’d do if I were arriving in those cities — what I’d see, where I’d go, who I’d meet, what I’d learn and what I’d eat.

Quilt

Beaded Nelson Mandela

Since my last trip through South Africa, the World Cup has come and gone. The improvements to the airport are phenomenal — including one gigantic beaded Nelson Mandela. Who doesn’t need a handicraft world leader?

Lake

Lake

fancy

My new happy place: Lake Malawi.

Spear fisherman

Dinner

Becky + Shaun

Becks + Matty’s brother, Shaun.

Becks

Old + new friends. British Becky and I could be “besties” if we lived in the same city — or continent. I really enjoyed spending time with a diverse new group of folks on this trip.

~K

Safarilicious

There have been many, many days traveling when I wish my family was by my side to share in something spectacular. However, nothing to date has ever made me as family-sick as this weekend’s safari to the Majete and Nyala Parks in Malawi. My mom would have been over the moon for the cadre of babies on display. My dad and brother wouldn’t have been able to sit still with the countless animals in sight. Baboon, nyala, ellies, giraffe, hippo, zebra, buffalo, wildebeasts — the parks were teaming with spring bounty.

A sneak peek until I can get home, process these photos and post with a high speed connection.

Baby Girafa!

Breezos!

Ellies (+ baby ellies)

Best safaris yet, by far. Nothing beats seeing baby elephant, zebra and giraffe in the wild. What a blessed trip!

~K

Isidingo

We are preparing to go on safari for the next couple of days, and I don’t have time to write much. But oh goodness, the stories I have to tell from this crazy week! A preview:

Limbe Country Club

Jack fruit

Breakfast fruit

garden creatures

Tea fields

I see Africa

Golfing with the boys at the Limbe Country Club (including Lucky, the barefoot caddy) :: jackfruit + jungle walks :: mulberries + stocking a Malawian pantry :: snails + nannying :: tea fields :: africa! or gum tree bark. Your choice.

Not photographed: the incident of the rabid dog in the night (aka, the time Matt screamed for guns + ran into the darkness with a loaded shotgun), lightning bug drive, the incident of the wild animal sneaking in the kitchen window, the British tea girls visit, the gorgeous Indian doctor, and Isidingo!

~K

Blue Lagoon

Blue Lagoon

The boys

Blue Lagoon

Vicks

Snail

I’ve been swimming here, almost every day. We go for a long walk on the estate, up through the gum trees, through the hills of pine that will be felled to fill the burners to dry the tea, and over the river until we find a calm pool. Yesterday, we walked for more than an hour, eventually making our own path down to the river. One footstep at a time, we wiggled across a large tree — a natural bridge that reminded me of  that scene in Dirty Dancing — until we reached the center of the river where the tree arched upward and we were left to swing our legs below to find tips of rocks to make our way across. By the time we got to the other side, my heart was pounding and my arms were tired from hauling myself (and the weenie dog Chappie) up and over the logs and rocks.

But the water, oh — the water. It is crystal clear and ice cold. It rushes past peacefully in the pools and is such a relief after a long, hot sweaty hike. It is just such a peaceful new routine. This morning I hope to add yoga to the mix when we return. A bit of stretching on the lawn will keep the gardener entertained, and we’ll more than likely have an audience of vervet monkeys too.

When I’m not napping or swimming or day dreaming, I’ve been writing. I’m working on my second novel and slowly, it is plodding forward. There was so much to learn from publishing the first novel. My writing is stronger and my characters are more defined. I’m being more thoughtful of the plot and how I want the story to develop. Like “Under the Same Moon,” I have a beginning and an ending. The trick is not to let too many side characters take over the show in the middle. Focusing on developing three characters and making sure each page I’ve written somehow advances their stories is my mission.

After about three hours of this, I fall over dead tired. My body is on vacation. My brain is at boot camp.

I recognize how very fortunate I am to have the chance to take nearly a month off to write, much less doing so in such a lovely environment. This is a charmed life!

~K

Monkey Scout

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Green moss everywhere

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I spent the morning hiking in the Mulanje Mountain Reserve – a UNESCO heritage site. The mountain range is stunning. Waterfalls pour off the peaks, plummeting into pools and running in gushing rivulets down the mountainside. Clouds crown the peaks, breaking only on occasion for a view of the verdant top.

From the trail, with a chorus of tree frogs singing, we spot samango monkeys above in the treetops. Actually, far before we spotted them, they’d seen the dogs we are hiking with. As they jump from tree to tree, they stay so high in the canopy you have to squint to see leaves moving to catch a glimpse of their tiny dark bodies.

It is their cries we can hear below, and the corresponding hungry howl of the dogs at our feet. In truth, the dogs cannot decide if they want to pounce into the jungle with bravado for the chase and a chance at an exotic snack, or head back to the car with their courage tucked with their tail between their legs.

As we hike, I listen to the Monkey Scout. In the US, he would have been an Eagle Scout, but as an African – this man is well versed in all things jungle.

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“This plant has barbs. Be careful. This plant looks edible, but the flower will kill you. See that bird? That’s a hornbill. Big cry, small bird. See this tree? This tree is a hardwood. The poachers would have a hard time finding a saw strong enough to remove this beast. Bloody poachers… Wait! Listen? Hear those monkeys? Those monkeys have mustaches. If we stand here very still and can keep the dogs close, we’ll be able to see their long wiry mustaches.”

We climbed and climbed. At one point, I threw my hands above my head, stretched my spine and felt my heart thumping as my lungs sucked in as much of humid air as they could. With mushrooms and moss under my feet, I crunched down the path, wary of the dark trail ahead. The canopy – a twisting combination of vine, eucalyptus (gum) trees, African hardwoods and brush – is so dense in places, it closes out the tropical sun above. In my mind, I know there aren’t gorillas/lion/boogeymen in this part of the world. In my imagination, I’m on a remote, slippery lime green cloudy forest trail, in the middle of nowhere, listening to animals in the jungle. Anything is possible.

My heart races.

We reached a small hydroelectric dam built to provide energy to the estate. The water is crystal clear runoff from the rainfall above. A pounding stream feeds the damn. We’ve been able to hear this water bubbling along for more than a mile. We slide into the water holding our breath. Matt, without any fear, swims up one side and down the other, climbing on the dam wall and diving into the darkest part of the pool. I join him after a lot of coaxing, name-calling, and promises that there is no way possible that a croc could be on the bottom waiting for just such an American treat. Soon enough, I’m also standing on the dam wall, shaking from the cold water and dripping wet, jumping blindly into the same dark pool screaming “cowabunga!”

Cowabunga, indeed.

Locally sourced umbrella

Jungle badge — earned.

~K

View from the Veranda

View from the the estate

A few other favorite photos from the last week:

Lake Malawi

Happy place

Waterfalls, Mulanje Mountain UNESCO Site

Tea leaves

From field to factory to fiber -- tea ready for auction

Tasting area

Fishing on Lake Malawi :: Catching rays :: the tea estate and Mulanje Mountain Reserve :: tea leaves — you only take the top few :: tea in process, ready for auction :: tasting station.

~K

“Boys”

Bookcase at Cape MacLear

Books

Book label

Whenever I travel, I love to browse — snoop, really — bookshelves. You can tell so much but what people have read, what’s bookmarked, underlined, well-worn and what has obviously been abandoned mid-chapter. At the lake cottage, I found a tiny bookshelf with books left behind by previous visitors.

I shouldn’t have been as shocked as I was to find the 1950s library rules glued to the inside cover of one novel, but I am. Worthy of sharing, but still very sad nonetheless. There are epic novels to be written about the “boys” and “natives” who were denied the pleasure of reading. Even more depressing, while the colonizers have long since been run out, there are few public libraries today in Malawi. The state of public education is so poor, most folk are illiterate.

The good news is, I’ve made several delightful new friends who are working in Malawi and Tanzania for international NGOs on a variety of projects, including literacy. So, let’s hope the label alone is a relic in this southern African nation. May the joy of libraries one day return to beautiful Malawi.

(Really, how can a country progress without access to quality education and books?)

~k