Category Archives: Travel

Oops50: To Cruise or Not to Cruise

Moi Zip Lining

The idea of a cruise first came to me in a dream while my husband was recuperating from a hip replacement last year.  I dreamed about being waited on hand and foot and not having to wash dishes, do laundry, cook or even think about cooking.  So, after my Dad passed away last April, my sisters and I decided to take a cruise with our husbands as a way of spending time together and not having to work at it.  And since my Dad loved cruises, we settled on a cruise for our journey together.

Norwegian Star

We boarded the Norwegian Star in Tampa Bay (Feb. 5-12th) and sailed to Honduras, Belize, and the beautiful beaches of Costa Maya, and Cozumel in Mexico.  I have to admit, right from the beginning, I was struck by the customer service.  For example, when we first boarded the ship, it seemed like thousands of people were boarding with us and not only was the process quick and organized, the staff smiled all the way through it and were amazingly friendly – nothing like the airport scene where personnel often act like they are doing YOU a favor.  Everyone I came into contact with on the ship seemed to have one priority – to make sure all passengers have a comfortable, relaxing, and fun time.  If the crew was faking it, they did a great job.

What did I like?  I loved sitting on my private balcony listening to the ocean and keeping the door slightly ajar at night so I could hear the sound of the sea while falling asleep.  I loved sitting on the upper deck in the quiet zone reading, uninterruptedly, Deborah Reed’s new novel,  Carry Yourself Back to Me.

And, I loved the excursions on land.  We zip lined in the rain forest in Belize and later with headlamps on, we floated in tubes through the Mayan cave system.  Other days we relaxed on the gorgeous beaches sipping margaritas and pina coladas.

Coupe Car Cozumel

And when we were at sea, there was the spa with hot tubs, hydrotherapy pools, and cushiony lounge chairs looking out at sea.  Of course there is the dining and endless buffets culminating in the last night’s chocolate buffet.  And, should you get bored, there are endless musical shows that aren’t too bad.

Chocolate Buffet

What didn’t I like?  Just too many darn people – almost everywhere.  I also didn’t like not having enough time once we docked to truly explore any one place.  Basically, you get a sampling of what the country might be like.  It would have been fun to spend the week in just one place but clearly cruises are not designed for that.  All in all, the best part of the cruise was spending time with my two sisters who I don’t get to see enough and of course, not having to cook, clean-up or do anything but visit.

The Brown Girls Cruising

Looking Back on Botswana

JANE

So, I’m back from Africa and settled back into my life (after considerable jet lag).  It’s hard now even to believe that just a week ago, I was driving around the wilds of Botswana in a safari vehicle, looking at rhinos and giraffes and elephants.  It all seems like a movie that I went to see, and now I’m out of the theater, dazed by the  bright outside light and realizing that I ate a little too much popcorn (or, in this case, one too many ‘fat cakes,’ a Botswana staple consisting of a big ball of friend dough dripping with grease).

This trip to Africa made me feel both younger than usual and older.  I felt younger to realize that I still had the nerve to go exploring and camping in remote places, with my 2 girls and some camping equipment.  It also made me feel younger to try new foods, meet new people, and to see new things.  However, the trip also made me feel older, in that I had more anxiety about things than I had ever had in the past.  Part of this is probably due to the fact that it was Africa I was visiting and not Wales (where I ventured when I was 19 and traveling by myself for the first time).

Part of my anxiety was also due, I’m sure,  to the fact that I didn’t have my husband with me—for the first time in about 28 years!  After all, Tom is always so on guard against every possible hazard to our kids that it makes it easy for me to relax and be laid back.

But the biggest part was probably just due to the fact that I’m 58 years old and a little too aware of the bad things that can happen to good people.  While Becky was excited to see the very interesting lizard on the roof of our camping tent, I couldn’t help but imagine that lizard dropping down on us in the night to give us a fatal, poisonous bite.  While Becky and Josie both enjoyed steering the rental car through the sandy roads into Khama Rhino Sanctuary, I kept imagining us stuck in the sand on a backwoods trail, with no one to come and rescue us or bring us water.  It made me feel old to be conscious of every mosquito bite, fearing dengue fever or malaria.

JANE ON SAFARI

I have to admit it:  when our plane touched down in Philadelphia, and I knew, for the first time, that I had gotten at least one of my girls safely back on this side of the ocean, part of me breathed a huge sigh of relief.

But then, I have to remember that there was also another part of me that was ready to pack up and go again.

I guess there’s still some life in the old girl.

My African Adventure: Part III

I’m back home, safe and sound, so I thought I would just give the highlights of the trip.  I’m still a little jet lagged, so bear with me if I repeat myself.  The pictures, by the way, come courtesy of my photographer daughter, Josie!

1) Seeing a mother warthog with her 3 babies:

2) Seeing a herd of elephants rolling in the mud under a hot, hot sun at Madikwe Game Reserve:

3) Watching the sun set at Tuli Game Reserve while elephant shrews and lizards ran around the rocks at our feet:

 

4) Visiting the little town of Serowe, with its fabulous museum that features a room dedicated to the life of novelist Bessie Head, as well as great exhibits about the Khama family (rulers of Botswana over the years):

5) Seeing a leopard—a very rare sighting—out for an evening stroll and watching lions drinking at a watering hole:

 

6) Catching a mother and baby rhino in our spotlight on our night drive through Khama Rhino Sanctuary

7) Playing “Categories” with my girls while waiting for our afternoon safari drive at Tuli, while a monkey stole our opened can of tuna fish!

8) Realizing that we probably weren’t going to die out in the wilderness, even though our 2-wheel drive rented car was having considerable difficulty navigating the sandy roads at Khama and the rocky, potholed roads at Tuli

Continue reading My African Adventure: Part III

The African Adventure Begins!

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We arrived in Africa after a grueling but fun 29-hour trip.  The heat here is overwhelming…a constant sauna…but, since it’s dry heat, you can tolerate it.

After getting situated in the place we are staying, we walked to a nearby mall and had a delicious dinner of Indian food and went to see “New Year’s Eve” in English–at an air conditioned theater.  We could easily have been back home, except for the “chicken” flavored popcorn.  The next day, we explored Becky’s city, visiting her university and moving her into her new dorm room.  We were also visited by a stranger, who scaled the wall and the iron gate at the house, apparently to rob the house.  But, since I thought he was the gardener, who was due to come that morning, I went up and introduced myself to him and said, “You must be Mr. Mompati!  How nice to meet you!”  He looked startled and said, “Yes, Mr. Mompati.  Can you let me in?”  He was pointing to my host’s office door.  I said, “Yes, I can, but I need to go get dressed first,” as I was in my bath robe.  When I came back out, he was gone.  I didn’t realize his true identity until the real Mr. Mompati arrived the next morning with a big smile on his face.  I thought he was trying to pull a fast one on me, until I realized that he knew all about me and my girls–and my purpose for staying in the house.  After some discussion back and forth, I realized how close I had come to letting a thief walk right into my host’s office!

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We tried to start the big jeep of a car that we were going to borrow–the one with an extra tank for long hauls–but it wouldn’t even turn over, so we have ended up renting a car.  I can’t say I’m too disappointed:  1) it is automatic instead of manual, and I was having anxiety attacks thinking about trying to shift with my left hand, while getting used to sitting on the right side of the car and driving on the left side of the road 2) it is gloriously air conditioned!  It doesn’t have 4-wheel drive, which might be a problem in the game reserves, but I’m hoping we can work around that.  Now, if I can just stop putting on the windshield wipers every time I want to signal that I’m going left or right (since even the hand controls are reversed on the wheel).

Tonight, we take our malaria medicine and get ready to leave early in the morning for Khama Rhino Sanctuary–and Tuli Game Reserve–that is, if we can find our way to the road!

Love from Africa!

Jane

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Jane: Things on my list before my trip to Botswana

Oops, I was supposed to post this for Jane as she was flying off to Botswana with Josie to visit her daughter, but I had too many things on my list this past week.  So, here is Jane’s post –  just a little late!  Annice

Tell me again, whose idea was it to schedule a surprise birthday party for her husband’s 60thbirthday one week before Christmas?  It was worth it—I’ll say that.  The party was a blast.  Tom was surprised beyond my wildest hopes.  Our friends and relatives came from far away places.  My wonderful niece and her husband came from Virginia with their two baby girls to complete our workforce made up of Lizzie and Janson (her fiance), Josie, and my wonderful friends Heather, and Nora, her daughter.  Together they decorated, cooked food, took pictures, arranged the room, welcomed guests–and generally made it all possible.  And Sadhvi gets an Oscar for her acting job that led Tom into the room “to borrow chairs for the weekend.”  Josie made an incredible 4-tier cake with the theme of “A Man For All Seasons” (with a season on each tier).  I got so wound up from seeing so many people  I love in one place that I’m still having trouble unwinding!  It made turning 60 seem like a great thing, and I’ll let you know about that in a few years.

Tom, Josie, and the Birthday Cake!

But whose idea was it to schedule a trip to Africa 3 days after Christmas?  This trip promises to be an adventure, and, most importantly, I’ll get to see my baby girl instead of missing her for another six months!  But, needless to say, I’m not ready for Christmas, and I’m not ready for Africa.  I’m guessing it will all come together, “one way or t’other,” as my mother used to say.

Here is what remains to be done today:

1) Shop for about five things that are still missing for Christmas

2) Find a plug that can convert to African power, so that I can plug in my C-PAP machine and sleep at night while I’m traveling around Botswana

3) Buy wrapping paper and wrap presents

4) Get international texting put on my daughter’s phone so that we can let my husband know that we arrived safely in Botswana

5) Call my credit card company to let them know I will, in fact, be in Botswana, so that they don’t kick out every transaction I try to do

6) Find the passports that I stored in a safe place for the trip

7) Get one of those passport holders you can wear around your neck

8) Go to the evening service at our church for Christmas Eve

Jane and Josie

9) Breathe deeply

10) Pack for Africa

11) Clean the house

12) Bake Christmas cookies.

I have a feeling that numbers 11 and 12 are probably going to go down the tubes!

Happy Belated New Year to all of our readers!  Off to Botswana!