Posts Tagged With: goats

Building Goat Sheds In Arusha

Six things I learned about Tanzania:

  1. Swahili sounds amazing. It’s one of the happiest sounding languages I’ve ever heard. Here’s a sneak peek:
    Karibu – Welcome
    Habari gani – How are you?
    Jambo – Hello
    Kwaheri – Goodbye
    Sarafi njema – Have a good trip!
    Asante sana – Thank you very much
  2. Speaking of Swahili, the Lion King names are actually Swahili words! Remember Pumba, the warthog? Pumba means slow-witted/thoughtless in Swahili! Simba means lion. Rafiki means friend. Cool, huh?
  3. Beads are everywhere. Everything is beaded. Bracelets, earrings, bags, shoes, everything.
  4. Tsetse flies actually exist, and they’re the devil incarnate. They’re worse than horseflies, leaving giant welts that itch for days. They even carry a terrifying disease called Sleeping Sickness; if you’re bitten by an infected fly you slowly become more and more drowsy, drifting off into sleep, and then remain in a coma for the rest of your life. Thankfully it’s very rare and a nonissue for anyone considering a trip.
  5. The name “Tanzania” exists because it’s the land between Lake Tanganyika and Zanzibar island. (Put it together, Tan + Zan = Tanzania!)
  6. They take the phrase “rice and beans” to a whole new level.

IMG_2819

One of the great things about going with a school group was that I was able to learn about Tanzania from a more educational perspective. Normally my vacations consist of pure adventure seeking, a bit of relaxation, and a cultural day thrown in here and there. With a school group you’re always assessing the educational merit of your activities. Enter the most impacting activity we participated in: The goat shed.

IMG_2850

Service projects comprised much of what we did in Tanzania. The students fundraised beforehand in order to pay for the materials to build a goat shed for a local villager. The activity was facilitated by the non-profit Seeway Tanzania.

IMG_2818

The students had a blast and learned how to manually build a wooden structure using only a set of directions and a hammer and nails. Another important fact: The fundraising didn’t just pay for the shed itself, but for the goat that would live there. It’s a great long-term service project because the goat continues to provide for the villager’s livelihood.

It took two grueling days to build the goat shed, but I can’t wait to return again this February and see how big Hillda has grown!

Check back soon for the final installment on Tanzania, the safari!

Advertisements
Categories: Tanzania | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Door County, Wisconsin

While my blog normally covers all things exotic and foreign, it is all a matter of perspective.

For all of my non-American readers, today you will experience the exotic culture and geography of the Upper-Midwestern United States. A part of America that is so familiar to me, I can close my eyes and recreate each of the five senses purely from memory alone. We all have places like this—my friends in Ethiopia can taste shiro and injera, and smell the wild baboons in the Simien mountains. My friends in Cambodia can feel the salt of the Gulf of Thailand on their skin and the taste of tangy prahok in their mouth. Similarly, Sean and I can hear the call of the hermit thrush, taste of cheese curds, and imagine the waves of Lake Michigan lapping the rocky shore.

Here is Door County in early June.

DCIM101GOPROThe Holiday Music Motel, a vintage throw-back in Sturgeon Bay. One of the best hotels I’ve stayed at in the US so far. Absolutely fantastic breakfast in a ‘serve yourself’ diner setting.

 

DCIM101GOPROI felt like I was either in my grandmother’s kitchen or a church basement for a Friday night fish-fry. (If you’re from Wisconsin, that sentence makes perfect sense.)

 

DCIM101GOPROOn the shores of Lake Michigan, at Whitefish Dunes State Park.

 

DCIM101GOPROOne of Sean’s favorite places in Door County, Cave Point County Park.

 

DCIM101GOPROPerched on the rocky ledges of Cave Point.

 

DCIM101GOPRODoor County is famous for its lighthouses. This one is located in Peninsula State Park, one of the most popular State Parks in Wisconsin.

 

DCIM101GOPROOn top of Eagle Tower, with Horseshoe Island in the background.

 

DCIM101GOPROHorseshoe Island.

 

DCIM101GOPROHiking the Eagle Trail. Was it difficult? Not so much. Beautiful? Absolutely.

 

Screen Shot 2014-06-23 at 10.37.14 PMSean goes spelunking in the caves along the Eagle Trail.

 

DCIM101GOPROIn Sister Bay, Wisconsin, there is a famous restaurant that has goats grazing on their roof. We, unfortunately, visited on a day that they were mowing the lawn. No goats, but certainly an entertaining photograph!

 

Screen Shot 2014-06-23 at 10.33.48 PMWe then visited The Ridges Sanctuary State Natural Area in Bailey’s Harbor. It was recommended for being particularly beautiful and remote, with an active bald eagle nest. As you can see in the above photo (which is actually a screen capture from a video), I became a mosquito-fighting phantom, covering every part of my body from the ridiculously vicious mosquitos that were there!

 

DCIM101GOPROInside The Ridges there is an old homestead from the early 1900’s.

 

Screen Shot 2014-06-23 at 10.31.41 PMWe were the only people for miles around. It was a fairy land.

 

Screen Shot 2014-06-23 at 10.30.15 PMThen we popped out on the shores of Lake Michigan once again. I never get tired of this view.

 

DCIM101GOPROOn our way home, we found yet another lighthouse. Door County never ceases in its simple beauty.

 

Categories: America | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

In Which We Meet Dubai’s Fiery Neighboor, and Stumble Into Oman Through The Back Door

Here it is, the final blog post before Egypt! Sean and I leave for Cairo on Saturday, December 22. We’ve got four days in Cairo, then a week in Luxor. We are so excited, we can barely wait. I have been writing down every Egyptian delicacy I can find on the internet, Googling “hidden Cairo” for months now, and compiled a bucket list that would make the Pharaoh tired. My parents and sister are meeting us in Cairo on the 23rd, and we are spending the duration of our travels with them. I am so excited to experience Egypt with them; neither them nor us have been there before, so it will be a first-time experience for everyone!

We’re certain we will be safe the entire time, too. We’ve booked tours during our time in Cairo, and have gotten a really good feel for the areas we will be staying in. I will hopefully post updates while we’re there! Stay tuned, and happy holidays : )

My last blog post of this year is, again, about Oman. Kind of. Before you write us off as obsessive, this trip took another format. We heard that you could fly into Dubai and drive to the Oman peninsula, where the Straight of Hormuz is located. The name of the peninsula is “Musandam”, and is known for it’s mountains, azure waves, and dolphins. Since the flight to Dubai is so short and inexpensive, and the road trip was supposed to last only two hours, we thought we’d take a long weekend and give it a shot.

We were so glad we did.
KhorAlNajd

(Click on the above photo for an awesome panorama.) This is Khor Al Najd, in Musandam. We drove the windy road down to the coast in our little 2WD rental! Twice! We visited once when it was rather cloudy, but came back on a clearer day for this fantastic shot. “Khor” is Arabic for “hidden place”.
IMG_3030

Here I am at sea level in Khor Al Najd. So much marine life!

IMG_3033

There isn’t much to do at the base of Khor Al Najd, except to wonder at the views. We walked around for a bit, took some pictures, and had lunch.

IMG_3035

We had company on our mountain lookout. We were eating lunch when this guy was walking around on the cliffs below us, snapping photos on his iPhone. Just another tourist like us : )

 

TentRockKim TreeTentRocks

Our first night, we stayed outside the village of Khasab. Unfortunately, it’s possible to take vehicles onto the beaches in Oman, which makes for crowded, loud weekends on the beach. We opted for a more secluded, “look-out” campsite, where no cars were to be found. What paradise. We just made sure that the zipper of the tent was facing inland, so we didn’t step off the cliff!

IMG_3056

The fort in Khasab. Oman has long-standing history of disagreements with the Portuguese (see my earlier post). These forts were built a couple hundred years ago, and renovated recently as a testament to the Omani history.

IMG_3079

Sean and I hanging out inside the fort.

IMG_3086

The bathroom in the fort. So much more exciting than the boring “girl in a dress” icon we’ve got on the bathrooms in America. Sean was obsessed with their gender identification. The woman on the right is wearing an abaya and is completely covered, and the man on the left is wearing a head scarf, a dishdasha, and an Omani dagger. So much more intricate than stick figures!

IMG_3091

We had to get up early to see the fort so that we could be on time to the dock for the 10am dhow cruise. As we had heard, Musandam is a beautiful landscape of “fjords”, which are best seen from the water. Therefore, we decided to book a full-day cruise on a dhow (a traditional Arabic fishing boat). Not only would we sail near the Straight of Hormuz (being only 40 miles from Iran), but would snorkel in the fjords, have a traditional Arabic lunch on board the boat, and be dropped off at a private beach to camp afterward. While we didn’t see this, we had read that the Khasab port is notorious for smuggling goats back and forth from Iran in exchange for American cigarettes (which are banned in Iran)! The above picture was taken as our dhow left the harbor.
IMG_3105

We took precautions and wore lots of sunscreen and covered ourselves as much as we could. Look at how powerful and arid this region is! It’s all striking cliffs, no vegetation, and beautiful, blue water. The dhow was really comfortable; it was set up with cushions for sitting on, and lots of Arabic tea for sipping. (We love Arabic tea; we think it’s comprised of saffron, black tea, sage, and LOTS of sugar.)

IMG_3125

Sean relaxing as we sailed further into the fjords. There were only four other tourists on the boat with us! There was an old Omani man steering the dhow, and our “guide” was from Morocco and wore a NY Yankees baseball hat. I haven’t seen anyone so knowledgeable and passionate about the ocean. He said he is a certified diver, and it sounded like he had dived all over the Mediterranean as well as the Red Sea and Arabian Gulf.
IMG_3138

The boat had a nice canvas shade so we weren’t hit by the sun all of the time. (Look at those mountains!)

IMG_3147

The comfortable dhow : )

IMG_3159

We’re not kidding, we saw over twenty dolphins! As the boat was sailing, dolphins would swim alongside the boat with us. They loved to ride the currents created by the boat.
IMG_3162

It was truly magical. What happy, beautiful creatures.

IMG_3172

As you can see, dhow cruises are fairly popular. We ran into a few other boats during our venture. But ours was the least crowded.

FishColor

When we stopped to dive, our guide tossed a piece of bread into the water, and it sparkled with fish. The snorkeling was a lot of fun.

IMG_3208

There were islands in the fjords, and even small villages where people have lived for, probably, over a thousand years. The villages are just small buildings built right on the edge of the water, and they are brought fresh water from the government every month. Most of the homes are fisherman’s homes, who also have a small home on the mainland. The tour boats are forbidden from sailing too close to the villages, though, and rightfully so. It looked so quiet and peaceful from afar.

SeebelKareeb

After the dhow cruise was over, it was 4pm, and time for us to be dropped off at the beach. Since there’s only one road that winds through Musandam, it’s tough to find a completely quiet place to yourself that has road access. However, you can go to the port in the morning and pay anybody with a boat to drop you off at a secluded beach for the night. We talked to the people we booked our dhow cruise with, and they knew a great beach we could stay at. Since they were a reputable company, we knew we’d actually be picked up in the morning! The above photo (click on it for a great panorama) is the beach we camped at. What a gorgeous cove. The name of it was called “Seebel Kareeb”.

IMG_3246

Sean snapped a picture of me playing on the rocks at our hidden cove beach.

IMG_3261

Once we pitched our tent, we played in the sand, swam, and ate hummus until the sun set.

IMG_3266

The sun created a rosy glow on the mountain that was just beautiful.

IMG_3278

The guy who dropped us off was nice enough to give us lighter fluid and some old, dried up logs, so we made a campfire. (Those of you in the States may think that’s no big deal, but how many trees have you seen in the pictures so far in this blog?) As we sat by the campfire, we were treated to a beautiful meteor shower!

IMG_3291

When we woke up in the morning, we had to refrain from swimming. The tide must have been really rough the night before, or there was a mass birthing of jellyfish, because we found fifteen or so “piles” of baby jellyfish floating in the water. When you get stung by them, it doesn’t necesariyl “hurt”, but it’s a strange, uncomfortable, tingling, prickling feeling. Kind of like when you touch a cactus. No thanks!

KimBeachFrisbee

This was before we saw the jellyfish babies… we played in the water until we felt the stinging….

Shells

We still managed to make a beautiful shell-garden before the boat picked us up in the morning.

IMG_3349

The next day, we decided to drive the “Acacia Forest” at the end of the road. Literally. On the map, there was a road that lead straight into the mountain, and ended where it said, “Acacia Forest”. We decided to check it out seeing as a forest in the desert sounded intriguing to us. What we found there was a herd…. no, a hoard… no, an INVASION of goats.

IMG_3355

The reason the forest exists here is because this area is the main water-drainage route for any rain that falls in the moutains. What I find fascinating is that no one has built homes under the shade of the trees! It was very park-like and quiet.

IMG_3358

We didn’t see another person the whole time, but we saw a lot of goats. Sean calls this picture, “Goat Ad Infinitum”. Can you spot the goat seemingly suspended in mid-air? How many goats can YOU count?

IMG_3361

They were climbing the trees!

HiFriend

As I have said before, Sean likes to watch me squirm around goats. I don’t really like goats. Sean loves goats. This guy followed us around the forest for fifteen minutes. He was sad to see us go. Sean called him ‘Goaty’. Arabs own a lot of goats, as they are a kind of status symbol. Your wealth used to be based on your heard, and even though it doesn’t apply anymore, they still have herds of goats. They slaughter goats for weddings and religious ceremonies. Goat milk and goat cheese is popular. They’re everywhere!

IMG_3392

On our way out of Musandam, we stopped for a final picture.

IMG_3395

The road out of Musandam. Quite undrivable during big waves!

IMG_3401

One of the villages on the way to Khasab. I have never see such rich greens next to such blue blues 🙂

Dunes

As we left Musandam, we made our way back to Dubai. We loved to drive past the rolling sand dunes. We certainly don’t have these in Kuwait, contrary to what you may think. Kuwait doesn’t have any dunes – it’s much more flat, without any shifting sands or change in elevation. We were fascinated.

DubaiSkylineAs we got closer to Dubai, the Burj Khalifa sprouted out of the skyline. (That’s the tallest building in the world, ladies and gentlemen!) It was really neat to drive a rental car around Dubai; we got to see the skyline from so many interesting perspectives. We could see the Burj Khalifa on the horizon for an entire HOUR before we reached the parking lot for the mall, underneath the tower. (We timed it.) What a huge building!


IMG_3425

Ahhhh, Arabia. The land of contrasts. A picture says a thousand words…

IMG_3427

We took this picture for all of you who think we are suffering over here in the Middle East. We have TOO many options to choose from… Starbucks? Caribou Coffee? Take your pick! 

BurjAtNight1We finished off our trip with an ice cream while watching the fountain and light show at the Dubai Mall. The building on the far right is the Burj Khalifa. There is absolutely no feasible way you can fit it in one photograph unless you lay down on the ground and point your camera up to the sky. Our flight left at 11pm, so we had ample time to relax and indulge in all the things we had done without while camping in Musandam. Our trip was a perfect combination of opulent and serene!

We leave for Cairo tomorrow, so I will update you as soon as we can! Merry Christmas, or as they say in Arabic…  well, I don’t know how to say it. All of our Muslim families at school wished us Merry Christmas in English : )  I will just wish you blessings in your holiday season, Mubarak!

Categories: Dubai, Oman | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Oman: Mountain Peaks and Waterfalls

 

 

Happy December! I hope you are looking forward to the Christmas season and take a few moments to reflect on the past year and to spend time with loved ones. Spending time doesn’t have to mean being face-to-face, either. Sometimes the highlight of my week here in Kuwait is coming home from work to say hello to my sister and her miniature Australian Shepherd on Skype. She drinks a coffee to wake up, and I’m finishing up a bowl of ice cream after a long day. One of my other favorite things to do is to pick a new recipe to cook while I Skype my parents in the kitchen. We love to spend hours together, just talking about what their plans are for the day, and what I’m making for dinner.

Even though Thanksgiving has come and gone, I’d like to say how thankful I am for the opportunities to spread my wings and travel the world, while at the same time maintaining some of the deepest roots. I am thankful for my family, my friends here in Kuwait as well as abroad, and my wonderful, loving and supportive husband. I dedicate this blog post to all of you.

Now, if you HAVEN’T booked your plane ticket to Oman yet, I hope this post causes you to reconsider and begin checking prices on Expedia. (Or, Skyscanner, which is my new favorite flight search engine.) I combined two travel days together, which I did not only to save time, but to show what a country of geographical contrast Oman is!

When we woke up at the base of the moutnain, Jebel Shams, we took our trusty rental car and began gaining elevation. We were nervous, having been cautioned against taking a 2WD to the top, not to mention that the pavement turned into gravel about half-way up. Being the true Wisconsinites we are, we soldiered on. In forty-five minutes, we made it to the top of Jebel Shams! Our car held up well. We were greeted by a small village with a few people, beautiful views, and a garden of goats. Seriously. Goats in Oman are like horseflies in the Midwest during the summer. Not only are they everywhere, but to the point of inconvenience. Just when you think you are packing your lunch at the trunk of your car, you feel a nudge on your elbow, and all of a sudden you’ve got a new best friend! I have never liked goats; there is something about them that unnerves me. As you can see in the above picture, Sean particularly enjoyed watching me squirm. (Also, it was difficult to snap wide panoramas of the mountains due to the angle of lighting, but look at the road and the mountains in the distance of the photo!)
IMG_2541

We were eager to leave the goats behind (and by “we”, I mean me), so we set out on our hike for the day. It was called the ‘balcony walk’ and/or the ‘abandoned village walk’, and we walked along the edge of a gigantic canyon to some small ruins set back in the cove of the cliff. The views were absolutely incredible.

We hadn’t anticipated the sheer size of the place! It was huge!

You can spot a person standing on the ledge above my head. One missed step and you had a long way to fall.

IMG_2548

Here we are almost to the end of the hike. You can see the back of the canyon. I loved the “cave-like” rock formation behind us; it looked as if a whole chunk of the mountain was bitten out.

IMG_2563

The haze prohibited us from getting long-distance shots, but Sean loved the sweeping views and plateaus of the place.

IMG_2564

Once back at the bottom of the mountain, which also required some harrowing driving, we stopped for a picture at a small village called Ghul. It was, of course, near a wadi, which explains all the palm trees, and Wadi Ghul is famous for it’s crazy off-road experience. We chose to just take pictures from afar. We loved how the ruins were left on the mountainside—the more modern village (still very small) is to the right of this photo. Their farmlands are nestled at the base of the homes their grandparent’s grandparents lived in years ago.IMG_2569

After Jebel Shams, we had a ways to drive to our next destination. Jebel Shams is located in the Western Hajar mountains, really only two hours away from Muscat. Therefore, our first day was an easy drive. From there we needed to head around three hours south to Wadi Bani Khalid, and then East to the coast. The drive down to Wadi Bani Khalid was beautiful, but as we left the mountains behind, we drive through flat plains, with dunes on our right, and mountains on our left. All of a sudden, we came across an abrupt left turn in the middle of the plains, and we began to drive straight into the mountains. Up, down, over, under, curving roads wound us deeper and deeper into the hills. All of a sudden, we climbed a massive incline, only to drop deep down the other side to an isolated village that was flowered with hundreds of palm trees, flowing rivers, bananas, and little children saying hello. It was beautiful! Unfortunately, we failed to appreciate it at 7pm when we were unable to find a place to camp for the night. Since Wadi Bani Khalid is located in, obviously, a wadi, the steep sides of the canyon prevent for any place to escape the crowds and camp. We looked for two hours for a place, and finally decided upon sneaking behind this concrete corral and pitching our tent. We were a little disappointed, having heard that the camping here was excellent. Later we found out that the place to camp is actually ON the hike—you need to port your stuff in on your back and camp way back in the wadi on the hike. Regardless, with a glass of red wine, some fresh hummus, and the morning view in the photo below, we were pretty happy!

IMG_2572

Looking into Wadi Bani Khalid in the morning.

WadiBaniKhaled4

I strongly encourage you to click on the above photo and open it on a new page. Sean has done a fantastic job stitching together beautiful panoramas, and I’ve put a few onto this blog. The photo above is on the first half of our hike in Wadi Bani Khalid. We climbed a small cliff and looked back into the village.

 

IMG_2577

 

 

 

Here’s Sean walking into the most popular part of the wadi, the pools. You can see the falaj system! (The aqueducts!)

IMG_2578

We had to hike this part really early in the morning due to the crowds. Since we went over a holiday weekend (Eid Al Adha, the festival of sacrifice), all of Oman had a week-long vacation. Therefore, the place became absolutely packed during the afternoon. Can you believe these are all-natural pools in the above photo?

IMG_2588_2

Walking back further into the pools, the walls grew more narrow, and the scenery became more stunning. We had the place all to ourselves! We think this is where our friends recommended we should camp. We’ll just have to go back again : )

IMG_2609

We took a quick dip in the pools. All that climbing around the rocks heated us up! It really is the true definition of an oasis.

IMG_2621

After the pools, we knew there was another part of Wadi Bani Khalid that needed exploring. See, you need to picture the wadi like a T intersection. Once we drove in, we could turn left, to the pools, where the canyon walls narrowed and the water accumulated, or right, where the walls also narrowed and the water again grew plentiful and tumultuous. In the photo above, we have just set off on the hike to the “right”, back into the steep part of the wadi. This was the quiet part of the day! This part of the wadi was really difficult to access as you had to hike a ways over rocks to get there. Behind me is the village.


IMG_2624

The further back into the wadi we hiked, the more beautiful it got. Eventually there were entire boulders blocking our passage, and deep, rushing rivers. If you’ve ever been to Zion National Park, it’s much like that!

IMG_2642

 

After climbing some more rocks and picking our own route (you really can’t get lost in a canyon. You’re either walking in or out) we came across our first waterfall. We couldn’t believe it! I don’t know what we expected, but this blew our minds. It was gorgeous. We spent time swimming and relaxing, basking in the sun and the silence of paradise.

 

 

IMG_2629

 

 

 

I love this photo (above) because it helps show how narrow the wadi really gets.

WadiBaniKhaled5

 

Click on the above photo for another fantastic, beautiful panorama Sean created!

WadiBaniKhaled3

This is also another panorama Sean took in the wadi. Click on it to see the real scale. We loved how narrow and twisty it all was. There was a hidden swimming pool and water slide around every corner.

After exploring the wadi for a few hours, we realized we had better turn around and hike out. We had a limited supply of water, and the wadi was getting hot. It’s easy to over-extend yourself when hiking downhill, back into a canyon! We wanted to make sure we could get back out.

IMG_2656

 

Sure enough, we made it out safe and sound, and began our drive out of Wadi Bani Khalid. We couldn’t resist taking the photo of this guy, going about his daily activities.

IMG_2657

I like the photo above for two reasons. One, you can see that the road and the river are flush with one another. There is no ledge to prevent your car from driving straight into the water, Wisconsin Duck-style. Secondly, these guys are cleaning up all of the sacrifices from Eid Al Adha. Since this Eid is the festival of sacrifice, the people in the village just brought their sacrificial animal down to the road by the river, held their traditional ceremony, and then many of the inedible innards of the animals were left there afterward. These guys were cleaning up shop. (Barf.)

IMG_2658

Our final view as we drove out of Wadi Bani Khalid. It sure helps put it into perspective! This photo is looking back into the “right side of the T intersection” as I was describing it. This is where the waterfall hike was : )

I have hopefully one or two more posts on our Eid trip, then I have a fantastic secret, magical place to share with you! If you ever find yourself in Dubai… I am going to show you the secrets of swimming with dolphins and diving off cliffs… (kind of). But seriously, so much awaits the eager reader, and the even more eager blogger! Stay tuned! And remember to be thankful for how beautiful our lives truly are. Every day that passes will never be had again. Make it count. Call or Skype someone you care about. Take a walk. Sean is standing next to me right now, begging to go to Mc Donald’s for ice cream. Guess it’s time to go be thankful for the love of my life.

See you next time!

Categories: Oman | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blog at WordPress.com.