Thanksgiving Departure

We had a wonderful (although early) Thanksgiving Dinner.  The Carters, Grandma, the Clowers (including Matt and Jamie), the Robinsons, Thor and his Mom and Dad, and Kyle were all there and hungry at noon.  Food was awesome as always.  After some final packing (and a letter to the State Franchise Tax Board) Dave took me and Kyle to SFO.  It’s eerie at SFO on Thanksgiving evening.  It’s a Ghost town.  No line at checkin, no line at TSA-Pre, no line at Peet’s and 10s and 10s of open seats on the airplane (including some in Business that could have been had for a little $800 donation to United share holders.  (pass).

We have enough camera gear for safari, wedding, Asante photos/videos, misc B-roll.  We’re ready.

There is a lot to be thankful this year.  I could list a few (like Daughter wedding) but, I’ll save that for a bad weather day in Africa.

“See” you all tomorrow.  Next check in will be London.


T minus 2 days and counting

Kyle and I continue to pack (and buy more stuff that we “need” for Africa).  The goal is to pack as light as possible and yet have all the camera gear we could ever imaging at our fingertips.  We have packed 5 cameras, two tripods/monopods, one stabilizer (brand new), uncounted lenses, 2 computers, external hard disks, cables, batteries, chargers (x7), audio recording unit, clothes, drugs (perscription) and pepto.

I’m excited for reunion with Albert Jumbe (best Safari guide ever!), quick safari in the Serengeti region, drive to Kenya, Anne’s wedding and LEI.  And if all goes as planned, I’ll get back to see Lepilali’s family in Tanzania.  I’m not sure what Kyle is excited about – maybe we could have started with a trip to Canada (not that it’s not dangerous up there too with all the frozen lakes and lumberjacks.  I still think they should build a wall and make us pay for it.)

More tomorrow.  There is still a Thanksgiving dinner between me and the flight to Africa.  (Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.)



via Daily Prompt: Dubious

“Dubious” is the daily prompt.  I’m supposed to write about the word “Dubious.”

I’m dubious about this whole “Dubious” thing.  In four days my nephew Kyle and I are off to Africa.  This will be my third trip to Sub-Sarahan Africa, plus a “dubious” trip to see the pyramids of Giza (also in Africa but – just barely).  We’re returning to support Asante Africa Foundation (and a quick trip to the Serengeti to chase some Cheetahs).  I’m quite dubious every time I try to spell Cheetah.  (according to the internet “Dubious” includes   doubtful, uncertain, unsure, hesitantundecided, indefinite, unresolved, up in the air; vacillating, irresoluteskeptical, suspicious; informal – iffy).  I’m dubious about a lot of things.


Back to packing for the trip. Just found out they are confiscating plastic bags from travelers entering Kenya.  Moving to stuff sacks.

See you all soon…keep following…it’s going to be a fun-filled trip.



50 ways to die in East Africa

Our guide Albert’s most important job:
Protection from the Top 50 ways to die in East Africa

1)   Eaten by lion

2)   Killed by Lion, eaten by Hyena

3)   Pecked to death by a mating Ostrich

4)   Gored by Cape Buffalo

5)   Chomped by a hippo as you try for that macro shot of his wiggling ears

6)   Run over by stampeding wildebeests

7)   Carried off to a tree by a Leopard

8)   Volcanic eruption

9)   CO2 asphyxiation in an ancient Caldera

10) Hit by car while walking and looking the wrong way (almost happened to me – luckily the car swerved to avoid vehicle damage)

11)  Malaria

12) Choked to death on Malaria pills

13) words:  “African Sushi”

14)  Outsmarted (and then killed) by a Troop of Baboons

15)   Killed by vultures who misunderstood your nap on the Savannah

16) Smashed by collapsed scaffolding as you walk past

17) Drinking the water

18) Shot by park ranger (accidently)

19) Shot by park Ranger (intentionally)

20)  Flash flood

21)  Drought

22) Dehydration due to Maasai flies

23)  Frostbite in the hotel shower

24)   Electrocuted by power plug adapter

25)   Impaled on spear you bought from local villager

26) Smothered by primary school kids anxious to see their picture on the back of your camera

27)   Secondary school chemistry experiment

28)  Asteroid (could happen anywhere but seems more likely in Africa)

29)   Ebola

30) Yellow fever

31)  Tetanus

32)   HEP A

33)   HEP B

34)   Dengue Fever

35) Killed by natives after bad dancing

36)  Attacked after bad mouthing Barack Obama

37) Suicide after multiple, unsuccessful attempt to update your Facebook status

38)  Hit head on inside window of Safari car (while napping)

39)  Photographing a kingfisher (actually happened in Laky Manyara National Park – lady got out of the vehicle to get a better angle for her picture and Leopard got her – would make an exciting Darwin award entry)

40) Killed by fellow Safari-goer for singing “Pole, Pole” one too many times

41)  Tsetse fly bites

42)Mobbed by Natives trying to sell cheap souvenirs

43) Mistaken for goat in preparations for a Maasai welcome ceremony

44) Stepped on by an Elephant

45)Charged by a Rhino

46) Outrun by a Cheetah

47Dive bombed by a pair of fish eagles (while photographing hippos)

48) Freak Impala accident (Chevy Impala?)

49) Inhaling truck and auto exhaust

50)  Old age


Walking Safari – Arusha National Park


We decided to add a 4th day to our Safari adventure.  We were signed up for a walking Safari in Arusha National Park just north of the town of Arusha on the eastern slope of Mt. Meru (5th tallest Mountain in Africa).  The day didn’t get off to the best of starts.  Elley could not find her 80-200mm lens (and 2x extender) with value over $2,000.  We looked through every bag we had – more than once. She had last had it in her hand in the Safari vehicle in Lake Manyara National Park just before we shot the video of Albert.  Albert had rented toe Safari vehicle to a friend for today and we had no idea how to find the car for a search.  We finally found the Land Rover – in the shop getting oil change, brakes and tires checked and there in the back seat was the $2,000+ worth of glass….perfect!  Tanzanians seem so honest.

We were off to the Park (in a normal car).  It was a bit foggy with a light mist so we expected to be cold.  I had left my gortex jacket in the hotel room in the one day I might need it.  I think I was the only one in Africa enjoying the cold weather.  The first thing we saw was a bus load of school kids out for a field trip.  That cost me 30 minutes interacting with them.  So fun!


We met the park ranger who would be our guide/guard.  He carried a rifle that was only strong enough to shoot us if we were attacked by a wild animal.  At least we wouldn’t suffer long.  The park’s Lions and Cheetas had been hunted by the locals and now thought to not be around but there were many, many other animals that could make for a very interesting end-of-life video.  Baboons, Hippos, Cape Buffalo, Pythons, Elephants and even Giraffes were known to have killed people.  The biggest fear was seeing a leopard.  (Neither we not the leopards were so lucky).  We started our list of “100 ways to die in East Africa” with the idea that we might put it on Albert’s website with the closing “Come with me on Safari, It’s my job to protect you.”

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We explored a bit including a beautiful 20m tall waterfall.




We walked the park getting interestingly close to a trio of Warthogs.  We walked right up to their den (after they had scampered off).  We were just 100 feet or so from a collection of Cape Buffalo.  We were only 1 foot or so from the ranger with the gun.  That little toy gun of his would have no chance stopping a charging Cape Buffalo.


Luckily – no charging today.


We then headed back to the car and drove up the mountain to the famous Hole in the Fig Tree (reminiscent of the driving hole in the redwood tree in Northern California).  The rain forest up the side of Mt. Meru was beautiful.  I did get a chance to use the camera rain jacket I bought at the Wedding Photographer’s Convention in Las Vegas in March – it kept my camera dry and still allowed me to shoot.  (Note to self:  when visiting a rain forest, take the people rain gear that you drug 10,000 miles with you.)


We headed back to town for a relaxing evening including dinner at the local Chinese restaurant.  We were hungry and thus the food was pretty good.


Maasai Family


Our next stop was a bit scary.  We were visiting a remote Maasai family that had only been visited a couple of times by outsiders.  This is not a tourist stop.  This family is a personal friend of Albert, developed as he worked with the Maasai community in very rural Tanzania.  The “road” to their Boma was not even a 4WD track.  Albert followed a footpath that took us the 10 km off the road into the bush.  We asked him “who made this “road”?”  He said, “I did.”

We parked well away from the Boma and were greeted by a group of about 30 kids and women as we approached.  All were dressed in the traditional Maasai clothing with bright colored fabrics and necklaces.   The father of the family came out to greet Albert and us.  He is a “wealthy man” by comparison with a few hundred cows, many goats, 10 wives and 80 children.

We think we are only the 4th group of westerners they have ever seen. We talked (they speak Ma’a and not even Albert can translate).  CO9C9794

We took photos and shared the images with the audience.  They absolutely loved seeing themselves ontheback of the camera.CO9C9768



The only challenge with the visit was the flies.  There were thousands and thousands of flies.  They were everywhere – landing on your hands, face, clothing (and camera).  At one point I counted at least 50 flies landed on my camera!  They live every day of their lives with these flies and they just ignore them.  These flies often cause health problems (especially eye problems) as the take moisture from the eyes.  One of Albert’s activities is to bring eye drops to this family.  Albert is a very good hearted man and was loved by this family.




The oldest mother led the group in a traditional song and dance to celebrate our visit.  Her voice was beautiful (and we caught it on video). Two girls grabbed me and we danced around the group like I was a white guy! Elley caught that on video too :(.  I shared some smarties with the kids.  Many of them just held them in their hands, saving them for later.  One last thought:  where’s the water?  When we ask the men say very matter-of-fact “the mamas walk and get it.”  This society is not very different from the Maasai societies of thousands of years ago.  They are less nomadic and do a little bit of farming (but not much).  Ten wives?  (one is sometimes too much for me (no offense to my wonderful wife))


On our way back home to Arusha I sang my made up Swahili song “Pole pole, pole pole, pole pole.”  Means “slow, slow, slow, slow, slow, slow.”  I’m working on my Applewood points.

I also started a list of 10 things I will never complain about again:

1)   Speed bumps

2)   Pot holes

3)   3-pronged forks

4)   American flies

5)   Power outages

6)   One wife

7)   Too much rain

8)   Stray cats (American cats)

9)   My life

10)Top ten lists

Life is good


Migungani preschool


Our next stop (after the tree lunch where we were visited by a group of 4 Maasai young men out herding their goats), was the Migungani preschool.  I had been looking forward to this visit for quite some time as our friends, the Clowers and Grace Stewart had visited in 2010.  I remembered their shots of Ellen Playing Duck-Duck-Goose in the dirt in front of the school.  Asante Africa Foundation had built the school and the outhouses and supported the community in providing food for theyoungsters.  We are now transitioning the responsibility of sustaining the school to the local community.  This can be very tricky and is being worked by our Tanzania team.


If you are going to a preschool – prepare to sit on the floor!



Also this was the coveted opportunity to shake hands with Barack Obama.  One of the little preschoolers was named after the President five years ago.  I’m not sure the little guy has any idea why he is so popular (he’s actually quite shy), but I got my photo op and checked off my “Shake Hands with Obama” item on my bucket list!

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The teachers were very nice but clearly understaffed and undersupplied.  They are working in the best facility I’ve seen so far this far from “civilization.”  We shot some photos and hung around with the kids as they prepared to walk home from school.


We shared my brother’s Smarties with them (it was my brother’s birthday and I gave his present to the kids instead of him).





Only one little boy in the class had any paper or pencil.  I’m not sure if he was special but he sure was cute!




It really was a nice relaxing visit with the friendliest people on earth.