Travel Thursday Encore: Why African Governments Hate Me, Part 2

Tanzania
Part 1
Whoever called Zanzibar a paradise never went to the Seychelles.
It’s kinda funny that the most Arabian-looking places aren’t so much in the Middle East. Oh sure, you go to the markets in Cairo or Damascus, and it looks like it’s supposed to, but Stone Town here on Zanzibar, along with the Albacin in Granada, Spain. . . that’s where you can ‘indulge in oriental reveries,” to quote a certain blonde. And the weather’s the same, hot and humid. . . on an island with supposed ocean breezes! As usual, it’s a hell of a lot more romantic when you’re traveling with that someone special, although in this place they might stone you for any PDAs. Just get the photos and move on. . .
And don’t forget a photo of the sign that claims “Freddy Mercury’s birthplace.”

Part 2
So here I am in this lodge in the middle of the Serengeti, and what do I see? Besides all the animals?
Chicago! (the movie, not the town). Had seen that one of my favorite actresses was in the movie, and I was looking for her the whole way, didn’t recognize her. Had to ask the “entertainment director” if I could see it again, in fast forward. She rightly assumed what I was looking for and passed over the remote with a wink. Found her right away as one of the singer/dancers in the cell block tango number. I might have rewound and/or freeze framed a few times. . .
Had a groaner contest at dinner one night: the worst joke you could come up with. I call this one the winner, especially considering the locale: Two cannibals were eating a clown. One turned to the other and said, “This tastes funny.”
And this was the most hilarious part of the trip; try to figure out which movie is being described: “Transported to a surreal landscape, a young girl kills the first woman she meets, then teams up with three complete strangers to kill again.” (Answer at end.)
You know how they have those books for visitors to sign in museums and such? They had one here, and I was leafing through it when I found this: “People who think California is weird have never been to Texas.”
Oh yeah. . .

Kenya
Nairobi, 70s with showers. Typical. The hotel I stayed at had a mall, so I didn’t have to go out much, except to get the story I was being paid to get, but that was so easy I got it done in one day and had the next 3 days to myself before heading off to Darfur. So what’d I do? Safari again–good thing my German boss doesn’t read English.
On one drive through the animals there were some cliché local bare-breasted women, right out of National Geographic, and for some reason I flashed right to a Benny Hill classic:
She said, “Kiss me, big bwana.”
So I kissed her big bwana. . .
Any Star Trek fans out there? I finally got a good shot of a tiny deer-like animal that I’ve always wanted to shoot: Kirk’s dik-dik! I’m totally serious, I shit you not, that’s its name, look it up, and if you think about all the alien chicks the ol’ Captain bagged, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was actually built that way. And it’s a weird animal on its own: “Territories are marked by up to a dozen large piles of dung placed around a boundary. Both members of the pair, and their young, use the dung piles, placing their deposits as part of an elaborate ceremony. (WTF?) Well-adapted to their dry environments, they don’t need to drink water!”
I never believed in safari fatigue–Lonely Planet has a piece on it–but it finally hit me. Long days peering out a sunroof, bumpy roads, dusty heat, eating the same food, stuck with the same people, can take its toll quicker than you might think. And while on the first day any animal you might see is exciting, sooner or later you feel that jaded fatigue of “not another zebra, I wanna see a fucking leopard!”
Yeah, that’s my last safari for a while. . .

Darfur
Please don’t ask me about this; I really don’t want to talk about it. Longest week of my life.
And boy, isn’t it fun to realize that a Pulitzer-winning journalist is arrested for spying right in the place you’re going? (Not a bullet dodged, a missile.)

Nigeria, Sao Paulo, Panama, Mexico City, Tijuana, San Diego
Refer back to the opening comment from the first half, the one about airports, although in San Diego it was a train station. All this because there simply weren’t many flights going to London, and who wants to travel for the bigger part of a day in an airtight tube without a book or music player to keep you at least comatose? So I had to get creative. . .
When I bought the ticket on South Africa Airlines, I was asked what kind of meal I wanted and given a long list, with at least twenty options, not just kosher, lactose-intolerant, Asian, seafood, etc. You know me: I chose bland.
Nairobi to Lagos felt surprisingly short, but then flying over the South Atlantic to Brazil was the opposite. Didn’t even leave the airports in Sao Paulo or Panama. Had a free day in Mexico City, though I didn’t look up anyone I know. I did, however, go to my favorite used book store, mostly because it’s a couple of blocks from my usual hotel, and right down the street is a really cool art museum I’ve been to dozens of times. Then straight from the Tijuana airport and across the border, trolley to San Diego with no time to look up John or Lindsey. Train up to El Lay; I get the most incredulous looks from people when I do yoga in the wide passageway where the doors are.
Went to Shannon Hurley’s concert almost straight from the train station. Still trying to adjust to all the time changes and such, so I don’t remember much about it.
I barely remember a couple of weeks ago telling myself how exciting this trip was going to be. And I didn’t mean it in a political turmoil type of way. Damn, I’m naive.
So we’ll see how long it takes me to finally decide if I enjoyed it or not. . .

P.S. Movie quiz answer: Wizard of Oz

;o)

Travel Thursday Encore: Why African Governments Hate Me, Part 1

My last trip to Africa, so long ago no one had ever heard of that Obama guy. . .

London
Douglas Adams: “It can hardly be a coincidence that no language on Earth has ever produced the expression ‘As pretty as an airport.’”
Magazine editors: I promise I will never subscribe to your magazine if I have to go through more than two pages of ads to get to the table of contents, and that includes you supposed Travel magazines. . .
I was waiting at Heathrow for the subway downtown when the terrorist news broke; phew, just in time! (near miss number 1.) But my flight to South Africa got cancelled, so I took the overnight ferry to Amsterdam, which is just as fun as London in its own way–even when that special “old friend” got married last year. . . but I digress.

Amsterdam
Schiphol Airport
Didn’t have time to get this done, just an ordinary massage, but this is what the brochure says: The Back to Life aqua massage gives you new energy and leaves you fully relaxed. This massage is a good alternative for a full body massage as the water jets cover the body from head to toe. The treatment feels as if your body is being massaged by thirty-six fingertips. A massage while lying in this machine is therefore a unique experience. . . you can leave your clothes on. (Huh?)
Hmmm, what’s that? You want to know what happened in Amsterdam? Sign up for the naughty blog, for only $30 a month, which really isn’t worth the price even if I write it myself. . .
Besides, knowing you guys, you won’t get past the second paragraph before you’re screaming “TOO MUCH INFORMATION!”

AFRICA
So, I haven’t done the photojournalism thing in over a decade. It’s the complete opposite of what I usually do, which is taking photos of preeety theeengs.
And that in-the-news politician from Chicago–what’s his name, Obama? {Remember, this is 2006!}–was shadowing me, so security was tight just about everywhere I went. Not nearly as bad as Bush in Copenhagen, and nowhere near as bad as Queen Elizabeth in Berlin (that should put ya in your place, Dubya) but still quite annoying. (near miss number 2.)
Weather was mostly fine, except for the humidity, but not used to the sun going down so soon; frickin’ Suthin’ Hemisphere. . .

South Africa
Can you believe they gave me a bodyguard in South Africa and Kenya? I usta BE a bodyguard! Well, I never actually did, but I trained for it. And these guys sucked. And since I wouldn’t put it past them to mistakenly think I was worth something and kidnap me for ransom, I basically lost them in the first five minutes and went my own way. Apparently sometimes it helps to look like a mean asshole, even when you’re happily walking along. . . (no near misses here. . .)
Had seen on the news that it’d been snowing in Jo’berg before I left, but was supposed to be in the 70s when I got there, so I didn’t take the heavy weather gear; I wasn’t going to climb frickin’ Kilamanjaro or Meru (which is a lot more fun than Kilamanjaro, and way cheaper). Besides, I went right to Cape Town, which is a lot safer, plus it’s their version of LA, as opposed to Jo’Berg, which is more like Noo Yawk.
This is what Robert Heinlein wrote about Cape Town more than 50 years ago: Table Mountain, sitting over Cape Town and Table Bay, is a pleasing sight, but it is an ordinary mesa or butte, made exceptional by being the only one of its sort in the neighborhood, instead of being scattered around in quantity, New Mexico style. It forms a splendid background for an unusually lovely city.
See what I mean about it being like LA? And that’s just about the only part that’s still true today.
Nothing much happened here. Had it been like most trips, I woulda been shooting models, and these sorta Dutch, sorta British, All-South African babes are some of the most beautiful in the world. Well, okay, you didn’t hear it from me, but I did sign up some extra-special tour guides for the places I was really supposed to be shooting. . .

Namibia
I got some extra cash to go to Namibia and do a story on the changes there since independence, since I by accident happened to be there in 1990 when it happened. Actually most of the changes have been for the worse; I shot places I had photos of back then for comparison, but since I haven’t finished the article yet. . . well, I’ll let you know when it comes out. Although it’ll be in German. The sand dunes look the same, though. . .
And spitting of German. . . remember what I said about Dutch/British babes in South Africa? (I know, a paragraph ago. It was for those of you with A.D.D.) Same here, except they’re perfect Deutchland representatives; if you can’t think about what that’s like, look at the gals in the Heidi braids on beer bottles next Oktoberfest. Or think Swedish. Yum. . .
I’ve been trying to come up with a way to explain how it feels–and sounds–laying against these really creepy sand dunes, but I couldn’t come up with anything better than the following, which is from Lonely Planet:
The Roaring Dunes
The lonely barchan dunes of the northern Skeleton Coast hold a unique distinction–they roar–and if you don’t believe it, sit down on a lee face, dig in your feet and slide slowly down. If you feel a jarring vibration and hear a roar akin to a four-engine cargo plane flying low, don’t bother looking up–it’s just the sand producing its marvelous acoustic effect. It’s thought that the roar is created when air pockets between electrically-charged particles are forced to the surface. The effect is especially pronounced in the warmth of late afternoon, when spaces between the sand particles are at their greatest.
Much creepier than any horror movie. . .

Botswana
Maun, the capital, has a lot of trees! I don’t remember that from last time. Forgotten they drive on the left too. It’s always dangerous that first time you step off the curb to jaywalk.
Even though I was only paid to take photos here, I managed to write an article about how expensive it is for tourists, and how the money doesn’t really trickle down to the workers.
80s during the day, freezing at night. As beautiful as this place is, with all the animals you’d want to see, avoid it unless you’re the type who can afford a different Mercedes for every day of the week, not counting holidays.

Zimbabwe/Zambia
Was in Zimbabwe when the whole money thing went down in the capital (third bullet dodged, though this one just barely), so had to change my plans again. This was easier, because I was in Victoria Falls at the time; simply crossing to the other side of the falls put me in Zambia. Not that Zambia’s much better, but at least the corrupt officials have to work at taking your money instead of just pulling a gun on you.
Non-government controlled local newspaper: Zimbabwean security forces this week stepped up their crackdown on ordinary people and innocent cross border traders, triggering fierce clashes with passengers who flatly refused to be searched. Heavily armed police were later deployed at the terminus, clobbering defiant passengers and seizing currency and merchandise. Gun-toting police officers mounted roadblocks to search long-distance buses and vehicles. The raid has so far netted more than 2500 impoverished city residents who have had billions of dollars taken by the State agents.
Who wants to bet all the government officials haven’t turned over any of the old money? What, no takers?

Victoria Falls
Sunny and 70s. You’d think this place would be humid, with the gigantic waterfall, but I guess it’s the spray that cools you, as long as you remember to keep your camera covered.
On the walk back to the hotel I came across an elephant heading in the opposite direction; he eyed me the whole time, even though I wasn’t going to argue about right-of-way. I didn’t offer him any peanuts, because of that attitude.
Advice: skip all offers to go to the town where Stanley said, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?” Not worth it.

 

Am I losing it? (wait for the specific reason before answering.) I’m staring at the computer, at the top of the document where you press a button to save or paste or so forth. The button depresses for a second, then comes back up, and I’d swear it looks like a curtsey. . .

Come back next week for the conclusion, which is frankly much better than this part you just read. . . and don’t you wish I’d told you that at the start?

;o)

Book Reviews: Sci-Fi, Racing, Africa, and Submissives

Butter is not a spice, it’s a necessity.

Meridien
This is the third entry in the Silver Ships no-longer-a-trilogy, and it might be the best of the three.
For a quick recap, Alex from New Terra saves an alien ship, repairs it, puts together a crew of his people and the surviving Meridiens, and goes off to figure out how to combat the enemy that disabled the ship in the first place. In the second book they got new allies from the outcasts of the Meridien culture. In this entry they confront the enemy, only to find not all is at it seems.
Halfway through the battles are ended, though with a sequel hook. The rest is taken up with first contact, which has been a recurring theme but now is much different, since they’re dealing with a truly alien race. There’s also a lot of world-building and diplomacy.
My favorite parts are those that have nothing to do with the story, but show off the people and particularly the hero as quintessentially human; the best example is when Alex goes into the cafeteria and yells “Food!” until everyone joins in. I don’t know how well the people are going to take to living on a planet after all that excitement in space, but I figure I’ll find out in the next novel.
5/5

Red Flags
This is my first book in this series; it will not be my last.
As a racing fan, and a particular fan of female racers—Danica Patrick notwithstanding—I’m amazed I haven’t heard of these novels before, featuring a female racer who’s always finding bodies or being asked to investigate murders. Those parts are okay, but what thoroughly impresses me are the racing scenes. This book takes place at my hometown (temporary) track, Long Beach, which I’ve photographed the last fifteen years, so I’m very familiar with it all and can say this author gets everything right.
First and foremost, I am loving Kate! She’s serious when it comes to racing, a bit of a goof with her friends, and insecure when it comes to all the guys chasing her. There’s plenty of snark opportunities for her in SoCal; she goes to the Troubador, walks on the beach—at least it wasn’t Malibu—and does other El Lay things, making it obvious the author is contemptuous of the City of Beautiful Angels.
This is one of those rare books I wish I could read again for the first time, especially the Fontana test scene. The only disappointment was the lack of description of the IndyLights race.
4.5/5

White Leopard
A detective novel that takes place in the Western African country of Mali, it features a half-African, half-French private investigator with a murky past in France, hence his being in Africa.
When a French lawyer wants him to get her drug-running sister out of jail, things go from bad to worse. Like most hard-boiled detective stories, the PI goes from one screw-up to another, beaten up over and over; the setting makes no difference. And I so hate it when a babe is killed. . .
Despite all the mentions of places in the cities and countryside, a little more description would have been nice. There’s also one time he gets out of death by a deux ex machina, which was annoying, but otherwise it’s a pretty good detective novel.
4/5

Submissive Seductions
Woman gets taken by her friend to a sex auction, where she buys one night with a dom to see if she is indeed a submissive. What it turns out to be is a pretty costly and out-there blind date.
There’s good stuff right away; I’m enjoying the pre-game, the way he talks to her instead of simply commanding her to do his bidding: calming her down, explaining things, the psychology of sexual submissiveness.
About halfway, with the romance having been achieved, I thought it would be the end of it, but no, things aren’t hunky-dory just yet. Kudos to the author for making it one book instead of a sequel.
What made me enjoy this was the main character. I love woman with a sense of humor, and I’m thankful the author wrote this in first person so I could hear her thoughts.
This is technically a romance, and even though there’s some miscommunication problems they weren’t nearly as bad as you usually get in this genre. Even better, no exterior forces—other than the arrest of her boss—played a part. When she went into the Blue Room at the end I was dreading that she would find him with another woman in an innocent but compromising situation, leading to huge misunderstanding, but thankfully that wasn’t the case.
4/5

;o)

Book Reviews: Warrior Women, Vampires, and Foxes

“It’s your job in life to screw me up, huh?”
She blinked phlegmatically. “Huh?”
“Never mind. Just practicing in case we ever get married.”

His Captive Mortal
There really wasn’t much to this story, and I’m not referring to the relative shortness of pages. Basically a vampire cursed by a gypsy so that he can’t have sex—or at least it hurts when he does—tries to break said curse with the help of an “I didn’t know I was a magical creature” girl. She’s independent and stubborn, but she still falls for his alpha male ways.
There’s a brief mention as to why he didn’t just come out and ask for her help rather than emotionally and physically dominating her, but I didn’t find it convincing. There’s some character development, albeit more from him than her, and the dialogue has fun moments, but there really wasn’t anything here that showed me why this story stands out from all the rest in this genre. . . is that its own genre now? Paranormal romance? Probably.
2/5

Set Up
First and foremost, this is not a new novel, rather a reissue; originally written in 1991, there’s a few anachronisms that let you know you’re not in the present anymore. The PI does have a cell phone, though; hard to remember when those things first came around.
The only thing special here is that there aren’t any more murders, though some came close. The female PI drives around Orange County in her van looking for the killer of a woman she put in jail, putting her friends and assistants in harm’s way throughout. A lot of the peripheral characters no doubt appeared in previous books, which makes it difficult at times. As expected, there’s plenty of red herrings until she gets caught and almost killed, so that she doesn’t actually solve the case as much as luck out in not also dying at the hands of the killer.
A serviceable story, but really no big deal.
3/5

Cargo
This book takes place well into a series about a former female government assassin, which makes things a little difficult at first, especially taking the author’s word at what a badass she’s supposed to be. She now works for an organization intent on stopping white slavery, and when there’s a personal connection she immediately takes off to Bangkok, where things go bad and she and the victim end up in Africa.
From there it’s getting from one scrape to another with a supposedly reformed hunter on the run from the same people she’s after. From the big African city to the animal-filled countryside, they try to stop the big bad, his minions, a rebel army, and rich asshole Americans, while she worries about her daughter being captured in what turned out to be a pointless plotline.
After reading about the elephant massacre I didn’t want to continue this. Good people are also getting killed and kidnapped throughout, making it quite depressing. At a certain point I wondered if, even if everything turns out okay in the end, was it worth all the crap the characters had to go through to get there, or for that matter reading about it all the way to the end?
3/5

Love Volume 2: The Fox
This graphic novel takes place in the Arctic, and at the beginning showed some vivid colors rarely seen in these kinds of works. The other rare part about this is that, because it only involves animals, there’s no dialogue—not even the orcas and humpbacks—so I had to keep telling myself to go slower and take it all in.
Though there’s a lot of small animal subplots throughout, this is basically the story of the sly fox from the title—that’s actually missing an eye—going about its daily business of finding something to eat. When it grabs a rabbit it runs right into a muskox, as in nose to nose, which makes it slink away, almost guiltily. The first part is much more about hunting and eating than love.
After a long-running battle between a pod of orcas and a humpback whale family, a volcano explodes. Most of the animals freak out, but the fox doesn’t notice as it hunts; it actually has a mouse in its jaws when it becomes aware of the catastrophe, so surprised that its jaw gapes and the mouse escapes.
A polar bear is trapped on an iceberg that is quickly warmed and breaking apart due to the lava. As it wonders what to do, an orca leaps out and scares him, as though letting him know that as soon as it’s in the water. . . the polar bear heads for land, with orcas just missing him numerous times; so much for being the apex predator, huh? His arrival scares the seals, which hop into the water to get away from him and right into the jaws of the angry orcas. Snack time!
After a fight with another bear the polar version chases after the fox, who hides underground, right into a den of rabbits. . . and leaves them alone, instead racing back out into the lava rather than eating them. Is this the moral of our anthropomorphized story?
Maybe, but more likely it’s about family and the love mentioned in the title as the fox keeps searching the burrows and finally finds its offspring, which it grabs by the scruff and dashes off, trying to get it to safety.
So was it fighting its instinct to kill those rabbits and made a conscious choice to let them live? Or was its sole purpose wrapped up in finding and saving its kid?
At the end there’s a glossary of the animals featured—with their Latin scientific names—which shows this work was well researched. At times the artwork was fascinating, though that’s tempered by the thought that one doesn’t often see nature portrayed to such an extreme in graphic novels. This would be good for kids old enough to know about animals eating smaller cuter animals, more so than just singing along to the Lion King.
4/5

;o)

Book Review: The White Nile Diaries

{This review is payment for getting to read the book early, a small enough price to pay.}
This is a travelogue by John Hopkins, who in the early 60s, after spending time in Peru, looks for a new adventure instead of going home to a typical East Coast preppy lifestyle, as his parents want. The wanderlust is so huge in him he goes despite the love of what seems to be his dream woman. Given an opportunity, or at least encouragement, to visit Kenya, he and his buddy buy a motorcycle in Germany and cross the Sahara before making a right turn at the Nile.
At first I was a bit disappointed that they weren’t actually following the Nile to its origin, as the title might imply; instead it’s the name they give their motorcycle. But like with Robert Heinlein’s Tramp Royale and the recently read and reviewed Harry Harrison autobiography, I’m fascinated by descriptions of places I’ve traveled to, reveling in the differences 50 years have made. Of course this also made for some obnoxious moments when I suddenly yelled “Been there!” like with Djerba and Leptis Magna, but that’s neither here nor there.
My favorite part of his writing is description, from the mournful call to Islamic prayer to the blonde blue-eyed denizens of the Sahara. He and his buddy also seem to have a lot more fun at border crossings than is really recommended. More importantly, he doesn’t give short shift to the bad moments, especially the boredom.
My favorite line: “My only revenge is this diary, where I record how awful it all is.”
On the other hand, if there’s one thing to love about this author/adventurer, it’s his optimism: “Whatever I leave on a page, unless a mystery breeze whisks my notebook overboard, a snack for the crocs, these words will be with me forever. That was what the Pharaohs aimed at. Forever. That was what they got, but it took a pyramid to do it. I can achieve it on a single page. Forever.”
One more quote, which reminds me of why I only travel to places I like now: “We showered and washed our clothes by treading on them in the shower.”
So, in sum, a pleasant enough yarn with plenty of funny moments among the introspection.
4/5

;o)

Travel Thursday: Why African Governments Hate Me

My last trip to Africa, so long ago no one had ever heard of that Obama guy. . .

London
Douglas Adams: “It can hardly be a coincidence that no language on earth has ever produced the expression ‘As pretty as an airport.’”
Magazine editors: I promise I will never subscribe to your magazine if I have to go through more than two pages of ads to get to the table of contents, and that includes you supposed Travel magazines. . .
I was waiting at Heathrow for the subway downtown when the terrorist news broke; phew, just in time! (near miss number 1.) But my flight to South Africa got cancelled, so I took the overnight ferry to Amsterdam, which is just as fun as London in its own way–even when that special “old friend” got married last year. . . but I digress.

Amsterdam
Schiphol Airport
Didn’t have time to get this done, just an ordinary massage, but this is what the brochure says: The Back to Life aqua massage gives you new energy and leaves you fully relaxed. This massage is a good alternative for a full body massage as the water jets cover the body from head to toe. The treatment feels as if your body is being massaged by thirty-six fingertips. A massage while lying in this machine is therefore a unique experience. . . you can leave your clothes on. (Huh?)
Hmmm, what’s that? You want to know what happened in Amsterdam? Well, you know what they say: What happens in Amsterdam. . . unless you sign up for the naughty blog, and that $30 a month, which really isn’t worth the price even if I write it myself. . .
Besides, knowing you guys, you won’t get past the second paragraph before you’re screaming “TOO MUCH INFORMATION!”

AFRICA
So, I haven’t done the photojournalism thing in over a decade. It’s the complete opposite of what I usually do: instead of taking photos of preeety theeengs. . . well, you get the point.
And that in-the-news politician from Chicago–what’s his name, Obama? {Remember, this is 2006!}–was shadowing me, so security was tight just about everywhere I went. Not nearly as bad as Bush in Copenhagen, and nowhere near as bad as Queen Elizabeth in Berlin (that should put ya in your place, Dubya) but still quite annoying. (near miss number 2.)
Weather was mostly fine, except for the humidity, but not used to the sun going down so soon; frickin’ Suthin’ Hemisphere. . .

South Africa
Can you believe they gave me a bodyguard in South Africa and Kenya? I usta BE a bodyguard! Well, I never actually did, but I trained for it. And these guys sucked. And since I wouldn’t put it past them to mistakenly think I was worth something and kidnap me for ransom, I basically lost them in the first five minutes and went my own way. Apparently sometimes it helps to look like a mean asshole, even when you’re happily walking along. . . (no near misses here. . .)
Had seen on the news that it’d been snowing in Jo’berg before I left, but was supposed to be in the 70s when I got there, so I didn’t take the heavy weather gear; I wasn’t going to climb frickin’ Kilamanjaro or Meru (which is a lot more fun than Kilamanjaro, and way cheaper). Besides, I went right to Cape Town, which is a lot safer, plus it’s their version of LA, as opposed to Jo’Berg, which is more like Noo Yawk.
This is what Robert Heinlein wrote about Cape Town more than 50 years ago: Table Mountain, sitting over Cape Town and Table Bay, is a pleasing sight, but it is an ordinary mesa or butte, made exceptional by being the only one of its sort in the neighborhood, instead of being scattered around in quantity, New Mexico style. It forms a splendid background for an unusually lovely city.
See what I mean about it being like LA? And that’s just about the only part that’s still true today.
Nothing much happened here. Had it been like most trips, I woulda been shooting models, and these sorta Dutch, sorta British, All-South African babes are some of the most beautiful in the world. Well, okay, you didn’t hear it from me, but I did sign up some extra-special tour guides for the places I was really supposed to be shooting.

Namibia
I got some extra cash to go to Namibia and do a story on the changes there since independence, since I by accident happened to be there in 1990 when it happened. Actually most of the changes have been for the worse; I shot places I had photos of back then for comparison, but since I haven’t finished the article yet. . . well, I’ll let you know when it comes out. Although it’ll be in German. The sand dunes look the same, though. . .
And spitting of German. . . Remember what I said about Dutch/British babes in South Africa? (I know, a paragraph ago. It was for those of you with A.D.D.) Same here, except they’re perfect Deutchland representatives; if you can’t think about what that’s like, look at the gals in the Heidi braids on beer bottles next Oktoberfest. Or think Swedish. Yum. . .
I’ve been trying to come up with a way to explain how it feels–and sounds–laying against these really creepy sand dunes, but I couldn’t come up with anything better than the following, which is from Lonely Planet:
The Roaring Dunes
The lonely barchan dunes of the northern Skeleton Coast hold a unique distinction–they roar–and if you don’t believe it, sit down on a lee face, dig in your feet and slide slowly down. If you feel a jarring vibration and hear a roar akin to a four-engine cargo plane flying low, don’t bother looking up–it’s just the sand producing its marvelous acoustic effect. It’s thought that the roar is created when air pockets between electrically-charged particles are forced to the surface. The effect is especially pronounced in the warmth of late afternoon, when spaces between the sand particles are at their greatest.
Much creepier than any horror movie. . .

Botswana
Maun, the capital of Botswana, has a lot of trees! I don’t remember that from last time. Forgotten they drive on the left too. It’s always dangerous that first time you step off the curb to jaywalk.
Even though I was only paid to take photos here, I managed to write an article about how expensive it is for tourists, and how the money doesn’t really trickle down to the workers.
80s during the day, freezing at night. As beautiful as this place is, with all the animals you’d want to see, avoid it unless you’re the type who can afford a different Mercedes for every day of the week, not counting holidays.

Zimbabwe/Zambia
Was in Zimbabwe when the whole money thing went down in the capital (third bullet dodged, though this one just barely), so had to change my plans again. This was easier, because I was in Victoria Falls at the time; simply crossed to the other side of the falls and I was in Zambia. Not that Zambia’s much better, but at least the corrupt officials have to work at taking your money instead of just pulling a gun on you.
Non-government controlled local newspaper: Zimbabwean security forces this week stepped up their crackdown on ordinary people and innocent cross border traders, triggering fierce clashes with passengers who flatly refused to be searched, where buses from the region arrive and depart. Heavily armed police were later deployed at the terminus, clobbering defiant passengers and seizing currency and merchandise. Gun-toting police officers mounted roadblocks to search long-distance buses and vehicles. The raid has so far netted more than 2500 impoverished city residents who have had billions of dollars taken by the State agents.
Who wants to bet all the government officials haven’t turned over any of the old money? What, no takers?

Victoria Falls
Sunny and 70s. You’d think this place would be humid, with the gigantic waterfall, but I guess it’s the spray that cools you (as long as you remember to keep your camera covered).
On the walk back to the hotel we came across an elephant heading in the opposite direction; he eyed us the whole time, even though we weren’t going to argue about right-of-way. We didn’t offer him any peanuts either, though; didn’t like his attitude.
Advice: skip all offers to go to the town where Stanley said, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume.” Not worth it.

Am I losing it? (wait for the specific reason before answering.) I’m staring at the computer, at the top of the document where you press a button to save or paste or so forth. The button depresses for a second, then comes back up, and I’d swear it looks like a curtsey. . .

Tanzania
Part 1
Whoever called Zanzibar a paradise never went to the Seychelles.
It’s kinda funny that the most Arabian-looking places aren’t so much in the Middle East. Oh sure, you go to the markets in Cairo or Damascus, and it looks like it’s supposed to, but Stone Town here on Zanzibar, along with the Albacin in Granada, Spain. . . that’s where you can ‘indulge in oriental reveries,” to quote a certain blonde. With the weather just as hot: 80s and humid . . . and it’s an island with supposed ocean breezes! As usual, it’s a hell of a lot more romantic when you’re traveling with that someone special. . . although in this place they might stone you for any PDAs. Just get the photos and move on. . .

Part 2
So here I am in this lodge in the middle of the Serengeti, and what do I see? Besides all the animals?
Chicago! (the movie, not the town). I still prefer the magician girl’s version. . . and if you don’t know what that’s referin’ to, you’ll just have to read the previous blogs. . . Had seen that one of my favorite actresses was in the movie, and I was looking for her the whole way, didn’t recognize her. Had to ask the “entertainment director” if I could see it again, in fast forward. She rightly assumed what I was looking for and passed over the remote with a wink.
Had a groaner contest at dinner one night: the worst joke you could come up with. . . I call this one the winner: Two cannibals were eating a clown. One turned to the other and said, “This tastes funny.”
And this was the most hilarious part of the trip; try to figure out which movie is being described: “Transported to a surreal landscape, a young girl kills the first woman she meets, then teams up with 3 complete strangers to kill again.” (Answer at end)
You know how they have those books for visitors to sign in museums and such? They had one here, and I was leafing through it when I found this: “People who think California is weird have never been to Texas.”
Oh yeah. . .

Kenya
Nairobi, 70s with showers. Typical. The hotel I stayed at had a mall, so I didn’t have to go out much, except to get the story I was being paid to get, but that was so easy I got it done in one day and had the next 3 days to myself before heading off to Darfur. So what’d I do? Headed off to safari again–good thing my German boss doesn’t read English.
On one drive through the animals there were some cliché local bare-breasted women, right out of National Geographic, and for some reason I flashed right to a Benny Hill classic:
She said, “Kiss me, big bwana.”
So I kissed her big bwana.
Any Star Trek fans out there? I finally got a good shot of a tiny deer-like animal that I’ve always wanted to shoot: Kirk’s dik-dik! I’m totally serious, I shit you not, that’s its name, look it up, and if you think about all the alien chicks the ol’ Captain bagged, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was actually built that way. And it’s a weird animal on its own: Territories are marked by up to a dozen large piles of dung placed around a boundary. Both members of the pair, and their young, use the dung piles, placing their deposits as part of an elaborate ceremony. (WTF?) Well-adapted to their dry environments, they don’t need to drink water!
I never believed in safari fatigue–Lonely Planet has a piece on it–but it finally hit me.
Endless long days peering out of a sunroof, on bumpy roads, in the heat, eating the same food, stuck with the same people, can take its toll quicker than you might think. And while on the first day any animal you might see is exciting, sooner or later you feel that jaded fatigue of “not another zebra, I wanna see a fucking leopard!”
Yeah, that’s my last safari for a while. . . Sorry, San Diego Wild Animal Park.

Darfur
Please don’t ask me about this; I really don’t want to talk about it yet. Longest week of my life.
And boy, isn’t it fun to realize that a Pulitzer-winning journalist is arrested for spying right in the place you’re going? (not a bullet dodged, a missile.)

Nigeria, Sao Paulo, Panama, Mexico City, Tijuana, San Diego
Refer back to the opening comment about airports, although in San Diego it was a train station. . . which I actually like. All this because there simply weren’t many flights going to London, and who wants to travel for half a day in an airtight tube without a book or music player to keep you at least comatose? So I had to get creative. . .
When I bought the ticket on South Africa Airlines, I was asked what kind of meal I wanted, and given a long list, with at least 20 options, not just kosher: lactose-intolerant, Asian, seafood, etc. You know me. . . I chose bland.
Didn’t even leave the airports in Sao Paulo or Panama. Had a free day in Mexico City, though I didn’t look up anyone I know. I did, however, go to my favorite used book store, mostly because it’s a couple of blocks from my usual hotel, and right down the street is a really cool art museum I’ve been to dozens of times. Then straight from the Tijuana airport and across the border, trolley to San Diego with no time to look up John or Lindsey. Train up to El Lay; I get the most incredulous looks from people when I do yoga in the wide passageway where the doors are.
Went to Shannon Hurley’s concert almost straight from the train station. Still trying to adjust to all the time changes and such, so I don’t remember much about it.
I barely remember a couple of weeks ago telling myself how exciting this trip was going to be. And I didn’t mean it in a political turmoil type of way. Damn, I’m naive.

So we’ll see how long it takes me to finally decide if I enjoyed it or not. . .

P.S. Movie quiz answer: Wizard of Oz

;o)