Wednesday, September 26, 2007

"From Hell's heart, I stab at thee..."

Mosquitoes. Oh, how I hate thee...

I saw this sign at the Jolly Boys Backpacker Lodge in Vic Falls, where Michael and I have stayed for the past few days:

Amen, brother. Amen.

In my opinion, mosquitoes in Africa aren't like other mosquitoes. They laugh at my feeble defensive countermeasures, such as long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and DEET-based insect repellents. Here's how I imagine their conversation going:

  • Mr. Mosquito: Honey, I'm home.
  • Mrs. Mosquito: Hello dear. How was your day?
  • Mr. Mosquito: Not bad. I bit the bejeezus out of some kid. Even bit him on embarrassing and/or irritating places, like the middle of his forehead and the bottom of his foot.
  • Mrs. Mosquito: Fantastic! But wasn't he, like, wearing 50%-strength DEET, the kind that melts plastic, causes cancer, and routinely blinds small children?
  • Mr. Mosquito: Ha! 50% is pathetic. I sprinkle 50% on my breakfast cereal.

Anyway, African mosquitoes have bitten me over 100 times in a little over a month. Yeesh. I think of Khan in Star Trek II, shaking his fist at Kirk and saying "For hate's sake, I spit my last breath at thee..."* And this leads me to my wish of the moment:

I wish I had Japanse animation-style qi-energy,** which I would use solely to wipe out every mosquito on the face of the earth.*** The revenge would be sweet. And I would serve it cold, like Khan did.


*Yes, I know the quote is actually Ahab's/Herman Melville's, not Khan's.

**The kind where raw power crackles around me and runs through my hands and across my skin in violent little waves.

***Screw the food chain.

What a rush!

Vic Falls is an expensive, adrenaline activity-filled tourist mecca. So, I partook.

Here's me bungee jumping.

I have to say, bungee jumping is FUN. The moment right before takeoff, I experienced this ever-so-brief moment of Zen. Of course, it was followed by a somewhat longer moment of sheer terror as I plunged towards the river 100 meters below. Observers say I said something like this:

Me: MmmmmwwaaaaaAAAaaaAAAaaggghhhhhhhhaaaaAAA!

Me: *running out of air, gasp, inhale sharply*

Me: MmmmaaaAAaaAaggggaahhhaaAAa...

Also, I also did this thing called riverboarding. It's where they send you down the Zambezi Rapids with naught but a floaty foam board for protection. It was both fun and terrifying to feel the river throw me around like a rag doll, hold my head underwater like a bully, and slap me in the face with wave after wave as I valiantly tried to follow the guide's instructions to swim faster, kick harder, etc etc. I'd have to say that it was fun, even though I swallowed a gallon of river water and thought I was going to drown once or thrice...

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Ambient Noise

I think I'll remember last night's sounds for the rest of my life. It went on all night: hippos grunting, lions roaring, elephants trumpeting, and giraffes walking around stripping the leaves off trees...

It's odd for me to be reminded of how divorced I/we all are from nature. As I laid awake at 3am last night listening to the sound of the savanna, a silly thought occurred to me:

That what I was hearing sounded exactly like one of those ambient-noise generators that people buy to help them relax. You know, the ones that have a bunch of different modes, like the sound of the forest, water running, etc. Those silly machines that a city person buys to drown out the sound of the highway outside her window.

And again: the field of stars out here is so clear, the scope of it so vast, that it reminds me of going to a planetarium. What kind of life am I living, where the real night sky reminds me of a planetarium, rather than the other way around?


Animals! We've been going out on safari in the Luangwa Nat. Park in Zambia, and it's chock-full of wildlife...

Elephants, hippos, and monkeys walk through our campsite *all the time*. (Sorry these pics are bit blurry - a photographer I ain't.)

It's great - as well as somewhat alarming - to wake up in the morning and see an elephant staring you in the face.

Squint a bit, and you'll see a white-ish tent on a platform at the top of the picture. This is where I've slept for the past few nights.

It's something of a cliche, but the animals we've seen - lions, elephants, hippos, impala, etc. - are every bit as graceful, beautiful, and awe-inspiring as everyone says they are.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Getting Up Early

Believe it or not, I think I'm starting to enjoy getting up early.

On days when we have a long drive ahead of us, the whole group wakes up around 4am, breaks down the tents, eats breakfast at 5, and is on the road by 6. I'm beginning to find something satisfying about this, which eerily reminds me that I may be turning into my father.

He's the type of dad that gets up at 5am whether he wants to or not, and then goes about accomplishing things. Chores, mostly. Changing the oil on our cars, going shopping at the Chinese farmer's market underneath the freeway, mowing the lawn, etc etc. Lots of dad-type stuff.

As a teenager, I remember waking up most Sat/Sun mornings at 10am at the earliest, bleary-eyed and confused, and he'd exclaim with surprise that I was up so "early." And then, he'd tell me all the things he had already done that morning (in contrast to my sluglike laziness). My standard response would usually be to mumble something noncommittal before heading into the living room to mind-meld with the TV.

I began this post intending to talk about how I kinda like getting up early now. But actually, what I think I want to say is that I miss my dad. It'll be good to see him again.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Resort-a-Phobia in Malawi

There's such a thing as too much relaxing.

Although many of you will undoubtedly make sarcastic violin-playing motions when I say this, hanging out on the beach and relaxing has gotten somewhat tiresome. Let me elaborate:

It's all about expectations. Before getting on a plane to Africa, I envisioned going on long hikes through a wild and savagely beautiful countryside, gazing at wild animals, sitting down at local places to eat local food, etc etc. While these experiences may still occur, the clearest memories I have so far from Tanzania and Malawi - the "bad" ones as well as the good ones - are the following:

-Getting to know the other 12 people on our overland truck. The group includes Irish, English, Kiwis, and Australians. They're a great group of people, we hang out and talk and play cards and drink. Here's our truck. We spend a lot of time on it.

-Getting swindled by this guy in Zanzibar. I'm still mad about it b/c he, like, totally lied to me and then pretended he didn't. I was filled with righteous indignation, which was all out of proportion to the ~$1 that I lost.

-Getting eaten alive by mosquitos and hoping that I don't get malaria.

-Swimming in Lake Malawi and hoping I don't get bilharzia.

-Relaxing on the beach, which I wished we had done at the end of our trip rather than the beginning. (lthough we're camping, the places we're staying are hardly distinguishable from any resort-y place in any warm and sunny location.)

-Doing adventure-ish activities, such as:
  • Abseiling (where you rappel down the side of a cliff and pretend you're a Special Forces guy infiltrating the hideout of a Columbian drug lord).

  • Horseback riding (where you pretend you're a cowboy on the way to the OK Corral, Howdy-Ma'aming the ladies and being ready, at any moment, to yank your shotgun out of its leather holster and blast the living daylights out of a mustachioed villain).

Ok, that's it for now, hopefully my next post will contain some stories of animal-viewing and other assorted misadventures.

Saturday, September 1, 2007


Tried to sweet-talk the immigration lady in Dar Es Salaam into waiving my $50 Tanzania visa entry fee. No dice. I even tried using my pathetic 5 words of Swahili, which got the withering glance it deserved.

Ah well, at least this is where I'm headed:

Coconuts, white sand, warm water... I plan on heaving my pale, bloated body onto a lawn chair and not moving until someone comes and scrapes me off. Hmm, perhaps that someone will also come fan me with an oversized palm frond as I (without any sense of irony or self-awareness) listen to dire NPR podcasts about globalization, politics, poverty, etc etc.*

*The usual plethora of left-wing-but-totally-credible-and-important-anyway pieces of information about 1) current events and 2) how Shrub is ruining literally everything.