A Travellerspoint blog

Blog About THIS Blog and Blogging

A Message to Readers of The Foreigner

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View Start on jaytravels's travel map.

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First of let me say that I love having a platform for writing about travel and wish I could make better use of it. Unfortunately, the maintainance takes time, internet/wifi, and electricity-- all things that are not always available on the road (I am without electricity while writing this-- it's the rainy season in Tanzania). For this reason, sometimes I go a long time without new postings and other times I will post 3 - 6 in one week. I always have a half-dozen drafts hanging out waiting for my attention. Sometimes I finish one of them and post it. The trouble is after a lot of time passes, my views, emotions and memories have changed. That may result in deciding to delete some older drafts or if I decide to proceed, they may go in a new direction rather than the one originally intended (See World News Has New Meaning When Traveling).
The most difficult aspect of my blog has been posting pictures. Sometimes that is the primary reason I delay posting a blog. Updloading then downloading photos can be a slow process with borderline (or no!) wifi...add to that a sluggish netbook which once turned on demands excessive time for updates, scans, backup programs and security systems . Another difficulty is that while I can dredge up my memories for writing about something-- trying to remember why I took one of thousands of photos (oh....yeah...that's a barely visible basilisk lizard sitting on that branch) or where the photo was taken (Bosnia or Croatia?). At the end of this trip, I may have massive numbers of photos that have been rendered meaningless!
My blogs appear in date order, but they have not been completed in this order. So if you are cruising my site for new additions, you really need to go to the Table of Contents in case I have inserted a blog for a country I visited four months back (like Greece-- See The Heights and Delights of Meteora and Seeking The Oracle). This applies to the Picture Gallery too. Recently, I noticed that I hadn't posted pictures since Bolivia (month three). I was eager to remedy this since I have thousands of photos, but several attempts had me thwarted. So good intentions don't always pan out.

Here are the TOP 5 BLOGS on my site per the readers as of March 2014:
1- Selling OJ on the Djemaa-Fna
2- Waking up to the Sound of Spain
3- How to Use a Squatty-Potty
4- Salar de Uyuni Tour - Day 1
5- World News Has New Meaning When Traveling

Everytime I see that Waking to the Sound of Spain is on that list I wonder- WHY? There is a nice opening paragraph and after that it is typical and boring reporting. Someone please enlighten me! The more recent posting about squatty-potties finally pushed the one about counterfeit money in Peru off the list. On the other hand, the article (and experience) that I love the most doesn't seem to get much attention at all. I finally changed the title-- I think it was titled Climbing Huaynapicchu. The new title is more descriptive of my experience-- I Find My Inner Amazon Woman. Here are my choices in no particular order.

My Own Top Five:
I Find my Inner Amazon Woman
Say "No" to Terrorism
Mi Torrito - Love on the Road
Selling OJ on the Djemaa-Fna Thanks to Travellerspoint for making this a featured blog!
The Conundrum of Gibraltar

I still have huge holes in my postings as you can see from my map. Sometimes I just didn't have time, but there were some places where it was just too personal or emotional. I needed time to process what I had experienced (such as Bosnia, Kosovo, Israel and The Palestines Territories). Sometimes, I just wasn't sure how much to share since there are others involved (living in Rabat, Morocco with a family in the Medina while I studied Arabic and taught English to girls in a Muslim school). But after a lot of time passes, these may be even more difficult to write about it, but I hope I do eventually.

There's also that challenge of what to write. I don't really like the standard reporting of what I saw and did. I feel there are lots of guide books and a massive number of blogs that do that. They don't really inspire me and I did a fair amount of that while in Spain (though three drafts are still unpublished)...and frankly, I hated it. I want to give my family, friends and readers a taste of what I am seeing, doing, and experiencing, but not a blow-by-blow journal which is boring and time-consuming with very little reward/satisfaction for me.

The unpublished drafts for Spain still need pictures, but the primary reason I wasn't inspired to go back and finish them yet is that I hit a wall at that time. For the first time, I was truly being a tourist and feeling like I had to see everything...and it was leading to overload and burnout. I was losing my travel mojo. Unfortunately, it was too expensive there to slow down or settle in some place until it passed which is why I ended up staying so long in Morocco. My slow travel in Morocco and Tunisia was followed by fairly fast overland travel starting with Slovenia and winding through Eastern Europe until I hit Greece. Then I slowed down again (partly due to a respiratory infection in Jordan). The history and recent past of a few of those countries strongly affected me and I do hope to share some of that eventually.

So, please, don't give up on me or my blog. A handful of people have subscribed to my blog so that they are notified when I publish something new. For the rest of you, I encourage you to check back every few months and scan my Table of Contents for what you may have missed. I hope there will be something new and worth your while. That after all, is part of my pleasure in writing.

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If anyone has a request for something specific (what's in my bag, finding hotels, etc), feel free to submit a request via a comment and I'll take it into consideration. I know that when I was planning my RTW, I wanted to know much more about budget planning and technology tools. Eventually, I hope to share more about the practicalities of RTW or long-term travel. For a start, I have posted Choosing Countries for an RTW though it may not be helpful if you are booking all your flights and hotels in advance-- my approach is a bit more off the cuff.

Hoping to read about YOUR dream trip someday,

Jay
Arusha, Tanzania
March 2014 (month 13 of my RTW)

Posted by jaytravels 26.03.2014 01:59 Archived in Tanzania Tagged rtw Comments (0)

An Introduction to Kiswahili and the Gauni

Lesson One: It's A Fun Language!

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Mambo!
(How's it going?)

You respond with "Poa" which means"Cool!"

What is Kiswahili?

Kiswahili is the language that was developed to be the shared language along the trade routes through East Africa especially along the coast of Tanzania. It is 35 - 45% Arabic and has a lot of Hindi and English, but with its own unique grammar and structure from the Bantu language. It is spoken throughout Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and even some of Rwanda, Burundi, the Congo, Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique, etc.

Exploring the Vocabulary

Let's start with some easy vocabulary. The English words tend to end in "i". Do you recognize these words?

hoteli, polisi, televisheni, baiskeli, hospitali, muziki, soksi, boksi, wiki, ofisi, freshi, boati, chengi, kampuni, teksi
Here are the translations: hotel, police, television, bicycle, hospital, music, socks, box, week, office, fresh, boat, change, company, taxi

Here's one of my favorites: matiti. It means breasts! Ah, com'on...do I have to spell it out for you? Ma = my....well, I see you get the idea now. Some words don't end in 'i", but are clearly English based like redio, picha , buluu (radio, picture, blue).

The Hindi words are familiar, but sometimes slightly different in use or meaning:

baba, bibi, biriani, chai, dada
father, grandmother (lady), rice dish , tea, sister

"Fulani" means someone or something. In Spanish "fulano" also means someone...maybe a shared Arabic term? Having just come from Morocco, Tunisia, Lebanon, Jordan and the Palestines these Arabic words jumped out at me:

sita, saba, tisa, hamsini, katabu, maktaba, maji
six, seven, nine, fifty, book (katab), library, water (ma in Morocco, me in Tunisia and my in Jordan)

Swahili or Kiswahili?

You probably know that the language is Swahili and may be wondering why I used the term Kiswhahili. Well, tribal identification remains very strong in Tanzania. If a person is from the Chagga tribe, he is Mchagga (one person). His people are Wachagga (plural of mchagga), he is from Uchagga (area) and he speaks Kichagga (language). Thus the correct term for the Swahili language is Kiswahili.

Familiar Kiswahili Words

You are most likely already familiar with 'safari'. It originally meant 'journey', but it is now commonly recognized world-wide as a hunt (with gun or camera) for animals. And if you watched the 1994 animated movie "The Lion King", you might remember the song or phrase 'hakuna matata' or 'no worry'. By the way, "bwana ' does not mean 'boss' or 'white man' as may have been assumed from old black and white African explorer movies on TV. It means sir, mister or gentleman. So hopefully my older brother who has been addressing my current email to Bwana will read this and take note!

Everyone Will Be Your Teacher in Tanzania!

Kiswahili is a fun language. Most tourists quickly learn what I call the 'trained monkey act' as locals put them through their paces:
Tanzanians Greeting + Mzungu Response
Jambo! (Hello) + Jambo!
Karibu! (You are welcome) + Asante sana (thank you very much)
Habari! (How are you?) + Nzuri or Safi or Salama (great, good, fine)
Mambo! + Poa!
The Tanzanians will drill you on this every chance they get. Complete strangers will call out to you as you pass. The waiters, hotel clerks and the street vendors will all be your teachers.

Are the Men Calling You "Mama"?

I am still getting used to being called "mama". In Spanish (especially Mexio) and even in English, being called mama by a man you don't know is usually a come-on . "Oye mama" (or more likely in the diminutive- mamacita!) in Spanish is like saying "Hey baby" in English. Here in Tanzania, mother is a term of respect, but I am still reacting in Spanish! Even the bank manager in Dar sent me an email saying, "Asante sana mama " in a reply. At first, I was taken aback by this somewhat sexual and causual comment from a formal businessman. I'm still adjusting, but it is better than being called grandmother which a young girl called me the other day!

Travel Terms for Tourists

For transport there are teksi, baisi, bajaji, and bodaboda or pikipiki (I was told pikipiki is the sound the motorcye engine makes). For the baisi, you will need to buy a tiketi.
taxi, bus, 3-wheeled motor carts called tuk-tuk in SE Asia, motorcycle taxis...and ticket

Word of the Day

So here's your final vocabulary word:
Gauni = Dress
Pronounced "gow-knee"
Get it? Gown...gowny...gaunie...gauni!!!

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Why I Love My Gauni!

Here's a picture of two gauni that I bought for a total of abou $16 US. Made from Indian cotton, this particular design is made in Mumbai (AKA Bombay) especiallly for export to the Comorros Islands though I bought mine in Kariacoo Market in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. They are popular with the muslim women in Dar because they modestly go to the ankle and have 3/4 or full length sleeves. They even have two side-seam pockets, but for me, the best part is the huge long sheer floaty scarf (called dupatta in India and equivalent to a kanga in Africa) that have matching, but contrasting prints. I hung the scarves on one side of the shoulder so you could see them in the picture. These scarves may be wrapped around to cover your shoulders and head, wrapped around the shoulders/chest as a shawl or wrapped around the waist (kanga style for a real African look), or draped like a traditional Indian dupatta. I also sometimes use them as a sarong in the privacy of my hotel room or lay them over the bed like a coverlet to brighten up a plain hotel room.

Gaunis are modest , they wash and dry quickly, they are loose and cool in the tropical heat and they will help you (well, not the men!) meet people. African women are more likely to talk to me when I wear what they call a gauni and kanga. In the market and on the street, women approach me to admire my dress (and sneak a feel of the fabric) and that opens the door to conversation. Men call me "Mama Africa". The Muslim owner of the restaurant where I like to have my afternoon chai and snack thanked me for dressing well as it is "very important" (he and others have asked me if I am Muslim due to my clothing even though I don't cover my head). The Christian women are also very modest here and cover their arms and legs, so I fit right in. The other mzungu (white people, but used for all tourists) wear shorts and tank tops drawing stares from the men and whispered disapproval among the women. On safari, my young German companions sweated in their quick dry synthetic gear while I stayed cool and comfortable in my loose black and white cotton gauni. Thre is no walking on safari...you are sitting in a pop-top 4-wheel drive vehicle all day in the hot sun. The breeze coming in the window floats up the dress for a refreshing airconditioned experience!

My favorite gauni is the black and white one, but notice the other one is blue, sea green and turquoise with white and even some bling bling on the front! So now I have something that is NOT black. Imagine that... [Note: I am known by family, friends and colleagues for wearing mostly black all the time, all year round.]

BTW- gauinis also hide lumps and bumps. I have lost 25 kilos and have more to go. As I lose weight, my lumps and bumps move around, so I love my gaunis!

Posted by jaytravels 20.03.2014 02:00 Archived in Tanzania Tagged tanzania rtw Comments (0)

Safari Postcards from Tanzania

The Luckiest Woman in the World!

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Where? East Africa
What Country? Tanganyika + Zanzibar = Tanzania
How do you say it? TahnZAHNya (not TanzaNEEyah)
What do they speak? Njararibu kusoma kiswahili. I am trying to learn Swahili.
What am I doing here? Safari!!! It means "journey" in Kiswahili.

I'm in Africa!!! I can't believe it. I never thought I'd come to Africa. Well, yes, I was in Morocco and Tunisia, but North Africa is more like the Middle East. This is AFRICA as in deepest, darkest. Here I am truly mzungu (a white person) and sometimes I frighten the younger children because they haven't seen one before. Other than that, it's one of the friendliest countries I have ever visited.

I went to Zanzibar Island and then lived like a native in the Kariacoo area of Dar Es Salaam, but the most exciting thing so far has been my two day African Safari to "hunt" for the big five (lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, rhino, and leopard). I saw all except the leopard. It was so amazing! I'm based in Arusha (near Mt. Meru and Mt. Kilamanjaro), but the first day of the safari was in Tarangire which is known for its huge and numerous African elephants and equally huge Baobab trees. I saw herds with hundreds of elephants in the wild and even more zebras. Late in the day, the line of zebras coming down the trail to drink water seemed to go forever; we watched and waited and never saw the end of the line. I was smiling all day and thinking. 'Am I the luckiest woman in the world or what?'
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It was a fun challenge to spot the smaller animals like the shy dik dik among the foliage. There were birds on the ground and in the air too. I am surprised my head didn't come unscrewed and fall off from so my swiveling while looking for animals. You know the joke about the elephant in the living room? Sometimes that was so true and sometimes it was the opposite. Once there was another vehicle that was stopped by the road and the people were snapping pictures like crazy. I'm looking off in the distance trying to spot what they see. Ha! It was a small tortoise on the ground just ten feet from them!
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The second day was in Ngorongoro Crater which is 2,286 meters above sea level and is the largest unbroken caldera in the world. It is like a natural amphitheater (about 260 square miles). The animals and people of the Masai tribe all live on the floor of the crater. It's wide open so the animals are pretty much completely visible as they graze or drink from the rivers and lakes. Sometimes they were very close, other times in the distance but still visible for lack of foliage.
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I missed the wildebeest birthing event (all born in a two week period in February), but the babies were only two weeks old. A Black rhino kicked up dirt and threatened us by charging at us twice before he trotted off. As you can imagine, I was so freaked that I froze and missed the photo opportunity. And he was sooooo close! We were there first...but you don't argue with a rhino. We observed a young male lion within two feet of where he was sleeping and then watched a mature female stalking a wildebeest in the distance.
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There were hippos, hartebeests, dik dik (tiny elk about 12 inches tall), several types of gazelles, eland, baboons, monkeys, mongoose, waterbucks, warthogs, hyenas, jackals and giraffes (very cool!). Big birds included the Corey bustard (hee hee, the guide's accent had us looking at each other on that one!), black storks, white storks, the secretary bird, Crown crane, eagles, vultures, flamingos (thousands!) and ostriches. I was getting a little jaded after seeing so much in the last 12 months of travel, but Africa has brought a fresh experience and it is absolutely incredible!
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Posted by jaytravels 03.03.2014 05:25 Archived in Tanzania Tagged safari tanzania rtw arusha Comments (0)

My RTW- A Review of the First Year

Looking back over the last 12 months...

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View Start on jaytravels's travel map.

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I just had my one year anniversary of being on the road, so it seems a good time to take a moment and reflect.

===Countries, Continents, and Sites===
I have visited 27 countries (which combined with previous travels makes a total of 42 for me) and now I have seen five of seven continents. I have seen countless UNESCO sites and famous wonders (Machu Picchu, Gaudi's Sagrada Familia, Petra...). I have visited countries that are still recovering from the traumas of war and violence, some that are still at war, and others that are on the brink. BBC and Aljazeera World News have become my 'local' news programs.

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Countries visited so far: United States, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia,Colombia, (Panama), Cuba, Mexico, Portugal, Spain, Gibraltar, Morocco, Tunisia, (Italy), Slovenia, Hungary, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia, Albania, Greece, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Palestine Territories, (Ethiopia), and Tanzania.

Some highlights (not in any special order):
Getting cheap haircuts usually sans a common language in some interesting places. Talk about an adrenalin rush!
Climbing Huaynapicchu (it completely overshadowed Machu Picchu!).
Safari in Tanzania!!!!!!!!!!!
Listening to the beautiful calls of prayer and Quaran readings from minarets/mosques.
Selling OJ on the Djemaa el-Fna in Marakesh, Morocco (see the blog!)
Living with a family in the medina of Rabat while I studied Arabic and taught English to Muslim girls (there should be and will be a blog on this someday!).
Sunsets from my balcony in Delphi, Greece and every place else.
Everything in Cuba, but especially staying overnight in a cabin by the waterfalls of Rio San Juan and talking late into the night with park security guards who were over-educated for their jobs. They were thoughtful and honest and opened my eyes to things others were afraid of saying.
Fabulous Food:Pork, pork, and more pork in Colombia; goat, goat, and more goat in Peru; fantastic fruit all over South America; and all the food everywhere in Spain!
The Salar de Uyuni, a salt desert with its illusion of snow and then an ocean...but it was all SALT (see the blog!).
Staying in a sweet lady's home in Mostar and watching her and her family harvest bucket after bucket of kiwis from just one tree in their patio. She didn't speak a word of English, so I still don't know what she was going to do with all of them. I do know, she didn't like them because they are sour.

===Budget and Timeline===
I'm still on budget to complete the planned 18 months, but I'm off schedule for my tentative timeline due to so many changes and additions. Though I knew my plans were tentative and completely flexible, my original rough timeline had me in Tanzania (my current location) in November 2013. If on schedule, I would have possibly already seen Madagascar, Uganda, Kenya, Sri Lanka, India, Nepal and be touring Myanmar and Thailand by now. My current plan for East Africa is now only Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda (though the start of the rainy season may alter that); India is up in the air; and Sri Lanka has been dropped. I can't think or plan any further ahead than that!

===Physical Changes===
I have a lot more grey/white hair now (and I like it!) though it's still not that visible. I have lost 25 kilos and could lose another 25 without ill-effect (the goal is to be healthy and comfortable not thin). But I'm letting the weight loss happen naturally. In fact, I pretty much eat whatever I want; food is one of the joys of travel (food and language tell you much about a culture).

===Health===
Medications still take up way too much space in my bag, but I am taking much less medication than when I started my RTW. One of my two chronic health conditions (ulcerative colitis-- an autoimmune disease similar to Crohn's is thought to be caused by a combination of genetics and stress and is primarily found among affluent professional Caucasian women in North America) seems to have disappeared. My last colonoscopy showed no inflammation in the colon and even though the specialist said I would need to take medication the rest of my life-- I chose to stop medication about 8-9 months ago. I carry a supply in case of a flare up, but frankly, my system seems to have returned to its pre-diagnosis state and I have completely forgotten I had it until writing this. This change relieves me of taking six pills a day (at a $1 each!).

I try to have lab tests every three months for my other health issues and to check cholesterol, blood pressure, etc. I email the outcomes to my fabulous doctor in Seattle, Washington and consult with her (Robbie, you're the BEST!). My last results were quite good. My iron levels are still low, but at least my hair doesn't seem to be thinning on top any more!

I have been pretty healthy on this trip. Only one bacterial infection (yes, diarrhea), but it was the fist month of my trip and if I hadn't been so adamant about taking antibiotics-- I could have resolved it quickly by taking one of the Z-paks I was carrying. As it is, I went to a doctor that worked for one of the pharmacies; It was less than $5 and a very interesting experience. He supported an alternative approach, but in the end I had to take antibiotics. I decided not to be so slow the next time....but there has never been a next time. My gastric intestinal system has not let me down in spite of the constant abuse of street and market food and drinking the water in every country so far except Tanzania.

However, did catch a very exhausting cold of some sort between Casablanca, Morocco and Tunis, Tunisia. I thought if I rode it out by resting for most of the week, it would be gone. But I continued to cough up green stuff for weeks and found myself being a little less active. Then in Jordan, I planned to do a few days of rock climbing and desert hiking with a Bedouin. On the second day, I developed a cough that I thought was from the fire smoke (and smoking-- is there a single man in Jordan that does not smoke?!?!). It quickly turned into a pulmonary infection (possibly pneumonia) that obviously needed immediate attention. The doctor started me on antibiotics and some non-prescription things to ease the situation and told me to come back the next day. The next day, I was wheezing (it had kept me awake all night). He didn't even use his stethoscope...just said in English, "Chesty, chesty!" and sent me down the hall to his colleague/wife for the first of a series of shots in my rear. The recovery was slow and I was left extremely weak. I was lucky to be near Wadi Musa where I had made a few friends. I returned there and they all comforted and cared for me in various ways until I was able to hoist my pack and continue my journey (when I arrived, I could barely make it up the hotel stairs to my room...without my pack).

===Some Noted Areas of Improvement===
One cannot travel and remain unaffected. Many of the changes I am experiencing probably won't be obvious until after the trip is over...when I am with family and friends and working again. I do know I am an incredibly strong and independent woman who can handle most anything. But I am getting better at letting other people help and support me...and that is a major leap.

Here are a few areas of change/improvement that I have noticed:
1- I am able to remain calm even when facing possible disaster (see blog "My Passport is Stolen!"),
2- I am more observant, thoughtful and consistent about stopping myself when I am critical of someone.
3- I remind myself to believe in abundance rather than worrying that I won't have something (food, time, etc.) later on.
4- I have less anger and discontent and let go of it more quickly. I only need one hand to count the times I have been angry and one of those times was with a country (Israel).
5- I make more effort to step back from my Western views and values in effort to understand what may not make sense to me (like the Masai man with 80 wives and over 200 children).
6- I am more informed about world history, geography and politics.
7- I am at ease in almost any situation under almost any condition.
8- I find the simplest things give me pleasure and a sense of peace.
9- I am more efficient and my aim is a lot better when using a squatty- potty and I don't think twice about using one.

===The Epiphany===
I have had a minor epiphany about relationships, but I have not had the much hoped for life changing epiphany...yet. Therefore, I still don't have a plan for what happens after my trip is over. But then, I haven't had much of a plan for my RTW either so I am not too concerned at this time. And while I would love to have the epiphany so that my life direction is clear, I am prepared that there may not be one while I am on the road. It may need to simmer...and it may occur when I least expect it. Sometimes I take myself to task and tell myself that I need to focus on asking myself questions and do a systematic self-search to fully benefit from this experience...and then I never do.

===Appreciation for My Supporters===
MY MOM!
I want to thank my Mother -a fellow traveler- for her support when I first talked about doing this trip and her continued understanding for my being so far way. Without her encouragement, I'm not sure I would have been able to take the leap. Mom, I missed your 92nd birthday party, but I will be there for your 93rd. I love you so much!

MY SIBS
Thanks to my siblings: my older brother Michael for taking care of our Mother and (finally!) getting on email to give me reports from home; my sister Rebecca for being the only one with email from the beginning so that at least one family member always knows where I am and for consistently keeping in touch and giving me the scoop on family and world news; and my younger brother Ken for being my power of attorney and home-base (and his sweetheart Glenda for sending me friendly emails and quirky photos and for being an intermediary since Ken doesn't use email or have access to my blog or email postcards without her!).

MY FRIENDS
To my women friends at "home" (you know who you are!) who continue to provide their friendship and support even though I am so far away and may remain so even at the end of my journey. You remain in my heart and I know we will see each other again. Your emails (meager or long) are so appreciated.

Special thanks to Juanillo in Mexico, D.F. for cheering me on via email and recently telling me I am his hero. You have always meant so much to me and I'm sorry I haven't been posting more pictures for you. I'll try harder!

I have been meeting some great people on the road and wish I could thank them all, but I can only scratch the surface:

Thanks to Jose in Salema, Portugal for watching over me when I had severe vertigo and needed medical attention.

In Marakesh, Hakim and Mouna were so very kind-- please do get married and invite me to the wedding!

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Thanks to Badia, my Arabic teacher in Rabat, Morocco. I was a terrible student, but I was really tempted to stay just so I could have her as my friend. Badia, I adore you and your dimples!

Thanks to the many "Men of Jordan": Jafar, Abed, and Merher especially provided a sense of belonging and family when I really needed it. Jafar (a crazy Bosnian-Jordanian with two wives) adopted me and made me laugh; Abed (a proud Bedouin from Umm Sayoud) literally held my hand when I most needed it (not such a small thing in a Muslim country!); and Merher (one of many Egyptians on work contract in Jordan) cooked and fed me delicious comfort food and generally made me feel protected and cared for. Okay... yes, Mosleh. You were kind to me, too (especially when I was sick with the respiratory infection) even if you did have ulterior motives (ahem).Your friendships all meant a lot to me.

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Zeph, a Kenyon in Tanzania opened my eyes and helped me overcome a barrier that has been in my way for over a decade. I may still be stumbling over the ruins, but at least I am walking forward. There is hope for me after all. Thank you.

Elia, you are the best! You know you have a special place in my heart.

Jay
Arusha, Tanzania
February 2014

Posted by jaytravels 28.02.2014 00:49 Archived in Tanzania Tagged rtw Comments (0)

My Israeli Border Experience

Detained, Interrogated and Fast-Tracked!

sunny 61 °F

There was only one other tourist on the once-a-day 7AM Jett bus to the border. Chris was from Canada and we'd actually run into each other before in Wadi Musa and even shared a taxi with two others in Amman, but had never really spoken. Besides the two of us, there were just five local men on the bus. So far the crossing from Jordan to Israel was going smoothly. I'd heard a lot of horror stories about the King Hussein Bridge border crossing (also known as the Allensby Bridge), but this was a slow travel time, so mostly there was just a lot of waiting. Besides-- with the exception of Cuba-- I have always been waved through at immigration points; I'm a nice older women who doesn't attract attention.

At the Jordan border facility, we paid our departure fees and had our passports checked. They didn't give us exit stamps, but that wasn't a surprise given the politics of this border. Amman and Jerusalem are only 50 kilometers apart, but the politics can make it seem much more. After our first successful check point, we bought tickets for the shuttle that would drive us to the Israeli border. It is a short 5 kilometers, but no one is allowed to walk the bridge and the 'no man's land' between the two check point facilities. The shuttle cost 5 dinars plus 1.5 JD for each bag which made it just a 1.5 JD less than the much longer drive from Amman. The bridge shuttle leaves once every few hours or when it gets full; it only had about 9 people so we had another long wait. Only one more (a Catholic nun) joined us, so we left 'on schedule'.

When we arrived at the Israeli facility, I was shocked to see a huge mob of people, piles of bags, boxes and luggage, and a jam of luggage carts like a bad airport scene. Our luggage wasn't on the bus anymore and the bus driver had shooed us away, so we had gotten in line. This didn't seem right so Chris went back to the bus area. Our bags had been piled in the street a few lengths back from where we'd been let out. As one man near me in line summed it up, "This is so confusing!"

In control of our luggage again we prepared to wait as the line slowly snaked around the metal bar lanes. It was definitely chaotic. Piles of bags without owners blocked our way. We had to step over them and sometimes on top of them to eventually reach the counter where we showed our passports and got luggage strips printed with our passport info. The women at the counter perked up when I said her job must be a challenge. She asked if I was from Ireland which is indeed my heritage. She was very friendly. It was crazy, but didn't seem that bad. People were frustrated, but no one was angry or acting out...yet.

A guy in a bright yellow vest took my pre-printed luggage strip, attached it to my bag and gestured to the conveyor belt. I wrestled my bag onto the belt and it went off on its journey as the guy in the vest helped me over the pile of bags not yet claimed and tagged so that I could proceed to the next checkpoint. Chris was just a little ahead of me by now, but only one person was ahead of me in line so I knew I would catch up.

I gave my passport at the next window. The woman looked it over-- page by page (and it has a lot of pages)-- occasionally making a comment to her colleagues. She asked about a sticky spot where a travel insurance label had once been. Where was I coming from-- as if Jordan wasn't the only country that shared this border. Was I really traveling alone? Why had I gone to Jordan? What did I do there? What was I going to do in Israel?

She said something to the colleague on her left...she continued to scrutinize my passport and said something to the guy on her right. She looked at everything again and then looked off into space. She still seemed to have a problem with me being alone. Finally, she put my passport down just out of reach and told me to step aside. As I turned, I was approached by a man who showed me his security identification card and asked me to come with him (and his machine gun!).

Another man joined us and we passed through a door. Inside was the continuation of the line from outside. I was told to put my things in a tray. The people at the head of the line gave me dirty looks as they had to step aside and let me go before them. But my things went through the machine as I was led in another direction and someone else became my escort.

As I was walking, I was being questioned. Did I have a cell phone? Yes. Where was it? When I pointed out it was with my coat in a tray at the check point, they had me return to the conveyor belt to retrieve my coat and day bag. Then I was led inside a room where nice-looking Anton introduced himself and had me put my things on a small stool while I was to remain standing in front of him with a short podium between us as he asked his questions. Most questions were about my travel. Was I really traveling alone? What countries had I gone to? As I answered his questions I noticed he was starting to get off track and asking more personal info as to how I was able to do such a long trip...and he was getting that longing tone in his voice that I often hear when people find out I'm doing an RTW and they start wondering how they might do one too!

Then at some point, Anton gets back on track and asks me if I have any self defense weapons. Perhaps I am carrying something for somebody else?...but his heart doesn't seem into it anymore. He is now grinning a bit as he asks these last questions. Finally, he shakes my hand, wishes me safe travels and I am released. I can't resist asking why I had been pulled out. Of course he can't say. He tells me I am lucky as I didn't have to wait in line...I got the fast track. Ha! I don't think so...

I leave the room and head to the next station. Once again I show my passport. I don't see Chris anywhere. I assume he is already gone. I wouldn't expect him to wait for me. We barely know each other and I was with Anton quite a while.

I am further delayed at the next station, but eventually I receive my permission to stay for three months in the form of a card with my passport picture on it. Due to the politics, no one wants an Israeli stamp in their passport as this will get them barred from countries in disagreement with Israel....like Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Syria, Iran, etc. Jordan and Egypt have made agreements with Israel and let people more or less pass through between the countries. The more militant countries look not for just an Israeli stamp, but for exit stamps from the border points between Israel, Egypt and Jordan. They will refuse entry even without the Israeli stamp; where else could you have gone if you exited the Egyptian or Jordanian at the Israel border?

My 'visa' card in hand, I show it and my passport to the next checkpoint. I'm a bit paranoid now, so when a women comes up and closes the gate in front of me, I am thinking what now? She's saying something...in Hebrew? A man behind me says that she is telling us to go around, but the metal bars block our way-- I'm not taking chances and duck between them. She takes my hard-earned visa card and starts to rip it up. Phew. She is just tearing it a bit to mark it as having been checked. Aurghh...when is this going to be over?

The one good thing is that while I was standing in that line, I saw my bag at the next station. I head straight for it, host it onto my back and walk across the room to get in line for yet another conveyor belt check of bags. Just as I lower my backpack to the floor, a guy across the way calls out to me and signals that I can skip it. I head toward the exit waiting for someone to stop me again, But I make it! Suddenly I am out the door and ready to buy my ticket for the transport into Jerusalem. I'd heard there were shared taxis and had planned to share one with Chris. As it turns out, there is a shuttle bus that is even cheaper. I don't have any shekels and there are no ATMs, but they accept Jordan dinars. I am the first one on the bus. I am surprised to see two older women that I had noticed when I first arrived. I wonder what delayed them. The wait begins. We'll leave when the bus is full. I would have liked Chris' company, but we weren't headed for the same hotel or anything. It was just nice to have someone to figure things out with for a change. I sit back and finally relax.

Someone taps on my window... It's Chris!... And right behind him is the Catholic nun that had been whisked ahead of us when we first arrived. As it turns out, my detention really had put me on the fast track...and I guess it added a bit of excitement to what could have been a long boring wait. I could still feel the adrenaline in my system. Now, I just have to find a place to stay when we get off the shuttle in Jerusalem. I have no idea where the shuttle is taking us-- somewhere called Damascus Gate. I chat in Spanish with the woman next to me and find myself looking forward to whatever comes next.

Posted by jaytravels 31.01.2014 05:52 Archived in Israel Tagged rtw israel_border Comments (0)

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