Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

Unfortunately for family and friends, I am not the best at distributing my event and travel photos in a timely manner. I usually take so many photos that it seems overwhelming to sort through them all, and then life gets busy and I easily move on to more urgent matters. I hope to make small amends with these small uploads, and I begin with some zebras.

It may be due to the sheer number of zebras in the crater, or that I’m particularly fascinated by zebras, or a bit of both, but a large portion of my safari photos consist of these guys. I also realized that both my phone and laptop backgrounds are zebra photos from this trip. I think it also has to do with the fact that zebras were some of the least skittish animals in the crater, so it was relatively easy to get up close and personal (while hiding in the car).


Spice Tour in Zanzibar

Cardamom, the princess of spices

While in Zanzibar this past weekend, I went on one of their famous spice tours. Spices were once the major export of Zanzibar, and they’re still intimately tied with the island, but intertwined with tourism. The tour consists of touching, smelling, and ultimately tasting the spices and fruits of Zanzibar. Throughout my one-on-one ¬†guided tour, a local was making me various things made from banana leaf and adorned with hibiscus flowers — I ended up with a purse, a ring, a frog necklace, a hat, and a cone to hold samples of the spices. My guide told me about the origins and uses of various spices and fruits, and we ended the tour with a generous sampling of fruits, fresh coconut water, and a local lunch using the spices we saw.

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Don’t stop walking

Early morning quiet.

It only took me three days but I did it: I Got Lost. I decided to be adventurous and try to find the Msasani Fish Market. The directions I was given were simple enough, but I somehow missed the fish graffiti I was supposed to see and ended up walking to the Slipway, which was fine. After getting some ideas of how much large wooden giraffe sculptures cost and walking away with only 3 postcards and a box of Tanzanian tea, I started heading back home. What threw me off was my decision to stop in a produce shop the size of my bathroom (where I bought green beans, tomatoes, potatoes, and snow peas for ~2 USD and was gifted an orange by the store owner), because I think I ended up turning the wrong way and ended up in a maze of buildings that all had KK Security signs and “Hatari” (danger) on them. When I reached a dead end, my heart sank a little. I don’t know if there’s any truth in this, but I have this idea that I have to avoid looking lost/vulnerable when I’m walking by myself here. I don’t walk around with a map or guidebook or even my Swahili phrasebook (the latter which I may have to rethink), and I don’t stop walking. A man sitting outside one of the buildings certainly noticed my escalating confusion when I reached the dead end and started speaking rapid Swahili to me, at which point I promptly pivoted and walked in the opposite direction. After another series of wrong turns, I decide to ask a security guard outside a building. I stated one of the landmarks near my apartment and she thankfully understood, motioning to a small 7-8 year old kid to direct me.

For the next 5-10 minutes, the boy and I walked side-by-side in silence. I tried to rack my brain for Swahili phrases but came up empty (yes, no, and hello don’t make up for very interesting conversation). The walk seemed disproportionately long, but the boy seemed to know where he was going and I followed him turn after turn. I said¬†asante and we parted ways, and my tired feet in my new sandals now caked with dirt took me back to the place I’m starting to call home.

Msasani in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

With my internet here in Tanzania, I’m only able to upload one photo before my connection dies a sad death and forces me to spend another 5 minutes reconnecting. After the 28th try, I’m not going to take any more chances and am going to post this before something else goes wrong. The area photographed above is a tourist-friendly area of Dar where the beaches are gorgeous and the souvenir prices inflated. The clouds and sky in Tanzania are possibly the prettiest I’ve seen anywhere. I’ve only been here 2 days, and despite usually having either water or electricity (but not both), and even though 2.5/3 showers I’ve taken so far have been cold, I’m incredibly happy to be here.

Dar, especially the neighborhood where I’m living, is quite beautiful. I don’t remember the last time I actually saw a sunrise, but thanks to jet lag and/or prayer call, I woke up at 4:30AM and caught the sun rising over a sea peppered with sail boats. The streets where I’m living are picturesque with its brightly colored houses and doors. The roads in my area are unpaved, but I feel like the word “unpaved” is inadequate in describing those roads. Not only are they not paved, they contain unintentional rocky speed bumps of variable size accompanied by deep pits, and driving on these roads feels more like riding a mechanical bull.

As a solo traveler for the first time, I’ve met some other solo travelers on the way to Dar. S. was in front of me in the security check line, and I discovered he went to my undergrad by a sticker on his laptop. I didn’t expect to see him again, until I ran into him again in Dubai and we went on a midnight tour of the city together. Y. was eating by herself in a hotel in Dubai and I uncharacteristically approached her and had a nice chat, during which I found out she was from London and had been everywhere. I met A. at the Dubai airport — we had the same flight to Dar — and we bonded over our Southern Californian-ness.

More soon.


From Instagram (@disconnectedots)

I typically don’t post my photos from Instagram on this blog, but my SLR and I have been taking a little break after a snafu with my memory cards and batteries. It’s been over 6 years since I’ve had my D50 and I have yet to upgrade; I figure I’ll take the plunge once I actually start working and am able to buy it completely on my own.

The good news is that the camera and I will be taking another trip together soon, very soon … to Africa. I’m heading to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in 9 days. 9 days! Kilimanjaro is floating around as a very lofty goal, but I almost choked today when I saw how much it costs to climb (think in the thousands). The climb would cost me as much as my round-trip plane ticket, not to mention my complete lack of climb-appropriate clothing and gear. However, nothing makes me sadder than the thought of bypassing a Once-In-A-Lifetime Opportunity.

Preparations for the trip are coming along, but two things seem to pop up for every one thing that I finish.