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Sunday, October 31, 2010

*KENYA

As a country, relative to all of Africa, Kenya is doing well, thank you.  However, it is a country of recent crises:

1.  Early this year, there was a corruption scandal that could have brought down the government.

2.  Last year there was a food crisis.

3.  There are ethnic conflicts, droughts and more...but...

...the country, in general, is doing all right:

1.  Real estate in Nairobi is booming (due to the Somali pirates investing their ransom funds there).

2.  Despite challenges, the economy is doing well.

Kenya ranks #147 in the United Nations Human Development Index, compared to #149 for Haiti and #140 for Yemen.  However, the 2009 report (2010 is published in November) uses data up to 2007, and Haiti has a few new problems.  #1 is Norway, with the USA at #13.

The equator passes right through Kenya and Tanzania, and the Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club straddles it.  I fully expected sweltering heat during my safari stops, but to my shock, it was never hot.  Usually, the temperatures are cool, and sometimes cold, for the elevation tends to exceed 4,000 feet, and goes up to 8,000 feet.  This hotel is at 7000 feet, and I'm perpetually cold.  I'm on a Tauck Tour, and here are a few typical photos of real people:

1.  The Masai (or Maasai) entertained:


2.  A Masai school at Ngorongoro:
Yes, five share a desk for two and twenty for each textbook.  But it was a delight, for their attitudes were off the chart:  positive, vibrant and appreciative.  The Masai tend to be taller than other tribes, but, for some reason, they don't care much for basketball.

3.  A picnic in Ngorongoro Crater with Marzie and Babak from Louisiana, Jill Colpack (of Concord), Susan and Eric Taub (Coral Gables):
A hawk of some sort swooped down and took a piece of meat off the plate of a person in our group.

4.  Kathleen Barr and Rebecca Collier of Fort Walton Beach at the Karen Blixen House, with Jacaranda trees in the background:


5.  A dinner with Hugh Powell of Boston:
The food is generally terrific, but like on a cruise, I am eating too much.  I also find that I'm mostly consuming steak.  I cut back today on lunch and sufficed with a salad, soup and pasta, with a large bottle of beer.

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Hurricane Tomas is at 100 MPH, and computer models show this powerful storm actually turning north:


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Total number of visitors to blog site      54,465
Visitors this week                                       593
Number of countries                                  156

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Saturday, October 30, 2010

PHOTO SAFARI IN TANZANIA

The first animal we saw was a blue monkey:
Not sure why it is called that, for nothing is obviously blue.  Have you seen a brown and white zebra?  Well, it turns out that younger ones are brownish:
as compared to:
This zebra is pregnant.  Logic would argue that there are black strikes on a white background, but, the correct answer is that the zebra is black with white markings.

Lions were everywhere:
Including under our Land Cruiser:
Unfortunately, sometimes they refused to move, so the vehicle was stuck for a while.  There were elephants galore:
Note the eyelashes of this Rothschild giraffe:


We saw rhinos in the distance, most of the antelopes, various monkeys and wildebeest (there are a million of them).  No chimpanzees yet (until tomorrow), and no sign of a bonobo, but that is because it is found in the Congo.  I've always thought we were closer to the bonobo than a chimpanzee.

A relatively new gem is Tanzanite, found only near Mount Kilimanjaro and said to be available for another decade.  It is mostly bluish to purplish:

but with rare hues:
as seen in the top line above.  It is about a third the price of sapphire, relatively hard, but with a brittleness.  I sought out a tanzanite dragon, but like my blue jade dragon, could not find one.

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There are two hurricanes at 75 MPH in the Atlantic, Chary of no threat and Tomas to glide south of Cuba and strengthen.  This one looks potentially dangerous.  In the west Pacific, Typhoon Chaba weakened and moved sufficiently east of Japan.



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Friday, October 29, 2010

TANZANIA TO KENYA




1.  Every so often you stumble across a worthy opportunity.  I was sufficiently impressed with Curator Sambeta Ikayo, while disappointed with the Oldupai Gorge presentation, that I would like to help him upgrade his facilities.  I don't know much about the relationship between the Royal Society (United Kingdom) and the Oldupai Leakeys.  However, I do know that they funded them.  I am thus mystified that the origins of Homo sapiens here at the Oldupai Gorge--one of the top ten, if not among the most important three scientific discoveries of humanity--has largely been ignored by the RS.  I challenge them to visit the museum there and be embarrassed at the state of this opportunity to educate the world.

2.  Tanzania, with a population of 44 million, having twice the area of California (with 37 million people), is the original cradle of civilization.  Many millennia later, around the time of Jesus Christ, Zanzibar had already become a major trading center.  Compared with the scattered tribes of Africa, the region that is now Tanzania featured cities and advancements that transcended even Egypt for that period.  I wondered why there were so many German tourists there, but learned that the European countries starting in the 1874/5 Berlin Conference just unilaterally divided the continent as their territories, and Germany assumed control over Tanzania and Namibia.  Losing World War I, however, resulted in British takeover.  Thus, we have an English speaking (meaning they drive on the left side) democracy, where the Frankfurt Zoological Society created the Serengeti National Park.  I suspect that these politics resulted in the British discovery of human life in the Oldupai Gorge, was ignored by Germany.  In any case, the country non-violently became independent in 1961, started with socialism, but realized that this type of government did not work, thus converting to capitalism in the late 70's and in 1995 became a democracy.  Unfortunately, the result is that the unemployment rate is 30% and life expectancy is 54.  This country is #169 with a GDP/capita of only $1400.  Luxembourg and Qatar (my next stop) are at the top at $78,000 (more than $121,000 with Lichtenstein according to the CIA), while the U.S. at $46,000 (#5, #6, #8, depending on who you believe).  Kenya is #162 at $1600.

3.  I placed Pearl's ashes at the Ngorongoro Serena and the Mount Kilimanjaro International Airport, then left for Kenya.  The fragrant Jacarandas, certainly #2 on Pearl's list of favorites, were at peak.  Kilimanjaro is 19,298 feet tall, the highest point of Africa and 4th in the world.   While supposedly dormant (the last eruption was more than a third of a million years ago), magma is  suspected to still be present at 18,000 feet.












4.  Nairobi has a population of around 4 million, while that of Kenya is 39 million.  The Mount Kenya Safari Club in Nanyuki is about a hundred miles north of Nairobi.  Started as a club by actor William Holden and friends, this is now a Fairmont Hotel and is home to Holden's animal orphanage.  The hotel is right on the equator at an elevation of 7,000 feet.  This reminds me of the Four Seasons Lodge at Koele.






5.  A Nairobi, Kenya stop was to the Karen Blixen house.  She wrote as Isek Dinesan because females were not taken seriously before World War II.  Her most popular book was Out of Africa, which became a movie starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford.  Nothing noteworthy about the exhibit, but there was an interesting tree.


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Please go the right for the Dow Jones Industrials and price of crude oil.

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There are four storms in the Atlantic, none posing any serious threat to land, and Typhoon Chapa, still at 85 MPH, will weaken, and could just skirt the western side of Japan.

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

NGORONGORO TO THE SERENGETI VIA OLDUVAI GORGE

In case you are considering an African safari, particularly to Kenya and Tanzania, here are some thoughts:

1.  Make sure you get your Yellow Fever vaccination.  You don't want to face the sanitation at the airport.

2.  Visas can be obtained at the airport when you arrive, but sometimes the airline itself might not allow you to board their plane to these countries.  Thus, get your visa before you leave home.

3.  Take all the malaria precautions you can, but the Tauck tour guide indicated that in all the years she has been doing this, none of her clients contracted this ailment.  For the record, I saw one mosquito in a restroom and another that flew into the vehicle.  Also, while the tse-tse fly does indeed cause sleeping sickness, the specie in these two countries doesn't.

Botswana (not on this stop) is special for at least two reasons.  First, it is the antipode of Hawaii, more specifically, the Kalahari Desert, and second, it is the most stable country in Africa.  Tanzania, where I am now, is the second best.  Botswana is a benevolent dictatorship family and Tanzania is a democracy, with national elections on Sunday.  People here are really nice and they all speak English.

My personal problem was that I contracted severe diarrhea at 1:30 this morning, went to the bathroom half a dozen times, and was looking to just sleep today.  Unfortunately, this was not possible, as we were moving hotels from the Ngorongoro Serena to the Serengeti Serena.  Worse, this was to be the bumpiest, dustiest and longest day.  So I asked my body to perform a miracle.  My frontal lobe took total control, and I made it through without incident.  As this is the second miracle, I will think about nominating my brain for sainthood, for during Pearl's illness, how many times did I think I was coming down with a cold or flu, but my body kept resisting, and helped me make it through the period, and in the process engineered a loss of 11 pounds.  Of course, I have a weird idea about the concept of miracles.

The Oldupai (this once was spelled and pronounced Olduvai) Gorge stop was both disappointing and exciting.  I had a good chat with Curator Sambeta Ikayo.  The negatives were that the exhibit itself was a pale shadow of what it should and could be.  I can think of a dozen ways to make it much better.  All they need is a rich person to provide the funds.  Read about the story of the Leakeys.  Lucy was found in Ethiopia by Donald Johanson, an American, and three others.

Human life started here twice.  First, the transition from some type of champanzee 5 million years ago, then, around 70,000 BC, Mount Toba in Indonesia erupted, throwing so much ash into the atmosphere that the world got very cold, and only 10,000 or so people survived, purportedly in East Africa, and possible the Oldupai Gorge.  Thus, this is where Homo Sapiens re-began and expanded.  A similar theory is that pockets of life made it through, giving us the diversity we have today.

This is Sambeta Ikayo, curator of the Oldupai Gorge Museum and what the gorge looks like. (I'll enter the photos later, as the system here at the Serengeti Serena is very slow.)

Anyway, a thousand photos, but here are mostly animal ones. (Same.)

This is day five, and I have yet to see Mount Kilimanjaro, which, amazingly enough, is two miles south of the equator.  Tomorrow is the final day in this general area, for we leave for Kenya.

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The Dow Jones Industrials and price of crude oil are on the right.

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There are three storms in the Atlantic and a disturbance in the Indian Ocean, but the only serious one is Typhoon Chaba, a Category 4 storm at 130 MPH, but predicted to weaken and make landfall in the general metropolitan area of Tokyo.



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My 156th country just entered my blog:


GHANA POPULATION: 23,887,812



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 Background
Formed from the merger of the British colony of the Gold Coast and the Togoland trust territory, Ghana in 1957 became the first sub-Saharan country in colonial Africa to gain its independence. Ghana endured a long series of coups before Lt. Jerry RAWLINGS took power in 1981 and banned political parties. After approving a new constitution and restoring multiparty politics in 1992, RAWLINGS won presidential elections in 1992 and 1996, but was constitutionally prevented from running for a third term in 2000. John KUFUOR succeeded him and was reelected in 2004. John Atta MILLS took over as head of state in early 2009.




Ghana is located on the western side of the African continent.


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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

OLDUVAI GORGE

MY NEXT POSTING WILL BE FROM THE OLDUVAI GORGE.  ALOHA.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

*NAIROBI TO MOUNT KILIMANJARO

Nairobi began in 1899 as a train depot.  Henry Morton Stanley, for example, "found", Dr. David Livingston as early as 1881 on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, which wanders through several countries, including Tanzania.  Kenya, of course, is part of President Barack Obama's roots.  Recent exposes have hinted that Obama's father was assassinated in 1982 for speaking out against the government.

The flight to Mount Kilimanjaro Airport in Tanzania is about 50 minutes.  Make sure you have had a Yellow Fever vaccination and already begun taking Malaria precautions.  Might as well also get visas for Kenya and Tanzania ahead of time.  

I'm at the Serena Mountain Village, but have still not seen Mr. Kilimanjaro, which is the highest point in Africa at 19,341 feet.  I did take a photo of a Kilimanjaro beer sign, and that mountain is in the clouds behind the ad.  I'm on this long trip specifically in memory of Pearl, and will perform the appropriate ceremony under ideal conditions.  I do have a few days.  

I think she wanted to come here because she grew up in Hilo with Mauna Kea, and felt a kinship with this larger mountain.  Or, maybe she identified with the 1950 movie, King Solomon's Mine, with Stewart Granger and Deborah Kerr.  An earlier version was filmed in 1937, a more recent one starred Richard Chamberlain in 1985, and then there was the 2004 Patrick Swayze performance.  

Pearl's second favorite tree is the Jacaranda, which is now in full bloom.  The view from my room is this tree, with a lake in the background.  The fragrance is wonderful.  I hope to photograph Mt. Kilimanjaro with Jacaranda trees in the foreground.

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Visitors to this blog site         53872
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Saturday, October 23, 2010

ZURICH TO NAIROBI

Swiss Air to Nairobi was a smooth seven hours.  It was late enough in the morning, so I had a Bloody Mary and expresso with some Hennessey in the Swiss Air Senator's Lounge.

The flight featured Lake Geneva cuisine of Lausanne and wines of the area.  It all started with a Brut Mosaique Champagne, which was fruity with citrus notes, and served with Ala moutarde de Dijon, or mustard flavored potato chips.

The movie I selected was Winter's Bone, the Sundance Film Festival 2010 winner of Best Picture.  Think you've got a problem?  Download the film and appreciate what desperation can do.  Not a particularly great film to watch over a meal.

The La Colombe Chasseles Swiss white having aromas of apple and white peach came with pouched salmon and artichokes, plus a seasonal salad with balsamic vinaigrette.  The pot roast and trimmings featured two reds:  Mont-sur-Rolle Grand Cru Gamaret and Clarendelle Bordeaux, a super premium Chateau Haut-Brion rouge, a Right Bank bordeaux because it was 82% Merlot.  The Clarendelle was the star of the entire meal.

Over a Porto Niepoort Tawney with overwhelming plum bouquet came various Swiss cheeses and pear bread, limoncello creme and Swiss chocolates, while viewing a second movie, Glorious 39, a BBC film with the ubiquitous Bill Nighy.  When did Christopher Lee and Julie Christie get so old?  Makes you wonder what if Winston Churchill did not step in to lead the British in World War II.  I had a shot of Williams Kirsch, and with a ham and potato snack, finished with a Quollfrisch beer.  I'm maintaining my different drink per hour schedule on long flights.

Nairobi is not my kind of town, but the Nairobi Serena Hotel is excellent.  Tomorrow, off to Mount Kilimanjaro.

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Cyclone Giri slammed into Myanmar (Burma) at 140 MPH and caused widespread damage through Kyaukphyu.  However, the latest count showed very few deaths, especially in comparison with Nargis in 2008, which killed up to 138,000.  There are now two storms in the Atlantic and three in the West Pacific.

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Friday, October 22, 2010

ZURICH IS NEAT...BUT EXPENSIVE

My Swiss Air flight from Shanghai to Zurich took 12 hours, so I had a drink an hour:  Jacquart Champagne, Bloody Mary with Stolichnaya Vodka, La Columbe Chasselas Swiss white wine, Mint-sir-Rolle grand cru Gamay Swiss red, Porto Niepoort Tawney, Glenvilet, Ferber Branca (an Italian liquer with Swiss herbs, which was the worst drink I've had in years...bitter and with the essence of Thai fish sauce), Grappa di Moscato, Etter Kirsch, Etter Williams Kirsch and Bailey's Cream in an expresso.  The food list is too long to recite.

Well, Switzerland (7.8 million people) is what you'd expect:  emmental cheese (the kind with the holes), chocolate, watches, banks, lakes, Alps...  While only #9 on the UN Human Development list, the U.S. is #13 (Norway, my stop after Qatar, is #1).  However, Zurich is the #2 (Vienna is #1) Mercer most livable city and #3 (#1 Munich, #2 Copenhagen) in the Monocle most livable city index.  Honolulu at #13 as the highest rated U.S. city.

I like Zurich, but it is hardly perfect.  For one, it is too cold.  Two, everything is so ridiculously expensive.  If you're on a budget, skip this city.  Yet, the Mercer ranking has Zurich at #8, with Luanda (Angola) as #1 and Tokyo at #2.  Shanghai is #23 and the highest cost of living U.S. city at #25 is New York.  Honolulu is #102.

Zurich, with a population of 380,000, is the largest Swiss city.  Thus, it is less than half the size of Honolulu.  However, Zurich has 20 universities with the University of Zurich and Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH, there must be a reason)  in the top 50 world ranks.  ETH has had 21 Nobel Laureates.  Eighty percent speak German, but just about everybody can communicate in English.

The Fall colors are here, there are more swans than anywhere else I know and the transportation system is fabulous.  Their main shopping street is Bahnhofstrasse, which goes from the train station (bahnhof) to Lake Zurich, just about a mile long of Rolex, Cartier, Tiffany's, etc.




The best restaurant is Petermann's Kunstuben, which is closed this month.  I had goulash on spaetzle at Kronenhalle, 

fondue at Birtschaft, 














bratwurst (veal sausage, the whitish one) with a roll of bread (they don't eat it like a hot dog here) at  Lake Zurich












and creamed veal on rosti (hash browns) at Zeughauskeller.  The latter is the Swiss version of SOS (stands for something on shingles, but is chip creamed beef on toast) in the Army or loco moco in Hawaii, and all should not be eaten if you have cholesterol, sodium or high blood sugar problems.

These meals came with beer, Swiss white or red wine, or Williams Kirsch...or some permutation of them.  Good thing the Sheraton I stayed in had a basket of apples, which served as my breakfast for three straight days.










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Wow, there are two ocean storms in the Atlantic, three in the West Pacific and one in the Bay of Bengal:

Typhoon Megi just made landfall north of Hong Kong and south of Shanghai, while Cyclone Giri is now a 145 MPH Category 4 storm, but should miss any major population centers in Myanmar (Burma).  Pardon me, but Giri is on the road to Mandalay.

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My 155th country just visited this blog:


SAN MARINO POPULATION: 30,167



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 Background
The third smallest state in Europe (after the Holy See and Monaco), San Marino also claims to be the world's oldest republic. According to tradition, it was founded by a Christian stonemason named Marinus in A.D. 301. San Marino's foreign policy is aligned with that of Italy; social and political trends in the republic also track closely with those of its larger neighbor.


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