when mom and dad said they were coming to visit with my sister, it was unexpected, but exciting nonetheless. dates were arranged to coincide with my spring break but not overlap with the genocide memorial week (tactless time to be a tourist). the guide book was opened, and planning begun to give my family a full taste of east africa. we’d start in rwanda, see my school and students, walk through nearby villages and visit marcelline’s nursery on our way to the lake. i’d show them around kigali, introduce them to vso colleagues and office staff, take them to the memorial center. then we’d make our way by car down through the rainforest to the tea estates in cyangugu on the shores of lake kivu, at the border with d.r.congo. on our way back we’d stop in butare’s national museum, then the king’s palace in nyanza, for some history and culture. there was time for handicraft shopping and to swing by musha to pack before flying to arusha for a three-day safari. lake manyara, tarangire, and ngorongoro crater – lions, elephants, giraffes, zebras, hippos, you name it – in an open-topped land rover, over stunning landscape. from there we’d fly again, this time to zanzibar for a taste of swahili culture and architecture, swimming in turquoise waters, and finally some rest on white sand beaces before heading home.

it was beautiful, this itinerary of mine. the best of all worlds. wild rainforest, rural villages, open savannah, beautiful beaches. a blend of culture, real life, and wild life. there was plenty of time worked in to meet and chat with local people, with my colleagues and friends, with each other – for my parents it had been over a year since we’d seen each other. the plan was flexible to a certain extent, to allow for rest, changes of mind and mood, and of course, for the whims of africa. a beautiful plan. i was proud of it. i was a budding one-woman tour agency.

bags of freshly-cut tea unloaded and waiting at the tea factory the king's palace in nyanza flags spanning the street in stone town

and for the most part it went off well. i think mom, dad, and sara were pleased in the end. but there were some things i hadn’t bargained on.

airplanes. apparently, even if you have a ticket in you hand that you’ve already paid for, you still must confirm your flight in advance. mom, dad, and sara spent their first night in africa on the floor of the dar es salaam airport, their first day stuck in kilimanjaro airport in arusha (frantically calling around, contemplating a charter flight, a car, any possible means of getting to kigali), and most of their second day in the nairobi airport, where the water had gone out. their luggage, however, arrived without delay on the originally scheduled flight. i went to the airport to meet my family’s bags but no family.

potholes. once they finally arrived, the car we rented in rwanda had a low bottom, a paranoid over-protective owner, and a pothole-seeking function we couldn’t manage to disengage. the five-hour journey from kigali to cyangugu (through washed-out roads, ridden with mud-slides, boulders, over-turned trucks, and, you guessed it, potholes) became seven, severly draining our motivation to ever drive anywere ever again. (we bounced back though – dad was a real trooper).

rain. believe it or not, it does actually rain during the rainy season (it didn’t last year). though we were blessed with sun when it counted (on the days of the village walk, the rainforest walk, and all of the safari), and it mostly only drizzled the rest of the time, we did have some memorable downpours. like when it was coming down in sideways sheets while dad was trying to back into a parking spot and the car battery disconnected, stalling and shutting down the whole electrical system. sara was practically swimming, standing outside directing dad into the spot and when dad got out to pop the hood he got drenched as well. then when we arrived in stone town, zanzibar, it was pouring and there was all kinds of flooding. the narrow streets were like rivers. we waded around up to our ankles in it. ironically, i was the only one without a decent raincoat. at a certain point you just give up and say, well, it’s only water. at least it’s not hot.

when mom and dad left, sara and i had an evening to ourselves in stone town before her flight the next morning. it was thankfully not raining and we walked along the pier to watch the sunset. a load of boys, maybe forty of them, were jumping off the pier into the harbor, dressed in shorts and t-shirts. sara and i sat watching for a minute. then i turned to her and, with a nod to the diving children, said ‘shall we?’ to which she responded, as she took off her rings, watch, and sunglasses, ‘only under two conditions. one, i get to go first. and two, you have to take a picture.’ and then she jumped, fully clothed, off the pier into the harbor. the boys hooted and hollered and she bobbed up smiling. ‘you’ve got to try it.’

and i did. 🙂

dad teaching local kids how to pop their finger from their cheek obstacles in the road on the way to cyangugu not very flattering, but doesn't that look like fun?


~ by aliciawolcott on April 18, 2008.

6 Responses to “visitors”

  1. wow, that rock looks really heavy. i’m really strong. i carry water too. what a catch, what a catch.

  2. captions:
    “Well, in order to really get a good pinky-popping-in-the-cheek sound you have to lift your elbow up extra high.”

    “Ooh, I think Bill (the Harzia) has rounded the ankle bend and is on his way up my calf…”

  3. Marcus is what I call my Harzia actually. Someone the other day pointed out that chances are I have lots of parasites, so perhaps Bill has come along too. And Mervin. I think Lisi said hers is named Mervin, after the Sheriff of Rottingham, though I could’ve imagined that.

  4. mervin it is then.

  5. “There’s a lot of things I can do without during this whole ‘living in Africa’ thing, but my favorite pair of sunglasses is not one of them. Good thing they seem to be floating…”

  6. The Idaho State Emergency Instructions for “Avoiding Overcrowding and Too Much Attention”: Move away from people and towards unpopulated wilderness areas.

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