Sunday, January 17, 2016

It's the Journey Not the Destination...or So I've Been Told


December 14th was the beginning of the end…of our time in Monterey California.


The Hubs arrived in Monrovia Liberia on the 13th of December, the next day I, with the help of my father in law (Jack), began the arduous task of supervising a full week of packing up our California home in order to move back to Africa. Oh, did I also mention that I had finals that week? No, well I had finals in 3 classes that week.

I assumed that:
-       Packing luggage for four people (luggage that we had to be prepared to live out of for about 3 months)
-       Supervising the packing of the house hold items that we were shipping to Africa
-       Supervising the packing of the items that would go into storage
-       Studying for and taking 3 finals

without the help of the Hubs, would be the craziest and most stressful aspect of our move to Liberia. Unfortunately packing and moving out of our home was only half of the insanity that awaited me.

Although the packing was stressful and I feel as though I botched the whole operation, eventually, for better or worse, it was all over and I was able to enjoy the last few days in Monterey and even see the new Star Wars movie before the flight on the 21st  of December.
On December 21st after a restless night, I woke at 3:00am and began preparing for the flight from Monterey California to Monrovia Liberia. The plan was to fly from
Monterey CA to
Los Angeles CA to
Atlanta GA to
Brussels Belgium to
Monrovia Liberia.

Once in Liberia we would joyfully reunite with the Hubs and spend Christmas together in our new home!

This is what really happened…

We arrived at the Monterey airport two hours early. We checked in easily enough and were told that our bags would be sent straight through to Monrovia! However, when the woman working the counter attempted to print our boarding passes, only the Monterey to LAX pass would print. After some typing and jiggling of wires and a frustrated whack to the printer, the woman told me that I would have to get the boarding passes from a gate agent in Los Angeles. I remember thinking that it was too damn early in the trip for this to be happening, I should have seen this incident as a sign of what was to come. I told the woman that we’d work it out and handed over the five large pieces of checked luggage and confirmed that the luggage did not need to be picked up anywhere along the way.

We found our way to the gate to wait for the plane to arrive. As luck would have it, the gate attendant found me and gave me the rest of our boarding passes! Maybe this trip was looking up after all.

This airplane is really loud!



James is ready for this!
The flight to Los Angeles was short and uneventful. We found our way to the next gate without much trouble and even had enough time to purchase some overpriced stale pastries and a fancy bottle of water. Seriously, how is water fancy?? I’m convinced that the water must be collected from magical icebergs endowed with healing properties and viciously protected by shaggy, blood thirsty snow ponies…Can you think of another reason why water is so expensive? Anyway…

We anxiously awaited our flight to begin boarding. We were ready! All of our electronics and chargers were counted and recounted. We sipped our magic glacier water and nibbled away at our stale breakfast as we watched the clock tick closer to our boarding time…the boarding time arrived and passed. I checked with the gate attendant and she assured me that we’d be boarding shortly. Boarding shortly turned into boarding an hour late! Once on the plane and settled into our seats, a frazzled flight attendant followed by James (who is eleven years old) rushed over to me. “I’m sorry mam, he can’t sit in the exit row!” Sheesh! I suggested that Brenden and James switch places but James quickly told the attendant that Brenden was not old enough to sit there either!

Sitting James and Jacob next to each other with out adult supervision in a public place is a recipe for a humiliating disaster that would likely have led to all four of us being tossed off of the plane. I was forced to take James to the front of the plane, where Brenden was sitting, seat James in Brenden’s seat, send Brenden to sit in my seat, next to Jacob and I would sit in the exit row.

After all of the passengers were boarded and seated in the correct places, we headed to the runway, along with 5-6 other planes. It seemed to take forever just to get off of the ground. Luckily, the actual flying time was only 3 hours and the boys were able to behave themselves for the entire flight, thank heavens!
When we finally arrived in Atlanta we had 30 minutes to make our gate before the plane took off. We busted a move through the airport as fast as we could and made it to the gate with what we thought was 15 minutes to spare but when we arrived, the doors were closed and we were told that we missed the plane by 5 minutes!

Thus began the crazy!

I was told by the gate attendant that we needed to head to the Customer Service desk. As we walked over to the desk I remembered the hubs telling me that should anything bad happen during our travel, we should call the emergency number on the itinerary that was issued to us by the military travel agency. I began repeatedly sending frantic iMessages to the Hubs hoping that he would see them but thinking that he likely would not, ether way it felt good to freak out a little. I called the emergency number and they were no help at all!!!!!!!!!! They told me to “deal with the airline”. At the customer service desk I was told that they could get me to Brussels the next day (insert super cheery customer service voice here). I explained that getting to Brussels the next day would not help me to get to Monrovia because there was not another flight to Monrovia until Friday (Christmas Day). They then told me that I could go to Brussels and stay in a hotel for a few days until my flight left, basically they didn’t want me to be their problem anymore….”Get this woman out of the country as quick as possible!!” At least that is how it felt. Chilling in Brussels (while it sounds fun) wasn’t going to work for me. I told them that I would rather stay in Atlanta until Thursday. We searched for other flights through other cities and countries and called the stupid emergency number about 5 times trying to get the alternate flights approved, the hubs did eventually see my angry, frantic texts and called me. After 2 ½ hours of working this problem we decided that traveling on Thursday, Christmas Eve, through Amsterdam was the safest and best way to complete the journey. 

The next step was to find a place to spend the next three days. I called that dumb emergency number to find out if they would pay for a hotel. They said, “no” and then suggested that the Army might pay for it (reimburse us for the nights) and that they could book it for me at the government rate…gee thanks.

You are probably wondering why the airline didn’t pay for the hotel…. this was all their fault after all…well, they would have paid for it, but they would only pay for the rooms one night at time at a hotel of their choosing. This would mean that I would have to check out every morning, drag my kids and our nine bags plus backpacks to the airport, wait in line at customer service, get a new voucher for a hotel (maybe a different hotel than the one we had just checked out of) schlep myself, kids, and bags back to said hotel, and then do it all over again the next day….uhhhh NO THANKS!!!

I told the unhelpful emergency service that I wanted the nicest room for the allowable rate, which was $138.00. Screw this! I’m stuck here Christmas week; I’m going to a nice place! They booked us at the Home Wood Suites, one bedroom apartment with two queen sized beds, sofa bed, kitchen, and free breakfast and dinner!

I finalized the tickets to Monrovia for the 24th of December and asked the guy for some food vouchers.
I honestly said, “So, are you going to feed us? Cuz, your airline didn’t feed us crap on the plane ride from LA and I have been standing around for the last 3 hours trying to find an answer to this nightmare and my kids have been freaking amazing but I don’t know how long that’s gonna last soooo, yeah.

The guy agreed with me:
a)    That my kids are effing travel rock stars
b)    That the airline, as a general rule, starves people on domestic flights

James waiting at the Atlanta airport
Looking terrible and trying not to cry


















We were given $120.00 in vouchers and set off to find the most expensive restaurant that we could. We stumbled upon a steak house and ate our hearts out on Delta’s dime. We then found over priced ice cream and consumed it with as much enthusiasm as we could muster after the day’s unfortunate events.

With our bellies full and some of our energy recovered we headed to baggage claim with the hope of finding our 5 checked bags. The man running the baggage office confirmed that our bags were still in Atlanta (thank heavens for small miracles) and sent us to another location to pick up the luggage. Another hour and we had our unharmed but soaking wet suitcases. Moving 9 pieces of rolling luggage with three kids who have been awake since 3am is no easy task. We lumbered our way out of the airport and after wandering around ground transportation for 20 minutes we found our way to the shuttle that would transport us to our beds.

The Homewood Suites was just what we needed! Unfortunately because the bags were wet, we were forced to postpone meeting our beds until all of the bags were opened and their contents hung up to dry. Our stay in Georgia was pretty dull. We enjoyed the large hot tub and free breakfast and dinner. We were able to walk to restaurants nearby and even “ubered” a ride to see a movie.


DELISH!!





               

Our many bags! 

Hotel staff was great and even made a bed for Picachu
On the 24th of December as we were packing to leave for the airport when the power in the hotel went out! The weather was terrible with thunder, lightning and heavy rain. I was really concerned that we would not make it out and that we would be stuck in Atlanta for another few days. After about an hour the power came back on. We ate breakfast and headed to the airport 4 hours early.

Move to Liberia; take two!
I am glad that we arrived with so much time to spare. The airport was crazy. Flights were being cancelled and delayed; there were angry people everywhere. The shuttle only dropped off in the domestic terminal and although Delta claimed that we could check in for international travel in the domestic terminal, the woman who was checking us in had no idea what she was doing. It took her over an hour just to check our bags in. I was terrified that I would never see those bags again. Eventually we got our luggage checked and our boarding passes issued. We made it through security with out any problems and by some miracle the flight left on time, even with the bad weather. The plane was only half full and we were free to spread out. Although I did not sleep much, James and Jacob each took a row and were soon snoring.
          

Finally on the plane!
The train to our gate in Atlanta
             


When we reached Amsterdam we had about 3 hours to make our next flight, which was headed to Brussels. It was early in the morning and there were not many people in the airport. We made it to our gate with plenty of time and settled down to wait for the plane. I let the kids open some Christmas presents, as it was Christmas morning after all, they had a great time making crafts in the Amsterdam airport and loved the little gifts that they received. The flight from Amsterdam to Brussels was only 20 minutes long but that was long enough for Jacob to fall madly in love with the flight attendant. He was waving at her as she gave the flight safety instructions and then told me that he loved her 1,018, he likes to quantify things.
Having fun in Amsterdam

Santa James, and elves

Pika-Clause



Christmas gifts at the gate!

StarWars is Awesome!!!!


Brenden is a little sleepy

Finally on our way to Brussels

Hoping this goes OK!

Once in Brussels we had an hour and a half until our plane to Monrovia left. We went straight to the gate. I was extremely nervous because of what happened in LA and wanted to make sure that we were there in plenty of time. The gate was PACKED with people. About 40 minutes before the plane was set to board everyone got up and formed a line. I was like, “UH, did I miss something? What the heck is going on??” Feeling like a complete idiot, I asked the gate attendant what was happening, “Why are all of these people in line?” She told me that they were waiting, of their own accord, to board the plane even though there was no announcement to do so.

I have been involved in boarding public transport in Africa before and it can be a daunting and chaotic experience. I did not want to deal with fighting all 300 passengers on this flight, so I asked if we could board with the people who had little kids. I did have a 4 year old with me, that’s little...right? Eventually I convinced them to let us do the pre-boarding and we moved to the pre-boarding waiting area with the grandmas and babies. You are right, I have no shame, to me, it was totally worth it.
The flight was long, about 7 hours to Sierra Leone. 


COOKIES!


 





In Sierra Leone some passengers got off of the plane and new passengers boarded. We were on the ground for about an hour and then flew for another couple of hours to Monrovia. When we landed in Monrovia it was dark outside. We collected our bags and made our way to the door of the plane and slowly climbed down the steps. We were some of the last passengers to leave the plane and we missed the airport bus that was to take us to the terminal. As we were waiting for the bus to return to us I realized that I had left the envelope with the passports in my seat!! I instructed Brenden to watch the other boys and darted up the stairs while incoherently shouting at the flight attendants, “passports, left, plane, be quick.” Some how they seemed to get the gist of the situation and didn’t try to stop my hysterical sprint back to my seat. The envelope was there! I breathed a deep sigh of relief and made it back to my kids as the bus arrived.

At the terminal we were instructed to wash our hands with bleach water from a bucket with a spicket at the bottom, the hubs told me to bring some hand towels because they don’t supply a means of drying your hands. We washed and dried our hands with the towel Brenden had stowed in his backpack. As we approached the door a nurse took our temperature to ensure that we were healthy enough to enter the country. We were all cleared to enter the building and as we did we met the chaos of the Monrovia Airport.

The airport was small and packed with people, although I was told that the airport was slow the night that we flew in. An embassy expeditor met us in the midst of the commotion and directed us to the passport booth. She told us to give the passport agent our passports and to follow her into the baggage claim. I was not really comfortable leaving my passports AT ALL, but I left them with the agent and followed her. The baggage claim consisted of one dilapidated baggage belt that moved just a little too quickly. I was able to snag our bags up with out being pulled along for the ride and Brenden and James were great at holding onto the bags and shooing away the many offers for help with the bags that we received. After all of our luggage was accounted for, we went to the other side of the room where two dudes stood by some tables. This was “customs”, the customs agents asked me to open my bags and I told them that we were diplomats and that we didn’t have to open our bags. He asked for our passports but they were still with the passport agent. The expeditor mumbled something I couldn’t understand and went back to the passport guy. We stood there awkwardly with our 9 bags for what seemed like forever.

Finally, Brenden said, “Did you check her badge mom?”
Me, “Yes, she had an embassy badge”
Brenden, “Someone could be stealing our passports”
Me, “I saw a badge”
Brenden, “Do you want me to go check on the passports? I should go check!!”
Me, “Ok, go, but be careful!”

So, Brenden pushed his way back through the insanity and around the corner to where the passport check was located. He was gone about 5 minutes and then appeared again and gave me the thumbs up to let me know that our passports had in fact not been stolen. He waited with the agent and expediter until the passports were stamped and then joined us as we made our way out of the airport where the hubs was waiting for us.

We greeted each other quickly and headed to the van where we hurriedly loaded our baggage into the vehicle and began the hour drive to our new home.

Thanks for reading friends and family! Until next time…

International Travel Survival Tips
1.    Before leaving any seated or standing area check for your passports
2.    If you miss a flight DEMAND money for food
3.    Spend every penny that the airline gives you for food
4.    Travel with your kids as often as you can. This toughens them up so that they aren’t completely annoying when you have to go to customer service for 3 hours (any form of travel works; car, train, plane, boat etc.)
5.    When traveling over the Christmas holiday have gifts in your carryon luggage just incase you end up spending Christmas in an airport
6.    Don’t trust the airline to actually take care of you when you miss a connection

7.    Bring food when traveling domestically in the USA; they will try to starve you!

Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Adventure Begins

Hello friends and family, it has been a long time! We had a wonderful year and a half in Monterey California. The Hubs earned his Graduate degree and I have nearly finished my Bachelors degree (I have two classes left and will graduate in May, WOOT WOOT!). The kids enjoyed the beach and made many new friends.

So you must be wondering why I am suddenly resurrecting the blog…Well, we are at it again, as of December 25th 2015 our family is once again residing in Africa! We are living in Monrovia Liberia. 

Why did I arrive in my new home on Christmas Day? I can tell you that moving to an African country on Christmas was not my intention. Check back over the next few days and I'll explain the shenanigans that led to me dragging three kids, nine bags, two very special blankets and one Picachu through six airports and three continents over the course of four days!!!!

I have discovered that many people have no idea where Liberia is, so I am including a map. We are literally living on the opposite side of the continent from Ethiopia. We are excited for this new adventure and we hope that you will enjoy coming along for the ride!


Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Journey Home



Well friends and family, we have been on one long adventure together. Our family has been back in the States for about six weeks now. Hard to believe!!  And we are fairly well adjusted. I have stopped accidently running stop signs. Seriously, stop signs are totally suggestions in Addis rather than actual rules. I usually don’t honk my horn at children playing in their front yards anymore. I had a hard time adjusting to the idea that children won’t randomly run into the road and be killed by my minivan. I felt bad for the poor kids that got a preliminary beep just in case they were considering galloping into the road, I nearly scared one little boy to death because I beeped at him while he was running through a sprinkler in his yard,  he seriously looked like he was going to cry. I have realized that carrying toilet paper in my purse is not necessary and it’s nice to know that there is always soap AND paper towels in every public bathroom! Now let's move on to, “The Journey Home”.

Our last days in Addis were busy! I tried to cram all of the things that I wanted to do and see but had put off for the year we were there into the last two weeks. I visited an orphanage. It was so sweet and sad to see all of the beautiful children that lived there waiting for their forever homes. I had a picture frame built and carved for a painting that we picked up on one of our adventures.  I bought a bunch of handmade scarves and leather bags. I spent time with friends and finished up work at the AMAZING school that I was fortunate enough to be involved with. If you for some reason are reading this blog because you are living in or will be moving to Addis and you have young kids, Head to Toe is absolutely the best thing out there! I am sad that I cannot find anything to compare with it here in the US of A. 

On our last night in Addis after the house was cleaned and the boxes were gone and the bags were packed, we made plans to eat dinner some dear friends of ours, the Aspenson’s.  Annie Aspenson became a great friend to me and I was and still am sad that I don’t get to have weekly mommy dates with her any more. We had our last supper of injera and wot, which was delish! We chatted and the kids played but it all ended too soon. We headed back to our house for a last check of all of the rooms before the Embassy motor pool car arrived to carry us to the airport.

The van arrived promptly at 7pm and as we loaded the vehicle our neighbors stopped by with some last minute goodbyes. There were hugs and waves and tears from all of us. Our day guard stayed a little late to see us off and he teared up as we hugged him and thanked him for all of the wonderful help he had been to our family over the last year. As we drove away I could not believe that an entire year had passed! I was headed back to where it had all started except now the craters in the road were home. The beggars on the street were people. I had come to love the insanity and although I was excited and happy to see my family and have reliable internet……and plumbing, I was also sad to let this part of my life go.

I wish that I could say that we flew home peacefully with no complications. I wish that I could say that the flights flew exactly as they should. I wish that I could say that we were all healthy and whole upon arrival, but if the above was the end of my story, well then it wouldn't be the truth and it wouldn't be my story. You see I am just not that lucky and I think that Ethiopia wanted to give me a reason not to be sad about my departure. Ethiopia wanted a dramatic break up and boy did I get one.

We arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare. We got through the initial security check and then wound our way to the ticket counter. We were scheduled to fly on the 10:30pm Luftanza flight to Germany with a 3 hour layover and then on to Los Angeles followed by a quick flight up to Monterey. As we approached the ticket line a tall, blonde German gentleman asked us if we were on the Luftanza flight at 10:30. “Why yes, we are as a matter of fact.” I could only hope that we had won some sort of award and would all be upgraded to first class free of charge where in our children would have their own personal flight attendants to see to their every need, what can I say, I’m a dreamer. Instead this fellow answered with, “Well I am sorry, but that flight and all of the rest of our flights have been cancelled.”  I immediately flew into panic mode. My brain responded with a few silent WHAT THE..’s and my eyes must have shown my fear because the hubs gave me the calm down eyeball. He proceeded to ask what the solution was. Solution, of course there would be a solution. It’s not like we were supposed to be flying on Ethiopian Airlines their solution is usually, “I’m sorry, this must be really challenging for you, have a nice life.” Unfortunately the solution was Ethiopian airlines. DA-da-dun…. So now we were to fly on Ethiopian to London wait around for six hours and then fly via United Airlines to San Francisco, wait around for five more hours, fly to Monterey. Oh, and this new flight does not leave until 12:30am, that is in four and a half hours, have fun with that!



I am still optimistic at this point. At least we are still getting out tonight, it’s great we don’t need a hotel and Jake should definitely sleep by the time we take off. So we waited around and bought a bunch of nasty junk food with our remaining Birr and played on our electronic devices. It wasn't that terrible and when we boarded we used a real jet way and didn't have to go outside and climb up those God awful stairs! We found our seats without a problem and settled down to endure the seven or so hour flight to London.

Even though we were leaving at 12:30am the flight attendants still served a dinner. I wasn't particularly hungry and considered not eating the meal but decided to pick at it anyway; OK, I ate the whole darn thing. Jake on the other hand had almost nothing. He must have had a sixth sense, someone was watching out for him, maybe he has spidey senses, maybe I stuffed him so full of crap while we were wondering around the terminal for four hours that he honestly wasn't hungry, or perhaps he just had a feeling that eating that food was a BAD idea. I wish that I had had the sense to say no thank you and go to sleep! Within two hours my tummy was rumbling, in four hours I was very uncomfortable and by the time we landed I was ill and not just a little bit. I was so sick that I had to visit the airplane restroom before landing and then again after we touched down. After we got off of the jet way I needed to go again. Every 10 minutes I had to quickly find a potty. I desecrated nearly every public restroom that was on my path. It was hell.

We finally got to a place where we could sit down. There was a play structure and many seats surrounding this play area. After staking out our territory directly in front of the ball pit and scoping out the closest toilets, I lay down on the seats and watched Jacob beat the crap out of two smaller boys inside the children’s area. No one wants to be the parent of the bratty American bully; you especially don’t want to be that parent when at any moment you may have to shoot off at the speed of light to the public bathroom where you are solely responsible for the unspeakable things happening in the unsuspecting restroom stall. Unfortunately, I was that parent. I pushed myself up and slowly made my way to the play attendant to discover the reason behind the brawl. Apparently there was some miscommunication about the rules of some game and who was to do what and then Jake felt as though the boys were not participating appropriately or some such nonsense and walloped them both. Well GREAT! Now I had to do the responsible thing and drag his heavy sorry butt out of the play area kicking and screaming all while trying not to make any sudden movements that might leave me needing to change my clothes! Eventually Jake saw the error of his ways (he didn't want to be in time out with grumpy mom any more) and apologized to the boys, all was forgiven and the kids played for the next several hours and I promptly passed out.

When it was time to find our gate I was not feeling much better but the intervals between potty breaks had increased to about 20 minutes which was marked improvement. I should also mention that the Hubs and Brenden were also suffering from food poisoning as well. While they were not as miserable as I was, they were unhappy enough to be grumpy man children the both of them. Our sick and sad troupe made its way to the gate and waited to board. Once on the plane, we again settled into our seats for our long flight home. Eleven and a half hours! After we were at altitude the flight attendants once again appeared with offerings of food. I was still so sick that I told the attendant no thank you. She replied by telling me that there would not be another meal on this flight. I looked at her and said, “I flew to London on Ethiopian Airlines.” With that she answered, “Say no more, say no more. I will get you some ginger ale”.  Apparently serious food poisoning, courtesy of Ethiopian Airlines, is a well known and documented fact in the airline world. I’m thinking that Ethiopian Air should use the poisoning of their paying customers as a selling point, “Fly Ethiopian and finally kick those stubborn pounds!”

I didn't eat a thing the entire flight. I could barely sip the ginger ale. We flew on a big plane so there were about six bathrooms and I tried to spread my visits to them out because I thought that if I kept going back to the same toilet the people sitting near it would get freaked out.  By the time we landed in San Fran I felt nearly human. The need for potty breaks slowed and I thought that I could probably hold onto some food! We had a five hour wait in San Fran. Yes, I know, Monterey is only a two hour drive south but we had been traveling for about thirty some hours at this point and most of us were getting over a very intense illness. So we uncovered the San Francisco USO, grabbed some grub and we all fell asleep. I have NEVER in my life slept as well as I did on the pull-out couch at the USO. The hubs woke me after I had been out for about three hours to tell me it was time to go and it felt like I had just barely lain down. The last flight! OH joy! Oh RAPTURE! We made it to Monterey late that night, 10:30pm or something close to it. The car that we rented was too small to fit all of us and the ten bags plus carry-ons that we had. Unfortunately we had to take two trips but once we were settled into the blessed Navy Lodge it was wonderful to fall asleep….. with a calm tummy.


How to Survive international travel with a family:
1) Be sure to bring entertainment for the kids
2) Be sure to bring entertainment for yourself
3) Be flexible, you never know what is going to happen
4) ALWAYS, always, always carry Pepto-Bismol
5) Every single person in the family should have an extra set of clothes with them
6) NEVER ever eat the food on Ethiopian Airlines, I’m not joking here I am totally serious!
7) Bring your own food so that you don’t have to eat the airline food just in case you accidentally end up on Ethiopian Airlines!
8) Don’t get too worked up if your kid is the bully at the international terminal kids play area. Everyone knows that you have probably come a long way and they are usually willing to be forgiving. You still have to make them sit in time out though!
9) Most of all, no matter where you are or what is happening, a sense of humor makes everything a little bit easier to bear!

Well, friends and family that is it. My journey to Africa is over!  We may go back someday and if we do you can be sure that I will resurrect this blog as a way to keep you all informed of our adventures.

Until next time friends and family!!!!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Off to Zanzibar!


Hi friends and family! I am actually back in the states!!! I had some major internet issues the last two months that we were in Ethiopia so I'm going to be posting the last few weeks of Ethiopia in the next few days and then I will be posting our homecoming post.
ENJOY!

We chose to spend the second half of our vacation on the island of Zanzibar. I have been excited about visiting Zanzibar since we discovered that we were moving to Africa 3 years ago. There are two ways to reach the island, you can fly or you can take the ferry. We opted to take the ferry. We woke early dressed, finished packing and then headed down to breakfast. After breakfast we piled into two taxi's and headed to the port. The taxi's in Tanzania are not as terrifying as the taxis the taxis in Addis, they even have seat belts!!

We arrived at the port and it was INSANE! There were people everywhere, we had to push our way through the throng. I'm not saying this figuratively, I was literally pushing people out of my way because if I didn't they would have cut right in front of me or knocked my kids over, who knows what would have happened! This was surprising. In Ethiopia if you are traveling, especially with kids people move out of your way and help you to get where you are going. NOT the case in Tanzania!

We finally got to the gate where they take your tickets and found a place to sit and wait for the boat to be loaded. We purchased first class tickets and so we waited in the First Class area. It wasn't much nicer than the coach area but it was located closer to the dock.

Waiting for the boat


First Class

Everyone else

So the boat arrived and it was time to board. One would assume that paying more for the first class tickets would mean that you would board first, not the case. The gates were opened and it was a free for all. Pushing, shoving, yelling, it was utter insanity. As we were making our way up the stairs onto the boat some crazy lady tried to cut in front of James. I lost it and shoved her away from us and told her to back off. I've become a bit more aggressive while living here. Finally as we moved on to the deck I saw the first class entry and 'busted a move' to the door. The man at the door asked for my ticket, I wasn't holding it, the Hubs had all of the tickets. I began yelling and pointing to Jake incoherently and then back in the direction of the Hubs. I am sure that I looked like I was having some sort of neurological fit but the guy let me in. Once we stepped inside it was like another world. It was quiet and calm and there was no pushing!  

First Class Seating


Just happy that they made it!

Karibu means welcome in Swahili 

The boat ride was about an hour and a half of peace and quiet. When we arrived in Zanzibar we had to go through all that craziness again. We didn't rush out of the boat though, we let most of the people exit the boat before we headed out. We didn't want to wait too long because we had about eight pieces of luggage down in the cargo hold that we didn't want stolen. The funny thing about Zanzibar is that we had to go through customs AGAIN! Zanzibar is part of Tanzania, we thought that it would be easy upon arrival, not so! There was more yelling and pushing and shoving until we made it to the customs line where we waited for what seemed like an eternity. We finally got through customs and called the company that we rented cars through. They told us which direction to walk in and said that they would meet us. We met in a parking lot where 2 cars were waiting. Zanzibar is a HOT place, as the Hubs settled the rental of the vehicles the kids and I piled into the van and turned it on, blasting the air conditioner. The van became more comfortable and we contentedly wait for the Hubs to finish up with the negotiations, that is until the car ran out of gas and shut off! That is right. This dude brought us the car with so little gasoline that we couldn't even let it idle for 10 minutes with out it dying!

Furious, I stomped over to the Hubs and shouted that the car had run out gas. The Hubs stormed over the the car followed closely by the man from the rental company. They had a heated discussion about customer service and that the vehicle should arrive with at least enough petrol to drive to the station! The man from the company agreed to put a few liters into the car for us, what a guy! It took a good two hours before we were able to begin searching for our resort. Part of the reason for the delay (besides that lack of fuel) was that the vehicle that was rented for the other family didn't have air conditioning! It is WAY too hot outside to not have AC, so we had to go to a garage and have the AC serviced.

Finally, we headed in the direction of our hotel. We were able to find the resort fairly easily with only a few wrong turns. When we arrived at the resort we were blown away with the beauty of the place!

Our beautiful room!


Our private back yard!

Low tide


Beach Bar

Outdoor relaxation






The view from the pool





                                
I forgot to mention that the day that we travelled to Zanzibar was also Jake's birthday! The big Number thee! What a cool way to spend your birthday! We were so excited to get on the beach and have some fun.







Looking for sea creatures




James is having a blast!

A friend that we met on the beach. We named him Bruno.








So, we had tons of fun until….





Jacob found something bright blue on the beach. It was such a bright blue that the Hubs thought that it was a piece of trash and didn't think too much about it, until Jake began screaming in pain. The Hubs rushed to Jacob and discovered that what he believed was a harmless piece of plastic was in fact a jelly fish that now had its extremely long tentacles wrapped all around Jacob's hand and arm! The Hubs quickly ripped the jelly off of Jake and threw it (violently) into the sea. We rushed him up to the resort. Jake was inconsolable and still screaming in pain even after the long walk back to the hotel. I had some Benadryl in the room that I quickly administered to Jake before heading to the desk to ask for some help.  The people at the desk said that we should put vinegar on the sting. I had heard of doing that as well and so we covered Jakes arm in vinegar, it didn't help. In the end I wrapped him in a towel and held him until he fell asleep. What a rotten birthday! We discovered that what we thought was just a jelly fish turned out to be a Portuguese Man of War! Oh and vinegar, DOESN'T work on those!

The next day we went on the Zanzibar Spice Tour. We actually got some discount tickets from the crappy car rental agency that we used. At least we got something for all of that insanity!

Our guide; he was great but I can't remember his name.

The spices aren't grown in what one would consider a traditional garden. The spices are growing all around the forest and the harvesters/ gardeners just know where to find them. 

Star Fruit


This guy followed us around and wove grass jewelry for everyone, at the end of the tour he expected payment….I should have guessed. Oh and he was wearing a shirt that said "I Love Boobies". I wonder if he knew what he was wearing??



YUMMY bananas

Jack fruit anyone?






Vanilla Beans!


Vanilla needs a little love to grow properly.

Nutmeg! Did you know that you can get high on nutmeg? No? Me either but apparently you can and many Zanzibari women do when they want to seduce their husbands…at least that is what the guide said.






In east Africa the Oranges don't normally turn orange. We had noticed the same thing in Ethiopia.

Lychee





Cutting the jack fruit down for us!





This is natural lipstick


Cinnamon



Pepper corns





And now, we feast!









What a fun day that was! We ate and learned a lot about the different fruits and spices that people have introduced to Zanzibar. Unfortunately the vanilla wasn't in season yet so I was unable to buy any…


After the spice tour we visited a Persian bath house that was built by Sultan Seyyid Said in 1850 for his wife who was Persian. The baths are decorated in an ornamental stucco work that is in the Persian style. The baths were constructed on the highest point on the island and include toilets, heated baths, massage tables and dressing rooms. 




Ok funny story here, these are the toilets. They are basically a hole with two raised platforms on either side for your feet. Jacob realized that it was a toilet and immediately dropped trow to pee in the ancient potty. No really! Of course, I grabbed him and tried to tell him that this was not a functional potty, that this was a museum. As I'm explaining this to the three year old our guide shouts to me from across the yard, "If he want to use the toilet he can!" Wait, what? This is a museum! He can't just piss all over it! Really? Well Jake heard the go ahead and promptly peed down and all around that hole! Can you imagine visiting an old mansion in the southern USA and using the toilet? No, because no one would let you! Not in Africa, sure use it! No Problem! Hakuna Matata!!

They actually say Hakuna Matata in Tanzania/ Zanzibar!! I never thought in my life that I would visit a place where people actually use that phrase without conjuring images of Timon and Pumbaa.










After visiting the Baths we went to a slave cave. In this cave slavers would keep hundreds of slaves until it was time to put them on to boats to sail to the Middle East. I can't imagine being down in that hole for days or even weeks with hundreds of other scared and filthy people. Very sobering. The slavers utilized this cave after the practice of slavery became illegal.  They dug a tunnel from the cave out to the ocean where the slaves were then loaded up and shipped out.


Red Colobus Monkeys
These monkeys only live on the island of Zanzibar in the Jozani Forest and are extremely endangered oh and they have no thumbs!







We were also able to visit the mangrove tidal swamp. 



















My son James loves dolphins, we thought that it would be fun to go swimming with some dolphins. We drove to the other side of the island and paid a fisherman to take us out on his boat to find some dolphins! 










We searched and searched but we were unable to find ANY dolphins! They were no where to be found. We had a lot of fun looking though!


Keeping Jake in the boat was a challenge.
 Finally we decided to give up on the dolphins and went snorkeling. It was really fun. I hadn't been snorkeling in about 14 years!!!







We were REALLY hungry!

After our adventure we were VERY hungry so we had some lunch back where we picked up the boat. 

View from lunch



The last day that we were in Zanzibar we visited Stone Town. We didn't hire a tour guide we just let the city guide us. We wandered through all of the twists and turns of Stone Town. It was awesome! 








ICE CREAM!



The doors in Zanzibar are famous! 




Beautiful!

Jake and Jackson having a blast



A market that is in an old fort





A club that Brenden bought.



Palace Museum




Inside of the Palace




Beautiful view from the top of the Palace 


Sultan grave yard


View from a roof top restaurant 


More of the famous Zanzibar doors







One thing that I am a little sad that we didn't do was to take a ride on a Dhow.

Our vacation was amazing. We had a few bumps a long the way. There were a few things that happened that I failed to mention in this post like when the Hubs refused to give his drivers license to an over zealous cop and ended up in a heated argument that I was sure would conclude with the Hubs being thrown in a Zanzibar jail somewhere. Or the time that James' pants exploded in the bathroom in the middle of the night. He attempted to clean it up himself and some how the explosion ended up everywhere including all over our bottle of tooth paste. The Hubs and I have been so africanized that it didn't occur to us to throw the tooth paste away and buy a new bottle. We simple boiled everything that was on the bathroom counter in the hotel room's coffee pot. My biggest question is HOW did it get on the counter?!?!?!?!!?! YUCK!

This vacation will go down in history as one of the most epic trips that this family has ever been on!
Until next time friends and family!

Tips for surviving Zanzibar

1) Be sure that you know about the deadly sea life that you will be sharing the ocean with.

2) Know how to treat the bites and stings of deadly sea life

3) Explain to the children that if they get sick they NEED to tell you and not attempt to clean it up themselves!

4) Bring your underwater camera

5) Don't fight with the cops!

6) Don't rush! See everything and ENJOY!