Me: What is that? It looks like a boar. Runs to find someone who can accurately identify said boar. Told it’s a warthog.
Second time seeing boar-like creature:
Me: Oh look! It’s a warthog. Confidentlylists several features of the warthog; it’s preferred vegetation, which animals prey upon it, etc.
First day seeing a Bushback:
Me: oh look!!! It’s a bushback! This is SO exciting. Spends next 20 minutes filming bushback while exclaiming over ever single detail of their unusual markings.
Second time seeing a Bushback:
Me: Looks around for other animals, sees there are none, begrudgingly films bushback for a few seconds before turning the camera to a large bird which has landed on a tree branch nearby.
Third time seeing a bushback:
Me: doesn’t bother turning around, Oh look! A whole family of warthogs. Aren’t they funny?
Fourth time seeing a bushback:
Me: No reaction.
When on safari each new sighting is met with feverish anticipation and curiosity. Then, after a few more sightings, inevitably one is on to the next thing. For me it began with pretty much anything that moved, followed by awe at the enormity and beauty, and a desire to see whatever it was up close. Then, over the course of a few days, I noticed that I wasn’t even bothering to film the bushbacks and their beautiful markings. In an effort to combat “the jaded tourist”, I tried hard to pay attention to and marvel at the markings of the impala, antelope and others.
Still the thrill of seeing what are referred to as the big 5 couldn’t be shrugged off. The big five: Rhino, Elephant, African Buffalo, Lion and Leopard are the most sought after sightings, but in the beginning, anything was exciting, even the bushbacks (which I still love for their exquisite markings). But it’s easy to ignore yet another baboon or vervet monkey or Ibis or Spoon billed stork or the amazingly colorful Lilac Breasted Roller. In fairness, I never did tire of seeing those monkeys and birds, however I admit I did begin to view the impala and bushback, so plentiful and in such massive numbers, as the “deer” of Africa.
If you are interested in travel and specifically in traveling in Africa, I have been releasing a new video every day on my YouTube playlist: An African Adventure.
Today’s video covers a river safari we took in Zambia where we sighted countless hippos. I was not frightened by any of the animals we saw except for those hippos. They are enormous, fast and fierce and when you’re in a smallish boat, they can be terrifying!
There are moments that feel impossible and others that fly by unnoticed. Mostly I’m exhausted almost constantly, as though a perpetual scrim has enveloped me, making everything feel heavier, cloudier, more difficult to sort through. It’s not terrible, just different. This is grief, I’m told.
This morning is one of those heavier moments. Maybe it’s because it’s Tuesday, and Tuesday and Thursday mornings are when I post something on this blog. Often I would refer to a video or story my mother had sent me that made me smile and I’d post it here for all of you to enjoy. But there will not be any more videos or stories from my mother and as much as I accept that, I still feel a tightness in my throat, a constriction in my chest, an overwhelming sadness. I remind myself that she lived a long, often beautiful sometimes difficult, complicated life. A life with long tendrils that reached so many. This is grief, I’m told.
When my mother died I was in Africa. At Stanley’s camp in the bush in Botswana, to be exact.
We had spotty wi-fi, but it was enough to be able to communicate with my siblings. It was enough to make me feel connected in our grief.
But then we flew to another camp, deeper in the bush, which had no wi-fi at all. I wasn’t able to reach anyone, and so other than my husband, I was alone with my grief. It was a tough few days, and yet those days were also filled with the excitement that can only come from seeing a leopard bounding up a tree, crouching in front of a bush and then leaping so fast the naked eye can barely keep up, to kill a squirrel. Or the joy and amazement of coming upon a pride of lion: two males, several females and half a dozen cubs, before hurrying off to make one of a half dozen flights before eventually arriving back home in New York City.
Upon our arrival home (it took us almost 40 hours) I had to deal with an array of technological problems, one of which was my computer that had crashed on me the third day of our trip. I am just now beginning to post videos of our African Adventure, with a new video coming out every day for the foreseeable future. Making these videos, in many ways, has been a life saver. It’s somewhat methodical work that is also wonderful as I am seeing all the footage I took of our amazing trip. Traveling is always a joyful experience for me. I love to travel, just as both my parents did. My mother’s death has only made me more intent on traveling as much as I can, while I still can.
As my mother lay dying I called every evening and my sister held the phone to my mother’s ear so that I could tell her about seeing a blackback gorilla charging, and the baboons that were intent on sneaking a treat from the expansive breakfast buffet, and the hippo that came close to our boat in Zambia and how the guide told us his open mouth was the first warning sign and when asked what the second warning sign was, he said a hippo with open mouth running towards us, which was exactly what he was doing!
My days were filled with excitement, even elation as well as overwhelming sadness. It was a lesson in holding two seemingly opposing things in either hand and having both be true.
In the afternoon after our first day of gorilla trekking, I went on a little river trip in a fiber glass canoe with Kingfisher Journeys down the Mukungwa River with the most wonderful guide, Eloi. The photo below is of Simba, our driver and guide while in Rwanda, who was amazing, and Eloi who works for Kingfisher Journeys. If you’re trekking with the gorillas, this is such a fantastic thing to do in the afternoon. I highly recommend it and Eloi is terrific, lots of fun and very knowledgeable!
It was a magical way to spend a few hours just as the sun began to set. The abundance of bird life was staggering. I saw a grey heron, white egret, spoonbill, Ibis and Hadeda Ibis as well as dozens and dozens of other birds. I’ve never been much of a “birder” but this trip was an amazing experience; I loved every minute of it.
Off we go on our grand adventure to Africa tomorrow!
Here is a little recap of the last 24 hours…
Yesterday: Wake up to find we have been sent a notification from the airlines that our flight has been cancelled. Wait, what?!???
My heart skips a beat, a precursor to the flood of panic that immediately follows. Time for some deep breathing. Logic kicks in. We will get another flight out, it’s going to be fine. I quickly send off emails to the travel agency and leave voice messages for them as well, just in case they don’t get the email, even though it’s 6am and they’re on Central time and won’t be open for at least four hours, you can never be too careful or thorough.
I practiced my french – j’ai pratiqué mon français. Still feeling some trepidation and panic, but attempting to speak another language helps. Meanwhile Richard has been experiencing heart palpitations and has an appointment with the doctor to make sure he’s in tiptop shape for our trip. I remind him that it’s important that he wear his hiking boots, since they’re new, at least once before our trip, to ensure he doesn’t get blisters while we are away. He nods distractedly.
The travel agency gets back to me, we laugh about traveling and how anything that can go awry, often does, but it won’t be a problem, she’s got this and will call me back when she’s figured out our new airline and flight.
I decide this is a good time to get some stitching done to calm my frayed nerves.
Several hours pass and I get the news that we are rebooked on a different airline departing out of a different airport, but we will make our connecting flight and all is well. Knowing that we are all set to go as originally planned I go out to get my Covid test as required by the airline and Africa.
I throw on an old pair of sandals and walk briskly over to the CityMD nearest us only to be told that they’re swamped and test results will take 3-5 days. Yikes! They suggest a different place that is about a half a mile away. A true New Yorker, I walk over to this new place, which is actually a folding table set up on the sidewalk on 14th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues. It feels as though I have pebbles in my sandals, which I cannot find or get rid of. Never mind, there’s no line and so I fill out the various online forms to register and they assure me test results will be delivered within 24 hours. Perfect! “Go easy on me,” I plead to the young man, who I swear couldn’t be older than 22. He assures me that he’s known for his gentle touch and before I know it the deep nasal swab has been deftly done and is over. “That’s it?!” I exclaim. “Yup, you’re good to go,” he says.
I have a brief moment when I consider whether it would be worth purchasing another airline ticket for this young man so that we can bring him with us and have him perform the 9-10 Covid tests we will have to get throughout our trip. I voice this thought in a joking tone. He laughs and says something like, “I wish.”
He has no idea how serious I am…
The pebbles in my sandals are now really quite painful and I’m having a difficult time walking. I stop at a random pharmacy, purchase some bandaids only to realize that there are no pebbles; I’ve developed large quarter-sized blisters on the bottoms of both feet. How does that even happen?
I hobble home grateful that I can stay put and not go anywhere else.
Upon arrival back home I am confronted with more forms that need to be filled out no more than 48 hours before leaving. I can feel my anxiety rising. Oh and weren’t we supposed to start taking our malaria tablets? Oh no, that can wait until Friday.
New email comes in from the travel agency reminding me to print out our Rwanda visas. Wait, what?Rwanda visas???? I did that, didn’t I? I’m sure I did, but never received confirmation that our applications were approved. I search for and eventually find the email saying that our visa applications are “pending.” I forward all of this to the travel agency with the subject line: HELP!
I have a Zoom call with my “Ask Me Anything” Patrons, which is really more like a party, very boisterous and lots of fun. I show off my latest stitching project and we discuss stitching, techniques, different ways of doing things, piecing backgrounds, and other things, including my next two workshops coming up end of September. The Zoom party is lots of fun and distracts me momentarily from all that’s going on travel-wise.
The Zoom party ends and I see another email from the travel agency. I call them instead of emailing back. She’s taking care of the whole visa debacle and assures me it will all get sorted out. I check my credit card and see that the money has been removed for our travel visas. She tells me there’s one more form to be filled out, but she’s having her assistant do it because while I was on the Zoom call she spoke to my husband who, it turns out, is having heart palpitations due to stress and she doesn’t want him to get any more stressed out.
Richard tells me he loves his new hiking boots, wore them all day and guess what? Not a single blister. I admit that I wore sandals that I’ve never had issues with and now can barely walk.
We laugh. Because seriously, what else are you going to do? We haven’t even left yet and this trip is feeling epic!
Today: I wake to see that my Covid test has been emailed back to me and I’m negative, thankfully.
After I finish writing this post I am double checking that all our various documents are printed out multiple times. I swear we have added at least a pound to our baggage weight with all the documents. We are only allowed a small duffel bag and cannot bring more than 33 pounds including carry-on each. I will be weighing my various tech equipment & computer, finish packing and will try to remember to breath.
Breathing is important. Wish us luck!
And remember in five days we will be hiking with these guys.
I’ve been traveling. Though I must say that though this trip to visit my mother and sister is a long one, involving connections and then an hour and a half drive, it was about as flawless and easy as traveling can be during these bizarre times.
First off, the La Guardia Airport has done an impressive job with its renovation, they even have a water feature with Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York, playing. Hilarious.
We arrived to an almost empty airport and though the plane was packed, not a single seat left unoccupied, the airport was calm, clean, well staffed and easy to navigate; even the TSA line was easy to move through with no lines or delays.
With one brief stop and connecting flight we then picked up our rental car, also no line, and drove the hour and a half to my sister and mother’s. I’m always relieved when a rental car has a gear shift that isn’t a button under the radio. It’s the small things… so yeah, this was a breeze. My son drove, while I provided the navigation. There was only one “incident” involving a rotary, ambiguous signage and some panic on my part, but after the second or was it third go around, we made it out to the correct exit. Props to my son who took it all in stride and kept calm.
Once at my sister’s we were greeted with this.
The moon was unlike anything I’d ever seen before, glowing red and enormous by the time we arrived. It’s called a Buck’s Moon because it’s the time of year when the bucks grow their new antlers.
The quiet and beauty of the land is always striking when I come out here to visit. Because of COVID it’s been two years since I’ve been able to come out to visit. It’s wonderful to see my mother and sister again. And then of course there are the animals. Lots of dogs, chickens, horses, and those are just the animals that are raised here.
But what about your stitching? you might rightfully ask. Never fear. I brought three projects with me and my GoPro, which I’m hoping I will figure out how to use during this trip.
This piece is just about finished, I think. Though as I look at it now I am already thinking – well, what about that blue area in the upper left, I could add something there and then there’s that red/magenta bit to the right, maybe I should add somethingthere… For now though, I think I will move on and let this sit for awhile. One follower had some great ideas regarding the brown wool strip at the bottom, which I think I might experiment with. Right now it’s looking at bit like an “add on” and not really part of the rest. I’ll have to think more about it though before doing anything. Oh except I brought this thread that might be perfect for it and I could… and so it goes.
It’s lovely to see my mother and sister again after so long.
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Please browse and look at our patterns available. We also offer Workshops! ~Ariane