Thursday, November 3, 2011

Notes From the Road



Stuart* just returned home from a month long business trip. These are clips of Facebook entries and emails home, pieced together to recreate his big adventure.

     Calling home while on safari in South Africa.
Mongolia
It is 3AM here in Mongolia and we just checked in at the hotel in Erdenet. So, if my calculations are correct, it took me 45 hours of travel to get here from the time I left the house. The last six hours were a fairly torturous car ride up into the mountains. I wouldn't hesitate to say that the very best stretch of road that we were on was equivalent to the very worst road that you can think of in PA. There ain't no sleeping in the car while riding here! Most of the ride was fairly teeth rattling. I was correct that, as soon as we left the capital city, I lost cell phone coverage and we never passed through another town. We did stop at a little outpost to pick up drinks and a snack. I will call it an outpost, rather than a rest area for several reasons. First, it was completely out of place in the middle of nowhere. Picture the “last chance for gas for 200 miles” station at the edge of a desert. Except they did not sell gas. There was a rest room, consisting of an outhouse with nothing but a hole in the floor: no light, no sink, no seat. The hotel is significantly better and yet giving it a half a star would probably ruin my credibility as a hotel critic.

There are a lot of these yurts outside of the capital city with people living the same way they have for thousands of years.

 

En Route to South Africa
I've been wandering around the Kuala Lampur airport for about two hours trying to find a place where I could connect to the internet.  Now I've got about 30 minutes before my plane boards.  I found out that I'm not in India, I am in Malaysia.  Not sure where that is exactly but they have a really nice airport. 

Since I flew on Korean Airlines, I had a Korean dinner and breakfast on the plane.  Both were pretty interesting with vegetables I haven't seen before.  Breakfast was creamed rice with onions, beef, roasted seawead, and something like water chestnuts.  I think I like apples and cinnamon oatmeal better.
I'm going to give Korean Airlines a 10 for customer service.  Their staff are the most polite, courteous, pleasant people I've ever seen.  Unfortunately, I have no more flights with them.

Mongolian Airlines, on the other hand, could be renamed "anarchy of the sky".  Though they do serve a good sandwich.  I don't think it is so much the fault of the airline, but it seems that the Mongolian people were born to ignore authority.

South Africa
My watch battery died this morning which is really odd, considering it is solar recharged. I keep having to ask what day it is. Technology has not been my friend on this trip, that's for sure.

I did some quality napping today. Bed is FANTASTIC. Ooooohh I have missed pillows.

(Facebook entry) Be careful with strange critters:
I wasn't quite minding my own business.  I was sneaking around this bird to get a good picture.  My kids really like birds and there are loads of 'em in Africa that I've never seen before.  Anyway, the light was all wrong so I was keeping my distance, circling around to get a better angle.  I took a couple of shots along the way in case I spooked the poor thing and lost my opportunity.  Well the darn thing spooked all right, took off and flew straight at my head.  He came at me screaming and then veered off when he got to about six feet away.  I thought that was interesting until Tweety here turned around and came back for another pass.  Freaked me out just a bit.



This Buffalo is the first of the “big five” that we saw on safari. They are called that because they are the five most dangerous animals to hunt.




The buffalos are huge and when they are alone, the males can be territorial and will charge a human. There were two of them in a dry riverbed just a short way from our “camp”

We had just stopped for a "sundowner" or cocktail hour after seeing the cheetah family. The guides brought drinks and snacks and everybody got to stretch their legs for a bit and take pictures of the sunset of course.  Just after the sun had set, a leopard came walking down the road behind the jeep, (another driver let us know he was stalking us) which made for a bit of excitement.  The idea is that the animals are used to seeing the jeeps but basically they see the jeep and the people as one big animal that doesn't threaten them.  The animals are not supposed to see people outside of the jeep as they might feel threatened and/or hungry.  
                                                               My room at “camp"


 Each of us had our own hut which boarders the camp. The whole wall opposite the bed was glass. Overlooking a stream bed and water hole. There were small deer and monkeys wandering around the camp all the time and at breakfast, the monkeys were stealing food off the tables. They were very small, smaller than a poodle but bigger than a squirrel.They were fast and one of them managed to get a piece of bread right off a woman's plate while she was eating.The staff had a slingshot that they were using to chase the monkeys off. I don't think they were shooting rocks or anything harmful, just discouraging.
On the first game drive, we came across a cheetah and followed it to where a couple of cubs were playing.

After dark we could hear this lion roaring in the distance. The drivers are allowed to leave the paths when they are following a “big 5” animal, so we took off through the bush, following the sound. On the second day game drive, we saw giraffes, elephants, rhinos, and hyenas. Our drivers said they hadn't seen hyenas in many months so that was pretty exciting. This is really a spectacular country where we can drive from the desert to tropical rain forest in 30 minutes. The cities are really modern with shopping centers and businesses and nice cars. When you get outside of the city, things can be a little different. An awful lot of people here live in poverty in shack villages where the “houses” are smaller than our bedroom. I just passed one with a hand painted sign that said “hair salon”, which is kind of fancy as I've also seen barber shops on the sidewalk that consist of a chair and a pair of scissors. People will move to these camps, near cities or factories, and the men will go into the city to work. Some of them will return on the weekends and holidays to build a real house so often I see very nice looking houses in the middle of a hundred tin shacks. It doesn't seem to be the norm that they will invest their earnings in housing.

Amsterdam

Can't trip on the curb here without falling into a canal.

Whew, walked an hour to get [to the Van Gogh Museum] and two more hours around the museum. My legs have had it. Lots of smoochie couples in there. I wouldn't have considered Van Gogh really romantic but apparently many do.

Well, I went to bed early last night. The Anne Frank Museum opens at nine and my plan was to get there before then and beat the crowds. I woke up on time (not too hard since daylight savings set the clocks back) and looked out the window. Broad daylight hadn't really hit yet and there was a bit of a haze. There were no people or vehicles in the streets. The scene in the "early" morning is quite romantic looking actually.

The walk to the house is only about ten minutes and the only people that I saw were out walking their dogs and three people at a little cafe. I decided that I would stop at that cafe on my way back... didn't want to waste any time. I got there at about 9:10 and found out that everyone in Europe had the same idea that I did. Every direction I looked there was not another soul in the streets, no bicycles, no cars, no boats; just a mass of people extending a healthy two blocks from the museum. I might have braved it if it was only a line two blocks long, but it was more like a mass, a quarter of a block wide and two blocks long.  I figure if stretched out it could have extended eight blocks at least.

England

I am in Kirkham, England, and have given a few presentations now on a new valve. Folks here are very excited about the new product, which makes these meetings kind of fun.It's also nice that I can almost understand the local language.Has the snow all melted? People here have been asking about the storm on the east coast and I seem to know less about it than they do.

Last night at the Villa was very comfortable. Well over a hundred years old and well preserved it felt very English to me. They served an incredible dinner last night of cream of Broccoli soup, Cod fish and potatoes, and toffee pudding for dessert. Sounds plain, but the spices and presentation were amazing. Maybe it was just me as I hadn't eaten since Sunday but there was a lot of enjoyment in that meal. After that, two pints of Copper Dragon put me in bed early. Unfortunately, I only have a few more hours here in the UK before I have to fly off to Italy... but looking forward to being there as well. 

Do you know how I used to really like a southern accent, especially on a girl? I've traded in that fancy for country English. I can barely understand the severe accent here, but I love it.

Italy

Not much to report on Italy. We landed, had dinner, bed, and meetings until 8PM last night. Flying to Barcelona now and it's only 8am. Wonderful lunch yesterday at a very old looking restaurant waay out in the country. Homemade ravioli with fresh parmesan and a wonderful glass of Merlot. I will remember that. I would definitely gain weight here. Friendly people as well, but not as much English spoken here as some places. Business people have all been quite fluent so meetings have been easy. Also, every place has had English television until now. Many American shows, all dubbed in Italian.



Spain
(No e-mails from Barcelona as Stuart was just there for a day and working for most of the time. He did walk along the Mediterranean collecting shells and  he did find a minute to take a picture of himself with a statue looming over his head.  Upon looking at the picture he realized that he was standing directly under the statue of a naked woman, so he moved over a bit and captured both himself and the naked statue in a better composition.  I'll spare your eyes and share this picture of the Olympic fountain instead.)


France


This plane goes to US!!!!  I am excited to get home.






*We have reason to be cautious so my family have each chosen a fictitious name instead of me calling them things like " Spaghetti Man" and "Hobbit" here on the blog.  Except for me, I'm still Kate. 

1 comment:

LaughingLady said...

It has been FOREVER since I visited and obviously, LOTS has been going on in my absence!!

I was reminded of your daughter's prayers for our company 3 years ago and have re-read that post a few times over the last week. It's as special now as it was then. Just wanted to thank her again for her prayers back then, and to say I hope you're all doing well!!