A Brief Description of my 2002 Summer Travel

If you're looking for the photos, they're here.

Dan boarded a plane bound for Holland where he would spend 4 days with a resident friend (Joe), seeing cathedrals and of course the Rembrandts, Van Goghs, maritime museum, and other unique things in the canal-filled city of Amsterdam.

Then he flew to Nairobi, the capitol of Kenya. This flight took him across Europe, down the boot of Italy, across the Mediterranean, over Sudan, across the Sahara to the Nile, which was followed all the way to Kenya. Dan enjoyed crystal clear weather for the entire flight. He writes:

Glance at any map and you'll see that this great desert dominates North Africa, but its planetary scale is still a surprise. Of my time in Africa, I have space here only to share a few tidbits. I set up computers for a conference in which east African Community nations developed strategies for cooperation during times of disaster. The work was conducted in a posh British-Empire-style hotel while in the city beggars dying of AIDS lay homeless under the African sun.

Nairobi offers all that you would expect of a third world city. Modern glass office towers stand amidst the filth, corruption, and poverty in which the population struggles. The hopelessness of many Africans will impress the American visitor, but so will the energy and talent with which the Kenyans pursue their livelihoods. In the U.S., malnourished children are a staple image on TV and in magazines, but less frequently shown are the many Africans who come straight out of a Horatio Alger or Dickens story.

One particularly memorable experience was a narrow escape from an angry mob that exploded into the streets during an anti-government riot. As a helpless passenger in the rear of a hired van, I could only watch as our driver, leaning out of the window, screaming in Swahili and gesticulating wildly, took all means necessary to secure our escape. In the midst of chaos, he drove over median strips, sidewalks, on the wrong side of the road, and into oncoming traffic. While this was happening, my traveling companion - a Special Forces colonel - grinned and said "This is great, it's just like the old days in Panama!"(I'm not making this up!). Later, I found out that the tourist van just behind us had been seized, overturned, and its passengers beaten up and robbed. Needless to say, we tipped heavily that day.

Other adventures include being encrusted with angry, red, stinging ants and being head-butted by a giraffe (I was asking for it). I spent several days in the Maasai Mara, which is the northern extent of the Serengeti. Landing on a dirt airfield, I could see animals before I left the plane. For days I was driven around by expert guides, who showed me exactly what you would expect to see in Africa: lions, elephants, giraffes, wildebeests and a stunning array of magnificent birds.

I met tribal people - the Maasai, who are like the Mennonites in that they reject modern society, and still live like their ancestors. They dwell in houses made from cow turds, eat only milk and cow's blood, and have many other curious customs. Of course, I was just as strange to them; two little boys sighted me drinking from a long, flexible plastic straw and gaped in complete astonishment. The majority of the Maasai I met were not educated in the western sense and could not imagine what kind of life is lived in America. Of course, I am the mirror of that as far as they are concerned; what a pathetic specimen I am - I don't own a single cow!

I then traveled by car to the north-central region of the country, which is on the edge of the Sahara. Passing by one of the largest outdoor bazaars in the world, I saw kerchiefed women carrying baskets of figs on their heads, people riding camels, and turbaned merchants engaged in ritualistic haggling (I should mention that I became good at this myself, because all transactions were like this). I spent a few days in the dusty region known as Samburu, where I saw many more animals, including secretary birds and an elusive leopard.

During my travels in Kenya I crossed the Equator four times; I took the opportunity to test the coriolis force. To my astonishment, only a few yards north or south were enough to see a difference in the behavior of draining water. Less than 48 hours later I would stand on the prime meridian in Greenwich, U.K.

For a complete photo album including sounds and commentary, click here.

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