Friday, June 27, 2014

AFRICA: MOUNT KENYA

Mount Kenya National Reserve had just been a way-station, and the next morning we left at 8:30 on a long drive to our next destination and our first real safari drive. But before we left, we got our first good look at Mount Kenya itself and were entranced by its rugged beauty.  

(Photo by MCE)

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

AFRICA: KENYA MOUNTAIN LODGE NATURE WALK

We arrived at the Serena Mountain Lodge in early afternoon (see previous post) and were given the afternoon to rest. For a not-so-small fee, the lodge offered a nature walk on their extensive grounds, and some of us decided to do that instead of taking a nap. Part of the draw was these awesomely chic rubber boots and trench coats, provided by the lodge.
They reminded us of a walk in the rain forest in the Amazon we had taken together five years earlier when similar attire had been provided for us.

Our guide was a knowledgeable young man who had studied environmentalism for three years before he got this job:

Saturday, June 21, 2014

AFRICA: FROM NAIROBI TO KENYA MOUNTAIN LODGE

According to the Kenya Wildlife Service, about 8% of Kenya's land is protected for wildlife conservation. With a total land mass of 224,080 square miles (about the size of Texas), that means approximately 18,000 square miles are game preserves. Kenya has 23 national parks (complete protection where the only activities are research and tourism) and 28 national reserves (some human activity allowed, such as fishing or wood collection). Conservation areas are a separate subdivision and can include both parks and reserves.

Our trip included the following national parks and reserves:
Mount Kenya National Reserve (Kenya)
Buffalo Springs National Reserve (Kenya)
Shaba National Reserve (Kenya)
Lake Nakuru National Park (Kenya)
Masai Mara National Reserve (Kenya)
Serengeti National Park (Tanzania)
Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area (Tanzania)
Nairobi National Park (Kenya)

Our route is shown below. We began in Nairobi and traveled counterclockwise until we arrived back in Nairobi.
Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, was founded by the British in 1899 as a rail depot on the way to Mombasa, but it grew quickly and was named the capital in 1907. With a population today of over three million, it is the largest city in East Africa and 14th largest city in Africa. Unfortunately, I didn't get very many pictures of Nairobi on that first day, but here is one of a roundabout near our hotel:
The slogan  is a bit awkward, don't you think? I get "Better" and "Simple" as single
word goals, but what is "Life"? With no periods, it still doesn't make sense.
"A better, simpler life" or even "better simple life" with no periods make a little more sense.
Our driver Steven told us a few interesting things about his country:

Kenya is still part of the British Commonwealth and recognizes the queen as the head of
     that commonwealth.
Unemployment in Kenya is 40%.
83% of Kenya is Christian and 11% is Muslim.
Del Monte owns the pineapple fields around Nairobi.
The most common meat eaten by Kenyans is goat. (We like goat, but unfortunately, we
     did not see goat on the menu anywhere we ate. I guess they keep the good stuff for
     the natives.)
School kids have only three or four weeks of vacation, and those weeks off are in April,
     August, and December.
Kenya has two official languages: English and Swahili.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

AFRICA: LOS ANGELES TO NAIROBI, KENYA



In May 2014 we embarked on a true adventure, a safari trip to Kenya and Tanzania, followed by a few days in Ghana.

The trip had what I think is a very unique origin. My husband is a partner in a law firm comprising five male attorneys. Five years ago, on the 15th anniversary of the formation of their firm, they planned a trip to Peru to celebrate, and they brought their wives along. We had so much fun that we decided to do it again to celebrate their 20th anniversary, but what trip could top Machu Picchu? Why, an African safari, of course!
Here we are in the firm parking lot, minus one couple we still had to pick up on our way to LAX.
It's pretty amazing to find five attorneys who not only actually enjoy each other's company, but who have wives who also like each other. A sixth couple, clients of the law firm, expressed an interest in going on a safari, and they were invited to come along. They were a wonderful addition.

We booked our African safari through Fun for Less Tours, a company Bob and I had previously traveled with to Russia and Scandinavia. (The posts on that trip begin here.) We had been so impressed with the quality of that tour that we felt confident about booking another one with them. (Note: We have already booked a third trip through Fun for Less for next year.) Our safari had a total of 35 travelers plus a married couple serving as the tour coordinators.

We met up with our traveling companions in the firm parking lot at 8:00 AM and were transported to LAX by airport shuttles. We arrived in plenty of time to check in and have breakfast.

We flew KLM Airlines to Nairobi via Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, a great place to spend an hour:



From Amsterdam we had a direct flight to Nairobi.

Monday, June 16, 2014

YORBA LINDA, CALIFORNIA: RICHARD NIXON PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY, Part 2,Nixon's Legacy

The second half of 1973, the first year of Nixon's second term, was very rocky. Watergate hearings got underway in July, and in November Nixon delivered his "I am not a crook" speech. In May 1974 impeachment hearings began, and on August 9, 1974, Nixon resigned the Presidency.

I expected that a large section of the Presidential Library would be devoted to the Watergate Affair. There are 2,719 hours of White House recordings covering conversations from February 1971 through July 1973 available for listening, and besides, the word "Watergate" has become synonymous with "Nixon." However, there was room after room of other Nixon-related memorabilia before we got to the Watergate display.

It's pretty common to have a re-creation of the Oval Office in Presidential museums, but this is the only replica of the White House East Room.  It is not just a pretty room, however. It can be rented for wedding parties. Was Nixon a party animal? From what  I have read, it sounds like he hated parties, but he felt compelled to give a lot of them--and to micromanage every detail.
I loved the room full of displays related to Nixon's international connections. This structure protects the shipping box that brought the one of the first giant pandas, a gift from the People's Republic of China, to the U.S. in April 1972:
They were named Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing, and we Americans fell in love at first sight.
A piece of the Berlin Wall stands before a model of Moscow's St. Basel's Cathedral. Nixon looked over the Wall and made a speech there in 1969:

Nixon looks over the Wall from a platform.  Photo from here.

Friday, June 13, 2014

NIXON PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY: RICHARD NIXON AND ELVIS PRESLEY

A few months ago Bob and I visited the Richard M. Nixon Presidential Library in Yorba Linda, California and I saw once again this famous photo of Nixon and Elvis Presley:
The National Archives gets more requests for permission to reproduce this photo than for any other image, including the Bill of Rights and the US Constitution.

Elvis had written a five-page letter to Nixon requesting a meeting. He wanted to talk about his desire to be appointed to the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs as a "Federal Agent-at-Large." It wasn't that he wanted to join the fight on drugs; rather, he hoped to have a badge that would allow him to carry all the drugs and weapons he wanted to with impunity. Nixon invited Elvis to the Oval Office on December 20, 1970. Either Nixon believed Elvis's claim that he wanted to be a force for good in the fight against illegal drugs, or Nixon was just plain star struck. It's hard to believe, but Nixon got him the badge.

Elvis came dressed for the occasion in a purple velvet jumpsuit, a cape, and a heavy gold chain, and he brought Nixon several gifts, including a silver-plated World War II-era Colt-.45 pistol that, along with Elvis's letter to Nixon, is on display in the Nixon Library.

We Americans have a weird fascination with Elvis. In some ways, he was the Justin Bieber of his day--a pretty boy gone a little crazy.

The other day I ran across a wonderful poem that hooks Elvis up with another American icon: Emily Dickinson. A more unlikely pair is hard to imagine, but then Tricky Dick and Elvis weren't exactly running in the same social circles either.

EMILY DICKINSON AND ELVIS PRESLEY IN HEAVEN
by Hans Ostrom

They call each other 'E.' Elvis picks
wildflowers near the river and brings
them to Emily. She explains half-rhymes to him.

In heaven Emily wears her hair long, sports
Levis and western blouses with rhinestones.
Elvis is lean again, wears baggy trousers

and T-shirts, a letterman's jacket from Tupelo lHigh.
They take long walks and often hold hands.
She prefers they remain just friends. Fover.

Emily's poems now contain naugahyde, Cadillacs,
Electricity, jets, TV, Little Richard and Richard
Nixon. The rock-a-billy rhythm makes her smile.

Elvis likes himself with style. This afternoon
he will play guitar and sing "I Taste a Liquor
Never Brewed" to the tune of "Love Me Tender."

Emily will clap and harmonize. Alone 
in their cabins later, they'll listen to the river
and nap. They will not think of Amherst

or Las Vegas. They know why God made them
roommates. It's because America
was their hometown. It's because

God is a thing without
feathers. It's because
God wears blue suede shoes.

Finally, here is an added bonus, a reading of the poem by the poet himself:

Thursday, June 5, 2014

YORBA LINDA, CALIFORNIA: RICHARD NIXON PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY, Part 1, Nixon's Career

Richard Nixon's combination of brilliance and paranoia makes him, at least for me, one of the most fascinating politicians in America's history. On a recent visit to the Richard Nixon Presidential Library in Yorba Linda, California, I learned a lot more about Nixon's career.



Sunday, June 1, 2014

YORBA LINDA, CALIFORNIA: RICHARD NIXON BIRTHPLACE

The Nixon Library and Birthplace was dedicated in July 1990. We have lived just 50 miles away during the twenty-four years it's been open, but we had never gone to Yorba Linda for a visit. A few months ago, we finally rectified that problem, and now we are wondering what took us so long.

As indicated by the name, the museum is built on the property next to the home where Richard Nixon was born.

The walk up to the house passes by the very simple graves of Pat (1912-1993) and Richard (1913-1994):
"Even when people can't speak your language,
they can tell if you have love in your heart."
"The greatest honor history can bestow is the title of peacemaker."

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