Monday, January 25, 2016

Something Fishy

Something Fishy!

Happy New Year!

2016 started out on a very positive note. The foot funk that began after getting that fish pedicure (you know, the kind where you put your feet in an acrylic tub filled with callus-nibbling fish) in Crete and that has followed us around like Pigpen’s little cloud has finally disappeared. No matter how much we scrubbed or soaked, an unpleasant air biscuit type smell floated up from our feet and embraced us like a long lost lover. It’s embarrassing to admit, but we didn’t mind as much as we should have. The weather was cooler in Turkey so it was easy to ignore it by keeping our feet encased in shoes and socks for a few weeks. I felt badly about it though while we stayed with my nephew Brian at his colleague’s apartment in Gaziantep Turkey over Christmas. His colleague was in America for the holidays and was kind enough to offer her place to Brian so that he, Scott, and I could spend the yuletide together. Her only request was that we remove our shoes, Hawaii style, at the doorway (and she didn’t even know about our funky feet!) On Christmas morning, as Scott and I padded around in our bare feet, I cooked scrambled eggs for breakfast. When Brian came into the kitchen with a “what’s that smell” look on his face I mumbled, “Er, the eggs must not be very fresh." But since arriving in Spain last week we’ve caught nary a whiff. I can’t explain that at all. Perhaps Cava and paella (and lots of it!) are good for guppy foot. Anyway, a few words of advice—if you ever get a fishy-pedi do NOT decline the offer of a foot scrub afterwards.

Hey, what kind of a safari is this!?

I hear you saying, “Wait a minute. Last time I checked, Crete, Turkey, and Spain weren’t in Africa.” And you would be right! So let’s back up.
In early September we headed to South Africa and to our beloved 1973 Landy as planned. But once there, she almost killed us!  Not the Landy. Ndoto (En-doto) was good as new and ready to roll. Especially after she acquired a rebuilt engine block after we cracked her original (So sad and expensive) just a few weeks into the trip.  It was South Africa’s weather that nearly done me in. If you know me, you know I am a hot weather wimp. The day the temperature rose to over 114 degrees (45 degrees Celsius) was the day we came up with plan E for Escape, which, after master web browser Scott viewed the options, meant that we would take our safari to the high seas. A good plan because we love being on the water, and we love to use ships as transportation, and because we don’t love heat stroke.  We boarded The Beautiful Ocean Princess, as she was referred to by the Captain whenever he spoke of her (and she was), in Cape Town for a 36-day Indian Ocean adventure, only we got off the ship a few days early on Malta. You can read about that by clicking HERE. Or just read on below about other stuff.

Seeing Star Wars in Oman

…After a week in Malta petting all the cats and eating all the gelato we could stand (which is a lot!), we ferried to Sicily where we boarded a different ship heading back to Dubai with no repeat ports of call except for Salalah Oman. This was perfect. Since we had already explored Salalah and eaten her camel stew, we used the time to go to the brand new mall in town and see Star Wars, The Force Awakens in 3-D! My favorite part of the experience, other than loving all the girl power, er, strong female role modeling, was viewing the movie with Burka-clad women who lifted their veils to put on their 3-D glasses as the theater lights went dim. I am pretty sure they enjoyed all the girl power in the film too.

Anyway the second ship was not as beautiful or as intimate as the Beautiful Ocean Princess but it was more Italian so had better bread, desserts, and prosciutto, and it had bottles of good quality olive oil available 24-7 in numerous locations on many decks. (The chef told us they go through 5000 liters of olive oil every 14 days). Best of all, the ship took us to places we hadn’t seen or been to in a really long time: Crete, Marmaris, Eilat, Muscat, and To Aqaba! (can’t think of Aqaba without invoking Peter O’Toole in Lawrence of Arabia). All interesting ports to be sure, rife with culture and history. But that ship-trip will always be most memorable to me because it was where I met Wren Schultz, a juggler in the circus and an actual New York Times Crossword constructor. Scott said he had never seen me that excited to meet anyone, including royalty or movie star or presidential candidate. And it’s true. I am a crossword addict and to meet someone in person who creates such a pleasurable and rewarding pastime (only you crossword fanatics will understand) was a life event I thought not possible. Wren also won over $50,000 on Wheel of Fortune, and has shaken the hand of Will Shortz. And Wren is also the love of Della’s life, which makes him luckiest of all. Della is his juggling and rope slinging partner and the nicest person I’ve ever met. I am serious. Della is so nice that she kept letting Italians cut in front of her and had to take the last bus out of the port, after all the Italians were gone. We waited for her because she is SO NICE.

Super Trivia
Our Super Trivia team (Super because it lasted three sea days) consisted of Scott and me, and 70-year-old world traveler Paul, a super smart Romanian engineer named Virgil, crossword constructor Wren, and super nice person Della. We did not win the prize for most questions answered correctly but we did win Most Entertaining for the way we creatively spun the doghouse sized multicolored die. We passed it like a quarterback. We hiked it. We leapt for it like a jump ball. We rubbed it on the Italian winning team for luck. They later gave us one of their prizes saying, “Your team-a is the best-a.” For me, it was enough that I was on a trivia team with a crossword constructor! Oh my gosh.

After Scott and I ate one last loaf of delicious crusty Italian bread drowned in olive oil, we disembarked the ship in Dubai and flew to Gaziantep Turkey to be with my nephew Brian and stink up an otherwise lovely apartment.

Christmas was very special. I’m so grateful for time with family during the holidays. We gave Brian a toaster and he gave us Star Wars action figures. We cooked for each other. We watched movies. We walked. We had baklava every day and we toured museums and a castle. We met some of Brian’s young, hip, and attractive colleagues who also administer aid to displaced folks that remain across the border in war torn Syria. We went to an uplifting concert comprised of 10 musicians, half Syrians, half Turks. By the end of the concert everyone was dancing. Being in Gazientep made me feel hopeful.

What about New Year’s Eve?

New Years Eve was muy bueno! We spent it in Barcelona, which has to be one of the top places on earth to bring in the New Year.

First, we ate tapas. Lots and lots of tapas. That made us thirsty for Estrella Beer. Lots of beer.

On New Years Eve, tens of thousands of people converge at the Magic Fountains at Plaza Espana. During the daylight hours, people build towering human pyramids called Castells while children chase bubbles the size of children. Then, at the stroke of midnight, when most everyone in the rest of the world is blowing horns and popping poppers, citizens all over the Spain, the hopeful and the superstitious, go silent and reach for a grape - the first of twelve grapes they will consume for each toll of the bell. We did it too. It’s bad luck not to. It was quite something to watch all the giddy revelers packed in around us suddenly get very pensive and quiet as they concentrated on finishing all twelve grapes before the last chime. It was delightful. And scary. Nothing like ingesting 12 choking risks at the same time. But we planned ahead and bought the smallest grapes we could find.

                          On our last day in Barcelona I took a cooking class. Paella, roasted veggie, pumpkin cannoli, and wine-soaked pears. We students were soaked in wine too by the end.  

We were a long way from South Africa but not far from the African continent. 
A few weeks ago we headed for Morocco where we celebrated the wedding of cousin Ariana in Marrakesh.

This is the life I always dreamed of living. Life long learning and traveling the world in a zig-zag  fashion is truly a Safari Ndefu Jema, A Good Long Journey.

We’ll return to South Africa when the weather is better suited for camping. Until then, there are a lot more fish to feed in other parts of the world, such as Hoi An Vietnam where we were a few days ago.

Happy 2016 to you and yours. May all your dreams come true!

For more stories, read my book, Safari Jema, A Journey of Love and Adventure from Casablanca to Cape Town.
Safari Jema

Much love and wishes for peace, love, happiness, and adventure.

Scott and Tris
January 26, 2016
Manila, The Philippines