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Showing posts from August, 2015

Kilimanjaro Day 2 (morning): August 9, 2015

The 6:30am wake-up call was Samweli coming to our tents with hot water and a choice of coffee or tea. Turns out Jen is a coffee drinker – one of those people who needs coffee to get started in the morning. I opted for tea, but after the first morning found that the black tea was too strong for my stomach without any food so I just had a cup of hot water. After we got dressed, he came with a basin of hot water for a morning face and hand wash. It was very hot water – it must have been just boiled. We often had to wait for the morning washing water to cool down before we could even use it. Not that I'm complaining!

We were called to the mess tent for breakfast, and had the pleasure of seeing a blue monkey in a tree above us!

We had a big, delicious, hot breakfast. I love eating big breakfasts, so this was right up my alley. Jen is more of a smaller-meal-eat-more-often kind of eater, so she often couldn’t quite finish the big breakfasts but then snacked on a Clif bar mid-morning. Thi…

Kilimanjaro Day 1: August 8, 2015

(I'm writing these posts after the climb is done, hence the date discrepancy between the post title and the published date.)

I climbed Kilimanjaro with my friend and colleague Jen. Jen recently finished her dissertation (I was on her PhD committee) and is one of a handful of people out there that basically does the same kind of research I do. She also just got a tenure track job in San Diego, so she was heading back home to pack her things and move after the climb. Jen and I get along very well, and we both know a decent amount of Kiswahili (sometimes just called Swahili), the main language of Tanzania and Kenya from spending several years doing research there. I thought we would make great climb companions, and we did. We had invited several other friends and colleagues we knew to join us, but in the end it was just us.
Jen and I started the day with a delicious breakfast at our hotel at 7:00am – thankfully, it came faster than dinner had the night before, which was more on the “Af…

Heading to the top of the world tomorrow!

This is it - the Kilimanjaro climb starts tomorrow! Here's a picture of the top of the mountain poking through the clouds as I was flying from Dar es Salaam to Arusha. Yes, that's the plane wing in the foreground.

I'm as ready as I ever will be to climb a mountain that you can see from a plane, with a local (Maasai) nickname of "house of god" (ngaje ngae). They also call it  “the white mountain” (ol doinyo naibor), and I'm glad I'm climbing it when there's still snow at the top, because there are predictions that all the snow will melt in the next few decades. I guess this light reading I brought with me for the trip is appropriate, then.

The flight was uneventful, but I was amused by a few things in the in-flight magazine. I flew fastjet, a newish airline that flies regionally in eastern and southern Africa. I learned that they have all of three planes, and that you can pre-book your fish buckets to save a little money. Yes, really.

Well, now I know…

The EAAPP conference in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

I've spent the last few days at the EAAPP conference at the National Museum and House of Culture in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, which has been great. It's the 10th year that the association has been in existence, and the 5th biennial conference. I serve as the Secretary of the organization and I help organize the conference every year.

Since one of the aims of the organization is to bring African and non-African scholars together to exchange research findings and to have discussions about cultural heritage management and other museum-related issues, I am especially excited that there are about twice as many talks with African first authors as non-African first authors. There are also many young African students and scholars here. The conference was covered by a local TV channel, and many of us were surprised to see ourselves on Tanzanian TV two nights ago!

Another thing I like about this conference is that like my all-time favorite annual conference, the Paleoanthropology Societ…

My 40th birthday

Things I did on my 40th birthday:

1. Wake up in a city in Africa I've never been to before, Dar es Salaam, with a view of the Indian ocean from my hotel room (it's there in the background at the top right of the photo... really!)

2. Exercise - still going strong with P90X3 baby!

3. Eat a big, beautiful breakfast that included Tanzanian tea, local mangoes, and coconut milk - right out of the coconut!

4. Take a walk on the beach on the Indian Ocean

5. Work on my conference presentation for the East African Association for Paleoanthropology and Paleontology (I'm on the clock, after all)

6. Hang out with lots of awesome scientists - and get a champagne toast by my fabulous conference organizer colleagues at the conference reception!

7. Drink a Kilimanjaro beer

Other than being able to hug my boys, it doesn't get better than this. So far, my fourth decade is pretty darn awesome.

Back in the travel saddle

I'm baaaaaaack! I never quite feel the reality of leaving on a trip like this one until I get in the taxi to go to the airport. For many years I would spend about three months each summer in Africa, mostly Kenya in the last decade or so, so this three week trip sort of pales in comparison. But since my son Toby was born in September 2011, this is the longest trip I will have taken - and I miss him so much already. Once, when someone asked me what changed for me most since I became a parent, without thinking too in depth I instinctively said "I have a new appreciation for my own mortality". I love traveling, but it takes on a gravity now that it never did before. It also makes me realize how brave my parents were to cheer me on as I adventured for years on a continent neither of them had ever been to, sometimes - back in the Paleolithic without good cell phone or internet connections - for weeks at a time, in places without quick access to medical care should I have neede…