Wednesday, March 9, 2016

March 9, 2016 - Danes in Dar and Our Saadani Safari

Well, as usual, I'm quite behind on our blogging.  But we did recently (in February!) have a wonderful 3-week visit with Kirsten/Farmor/Mor and Martin, our 15-year-old nephew, who came from Denmark.  It was Kirsten's 7th visit to us in East Africa and Martin's first.  It would be an understatement to say that the kids were happy.  Grace and Noah LOVE being around family, so they were just thrilled. We were brought so many kind, thoughtful, generous presents and "tastes" of felt like Christmas!  Perhaps the thing we didn't expect quite so much was that Aya fell completely in love with Martin!  Even now, a few weeks after they have gone, she still asks almost every day, "Where's Martin? Where's Farmor?"  When you tell her, "they had to go back to Denmark," she says, "Ohhhhh, Denmark!"  

We were not so great at taking pictures, admittedly, but had a lot of great moments with our guests.  Kristoffer and I took Kirsten and Martin to Indian Bingo and to an Ethiopian restaurant for some new kinds of food.  We visited both IST swimming pools and the Dar Yacht Club a few times for pizza and breakfast, swimming and kayaking.   Unfortunately, as the tide was coming in a big wave  landed Kristoffer, Grace and Martin in a bed of sea urchins when the kayak flipped over.  Grace got a bit scared and had a few small thorns in her foot from the sea urchins, but luckily we got them out just fine.  Kristoffer managed to get one bad cut (which he later learned should probably have had a stitch!) and a couple of thorns, also which came out without too much trouble.  But poor Martin, just having arrived in Tanzania, managed to get MANY big thorns in the bottom of his foot, and had to have them sort of dug out by a doctor as they were becoming infected (note that this is VERY painful!).  And then he had to take a week of antibiotics!   We felt horrible! 
Idenify that foot!

Their visit to Dar happened to coincide with "Language Week" at Grace's school...which was a week full of activities to celebrate and embrace the language diversity at IST.  In Grace's class of 22 students alone, there are 15 different languages spoken!

Farmor was a greatly appreciated grandparent volunteer on two different days that week, doing some Danish language activities with the native Danish speakers (pictured below) as well as all first grade students (mostly not Danish speakers).  Many teachers noted that she was wonderful and clearly a teacher herself, and the kids loved their "lesson" with Grace's Farmor (who also brought them Danish candy!).  Grace was super proud of her Farmor...what great timing!

Should you be interested, here is a slide show highlighting IST's language week:

Kirsten and Martin did the Afriroots city bike tour through different parts of Dar es Salaam, to give them a feeling and understanding of everyday life for regular Tanzanians (not the expat bubble we live in!).   They did a bit of shopping around Dar and sampling of our nicer lunch/coffee spots, and they did a day trip to one of the small islands just off the coast of Dar.  Given Martin's teenager-ness, he also did his fair share of "sleeping in" as well, and playing with the kids and driving around picking people up from school (story of my life).  

We attempted to take them on a safari and were partially successful.  Saadani is a small national park straight north of Dar es Salaam that is uniquely located right on the coast.  So we planned to drive up (only 4 hours and possible in a non-4x4 vehicle) and spend 3 nights enjoying both the beach and the wildlife.  We had many great moments together on that trip - but there were also quite a few mishaps, in typical "Welsiens-on-holiday" style.  Our mishaps included:

  • The bridge you normally drive to cross a river to get to this park was flooded/damaged and impassable.  So we had to drive around an extra 2 hours.  2 extra hours in the car with kids (toddler included) is always fun!
  • Kirsten got stung by a jellyfish of some kind!
  • Our beautiful, lovely rooms on the ocean had no A/C, which we knew, but also NO FANS, which we didn't know.  The first night was so unbelievably hot with no breeze...nobody could sleep well...and Aya, wearing nothing but a diaper, was a slippery eel when you picked her up. It was a horrible night!
  • The park itself is very small and doesn't have so much game to see.  We knew that it was not as populated as the bigger parks, but we did not know how few the animals were.  Shame on us, we had not done our homework properly.
  • On our second game drive - only Martin, Grace and me with our guide! - our 4x4 vehicle broke down just before sunset.  They were not able to fix it or get us another vehicle for our final day (2 more game drives), so we went home one day early.  Bummer!
  • Noah began to be sick with tonsilitis and Grace was fighting a virus, so on the last night and morning, both of them had fevers and Noah generally felt bad.  Of course! He always get sick when we go anywhere!
So that all makes it sound worse than it was, because we did have some great moments as well - captured below.  I will say that both the food and the customer service where we stayed were excellent.  And in our experience, it is pretty rare for the food to be excellent at a lodge in Tanzania!  Martin, Grace and I got to see a lot of elephants...we just wish he had been able to see more "big" game!

Our 4x4
A school group also touring the park...
Welcome drinks at our lodge...
A private, beautiful beach!

We had two of these "rooms"...lots of stairs, but otherwise super cool!
The view from our room...

Waiting for dinner just before sunset.
And some game.  Baboons...more skittish than we're used to.
Water buck.  A beautiful antelope for sure.


Warthogs.  AKA Pumbas.
Reed buck, I believe.
Giraffe! Always a fave ;)


(My memory is fading but I think the baby elephant was less than 2 months old and was absolutely adorable!)

There are 6 wildebeest in Saadani, and we saw all of them!  A rarity!

Martin...super cool and brave to get out of the truck when it broke down.
Grace and I enjoying our quiet moment in the park.  She was super happy that we had not found any lions before the 4x4 broke down.  Luckily, we were rescued before it got dark so she didn't get too scared.
An early morning walk on the beach...

We absolutely loved having Farmor and Martin with us...we know it wasn't a "perfect" trip, but we hope they enjoyed it.  At least they excaped a few weeks of cold Danish winter, and Martin did go home with both of his feet, so that was a relief!


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