It’s been a crazy year. We kicked off 2010 at Kruger National Park in South Africa and we’re sending it away on the beach in Florida. From Africa, to the Middle East & Europe, across Asia and finally home we searched through our pictures, memories and posts to bring you our favorites from 2010. So without further ado….
Kalahari Transnational Park
This was our favorite national park in South Africa and one of the most memorable experiences of the trip. Danny barbequed as lions wandered around the camp’s electric fence and we fell asleep to the sweet lullaby of a lion’s roar. It was scary but it was awesome. There were so many lions by the time we left we were practically bored of seeing them. Oh yea, and there were cheetahs!
Sufi Dancing in Khartoum
Mystical, mystifying and (well what’s another “M”, magical?) the Sufi dancing in Khartoum defied our expectations. It was absolutely enchanting and in a world where so much seems familiar it was a distinctly different ritual. The whirling was incredibly hypnotizing, even from outside the ritual area. We stood out like sore thumbs in the crowd of religious muslim men and chai sellers and as the ritual continued the head religious man made eye contact with Danny. With a knowing smile the man posed for a photograph – his intense gaze, even from across the field will be something I can never forget. We were completely fascinated and to this day when I see our pictures I have to pinch myself to remind my brain that it was real.
School Children in Lesotho
One of my favorite parts of this trip were the kids. Without a doubt we met some of the most amazing kids, many of who didn’t have the opportunity to go to school, read a book and may never see a movie in a theater. Walking back to our lodging from a hike through the canyons in Lesotho we came across a group of primary school kids on their way home. Seeing us from afar the children mobbed us, introducing themselves, asking us to play with them, showing us their text books, their drawings and writing out their lessons. They were curious about our cameras and for the first time many of them saw themselves on video. They were a complete joy and we had an enjoyable hour or so joking, playing and laughing with them. Their joy and laughter was infectious and whenever I’m feeling upset I think of them.
Maybe I have a thing about jolly people, but the Russian mini-van driver we met in Georgia is probably one of my favorite interactions of this whole trip. From our comical attempt to find a common language (Italian) to our fateful encounter near the Russian border this guy was overwhelmingly friendly and amicable. We could hardly communicate, but in the words of Anne of Green Gables, he was a kindred spirit. I know if we were to ever see him again we’d just have to tell him we are his italiani amici and he’d greet us with one of his vice grip hand shakes.
It’s not every day you meet smugglers on a train. Well, actually that’s more common than you think…let me revise that. It’s not every day you meet a train conductor who is also a smuggler. Crossing from Kazakhstan to Uzbekistan the conductor and his wife took us under their wing. With very little common language between us, we used our picture dictionary, maps and charades to pass away the time. After helping us negotiate the customs form (only in Russian), the customs officials (who didn’t harass us too much) and the currency changers (they got us the best rate of our entire time in Uzbekistan!), we were close friends and the conductors wife shared with us her little secret- boxes and boxes of contraband. Turns out contraband is pretty similar in Russian!