Tuesday, January 31, 2012

field guide to hungary #4 :: beware of dog

the small signs are virtually on every gate, door, garage door in hungary. if you were walking on the street, you would think that every house has a dog that bites. because that's what these signs say, there is a dog inside that bites. i love the different styles, i like to think that the style the owners choose reflects their personality. i love that some of the signs have the sweetest looking dogs. some of them are of the majestic german shepherd. and some are just hand written without an image. but what i find the funniest is that most of these houses don't seem to have a dog at all. and when they do, they'll run up to the fence to lick your hand, so the signs seem to be more ferocious than the dogs.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

how to catch an ostrich :: namibia

namibia is a lot more developed than many of the other african countries i traveled to. that is, until you arrive to the kalahari desert and enter the areas where the san (san bushmen) live.
the san is one of the most fascinating tribes of southern africa. they are one of the 14 known extant "ancestral population clusters" (from which all known modern humans evolved).* they are a hunter gatherer tribe and although their habitats have shrunken dramatically, there are clusters of families who still live the traditional lifestyle.

my husband and i were visiting one of this smaller families and we seriously felt we just entered into a reenactment of a flintstones episode. the huts were made of sticks and branches, clothes made of animal skin, and they adorned themselves with beads made of ostrich bones and porcupine quills. my favorite outfit was definitely the baby diaper made of antelope skin, complete with a long fur tail.

but the highlight of our visit was trekking through the bush and the demonstration of how to catch an ostrich - a process that requires an immense amount of skill and lots of patience. all i have to say, i'm glad i don't have to do that to get my food! they are hugely valuable birds and not a single part of it goes to waste after it's killed.

i have seen many other tribes in africa that have been relatively untouched by our modern lives, but perhaps none of them were as primal as the san of the kalahari desert. and while i know some of this is preserved for tourism, if that's what insures the san a healthy prosperous life where they can preserve their traditions, then so be it.

* source: wikipedia

Monday, January 16, 2012

christmas in zanzibar

on my last trip to tanzania, the idea of spending christmas alone in arusha sounded terrible. plus I needed to recharge my batteries anyway, working in africa can be challenging. so i packed my bag and after an hour flight I landed in the heat of the island zanzibar.

zanzibar always sounded like such an exotic place, maybe because of it's name. it has beautiful white sand beaches and stone town offers glimpses of a long lost colonial splendor. but the island also has a dark history, it was the main port for the slave trade in east africa. it was also known as the spice island and an important hub for the ivory trade. today the island is a strange mixture of poor local fishing villages, beach resorts, and a visibly strong muslim community.

i spent my days lounging by the pool, walking on the beach, it was the perfect r&r. i also enjoyed exploring the tiny streets of stone town, although the heat at times became oppressing. while the streets closest to the port are packed with tourists, it's easy to walk a few blocks and find parts of town where the locals lives go on as if it hasn't been touched by modern life. after a few hours of wandering, i was ready to head back to my quiet hotel and dive into the pool overlooking the turquoise waters of the indian ocean.

christmas came and went and while i felt an occasional pang of sadness missing my loved ones, it was the perfect way to get away from it all and on the 26th i was ready to head back to arusha and continue working.