Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Safari, Part One: On the Road

After uploading all my pictures from safari, I realized I have over a thousand. I hate to do "teaser" posts, or posts divided into parts, but putting everything into one post would simply be ridiculous in this case. So today I'll just share some pictures from our first time on the road in Tanzania. Most of these pictures were taken from inside a moving vehicle, so they're definitely not the best quality, nor are they my favorite pictures from this trip, but I loved watching the scenery change as I left the city and I really wanted to document it on my blog.

Dar es Salaam to Mikumi:

The drive from Dar es Salaam to Mikumi is about 3.5 hours if you leave early and there's no traffic. We hit the road at 4:15am; leaving too much later would have cost us hours. Even that early, traffic is pretty gnarly- not in that it's stop-and-go, but in that there are crazy trucks trying to get to Zambia or Malawi. These two countries are landlocked, so they use Dar es Salaam as their seaport. The trucks are pretty scary, on another level than those in the United States. Mostly because nobody follows traffic rules here. I saw one truck flipped over on the side of the road on the way there, and several accidents on the way back. Another terrible thing about this road is the crazy placement of speed bumps. They come without warning or explanation. 

I can't tell you how excited I was to finally see mountains again. There are no mountains in Dar, so when I watched the first one peek over the horizon it was like a breath of fresh air. It was exactly what I needed.
It was interesting passing through village life in the early morning hours. People were making their long commutes to work, school, or wherever. Women were carrying things on their heads. Men were pushing carts up hills. Maasai were hearding cows and goats.
We made a few stops on the side of the road to stretch, use the restroom (in the bushes, of course), shoot the shotgun, or whatever. Evita was NOT happy to be on a road trip. I don't know what I'm going to do on our upcoming 16-hour flight to the States.

Driving past Mikumi National Park:

It's amazing how many wild African animals you can see without paying for any sort of official safari or park fees. I'll never forget the time I first laid eyes on wild giraffes, zebras, and elephants, all together in the same place. The feeling was indescribable. It was similar to the feeling I got when I first saw the eiffel tower. Simply unreal. The highlight was seeing these two huge elephants cross the road right in front of us:
video
Daniel got out of the vehicle to try and get closer to this elephant. I have to admit, I was scared. I was ready to jump in the drivers seat and leave him behind if that elephant came charging. But he didn't. I think he was just curious, like we were.

From Mikumi to Udzuwanga

After dropping our stuff of at our lodge, we drove to Udzungwa for a hike. Although it was only about 60km away, it took another hour because of the dirt roads. The mountains were so green and beautiful; if the sea were a bit closer I would have thought I was back in Hawaii.
We frequently passed over little rivers and streams were people were bathing or doing their laundry. There were whole groups of people, naked without a care in the world. At this point I really did feel like I was in a Nat Geo video.
This is just the start of the story of our safari (our journey). I'll share the next part around this time next week.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Rainy Season

It's still raining in Tanzania. The rain is beating down on my roof as we speak. Luckily, it cleared up long enough for us to enjoy our first safari last weekend. I can't wait to share pictures, but there are hundreds and hundreds of them, and I still need to go through and decide which ones I want. In the meantime I thought I'd share these pictures. They're from last week, when I let Evita run around in the rain for the first time. We were all ready to go to the beach when the downpour started. I had an antsy toddler who clearly didn't want to be indoors any longer (and I couldn't blame her, neither did I) so I threw on her raincoat went outside. She was fascinated by the water falling from the sky. She was very serious at first, like "Are you sure it's safe for me to do this?" She carefully stepped out from the shelter of our porch to the yard. She kept trying to look up at the sky but raindrops would land in her eyes and she'd quickly close them and look down. After a few more steps she realized how awesome the rain was and let out a huge smile. She waved her little arms around and danced to the rhythm of the raindrops. I know there are probably great-grandparents of hers shocked that I'd expose my child to illness (or whatever else the old wives tales say), but she loved it. Don't all kids?

Behind the Curtain

Hello everyone! I should be on the way back from my very first safari as we speak. Meanwhile, I asked Ali to write a little guest post to entertain you while I'm gone. Ali was one of my very first blogger friends. She found out she was pregnant the day after I did, and we've been watching eachother's bellies and babies grow ever since...

I realize there are a good number of you who are meeting me for the first time.  My name is Ali; I am a wife and a mother of one.  My husband, Tony, and I met when we were very young - I was 12 and he was 15.  And honestly, it didn't take us long at all to realize that this was something big happening between the two of us.  Some people meet the loves of their life when they are older and after more life experience while others meet at a young age and "just know."  We are from the latter category.  We officially started dating in 2003 when we were both still in high school. 
He proposed to me on the beach in 2009.  And honestly, that's where the next part of our story just begins. In January 2011, a few months before our wedding, I visited my OBGYN because my cycles were all over the place (but for me, that is the norm).  To make a long story short (and to spare any unwanted details), my doctor ended up diagnosing me with PCOS and told me that it is very likely that my body doesn't ovulate and that in the future, having children wasn't going to be easy or even likely to happen for us.  I had a pretty mixed reaction to this - she didn't say it was impossible so while I was bummed I was still hopeful and on the other hand, I was flat out elated that we wouldn't have to worry about any accidental pregnancies.  I went about my business as usual which meant finishing my bachelors degree, wedding planning, and getting in shape for the big day.  By the time May 20, 2011 finally rolled around, I had lost a good 5-10 pounds between working out and stressing out.  The wedding was beautiful and we had a blast with our friends and family at the reception... probably TOO much fun but that's another topic for another day! My husband and I decided since we cut so many corners with our wedding budget that we would go big and head to Disney World for our honeymoon!  Let me tell you... everything about that experience was magical.  (This coming from a girl who's been a Disney princess her entire life - but who hasn't?!) 
We came back and I remember telling my husband, "These last few years have been such a whirlwind for us, it will be so nice to just have a boring life for a while."  That sure was a nice month and a half because on July 5, 2011 we were completely shocked to find out I was several weeks PREGNANT!  So much for boring and so much for not having to worry about unwanted pregnancies.  Again, I had a pretty mixed reaction that ranged from excited (we get to be parents!) to feeling pretty pessimistic (we're going to miss out on being newlyweds).  No matter how I felt about it, the show must go and and it sure did.
On February 20, 2012 - exactly 9 months from the day we became husband and wife - we met sweet Miss Presley for the first time.
Outwardly, I was adjusting well.  But inside was a different story.  I don't know how to explain my early experiences, but they were not all rainbows and butterflies.  Overall, Hollywood portrays motherhood as completely natural and an experience that takes you directly to cloud nine from the first moment.  And while it is like that for some mothers, it is not like that for all.  We wish for that moment, we wait for that moment, but for some of us it comes much later.  For me, those first few days weeks home were riddled with self-loathing, anxiety, resentment, and general hopelessness.  Don't get me wrong, I knew if it came down to it I would lay down my life for my child from day one... but other than that, I wouldn't say I felt that head-over-heels-in-love feeling for Presley right away.  (And trust me, I feel terrible typing that for all to see... but it is the truth.)
Thankfully, we sometimes hear about PPD from women like Brooke ShieldsBryce Dallas Howard, and other famous mamas... but the stories are few and far between.  And honestly, who goes into the experience fully expecting and ultimately prepared for the possibility of postpartum depression?  Not many of us.  Did you know that rough estimates from 2010 suggested that 1.3 million women experience PPD every year?  That's about 20% of all postpartum women.  That number is higher than the number of people who sprain their ankle every year.  That number is higher than the number of people who have a stroke every year.  Hard to believe, isn't it? I wish I could tell you I had a ton of family support afterwards, but I didn't.  The majority of our immediate family live far far away from us and if those family members we do live in town tried to help, I probably wouldn't have known how to accept it anyways.  So I roughed it out mostly by myself in addition to the help from my husband.  It was such a thankless job for him but luckily he did all he could to be there for me and supported me in so many ways... all while working overtime and caring for Presley as well.  It helped me to be able to talk to Tony about all the good and bad thoughts I was having... I would tell him that the bad feelings made me feel like such an awful person/mom/wife but he kept building me up.  He had every opportunity to be appalled and to cause me to feel ashamed, but he never did.  {Thinking back on this, it reminds me to do the same for him - to be truly loving and supportive of all his feelings.}
Some days were better than others - I remember having days where I felt supremely blessed and would just marvel at my daughter's little features and all the things she would do.  Other days I would cry from the moment Tony walked in from work, hand him the baby, and retreat to the shower.  I remember feeling so cheated out of my life by having a child.  I remember mourning over losing the chance to just be me and my husband... because like it or not it would never be that way again (or at least not for a long time).  I remember feeling so anxious that even though I was sleep deprived, I just couldn't relax and let myself sleep.  I wondered if I would ever be myself again.  And it went on and on like that for several weeks and months until the good days far outnumbered the bad ones.  Finally, even when the bad days happened, I realized that I was different... that something had changed within me so that no matter what the day brought I knew I was capable and loveable and that I could do this whole mom thing.  The anxiety and resentment faded away and I started to feel better about my life; it became much easier to count my blessings rather than focus on my worries each day.
I think back on that time and realize that some of the people who love me most didn't even know how to respond to what I was going through.  Why is that?  Could it possibly be because there isn't enough information out there about postpartum depression?  It's certainly easier to just not talk about the difficult stuff, but then how do we educate others if we're not open and honest about our experiences?  When we share our struggles it gives courage to those who are hurting so that they can open up as well. People might search through my pictures on Instagram or read my blogs and think that I have it so easy... maybe even annoyed that I am boasting about how much I love my little family... but what they probably don't know is that my pride for my family stems directly from the struggles that took place in our home last year.  And that's okay.  But if you take one thing from reading this, remember how important it is to be as compassionate as you can to everyone you encounter because you usually have no idea just what is plaguing them at that moment in time or just how they got to where they are.  I would have never guessed this is how our story would go, but it's lead me to this point and right now I couldn't be happier.
Like what you read? You can find Ali's blog at Chasing Moonlight and Roses.

Friday, April 26, 2013

17/52

I know this is the third time I've shared this picture, but it's definitely my fav of the week...
Today I turn 26 years old, but I've felt 26 for a few months now. When people would ask me how old I was, 26 would come out before 25. I'm not really sure why. Maybe because it has been such a long year, birthday-to-birthday. I graduated law school, spent an entire summer studying for the Bar, then spent a few months in Texas before moving to Africa. I went from being a mother of a newborn to a mother of a toddler. I have changed so much in the past year. My heart has expanded enormously in some ways but has grown more cynical in others. I like this age, though. I don't miss my early 20's and wouldn't go back if given a chance. I'm excited to see what my mid- to late- 20's has to offer.

We are celebrating my birthday by going on our first safari. Rainy Season is still around, so I'm not sure how many animals we'll get to see, but I know it will still be worth it to spend some time away from the city. Other than that, it has been a good week leading up to my birthday. We had gorgeous days filled with sunshine in between a few rainy ones. Daniel got sick with a flu but luckily didn't pass it on to the baby or me. I got to go shoot at the range on the Tanzanian military base, which was fun. 

Also, I took so many pictures of Evita this week that I just love... It was the most difficult week I've had choosing just one. So I'll share TWO runner ups today...

My favorite portrait from last week was of Stella walking in the tidepools of a beautiful beach in Bali, a place I plan to visit on the way to the next country we'll live in. (It'll be a while...)
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