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November 8, 2001
Out of Africa (Russell)

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Revisiting (and repacking) our bags... again

Our last few days in Tanzania were largely uneventful.  We stayed for three nights at the Mezza Luna Hotel in Arusha.  The advantage was that we had two rooms (they were unconnected; but after weeks of tent camping, Cameron and Joss were comfortable sleeping apart in their own room, which actually gave Russell and Gail some privacy).  The disadvantage was that we also had a 20-minute walk to town (but after weeks of riding around in a truck, we could all use the exercise).

The other disadvantage was that for three days, no one ever serviced our room -- no new towels, sheets, or toilet papeerr.  They finally told us -- on the last day -- that they could never get into our rooms because we had the only keys.  The fact that we spent half of every day sitting in our rooms did not seem to have an impact on them.

The first night that we heard the baby crying, Gail thought "Oh well, perhaps they'll leave tomorrow."  The second night we heard the baby crying, Gail thought "Oh no, they live here."  The third night we heard the baby crying, Gail heard the mother crying, too.

We sampled many of the local restaurants, including Mezza Luna's Italian restaurant, the Impala Hotel's Italian & Chinese restaurant (which Gail had missed the first time around due to her migraine), and our previous hotel the Equator.  (The Equator had CNN on TV.  Unfortunately, they had no food.  We tried ordering ham & cheese sandwiches and they told us they were out of ham.  We tried ordering cheese sandwiches and they told us they were out of cheese.)  For our last meal in Arusha, we returned to Jambo's Coffee House, where we had eaten our first meal.  We remarked on how comfortable we had become: when we first arrived, we wouldn't go anywhere without Sandi as an escort; now we were walking all over town by ourselves.

Among our many errands was trying to figure out how to get two Hazabe arrows back to the United States.  Sandi found us a long mailing tube, but EMS said it was too big.  We finally got DHL to ship it, but it was not cheap (the clerk advised us to identify the contents as "walking sticks").  Russell perused both of Arusha's bookstores, but all they had were children's books, school books, and romance novels (Sandi says that English language novels are like gold).  We also met up with Christopher and Mr. So in town, which struck us as strangely as seeing your second-grade teacher sitting in a bar.

On October 7th, we finally said "tutaonana" ("goodbye") to Tanzania when Tom took us and our collection of suitcases to the airport.  On the way, we finally saw Mt. Kilimanjaro, snow and all... in the dark.  Kilimanjaro airport actually had a KLM Business Class lounge -- amazing, considering that there was only one airplane in the entire place -- but it was all the way across the tarmac.  The lounge had drinks but no food, as the host told us about a dozen times (either it was the only English he knew, or he had been waiting a long time for someone to visit his lounge).  We were able to stroll around on the tarmac at will, which was especially fun when we were able to watch our plane land and taxi to the gate.

Our KLM flight left at 10:30 PM, stopped in Dar Es Salaam at midnight, and had the worst Business Class seats we have had so far.  The seats didn't really recline and the leg rests didn't really elevate, so we got almost no sleep during the nine-and-a-half hour red-eye flight.  On the morning of November 8th we had a two-hour layover in Amsterdam (Gail and Russell debated whether "Holland" and "The Netherlands" are the same thing) before boarding a second KLM flight for Geneva.

Our least favorite part of traveling the world has been the transition between countries: the airports, luggage, security checks, passport controls, immigration, and customs -- not to mention the jetlag and massive culture shock.  We were especially worried about our arrival in Europe.  Back in the States, we had made plans and reservations only as far as Tanzania.  Europe -- and the entire next seven months -- are a complete black hole as far as any kind of itinerary.

Back in Mauritius, Russell had emailed a coworker from Hewlett-Packard about our month-early arrival in Europe, but we were nevertheless shocked and amazed when he actually showed up at the airport to meet us!  We ended up having one of the smoothest country transitions ever, thanks to Bernard's incredible hospitality.   He and his wife Brigitte have invited us as guests into their home (just across the Swiss border in France) for a few days to do laundry and recuperate from Tanzania.  In addition, they have helped us with a country home in the Rhône Valley for our longer term stay.

We have already begun to settle in here, and are being treated like family and royalty at the same time.  Cameron and Joss have already made friends with Timothee, the 12-year-old son (there are now Lego bricks all over the floor).  For the first time in months, Gail has gotten a break from her three men, as Brigitte took her to a nearby home exposition for a couple of hours.  And for the first time in months, Russell and Joss have been able to sit down at a piano.

The weather outside may be cold and rainy, but here in France we are very warm and comfortable indeed.

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Four degrees Centigrade, and just in time for the first snow of the season


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