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November 7, 2001
Three months (or so): changes (Gail)

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Plotting our course

Our original plan was to write a monthly update on our progress. Well the best laid plans as the saying goes. It is now at the end of the first week of November, closer to our 4th month than our 3rd. Looking back at the last few weeks I can see so many changes in us. To start, both boys seem so much more confident in any given situation. They approach people, talk and even interact on a personal level without us around. They settle in to each new location or situation easily, are more comfortable with customs not their own. They can create their own fun out of sticks, rocks and string. They don't mention TV at all. They have become independent of us, able to sleep in a tent or a hotel room not right next to ours. Of course telling them good night and not to worry about the noises outside the tent, it may only be a lion or hyena has put a new spin on bedtime. The other night after putting Joss to bed without Cameron I heard him talking to someone. When I went in he was talking to a little lizard on the wall right next to his bed at blanket level. He wasn't worried in the least but I moved his bed away from the wall to prevent the lizard from hiding in the blankets. The next night I told them the noises they might hear would just be the warthogs under the room. Aahh Tanzania.

A big change that might seem kind of silly is the ability to settle down with dirt and bugs. There was a time not so long ago if a bug landed anywhere near Joss he would panic, now he finds them infinitely interesting. Bugs at dinnertime and bedtime became so routine that it no longer created any kind of fuss. And when the bird hopped across the sugar leaving footprints, well that was just sort of normal too. Joss is the pickier eater of the group but even he has learned to eat what is put in front of him. He still grazes through the day, I compare him to a gazelle instead of a lion, but he does manage to get enough into himself at meal times that he can make it an hour before announcing he is hungry. We carry treats everywhere we go. He has the belief that animals are willing to let him closer than ordinary people and spends a lot of time sneaking up on birds (you must approach them with a zigzag method). He got a Superb Starling to eat out of his hand. He became very good at creating his own fun. At one camp he spent the morning with a mortar and pestle grinding grass seeds into "poof powder" to use against the enemy. He has become a master whistler. He is still just as mischievous. But he is also still just as cuddly.

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Joss making "poof powder" with mortar and pestle

Cameron has been able to pass time these past few weeks without a book in hand. He finished the books we took out on safari so quickly that he had nothing to read. He spent a few days desperately reading anything he could, brochures, room info sheets, even my book on how to tie Kanga wraps. He then settled into the routine and developed new card and board games. He also spent time just hanging around the lodges and camps following the hyrax and defending against baboons. Cam spends any time he can on the computer writing his stories. At Ndutu Lodge he was working at the bar (the only available electrical outlet). A woman saw him and asked him for help with writing a letter on her laptop. He very easily explained to her what she was doing wrong and then went back to his story. Cameron has become Joss' personal entertainer with a finger show called The Adventures of Bobby the Great Explorer (a dog who goes to school and calls the teacher the Abominable Snowman and the principal Bigfoot) and the Adventures of the Flying Rock. Cam has an amazing sense of humor. When they are not allowed to play Game Boy, Joss begs Cam to put on a show for him. Joss is very lucky to have Cam as a big brother (and so are we as he keeps Joss from asking for food by keeping his mind busy). Cameron is getting taller too, he now comes to my shoulder; new shoes in France are a must. Along with the new height and the new age (11), comes the not-so-new pre-teenage attitude. He is just a bit sarcastic and sometimes a little impatient with our grown up ways. He's still a sweetie though.

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Cameron playing cards with the resources at hand

Both boys have become stronger.  Before we left home we started to take walks to help build up their endurance both physical and mental.  After all the walking we have done they now don't think twice about a long trek, chatting all the way.  Cameron commented that they don't seem like long walks anymore. We have a concern that once we get into Europe in the cold weather there will be fewer chances for walking around . We plan to buy warm coats as soon as possible (we left their others in Australia) and will continue our treks for as long as we can.

Seeing us being flexible, resourceful and open to new things are probably the best lessons we can give them. Both boys have taken up our motto of making the best of any situation and made it their own. I am so happy we are able to teach the boys early in their lives. Throughout the whole trip to date we have been very careful that they do not see us discouraged if our rooms are not 5 star or the food is less than wonderful. They express dismay at the lack of customers for the tour guides and are starting to see the world a bit differently. It is so nice to see that skin color means nothing to them and they realize that people in different parts of the world may be different but that does not make them strange, funny or odd, just different. Our safari cook, Chris, has a t-shirt with different children on it; the saying is "Children are not Born Bigots." So true. This intense time with them shows how our attitudes rub off on them. I always knew that they do watch and imitate but in this closed environment it is just that much more obvious. It has been great having this much influence over them at their current ages. Hopefully we will do it right and instill in them all the good things they need to know like compassion, honesty and a love of learning.

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Still best friends

Some changes are subtle. Before leaving home I was concerned, okay I was worried about all kinds of things: illness, injury, new people, new places, that kind of thing. I am basically a shy person and was worried that I would be in situations where I would make some sort of social booboo. I also tend to worry about how to afford things; looking for why we shouldn't do something, Russell is just the opposite. This has always been a conflict area for us. Well so-fari so good (I couldn't resist that). Like the boys, I have discovered that people are just people, and want to be friendly. Places are just places waiting to be explored. My attitude now leans more toward "what's the worst that could happen" knowing it probably won't. I realized this as we walked along the roadside in Arusha, it just hit me where I am. I guess it is good that I still feel a need to pinch myself. The excitement of this trip hasn't diminished at all; it just keeps getting better. I have settled into the routine of life on the road more easily than I thought I would. I am very grateful to my parents for some early training that prepared me for this. When we were kids we spent time in Northern Michigan at our undeveloped property. No water, no electricity, no luxury accommodations. Water we got from a nearby well, light was from kerosene lanterns and toilets were, well pits. So many things out on safari reminded me of those years. Washing my hair in ice-cold water (reminded of my sisters pouring buckets of water over my head), showering in a cold outdoor shower and pit toilets with the accompanying bugs. I really appreciated the lodges when we got there. Doing laundry by hand, cooking meals and sleeping in cramped quarters and trying to maintain a normal family life has been a challenge but not impossible. I have discovered that you can be very creative with very little. When we returned from safari our left luggage was returned to us. I stared at these five suitcases somewhat aghast at the amount of stuff we had with us. And we are traveling light! After almost three weeks with just what could fit in a small carry on bag it seemed almost too much. I was immediately reminded of the woman I saw at the Tarangire Lodge who was wandering around looking for a place to plug in her blow dryer. No I am not ready to give up my American way of life and live with the bushmen but I can get by on less than I ever realized.


The shower at Lake Eyasi: like something out of "Gilligan's Island"

Do we have our bad times? Oh certainly. Russell and I get to each other more than I would like. Joss gets to Cam. Cam gets to Joss. It's bad when it all happens at once but we do manage to work things out. We are trying to make sure everyone has alone time, creative time and group time. Joss knows that it is his own responsibility to entertain himself and if Cameron wants quiet time he must leave Cam alone. The adults realize that Joss is entertainment needy, very creative and just wants contact. We are trying to be sensitive to Cam's need to be alone away from Joss and us too.

As for the safari itself words can't express the wonder of this country. Russell's letters have captured some of it but even he says you just have to be here to experience it. The people, the colors, the smells. The dust, the bugs, the lions roaring outside your camp. The vast expanse of the Serengeti. Sunsets you only dream of.

So much has happened in the world in these past four months. Personal things and worldwide events. Trying to stay in contact with family and friends has been tough at times. Trying to keep abreast of the world events is harder. Perhaps the toughest part of our trip is behind us. China and Tanzania have certainly been eye opening. I have hiked the Great Wall and have eaten baboon. I can take on anything.

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Ready to take on anything!

 

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