'Round the World with David and Ron
The Boys are Abroad!

December 2007
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Ron in Istanbul or Constantinople or perhaps Byzantium
Filed under: Turkey
Posted by: @ 8:07 pm

Merry Christmas!!!

So I’m a month late with this entry. I guess that’s only two weeks later than usual, but this time I’m home. Oh what a joy it is to be home: My dogs and cats, my job and routine. The routine maybe the thing I missed the most. This might be a function of age. When I traveled in my 20’s (I spent 14 weeks traveling around the Mediterranean) I didn’t have to plan much or call home to see how things were. It all seemed so carefree. Not now…

Istanbul was our brick wall. We had been traveling for so long and seen and done so much that we couldn’t absorb much more. It was cold and rainy and I can hear you saying, “They should have felt right at home…” If we went in the spring or summer and saw more of the country our experience would be much different. Despite all that, we had a good time and saw some sites.

Tom Hitt joined us in Turkey, a face from home greeted us on our arrival.

We stayed in a comfortable hotel near the college where the conference was held. It was right on the Golden Horn, a large river that feeds into the Bosporus.

Our room was the middle balcony. They didn’t speak much English, but were mostly accommodating and it was a safe place to come home to after a long day.
It was about 1/2 mile walk to the conference. Here are some of the things we saw:

The road has been built up over the years and this building has managed to remain despite slowing disappearing.

These women were just there one day, the one in black is praying and the older women is taking a break.

This wise face was too good to pass up.
The Bacilica Cistern is located across from the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia.

It was my favorite cool thing that I saw while there. Over 2 acres large with 336 columns.

This Medusa head is at the bottom of one of the columns.

Many of the capital, columns and stonework were scavenged from prior centuries temples and architechture.

We took a ferry from the Golden Horn to the Black Sea.

This is as we left. It takes about two hours one way with a three hour layover. This is the Black Sea.

This was one of the first forts built by the Ottoman’s before they defeated the Romans.

The Bosporus was filled with jellyfish. More than I’ve ever seen. I think they are an indicator of increasing pollution.

We got a chance to attend on opening at the Archaeological Museum of Turkey.

This is the Alexander Sarcophagus. It’s from for 4th century BC. It is suprisingly intact for how old and detailed it is…

This is one of the minarets at Hagia Sophia. I took this on the way to the museum.

This is a crowd scene in Taksim: The heart of modern Istanbul.

This was taken in the Topkapi Palace. The home of the Sultan’s prior to the 1800’s

And finally the spice market. We loved the spice market. It was an easy walk from the hotel and had endless things to see and buy.

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Filed under: Turkey
Posted by: @ 7:15 pm

Dear Turkey,

I hate to tell you this but you smoke too much. Now I have been known to enjoy a fag now and then myself, but this is crazy. You smoke everywhere and it’s not just cigarettes. There are those venders roasting chestnuts and corn on the cob on the street corners… I have to tell you that I decided to see what corn roasted over an open flame tasted like and I think it is a mean thing to do to a piece of corn. It tasted something like leather mixed with those old maids at the bottom of a bowl of popcorn. I think you could just let that bit of cuisine go… there I have helped already, but back to the tobacco products. Do you really need to smoke in the grocery stores? I know that I come from a whiney neck of the woods with a government that is always trying to save us from ourselves. Yes, we go too far sometimes but you smoke in Starbucks! I’m just saying that you might consider creating a few safe zones for those who don’t wish to be part of the smoke-in. The smokers grumble in other parts of the world that have adopted no-smoke-zones but it seems like we get used to it and then come here and can’t believe that we used to smoke in peoples homes who did not smoke themselves. With all that America has to be embarrassed about right now, perhaps I should hold my tongue but Turkey you stink…

Istanbul has been an interesting place, very old and located on a lovely piece of water-riddled real estate.

I have had work to do here so I taught a class and gave a lecture and now that is done and I am glad. We did have a few opportunities to see some of the major sites and there are some worth looking at.

(Spice Market-better of the two large markets)

(Blue Mosque as seen from Hagia Sofia.)

Istanbul is an ancient city that has had a tumultuous history that it seems to be somewhat indifferent towards. I love to see the history of a place and try to imagine how it was when old was new. I want to look at the old but my impression is that current Istanbul is more interested in showing the new. There are a lot of old pieces of this place that are in need of a good fix up and some neighborhoods that have great potential and a high quaint quotient but I guess no one really likes to be quaint, so much of what I was interested in is about to fall over. It seems like this place has not yet reached consensus as to what it wants to be but it has enormous potential and I hope to keep an eye on it.


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Kenya - Ron cleans up
Filed under: Africa
Posted by: @ 12:17 am

Hey there,

I’m in the Schiphol Airport in Holland waiting to fly home…I’m flying business class (Yippee! so I get to use the special lounge and have little sandwiches and free drinks, I had a bloody Mary, yummy.)

Like David said, too many countries in too little time. I’m not sure I’d change anything though. Next time I think we’ll try just one locale (or at the least one country) and then day trips. It’s been a bit of a grind, packing up and moving everyday. Especially when changing languages, cultures, and driving etiquette.

Kenya was astonishing. The time that we spent with Kakuta and his family will be by far the most memorable portion of this trip. The Maasai are a people whose way of life (except for everyone having cell phones) has changed little in generations(okay, it’s probably changing faster than they’d like.) Staying with them was a little unbelievable. Then add the trip to Amboseli National Park and all the wildlife…over the top. You can see why we were on overload once we hit Istanbul. It’s like our life just went “tilt.” (for you who haven’t a clue to that cultural reference, it’s as if someone hit the pinball machine too hard and the whole system comes to a halt…at least temporarily.)

So here are the pics. (I need to thank Rob, my roommate for turning me onto this camera. It’s a Canon 710A IS. It’s been great. I’ve dropped it a few times and it has a dent on the top. We stopped at a camera shop in South Africa to borrow a small screw driver set to put the case back together after a particularly spectacular fall…off the tips of the fingers quarter back fumble fall…)

We arrived in Nairobi a bit weary after South Africa. We had been on the move everyday; we were thinking maybe we can just relax in Nairobi. Well this is a city with a similar reputation to Johannesburg: In your face with crime, poverty, and all the harsh realities of a major metropolitan African city. Its other name, according to the travel book, is Nairobbery. We didn’t have any problems with crime while we were there, but we had been forewarned so were cautious. Needless to say, we didn’t get to relax much in Nairobi.

Given all the pics I’ve taken (about 2300,) I don’t have that many from here.

The Maasai market was jam packed with everyone wanting once again to be our best friend, “we are like brothers!”

This woman caught my eye and I had to get a picture: she sounded british, inappropriately dressed for an outdoor market, in fake Zebra print and fake designer bag. (the Maasai woman in the foreground was not happy about my taking her picture, she wanted me to pay, but I didn’t even know she was in the pic…I walked away when she didn’t understand I wasn’t taking her picture…I guess I was.)

These shady characters

found us in the local fish market

and convinced us to follow them across town to a place they were selling older beaded, carved, and traditional work. We almost turned around a number of times because they looked somewhat nefarious. But in the end we saw some really good and unique work. It all was too much to take in and the process to purchase just a few items was convoluted as well. You don’t want to be carrying hundreds of dollars worth of Kenyan Shillings on you. It took multiple trips to the ATM and half the time the ATMs would refuse our card…again the things we normally take for granted.

The last image we have from Nairobi (I took this as we were leaving for Maasai land, he was seated outside a grocery store.)

David has already described our trip to Simba Camp. I’ve never been on roads quite like that before. I was amazed that the van stayed together. A few pics from Simba Camp

(We are standing on a mound of decaying mud and cow dung bricks that were never fired.)

We took a walk with the warriors to a slight rise that got us above all the surrounding area and gave us the vista to really appreciate the sunset. On this trip we encountered the thorns of the Acacia: it has an evolutionary edge over all the other plants. Those thorns are sharp and some varieties don’t let go.

The next day was our trip to Amboseli.
This park is known for it’s large African Elephants. And there are lots of them.

(notice the unique way the mother carries the infant elephant?)

Yellow Baboon.

Malibu Stork: Ugly Bird and not afraid of me! Look at that beak.

These are unattached bachelor water buffalo. They reminded me of Tom, David and myself: Getting older and cantankerous. Water Buffalo kill more tourists every year than any other animal in Africa.

One of the things I really wanted to see on this trip was Mount Kilimanjaro “rising like an empress above the Serengeti….”


Does anyone get that reference? (Send me a response if you do. Miwako knew the reference and I’ve had the lyric wrong for 20 years…it rises like Olympus not an empress…she’ll always be the empress for me…)

When we arrived on the first day to Simba Camp, the empress was covered in clouds and the weather forecast didn’t look very good. Next day we got up at 5am to be on the road and have a better chance of seeing some of the larger carnivore that hide out during the middle of the day. Again the mountain was shrouded. So we kept teasing Kakuta to make the mountain appear. And as if by magic or by our teasing, it happened. She revealed herself in all her majesty.

This was one highlight, among so many.
This is the Vervet Monkey…

This little guy was a pest.

The monkey’s in Maasailand are not revered or thought highly of as in Ubud, Bali. While David was beading at the midday rest, this Vervet decided to abscond with his beading wax and climb up on the roof to eat it…Apparently it didn’t taste so go, so he threw it back. Later he tried to take David’s beads but David was ready and scared the little mischief-maker off. They have been fed by tourist so now think it’s their right to demand the sugar or left over orange juice. Apparently they aren’t nice about it…they usually bite first and ask questions later

(This is Joseph, not his given name, who took us on a bird walk. I think we saw more than a hundred different species in two hours. This is he and I with an elephant femur.)

This was one of the last images from our safari.

A lone Flat Top Acacia Tree towering over the savannah expanse. Having seen it on TV and in books doesn’t do it justice. It was just one more image to cap off our experience. After awhile the adjectives just go lacking. It was all overwhelming and somehow unbelievable.

Next day we had until about noon to visit with Kakuta’s family and give David a chance to meet with the Maasai women/beaders.

David and the women

Cattle give the Maasai their wealth and identity.

Kakuta with his mother in her home.

Kakuta’s second mother.

Lastly a child from the village.

We had an quite a visit with Kakuta and his family. I think that both David and I would like to go back and help out. We have many more stories of our very short time there but I’ve gone on and on and on about such a short time.

The trip back to Nairobi was much like the trip out except with less dust and more mud. We went from the van to the airport and on to Zurich and Istanbul…

more to come.


Kenya - Maasai Village Stay
Filed under: Africa
Posted by: @ 4:07 am

Oh my have we had an experience…Here is a brief version.

Flew into Nairobi, stayed for four days, three hotels, went to markets and bought lots of stuff.

Got picked up by a Van and was transported south-ish 150-km in a mini van with 14 other people… this is public transportation. The road was “under construction” which meant that this three hour journey was something akin to hitching a ride on a paint shaker or driving your car around with square tires (made out of stone).

Transferred in a small village (called Emali) to a van owned by the Maasai… had another hour journey under slightly less favorable conditions. Arrived at the Maasai village looking like I had stage make-up on (DUST). Got out of the van and stepped into a copy of National Geographic.

Very traditional village which started a visiting program in the past year or two and has been rated by National Geographic as one of the 50 best places on earth to visit. There have only been about thirty visitors so far. Hung out with Maasai warriors, and villagers who were bedecked with beads from the top of their heads to the bottom of their feet and even into there extended earlobes.

They were kind, funny, generous and good to us.

Next day went on a safari; saw more animals than I can begin to tell you. Not animals in a cage but cheetahs hunting in the savanna

and a pride of eight lions

and hyenas

and giraffes

and hippos

and then we saw more animals and then we saw them again. I probably saw 100 different varieties of birds in every imaginable color. Got home, had tea, bat landed in Ron’s tea, he screamed like a sissy and threw tea (did not hit any of the warriors).

Next day had to move on so we headed out on the paint shaker roads again except now it was raining so we took a team of Maasai warriors with us. It was still like a paint shaker experience except this time it was like we were inside a can of reddish brown paint.

We got stuck from time to time but our new friends would kind of hoop and jump out of the van and move us out of whatever sludge pit we had gotten ourselves into. I was a bit worried but they all seemed to think it was funny so it was hard not to get caught up in the camaraderie… I love those guys. Wouldn’t it be grand to have a team of Warriors always at your side just in case you got in a jam?

Today finds me in the Zurich airport waiting for Istanbul…


Kenyan Haircut - Nairobi
Filed under: Africa
Posted by: @ 3:21 am

Ok, so I was in Nairobi Kenya the other day and I need a haircut so I am out and about and I see this place that seems to specialize in that so I go in there. Once I was in there I felt obliged to follow through but I may have been the only pink face to have darkened that door ever and I don’t thing they had ever seen hair like mine on there floor. They ended up doing a good job and couldn’t have been nicer but I think the poor guy guy was kind of nervous about it and I think he cut it about three times trying to get it short enough to cover a miscalculation. I have never had a haircut that did not involve scissors… all clippers.

(David with his clipper cut at the Maasai market in Nairobi)

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