It’s official: we booked tickets to Africa! Believe me, it was NOT cheap, though it was significantly cheaper than other flights (thank Kayak.com for a great find, and cheaptickets.com for carrying the same itinerary because not all engines do, and for $10 less, and upromise.com for allowing me to earn 1% of the ticket price towards my student loans with this). I hovered the mouse over the “Book now!” button before clicking; of course, our credit card company sounded an alarm and blocked the hefty purchase, but after soothing its feathers and thanking the fraud department, we secured ourselves two tickets on Ethiopian Airlines to Nairobi (we are not staying in Nairobi) and a return trip from Zanzibar that would take us on a 15-hour layover in Addis Ababa (plus a 45-minute layover in Rome).
Why shell out nearly two months of mortgage payments for this trip? I partly blame my dad, who has always dreamed of traveling through these parts of Africa before they became huge tourist traps. Already, Tanzania has turned in that direction, serving the Kilimanjaro and safari circuits of foreigners. But outside those areas, there isn’t much for tourists to do but observe, which is the purpose of our visit to southern Kenya as volunteers, helping the Masai people assimilate to modern Africa. It’s also sort of a taking-advantage-of-a-life situation: we still don’t have kids, we’re willing to not shower for several days, and we don’t spend much money on anything else except trips. Plus, it was time to cover a new continent.
My friend Jenny just told me about her similar hesitation to click the “book now” button earlier this week, when she bought tickets to Botswana and South Africa to catch the World Cup this June.
Our plan over 18 days: two days of flying, a week volunteering at a primary school with the Masai in southern Kenya, followed by a camping safari in Northern Tanzania and then relaxing (and a shower!) on Zanzibar. On the way back, we’ll get to explore the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa.
I’m excited and incredibly nervous. We’re strictly heeding the state department warnings to avoid the streets of Nairobi (where we are being met, at the airport, by our volunteer organization and then after an orientation session, driven to southern Kenya). Addis Ababa, considered the safest of all African cities, is apparently under watch through June as it undergoes national elections (the watch expires July 1).
We’re due for immunizations, a supply of maladrome to prevent malaria, acidopholous pills to strengthen our stomachs, paperwork for visas to Tanzania, Kenya and a transit visa for Ethiopia, good trip insurance; modest clothing so people don’t trouble me for showing my shoulders and thighs; light packing and good shoes and memory cards and books and Swahili basics. For example, did you know that a Swahili day starts at our 6am, but they consider it “1:00”? Some places work by regular time, others like to go by Swahili time, so it will be interesting trying to catch a train or plane or setting a wake-up call.
I am still in disbelief that we’re really going, but we are. Stay tuned for updates as we plan!