After months and months of penny pinching, checking for bedbugs, overnight traveling, and surviving on instant noodles without seeing any familiar faces, it was a thrill to meet up with Ruth Ann and Frank, Dennis' parents. And as if that wasn't enough, Dennis' Grandpa Ed surprised us by meeting us at the African Tulip Hotel upon our arrival in Arusha, Tanzania.
Africa was even better than we had dared to imagine. We had several days of safari drives throughout different regions of Tanzania -- Ngorogoro Crater, Arusha National Park, Tarangire National Park, and Selous Game Reserve.
It was so extremely different to see these zoo-worthy animals out in the wild. It's just not that often that you see a full-maned lion chomping on a freshly killed wildebeest, or see (and smell) the corpse of half an impala nestled in the branches of a baobob tree next to his leopard 'friend'. We saw ostriches bobbing their heads and flapping their wings in the midst of their mating dance. We felt hippos bump against the bottom of our boat, and it only gave us 1/5th of a heart attack.
We hung out with the Masai, and joined them for a little cultural shoulder dancing, ate the mexican-candy-flavored baobob fruit, and cuddled day-old baby goats.
We stayed in the nicest lodges and glamping 'tents' I've ever seen. Some of these places may have had more chairs than I have in my entire house. And after our long-term-budget-minded traveling, you can be sure that I used all the soaps provided and wore those bathrobes way more than necessary.
Some places even had armed (?) guards to walk us back and forth from the dining room and our 'tents' as a caution against those pesky neighborhood leopards. (whaat??) However, they did nothing to guard against the monkeys who lived in the trees above us and periodically found it humorous to throw small sticks and debris at our tents.
We relaxed on the beaches in Zanzibar and even did a little snorkeling -- including an encounter with a watermelon-sized octopus who changed colors four to five times in front of our eyes.
Dennis and I happened upon the Dhow Country Music Academy in Zanzibar where he collaborated with a local music teacher and whiled away the afternoon plinkin' away on their well-worn pianos.
Tanzania is a beautiful country, and I can't wait to flaunt my new wildlife knowledge at the San Diego Zoo to finally show up my zoo-veteran mom.