Life on the Road: Spring 2018
As my life on the road eats up more and more of my time, I realise that I don’t have the time to write individual posts for every adventure I go on.
If I’m being honest, most of these adventures don’t really warrant 800+ words and a Pinterest image.
With that in mind, Life on the Road aims to share the ups and downs of Richelle and I’s lives as we take our businesses on the road full-time.
When last we spoke, Richelle and I had been enjoying the sun and hospitality of her parents in Palm Desert, California.
We definitely come to love our super comfy room, the high-speed WIFI, the access to pools and hot tubs, and the evening glasses of wine and home-cooked meals with Richelle’s folks, so it was bittersweet when we had to say our goodbyes and begin preparations to head off to Africa.
Richelle’s folks were fantastic hosts for the entirety of our visit. As the new son-in-law-to-be, it was especially good to get this time to really bond with Richelle’s folks. While I’d met them last September when they visited China, it was an entirely different experience to live under the same roof.
I like to think that we got along swimmingly.
Whether it was enjoying sunset wine with Nicole, sharing bawdy jokes with John, or going out for an evening in Palm Springs as a group, it was a thoroughly pleasant month.
Two Weeks in Seattle
Our next stop after California was a two-week whirlwind visit to Richelle’s hometown in Edmonds, Washington.
With Richelle’s health insurance only covering her in Washington State, we headed back so she could get her Africa immunisations, have the birth-control implant put in, and visit the dentist.
Of course, it wasn’t all waiting rooms and hair appointments.
We also went a little bit crazy ordering ALL OF THE THINGS from Amazon, Trunk Club, and Stitch Fix.
We made two trips on the Edmonds to Kingston Ferry to hang out with friends, ate delicious food, caught up with old friends from Richelle’s childhood and my Korean time, saw Black Panther, completed weeks two and three of the Couch to 5K, and (I) played a lot of World of WarCraft.
It was both entirely too action-packed and strangely relaxing.
Edmonds is a breathtakingly beautiful town and Richelle’s childhood home has a stunning view of the Puget Sound, especially at sunset.
The Long Commute to Africa
Before we knew it, it was time to once again condense our lives into a pair of checked bags and a pair of carry on bags.
Hard decisions were made,
Tears were shed.
My beloved Nintendo 64 was first cut and then given an eleventh-hour reprieve.
Redeye #1 – Seattle to Houston
After a farewell dinner with Richelle’s grandfather (who happens to be a fascinating character with a hell of a lot of stories to tell), it was off to SEATAC for our red-eye flight to Houston.
Arriving at 5 am, we now had thirteen hours to kill until our next flight.
I don’t know if you realise this, but there’s not a whole lot to do at Houston Airport.
With that in mind, we shelled out $150 USD for a day room at an airport hotel.
Necessary. So, so necessary.
Redeye #2 – Houston to Qatar
With a meal of underwhelming Mexican as our last meal on US soil, we boarded our 14 and a half hour flight from Houston to Doha, Qatar.
Qatar Airlines is a great long-haul carrier and we were spoiled for choice when it came to in-flight entertainment, but the cramped seats meant we basically got zero sleep for that long, long flight.
As our connecting flight had been changed, we’d have a nine-hour layover in Qatar. This meant that the airline had to provide us with an airport hotel.
Unfortunately, Doha Airport’s immigration process took over two hours and then it was a thirty-minute ride to our hotel.
This meant we got around 3 hours to sleep before it was time to turn around and head back to the airport.
Suffice to say, we were a pair of increasingly irate zombies by the time we slumped into the seats for our third (and final) red-eye flight.
Redeye #3 – Qatar to Nairobi
A short six-hour jaunt had us in Nairobi at dawn and, for a wonder, their immigration process was blessedly fast.
As an added bonus, our hotel (the ultra-cool Ibis Styles Westlands) let us check-in at 7 am.
We basically spent the entire day dozing fitfully and trying not to die.
Safari in Nairobi
While our ultimate destination was Tanzania, it seemed criminal to touch down in Nairobi and just leave the next morning.
With that in mind, I worked with Shadows of Africa’s Kenya office to arrange a day of exploration for Richelle and I.
Starting at dawn, we ventured out to Nairobi National Park for a sunrise game drive. While I’ve seen more than my share of lions, rhinos, and elephants in my time – it was a thrill to see Richelle’s reaction to her very first safari.
It wasn’t a great day for photography or game-viewing, but we still managed to see a half dozen rhinos, an abundance of zebras, and a bunch of antelopes and hartebeest.
From there, it was off to the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage and the Giraffe Centre for some up close and personal time with some of Africa’s most iconic animals.
This was my third visit to both places, so it was again all about seeing Richelle’s eyes light up with wonder when she got to kiss a giraffe or lay an outstretched hand on a baby elephant.
It’s the little things.
Zanzibar in Rainy Season
From Nairobi, we made the trip down to Arusha, where we were planning to spend the next 2-3 months working from our office and basically catching up on work we couldn’t get done over the holidays. As you probably saw in my last Life on the Road, it was a hectic couple of months.
Alas, Tanzania’s rainy season meant that the lodge we were meant to stay in was not yet complete, so my boss suggested we had over to Zanzibar to spend some time in our new office there.
I’d been to Zanzibar once before at the height of the Ebola scare, but I was excited to show Richelle the white sand beaches, crystal clear water, and delicious food.
Of course, I hadn’t banked on the rainy season also reeking havoc in Zanzibar.
What followed was two weeks of flooded streets, leeching WiFi in cafes while the internet company refused to install it at the office, and feeling like we were missing out.
While we did take a really fun tour to a spice plantation and we got to try out the famous Rock Restaurant, it was mostly a frustrating fortnight of bad internet and worse weather.
Richelle’s Maasai Birthday
With Richelle’s 27th birthday coming up, I had my work cut out for me topping last year’s Great Wall picnic, so I reached out to my favourite hotel in Tanzania: Africa Amini Maasai Lodge.
They were kind enough to help me with a last minute booking, so we went out to spend a night eating delicious food, throwing spears, and soaking in the utter beauty that is Tanzania.
We sipped wine with a view of Mount Kilimanjaro, tried our hands at spear throwing, and just enjoyed having a day of good weather. It was Tanzania’s present to Richelle and a much needed ‘win’ after her tough introduction to Tanzania.
Life on Mzungu Hill, Arusha
Aside from those little adventures, life here has settled into a pretty steady rhythm.
Richelle and I are renting a cute (but perennially damp and bug-filled) house close by the office, which has meant it’s easy for us to walk the 800m or so to the office for a free lunch and high-speed internet.
Expat life in Tanzania has definitely not been easy.
Without a car, the 10-15km to town might as well by 500km. We looked at renting one from a colleague, only to have it give up the ghost on our very first trip.
Our house is periodically home to spiders, foot-long millipedes, whip spiders, and all manner of other curious creatures, the power goes out every few days, and it’s impossible to get clothes dry with the constant rain.
With that being said, it’s definitely starting to feel like home.
We’ve bought rugs and decorations, stocked our kitchen with a variety of healthy (and not-so-healthy) treats, and we finally got working 3G yesterday.
Richelle’s developed an addiction to Stardew Valley while I’ve renewed my love affair with the old school classic, Oblivion.
A Serengeti Safari
By far the highlight of our time in Tanzania was the recent Shadows of Africa fam trip.
Not only was this a great opportunity to catch up with my colleagues, Jake, Lesia, Julia, Marjeta, Pallav, Elijah, and Paul – we also got to spend five nights out on safari!
Highlights include spotting the wildebeest migration in the southern Serengeti, three nights of luxury at Melia Serengeti and Oldeani Mountain Lodge, the tented camp experience at Kenzan Kisura, and a magical half-hour of communion with a leopard at dawn.
I may have been out on safari for 30-40 days of my life now, but there’s always something new and exciting to be experienced.
This time around it was hyenas visiting our camp by night, a big bull elephant rubbing itself against a tree scant metres from our car, and the aforementioned leopard experience. Magical.
What did you get up to this spring?
Or autumn, if you’re from the southern hemisphere. Which I am. Weird.