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I climbed a mountain and I looked around… part 1

8 Oct

The climax of the story is that I made it to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro, 5800m. The lead up and aftermath makes for much of the story.

I arrived in Tanzania after traveling for over 24 hours! After getting my Visa I made my way to customs and immigration where the female agent looked at me and said “Oh you shine as bright as a star – beautiful. Welcome to Tanzania!!” I don’t know about you, but this was a very different customs experience than home. Normally they make you feel like you are bringing a body in your luggage and have cocaine shoved up your bum. It was as easy as that! I said good-bye to my seat-mate John and wished him the best of luck at shooting an African buffalo. I walked out to little guy with a big smile and a sign with my name on it. He brought me to a bus with a few other people on it and we peeled out of the parking lot. We arrived at a hotel different than the one I was expecting – they told me my hotel was overbooked and they would bring me to the original one in the morning. Oh, and that I would have a roommate for the night. I made my way to a common area where a little Japanese guy was near to hyperventilating. I noticed that his hand was bandaged up and that he had a lot of dry blood on his hands. I asked him if he was okay – he explained (in very broken English) to me that he had fallen on the street and ripped his hand up and in order to see the doctor he had to use all of the schillings he had and now he didn’t have any cash left as Japanese Yen isn’t accepted in Tanzania. I then acted as a meditator between him, hotel staff, a cook and a German. English, Swahili, German and Japanese. He told me I made him feel much better. I went cross eyed to my room and slept for 12 hours. I woke up to roosters, goats, motorcycles, singing and traffic sounds outside my window. Someone came and picked me up around lunchtime and we made our way to Springlands Hotel. The next morning we departed for Kilimanjaro. I learned about “African Time” – we were told we would depart at 8:30, I think we left around 10:30. We are so schedule based that it took a few days to let go of the need to be “on time” – what the hell does time matter when you are waiting to climb a 5800m mountain? So off we go all jammed into a bus shared with porters who let’s just say don’t wear deodorant. We drove 4 hours to the Kenyan side of the mountain. Conveniently there was a terrorist attack in Nairobi the day of my arrival. I kept thinking about my dear mother who was nervous about my trip in the first place turning on the TV only to see the news cover the story of violence in Kenya. To her the “Kenyan side of the mountain” was near to that mall and so she didn’t sleep all week.
We arrive at the entrance to the park. For 15 of us to go up the mountain we needed 50 support people! At the entrance the porters take all of our luggage, supplies, tents, food and bring it to a weigh station. It was quite the scene but somehow or another they get everything sorted, weighed and divided up among the porters to be carried up the mountain. This is where I really started to respect these people. Each porter carries 50 pounds on their head/back up the mountain for $5 a day. I could write about the people for hours and hours, but for the purpose of this post I will focus on the funny bits of the climb. Due to congestion at the weigh station the porters didn’t get to the campsite before us, so we found ourselves in the dark in the middle of the woods waiting for them to arrive. One by one they made their way to the site, but it was already pitch black, freezing and we were starved! Within an hour they whipped up for us this amazing African stew of sorts. I climbed into my tent and what happened for the rest of the week happened. I couldn’t sleep. For the following reasons: I wasn’t tired due to jetlag, my tent seemed to always be on a downward angle so I found myself sliding down my pad, it was freezing in and out of my tent and I was convinced I could hear wildlife outside of my tent. Over the course of the week I read 3 books, made new playlists and did a lot of thinking. You can’t possibly imagine the thoughts and scenarios that went through my head.
The next day was pretty status quo – 5 hours of hiking. So now I’ve been on the mountain for 2 days and up until now I’ve been whizzing in the bushes and no number two’s have hit yet. We got the next site. The “bathroom” was a tent that had in the middle of it a bucket with a toilet seat on the top. I wasn’t strategic in that I didn’t stand by the tent when it was being set up. By the time I made it there I went inside, flipped open the top and was shocked to see the bucket was full to the top with other peoples “stuff”. It sunk my battle ship. I couldn’t do it. I started to gag, my eyes watered and I got shivers. I quickly made my way out of the “bathroom”, put on my headlamp and made my way into the bushes. It must have been a combination of travel, altitude, change in food, but I think bowel movements (or lack thereof) was the number one topic of conversation. We cheered when Darren announced he had his first, we gave a standing ovation when Tristin finally “went”, high five’s were given as each person made it happen. I, however, didn’t get any high fives. For an otherwise “regular” girl, going 1,2,3,4 days without pooping is problematic. As I mentioned I had a lot of time to think about things in my tent… this continued until day number 5. I was coming back down the mountain with one of our guides Robert. We had a lot of hours together so we were doing a lot of talking when all of the sudden it hit me. It kind of felt like the same amount of force that the tidal bore comes into the Shubenacadie River. I started to sweat and clench my butt cheeks as I thought I was going to shit my pants. At this stage I am above the clouds so there are no trees or bushes anywhere. I said to Robert “Ummmm, Robert I really need to pee, can you walk ahead a little bit?” He did so. I took refuge behind a boulder. Behind that boulder a very dramatic scene occurred. It was a very low moment in my life.

Part 2 will come soon…

Mt Kili Top


The incident with the ham…

27 May


I listen to CBC all day at work and although sometimes I wonder what the hell I am listening to, I generally feel more educated come the end of my workday.  Stuart McLean is a favorite of mine as I love his story telling abilities, although sometimes I need to leave before one of his tales has ended.  I have found myself saying “come on, get to the point, get to the end…”  I saw him at the Rebecca Cohn a few months back where he read one of his listener stories. After attending the show I thought I must send him a story.  The website claims that every submission is read.  I typed up my story, hit send and got a reply which said “thank you for your submission, we’ve received 1000’s of stories from listeners and as promised we will read all of them.  So, in the meantime don’t call us, we’ll call you if your story is selected”.  I thought it was a lost cause at that point.  Well 3 weeks later I got a response.  They loved my story and want to read it on air.  In the case that you don’t listen to Stuart here is what I sent him.

Growing up my very best friend was (and still is) my 1st cousin once removed (a term my grand aunt Rita confirmed is a genealogy truth), Sarah.  Our mothers are first cousins. Although we grew up with common genes and community our lives were very different and this is mainly due to the contrast between our mothers. You could describe Sarah’s mother Aileen as unique, random, rare and certainly unpredictable. Aileen provided me with story material, laughter and many unique experiences. I have so many stories about this woman; a memory that sticks out occurred one afternoon when Aileen picked us up from my part-time job at the mall. Prior to picking us up that day Aileen hit Sobey’s for groceries and so there were bags all over the car. On this particular day we hopped in amongst the groceries and made our way out of the parking lot. The first part of Church Street was an upwards climb followed by a peak and then the downhill part.  At the bottom of the hill there was a 3 way stop. We were clipping along when Aileen put her foot on the brake in order to stop at the intersection.  Suddenly Aileen exclaimed “the car doesn’t seem to be stopping.  My God the brakes aren’t working!” Normally this intersection is quite busy but for some unknown reason the coast was clear that day and so we pulled a Fred Flintstone (Aileen turned the car to make a left without slowing down and I believe we went up on two wheels).  Few have ever seen a Cutlass Sierra being driven by a middle aged woman ever make such moves!  We were now on St. Ninian’s Street which was long and flat, however, it ended at a busy intersection which required us to stop.  We continued burning along past the cathedral where Aileen, a devote Catholic, blessed herself and said a Hail Mary.  It was apparent that the car was not going to stop so we blew right through the stop sign causing cars coming from opposite directions to slam on their brakes.  At this time Sarah said “Mom, Mom, put the car in park”!  “Aileen followed the advice and slammed the gear shift into park.  The car made sounds similar to that of a cow dying before coming to an abrupt stop. Aileen got out of the drivers seat and took a look at the pedals of the car. To our complete and utter disbelief wedged under the brake pedal was a boiled ham. Upon making this discovery Aileen exclaimed “My god, can you believe that we nearly died at the hands of a ham?”  It seems that the ham rolled out of a grocery bag under the drivers
seat and wedged itself under the brake pedal.  Can you imagine all the pieces that had to fall together to get that ham under the pedal?  Every time I eat ham it reminds me of that day and how my life nearly ended “at the hands” of one.

An Italian in the making…

15 Jan

I’ve been taking Italian cooking lessons for about 1.5 years at the Italian Culture Centre in Halifax.  Although I do not have Italian heritage I’ve been asked by many creepy men if I am Italian; I guess my dark eyes and hair lead them to believe that I came from “The Boot”.   Although my blood isn’t so my taste buds are certainly Italian by nature.  My class is composed of a strange mix of people: Pierre, the insanely pervy retired navy guy who now rescues cats. Jerry who attends with his wife Sandy – Jerry follows along with Pierre’s pervy comments until his wife gives him a snake eye.  He is like one of Pierre’s cats just dying to get out of the cage. Janet and Trevor: she has the most nasally voice I have ever heard, but I can’t say anything about them because they are quite fabulous.  Dumb blond and husband (I can’t recall their names), this woman asks some of the most idiotic questions you have ever heard and it makes me wonder how in the hell she got through life and how she scooped such a nice husband. “Franco, where do bread crumbs come from?”  This year my boyfriend Maurice comes with me, so Pierre edits his “pussy” comments for when he his talking about the feline sort.  Oh and John, he is awesome. Anyhow….

We’ve made some absolutely outstanding food!  Prior to this I shied away from lamb (the imagery of a little lamb steered me away from buying it), veal and other meats.  Franco and Bruno jump from English to Italian, he spills everything and she cleans it up and they guesstimate most of the ingredients as they toss them into the bowl.  As Franco cooks he sporadically tastes his dishes, once the goods are in his mouth he pauses and if it is good his eyebrows go up, if it needs something salt/pepper or garlic are usually added.  One of last nights dishes knocked my socks off!  Lemon Pasta.  I actually asked for seconds which I have not before – we do at least 3 courses so I usually preserve stomach space for the next.  For more of this dish I was willing to feel like I would vomit from being so full.

Here is something similar as they don’t give us the recipes until the week after we cook them (not sure on the strategy there)

There is a fair amount of cream in this recipe so it isn’t one you will be making all the time. Well, you will be tempted to make it all the time but that will result in the purchase of bigger pants and a double chin.