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Posts by schwing_wifey

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  • Daily Prayer requests for Pfc. Bowe R. Bergdahl, 23, of Ketchum, Idaho

    07/20/2009 7:37:26 AM PDT · 13 of 13
    schwing_wifey to captbarney

    They may be unsure yet what the “Twinkie” in the White House will do. If Bowe looked seriously abused, I think the American people would go after Twinkie’s blood to take action. I know I will.

    Either way, I wouldn’t wish anyone into the Taliban’s hands, let alone a home-school kid from a tiny town in the middle of nowhere.

    Praying for him and the family and keeping my fingers crossed.

  • An Open Letter to Jim Robinson

    07/20/2009 7:25:46 AM PDT · 386 of 393
    schwing_wifey to mrmeangenes

    I hope you don’t get removed. The number of clever and amusing responses to your silliness has entertained me all morning.

    BTW, if you don’t like things here, I understand Malmo Sweden is a great place to live. Try it, you’ll like it there.


  • 4 Reasons Why McCain Might Win

    11/04/2008 8:19:27 AM PST · 3 of 19
    schwing_wifey to RobinMasters

    Reason Number 5 : If Obama wins, Hillary fans won’t see the White House for a long time, maybe never.... but if McCain wins, Hillary will be on the ballot in 2012, no doubt.

    So, how mad do you think Hillary fans are???

  • Barack Obama's Top Ten Campaign Gaffes

    09/19/2008 5:22:25 AM PDT · 8 of 19
    schwing_wifey to Kaslin

    Obama is SOOOO history.

    The race is over folks for 2008.

    And my prediction is.... wait for it....

    Palin VS Clinton in 2012 (for sure 2016)

  • Remember 9-11; Heart for Africa; American Family Safari 2006 Revisited

    09/05/2008 12:13:49 PM PDT · 1 of 1

    American Family Vacation African Safari Spring 2006 Kenya and Zanzibar

    Seriously abridged version - April 6th, 2006

    In my opinion, an African Safari has something for everybody. True, Mowgoli and I are big Animal Planet and Discovery Channel fans, but Dr. Livingston also enjoyed getting out and seeing everything from the animals to the beautiful sunsets. One of our safari books took the idea of making multiple visits to Africa, first to see the big game, then on following visits to pay more attention to the smaller animals, the birds, the plants, and the people. I disagree so I think I captured a lifetime of memories in eleven short days.

    To begin, I need to acknowledge the people who made this possible, besides Dr. Livingston of course. After looking on the Internet for safari information ( is a good source) , I started looking locally for an agent in Stockholm who could advise and plan a trip for us. I ran across Sujit Shah at the African Safari Company After several emails fleshing out what we were looking for, we went to his office for more detailed planning. Once we thought we had what we wanted, Dr. Livingston asked Sujit what he would do if he was taking the trip. Sujit suggested we limit our safari to six days and three of the major parks, then fly over to Zanzibar for a few days of relaxing on the beach. Since we hadn't been on a warm, sunny beach in ages, we went for it. Thank You Sujit! In addition, our Kenyan driver-guide Francis Njoroge was key to our enjoyment of the safari. He was fabulous as you'll read. The staff in Nairobi at Tour Africa Safaris (TAS) arranged everything on that side and our experience at Breezes Resort in Zanzibar left us wishing we were staying there a few more days.

    I'd advise anyone going on a safari to get a good digital camera with a big card, telephoto lens, and carry extra batteries. We went through 4 AA batteries about every two days and they are not cheap in Africa.

    Friends in Atlanta gave Mowgoli Bushnell binoculars at Christmas for the safari. They were absolutely wonderful. Our driver-guide Francis had a pair also. I highly recommend the brand. I also recommend that you take a pair of binoculars for every member of your party.

    What was really nice in Nairobi is that the TAS representative Patrick and our driver-guide Francis were waiting for us. Once we collected our baggage, they were waiting at the exit with a sign to collect us and take us to the Panafric Hotel. Dr. Livingston wanted to get money from the ATM so Patrick escorted him to it. Be aware, the Kenyan shilling is quite stable and people preferred it over American dollars. In Zanzibar it was the opposite, the dollar was more valued by the locals. A fun souvenir is the balance on your account (if you used a debit card) in Kenyan shillings or better yet, Tanzanian shillings.

    Part of this safari experience which was so great is that the three of us were in a Nissan minibus that had four bucket seats and a back bench seat for three. That's not counting the driver and passenger seat in the front. When the roof was popped up all three of us could stand and move around comfortably to look at the animals and take pictures. Another bonus was having the flexibility with Francis to stop and go as we pleased without having to consider another party. Having a private driver-guide is the way to go.

    The drive to Amboseli, which is south of Nairobi took most of the morning. Once we got out of the city, the roads turned pretty bad. This was a taste of what the next days of safari-ing would be like. Francis drove like a pro, avoiding the worst of the potholes and bumps, but this was off-roading. Often times we drove with one side of the vehicle on the road and the other in the ditch – it was smoother, other times we were driving entirely in the ditch because the track was better there.

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    OK, now Amboseli Lodge and Park. Wow, where to begin. As we're driving into the park, we saw mirages of lakes in the distance. It was so bizarre and no matter how hard we looked, the closer we got, the more the images shifted and confused our eyes. It was wild.

    We got to the lodge in time for lunch. Francis said we'd meet at 4 p.m. for our first game drive so we had time to rest and relax. That was our plan before we were offered the chance to take a leisurely walk outside the lodge grounds with a Masai escort. The lodge is in the park and surrounded by a man-made lava rock wall that's about 3 feet high. This is to keep the elephants from coming right up to the lodge. The breaks in the wall are zigzagged paths so people and smaller animals can walk in and out easily. Baboons were often sitting on the wall and the zebras and wildebeest would come up to it every evening. It was simply awesome to sit on the patio with a cold beverage and watch the animals not 100 feet away from you. And not to mention, a troop of Vervet monkeys had the whole lodge staked out as their home. These are very cute, fuzzy, gray monkeys with black faces and hands. The lodge had local Masai in and around the lodge to keep them from becoming a nuisance. I must tell you about one such episode.

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    I was sitting on the patio with a drink and for the umpteenth time since we got there, one of the Vervets with its baby, came out of a tree and sat on the patio wall, not 4 feet away, watching me. They allowed us some great photos. Anyway, I had been marveling how they didn't try to beg or steal food, when an older lady and her adult daughter stopped behind me to "ohh" and "ahh" at the mother and baby. The daughter had something in her hand that when she tightened her grip, it made a crackling noise. The monkey with its baby flew off the wall straight at her and jumped up to try grab whatever she had in her hand. I'm not sure which of us was more surprised. That's when it came to me that the monkeys were not interested in beverages, they would come down to watch you drink, probably hoping you'd eventually have food.

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    Anyway, back to our walk outside the lodge grounds. We had a Masai guide, a guide in training, and a security person from the lodge for the three of us. And as soon as our guides realized we were interested in absolutely everything, they took pains to point out tracks, plants, birds, bugs, you name it – even poo. Yes, that's a picture of me holding a big cake of elephant poo. For those of you that have ever been around a barnyard, elephant poo is like old hay. Its not digested really well so trust me, its no big deal to pick up a big dry cake of it. Of course, if it had been fresh, I would have passed.

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    We came across some members of the Kenyan Wildlife Service on patrol. There were Masai in the park, grazing their cattle and washing their clothes and if I understood correctly, they were allowed to be in one area but not across the stream in another area were there were herds of wild animals. Off in the distance we could see all kinds of animals including hippos and a big black mass which had to be a lone African bull elephant.

    Along the stream, we walked across heavy vegetation mats that had water under them. Mowgoli was jumping up and down on one just like it was a water bed. It was a strange sensation to walk on. The highlight of the walk was a giant eagle owl (Verreaux's) sitting in an acacia. We walked right up underneath him and he was huge – over two feet tall.

    The walk ended at the edge of the lava rock field that resulted from the last time Kilimanjaro exploded. This field looks red with different size lava rocks (some as big as a washing machine) strewed all over. When you look and see how far away from the volcano you are, it just makes it seem all the more incredibly awesome. We did get one picture of Kilimanjaro sticking up through the clouds but before we left Africa we did get one helluva view of it, but more about that later.

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    Blast line from Kilimanjaro - see where the rocks stopped falling.

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    A safari truck was waiting to drive us the 2 or 3 kilometers back to the lodge. We wandered about 2 hours and somehow my smear of sunscreen missed a shoulder area so I have a long lasting reminder of that walk.
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    Now we met up with Francis for our first game drive of the trip. Actually, you see all kinds of animals and birds just driving from park to park if you look. Anyway, we get out into the park and the first thing that strikes you is the openness and the flatness and the grass is very short and animals are spread out as far as you can see. And its covered with animal poo. Yes, the outstanding thing was the short grass and copious amounts of animal fertilizer. And another thing that children and young teens seem to enjoy is when you have that many animals, you always have some animal exercising a natural body function. And the baboons along the side of the road going into the lodge are more than willing to give demonstrations of reproductive behavior. See, safaris offer all kinds of educational opportunities.

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    In Amboseli, we got to see three of the big five. (The big five is the five animals that big game hunters to Africa used to go after – elephant, water buffalo, lion, rhino, and leopard). Another interesting thing about the landscape is the lakes. The lakes don't look like lakes as we're used to. They are full of vegetation so they look like swampy areas until you see elephants and hippos wading in them up to their shoulders or more. At one point in the drive, we went over a culvert that separated two dry areas. A group of zebras were split up and we were parked on the culvert separating them. Because they'd have to pass within 10-15 feet of the minibus, they were very skittish. It was funny to watch, yes they will, then no they won't, and one was making one heck of a racket because he wanted to be with the other group but wouldn't venture off the dry area into the lake and go around. Eventually we saw that they weren't going to come any closer so we moved on. Here is also where we came across long lines of water buffalo crossing the plains. Big doesn't begin to describe them. They're definitely one animal I do not trust to be intelligent enough not to take offense to us.

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    One of the most interesting encounters was with elephants. The elephants around Amboseli change the landscape like tornados. When you see trees stripped and uprooted, its due to elephants. Closer to the lodge area, they dug ditches and put roller bar bridges to keep the elephants away from the trees around the lodges. Francis explained that the roller bars make it hard for the elephants to walk across, so they learn not to. One night coming in from a game drive, we saw that some elephants have worked this problem out. First, it was a large female trailing a very young calf – so young that it still had the "what is this on my face and what do I use it for" attitude about its trunk. Next, she had three minibuses including ours following her because she was in the middle of the road leading to the lodge – and from her ear flapping, she was not happy with that. Lastly, she gets to the roller bars, and neatly and precisely leads her baby across the narrow center portion maybe a foot wide that doesn't roll. Once on the other side, she goes off the road with her calf in tow and proceeds to strip the remaining acacia trees. We just laughed.

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    I must tell you about the first hyena we saw in Africa. While in Amboseli, on one of the afternoon game drives, it started to rain so we headed back to the lodge. It was getting late anyway and you can't wander the parks after 7pm. There, laying not too far from the road, in the driving rain, was a large spotted hyena. It was big and powerful and absolutely miserable getting drenched. It made me smile because you could almost picture the animal saying "Well this sure sucks!".

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    Before I forget, we all got a kick out of the guinea fowl wherever we went. We took to calling them "chicken birds" because they're all over the place and have that kind of a shape. The noises they make are a riot, especially if a young lion is trying to catch one, but that's later.

    We also got to visit a Masai village thanks to Francis. It was a truly unique experience for us. We were greeted with a welcoming song and prayer. And dancing, lots of dancing and so close they were almost in our personal space. The son of the local chief gave us a tour of the interior of the village and his home. He explained the social structure of the village and the roles of the members (Everybody is related). A new aspect in Masai life is encouraging the families to stay in one place so the children can take advantage of the new free education system. This means that the men are now nomadic as they search for pasture for the animals while the women stay put. This is very foreign to their way of life. For the Masai, cattle are their money in the bank which means the drought has made serious inroads in their wealth. Francis told us there had even been some rare cases of men committing suicide because all their cattle died in a short time period because of the water shortages.

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    Before we left Amboseli, we went to a volcanic ash vent named Noomotio that you could hike up and get a view of the plains and the Enkongu Narok Swamp below. The Enkongu Narok Swamp is fed by the snows melting on Kilimanjaro. It was a great view but what was really interesting it that with Kilimanjaro at your back, when you looked out, there was yet another round but much smaller ash vent in your view, almost like there was a huge crack running in the ground from Kilimanjaro and here's where excess pressure and materials were released. I loved looking at the landscape around Kilimanjaro, it was my first visit to a volcano.

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    Well we got into Nakuru rather late in the afternoon so Francis immediately took us for a drive in the park and what do we see but a white rhino and calf out on the plain. White Rhinos are black. Someone confused "wide" with "white". It was drizzling a little but we still got some good pictures. It was probably within 100 feet of the minibus, just munching nonchalantly. If I thought water buffalo were big, that's nothing compared to a rhino. And there's something about a rhino in the wild that makes the experience so much more intense than a zoo. If that animal takes offense to the vehicle, it could do some serious damage. The calf was interested in us but the mom just kept browsing away. We moved on and headed to the lodge when more minibuses drove up.

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    The drive into the lodge gave us one of our most memorable animal episodes. There was a group of zebra in front of us and one was madly chasing another around. At first we thought it was two stallions fighting for dominance, then we realized it was a male and female and she was saying "No" in a downright vicious manner. I thought her hind kicks were going to take his head off, but he still wouldn't give up. He was almost able to get her when the female zebra ran under a fallen tree and neatly swiped the male off her back. That finally made him give up. We tried getting photos of the whole episode but it was too dark and drizzly to get anything good. Still, it was a scene we were all chuckling over.

    The bad weather threw us off schedule so instead of immediately leaving for the Masai Mara the following morning, we got up extra early and did a quick game drive of Lake Nakuru. As we were pulling out of the lodge, we spotted two little dik-diks by the gate. Dr. Livingston marveled that these tiny creatures were full grown deer. Then it got exciting. As we were driving slowly down the road, we were scanning the trees for the most difficult animal you'll ever try to see on safari, a leopard. Unfortunately, we never did manage to see one but Dr. Livingston and I were scanning the same side of the road and he's thinking he's seeing the white of a zebra in the woods and I'm wondering if there's a big white rock in the woods when we both tell Francis to stop. Off the road, back in the woods, are two black rhino. Black Rhinos are white. And as we focus our binoculars on them, you can see they know exactly where we are. They can't see really well but they do have acute hearing and smell. Even with the minibus turned off, they seem to be able to hear us talk among ourselves. All you had to do was focus on their ears, which were acting just like antenna, directed right at us. We probably got to watch them for about 10 minutes before they moved off. Unfortunately they were too far away and in pretty heavy cover so pictures weren't worth trying to take. Still, listening to them "huff" in the quiet morning air was incredible.

    We headed for the lake to see the pink flamingos. Lake Nakuru is famous for its birds and especially the pink flamingos. They were unbelievable in number. They stretched across the lake. There were so many that the water along the shoreline was pink. Francis said it was carotene from their feathers. There were some dead ones but when you looked at the sheer numbers of birds that endless pink line in the picture , these were probably just the old or sick ones. The sound they made was like running water. The smell at the lake was similar to a seashore smell. There were also marabou storks and other water birds, like pelicans. Looking at the tree tops around the lake, you could see all kinds of big predatory eagles and hawks. It was easy to spot African Fish Eagles because the adults look just like American Bald Eagles.

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    In the distance, at one point, I spotted my first giraffe. It was the only Rothschild's I would end up seeing and unfortunately it was way back among the trees. Still, it wasn't too big of a disappointment as you'll see later.

    Before we left Nakuru, Francis took us up onto a ridge that overlooked the entire lake. We put together a fabulous panoramic picture from there. What was especially memorable about it was the animals and the site itself. Driving up we're flying by baboons who are not moving regardless of the fact that the wheels of the minibus are just inches away from them. Once we get on the top, we get out of the minibus and walk to the edge of an absolutely breathtaking overlook. There are NO guardrails or barriers of any kind. You are expected to be smart enough not to fall over the edge. I almost forgot that in my excitement of seeing the rock hyrax that live on the ledges below. They're the cute, fuzzy, big hamster-like rodents whose closest relative is the elephant. We got some great pictures and didn't fall off the cliff in the process.

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    By the way, Nakuru is Francis's home town so he knows the area very well. As a matter of fact, his knowledge of the area and connections left us with a choice of how to get over to the Masai Mara. There was the shorter but really rough way or the longer but maybe less rough way. In short, if we took the direct route, we could cut about 150 km (90 miles) off our trip. The road was said to be passable but not much more. It was very rough but we chalked it up to part of the adventure. We were traveling up in the mountains and the temperatures were some of the coolest we experienced in Africa.

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    As we got out of the mountains, we came into the town of Narok. The main street through Narok defies description. I don't even know how to describe it except to say that all the drivers carefully negotiated their way down the street and it didn't matter what side of the street you were on. What mattered was whether or not the place was passable. There were ditches and washouts that made you shake your head and wonder how this was a main street. And the really funny part was the number of people walking around with cell phones to their ears.

    Once through Narok, we headed out towards Siana Springs Lodge and the Masai Mara. For a while, the roads weren't too bad so it was a nice break and we buzzed right along. We were probably still almost an hour out from Siana Springs when I had Francis stop because there was a group of giraffes coming out of the trees and heading for the road and us. It was a big bull Masai giraffe, two adult females, and four youngsters. They were impressive to watch. The bull kept eyeing us up as he looked for a good area to cross the road. Dr. Livingston was laughing because one of the youngsters was lagging behind – just like a teenager. We were the only ones there on the road and were just about to pull forward for some more close-up pictures when whoosh! five minibuses and Range Rovers pulled in right in front of us to see the giraffes. We weren't too upset, after all we'd had them for almost 10 minutes to ourselves. Still, we missed being in the front when the group finally crossed the highway and took off running.

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    We got to Siana Springs about lunch time and just like every other lodge so far, a nice attendant awaited us in the parking area with either hot or cold wet cloths to wash the dust of the trip off. They were there when we returned from safari drives and upon our arrivals at the lodges. It was a really nice touch that was greatly appreciated. And because we all had short hair we could run it over our hair for an added refresh.

    Our tent had a number of skinks (lizards) around it which was a welcome sight – keep eating those bugs boys! At lunch I had a confrontation with a Verket monkey like we saw at Amboseli. Dr. Livingston and I had just finished lunch and were sitting at a front table on the patio while Mowgoli was taking pictures of the impala in the front yard. The monkey ran down out of the tree, straight at me, jumped up on the table as I'm getting up, trying to shoo it, grabbed a roll, and scampered back up the tree. This happened in less time than it took me to tell you about it. I was stunned. My trying to shoo it away had no effect whatsoever. When I told Francis about it later, he said that monkeys can tell females from males and women just aren't threatening enough. Darn little monkey, try that again before I'm done eating and I'll show you who's a threat.

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    That afternoon we had our first game drive out on the Masai Mara. To Mowgoli and I, this was the Africa we were expecting; rolling hills with stands of trees and thickets. We drove on paths through fields and over hilltops. This was the Africa we'd seen so often on the Discovery Channel and Animal Planet. This was much "wilder" that the other two parks. There seemed to be one main gravel road running through it and then all sorts of secondary paths running off it. Again, there weren't that many other tourists but definitely more than we'd see so far. The most minibuses we saw the entire trip were around a pride of nineteen lions. That's how many we counted, there could have been more in the bushes.

    First, there were three black-maned pride males just sleeping. Some of the minibuses were almost on top of them yet they couldn't even be bothered to lift their heads. Then a whole group of females, teenager-types, and babies came out of the bushes to pose and play for everybody. It was so crowded around the pride that I asked Francis to follow a teenager-type who started to stalk a group of guinea fowl a little ways away from the main group. (Our chicken birds.) It was an absolute riot to watch, just like any cat stalking a bird. The only difference is that these birds make a terrible racket and almost seemed to be taunting the little lion. And, to our surprise, they can fly when necessary. Then to our delight, some of the younger cubs started towards us to see what the racket was all about and what their older sibling was up to.

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    Beside the lions, we saw all the usual suspects but now, giraffes abound everywhere. We had Masai giraffes all over the place. Big, small, singles, groups, you name it. I think I could sit and watch giraffes all day. When you really look at them, you have to wonder how they can even exist. Those legs, that neck, the body, this is one huge animal. And the way they move is just majestic.

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    Since Francis now knew that every aspect of Africa was of interest to us, on the way back to the lodge he spotted a snake in the road so we all stopped to get out and see it. (This was outside the park.) It was maybe two feet long and the head looked like the tail, smooth and round. Mowgoli kept insisting it was a big worm. I was sure it was a snake because I thought I remembered seeing something like it on TV. I looked carefully at the head to be sure and saw its little tongue periodically sticking out. I didn't remember what it was but we got a picture and I knew I could find something on the internet. I did and the closest thing I can relate it to is Peter's Thread Snake.

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    That first night at Siana Springs, was our most memorable evening of the entire safari. That's when the phrase "That's why it's called the jungle" came to mind. Dr. Livingston swore we were in Jurassic Park because there MUST be a brontosaurus out there. He had to break out the ear plugs. As best we can determine, when the lodge shuts down its generators somewhere around 3 am, the locals come to life. I'm laying in bed softly chuckling because I know in the morning I will be trying to write descriptions of the sounds around us and its hard thinking of descriptions that everyone can relate to. To begin, there was a 50 lb. bullfrog out there. With it was a dog barking, someone hitting two blocks of wood together, cats fighting, someone stepping on a puppy, a truck backing up (except the beeps were higher pitched and sharper), cats yowling at the moon, and monkeys chattering in the trees. Come to find out the following day from a supervisor, many of those bizarre and crazy sounds we heard came from tree hyrax that infest the area. They look just like the cute rock hyrax we saw but obviously live in trees. It's hard to believe the incredible plethora of sounds we heard that night. The following night we had rain and that seemed to put a damper on the volume from the previous night so earplugs weren't necessary.

    The next day we opted for the full day in the Masai Mara instead of a morning and afternoon game drive. This was great because we went all the way out to the Mara Triangle but wait, I'm getting ahead of myself.

    We were driving down one hill in the Masai Mara when I caught a glimpse of something to our left on the hilltop. Before I said anything, I happened to check the sky and saw vultures circling so asked Francis to stop and go back. On the hilltop we found a fresh killed wildebeest covered with white-backed vultures and one magnificent Nubian vulture. A Nubian vulture puts the others to shame. Its bigger and more impressive, and infinitely more suspicious that the white-backs. We parked right next to the kill and it was not too happy with us. The white-backs ignored us but the Nubian was skittish of every sound and movement we made. We were absolutely thrilled when another flew in to the kill. Dr. Livingston got a great picture of it landing with its wings fully spread. Big, that's all I can say, big.

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    Next we were following a trail around one of these bramble patches when we stumbled on a pack of black-backed jackals. I never expected to see them, I was actually hoping for wild dogs but Francis said they had been removed from the Mara years ago. Still, Francis said that if we had jackals, there must be lions close by. Once again I scanned the sky and spotted some vultures so we headed that way. We crest another hill and come across half a dozen mini vans surrounding a mating pair of lions.

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    This was both funny and awesome to watch. First you had a dead wildebeest with a lioness gnawing on it. Standing over her, surveying the rest of us, had to be one of the most perfect male lions I've ever seen live or on TV. He was huge and sleek and drop-dead gorgeous. Pictures don't do him justice. And this was my first time on the safari where I made eye contact with a lion. I'll never forget the feeling but at the same time, I can't tell you exactly what the feeling is. Supernatural, creepy, awestruck all come to mind but just don't quite convey the feeling.

    Anyway, so we're watching the pair and you could write a script and it would go something like this :

    He : (Comes up to her and nudges with his paw.)
    She : Growls …Leave me alone! Can't you see I'm eating here?
    He : Please, Please, Please, Plleeezzzzeee….
    She : All right already! (Gets up and runs a few steps and waits.)
    He : (Comes over and mounts her and makes low throated growling noises and she's a real screamer… it lasts all of 15 seconds, then he gets off her.)
    She : (Rolls over and growls back at him) Is THAT it?
    He : (Ignores her, looks around at all of us and the hovering vultures.)
    She : (Gets up and walks back to the carcass and starts eating again.)
    …. About 10 minutes later…. Starts over…….

    After the third time, we switched our attention to another male lion walking towards us and this pair. He was not nearly in as good a shape as the dominant male. He had some very obvious scars, one of his canines on his bottom jaw was broken, and overall looked like he had lost a few battles. He strolled by the pair, they in turn ignored him, and he disappeared into the bushes. Once again, I had eye contact with a lion as he walked within six feet of our minibus. I couldn't help feel like lunch, when he looked at me.

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    One more funny lion episode and then we were "lioned" out. Francis heard on the radio about a group of lions and we scooted over to the area where they had been spotted. I happened to catch sight of a big female heading into an acacia bush and pointed it out to Francis. He must have been familiar with it because he zoomed down this track and pulled up right next to this acacia tree-bush that had a cave-like area around the base. We beat all the other minibuses and were pulled up right at its entrance. Two other buses were on our other side trying to see in. There were four females and at least five cubs lying under this cave-like bush. We were parked so close to the entrance that Mowgoli and I slid our windows partially closed because of the proximity to the lions.

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    Now the funny part came when we were pulling out to let the other vehicles see the lions. Francis happened to brush the acacia bush with the side of the van, and you could see through the brambles the cubs scattering. Once we got clear of the bush (about 10-12 feet away) we see a hugely muscled, picture-perfect lioness come out and look around as if to say "Do we have a problem out here?" After seeing the cubs get spooked so easily and then seeing her standing there surveying everything, you realize rattling a full grown lioness with cubs is not wise.

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    This was our last day and Francis took us out to the Mara Triangle. This is where Dr. Livingston stood in Tanzania (without a visa), I stood in Kenya, and Mowgoli stood with one leg planted in both countries. We met up with a few other minibuses at this point and I joined the ladies taking a trip into the bushes. I should have asked Francis because not 5 minutes later we stopped at another park gate that had bathroom facilities. On the other hand, how many people can say they peed under an acacia in Africa?

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    After lunch we backtracked to an area by the Mara River where there are hippos. This is also a place where the wildebeest come through on their annual migration. I was really excited over the prospect of seeing a Nile crocodile. There were rangers present and they took groups of visitors down by the hippos and along a hippo trail to see the crocodiles. As I said earlier, there were hippos all over – big, small, really big, sleeping, swimming, etc. To get to the crocs, we had to go down along the river a few hundred yards. Unfortunately, the storm we had seen in the distance, caught up with us so it started to rain. Dr. Livingston just looked at me but I was bound and determined to see the crocodiles. Our totally sweet, gentlemanly park ranger took off his jacket and offered it to me (I'm wearing a short sleeve cotton shirt). He looked at me in amazement when I politely turned down his offer. I told him I was from Sweden and this was refreshing. The truth was, if felt soooo good on my sunburned shoulder I didn't care if I got drenched. We did. I got to see one Nile crocodile in the water.

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    Francis was so apologetic about me getting wet that I started teasing him about not controlling the weather sufficiently so I could see the crocodiles. He promised not to forget next time.

    As far as we could tell, the African Safari Company and TAS gave us great value for our money. I must admit, I was curious about what a luxury safari would offer. I will say that I did notice at least two new looking SUVs in the Masai Mara that caught my attention. One was ferrying around a couple and besides having a driver, they had someone sitting up on the back of the vehicle roof. I'm guessing a spotter? Talk about no fun! Dr. Livingston, Mowgoli, and I had a spotting competition going on. Mowgoli spotted lions right and left on our last day too. The other SUV was driving around with its windows closed. AC and no dust? Hey, to each his own but I equated safari-ing with camping and totally expected to get dusty, dirty, and sweaty. It was fun!

    While in Siana Springs, in the lodge shop, I got one of my most memorable souvenirs – a kazuri bead necklace. I never saw them anyplace else before or after Siana. I wish I had bought two but at least they have a web site Check it out, you'll see why I like them so much. They are a fantastic souvenir and have a fabulous story behind them.

    On the way back to Nairobi, we came across a roadblock of three local minibus taxis stuck in the mud. The main road was closed for construction and the detour had three vans loaded with people stuck up to their axles in mud. A 4-WD safari truck helped pull them out and meanwhile the main road had to be opened for us because of all the vehicles piling up.

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    Once we made it back to Nairobi, we were taken to the Moon Flower Restaurant for lunch where we met up again with Patrick and had the best meal of the entire trip. Dr. Livingston and I had ostrich steaks and they were superbly done and mouth wateringly tender. We stuffed ourselves at lunch which was sad because that evening we went to dinner at the famous Carnivore Restaurant in Nairobi. They had a lot of different meats and the more unusual ones they served that evening were camel and crocodile.

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    The following morning, Francis and Patrick then escorted us to the Nairobi airport for our flight to Zanzibar. They got us there in plenty of time so nothing felt rushed, actually we were there more than early enough. And thankfully Sujit in Stockholm had warned us about the luggage weight limits and in total we were 5 kilo under the limit.

    Now the really interesting part. When the flight was ready to load, a Precision Air agent came forward to say they couldn't take the luggage and they needed 8 people to wait for the next flight. (The pilots wouldn't take us all, in the heat, in this turbo prop, for safety reasons - too much weight.) Unlike flights in the States, they didn't offer any incentive for people to wait for the next flight. Finally a group of four volunteered and then a European family of five, that had been traveling about 17 hours. What I found unbelievable later is that they told the people volunteering to stay behind that there would be a 1 pm flight. That was an outright lie because the next flight came over at 6 pm that evening.

    But, let's talk about boarding the plane and the trip to Breezes. After they allowed us to board the plane, we thought we'd be in great shape – first on first off to get in line for the Tanzanian visas. Unfortunately, they loaded the plane from the back and herded everyone towards the front to fill in the seats – darn! Still, we just rolled with it. First on, last off so we were some of the last to get our visa stamps, file for our missing luggage, and find our driver. Real killer - we SAW our luggage get unloaded from the plane but they kept insisting "There was NO luggage on that plane". I had an envelope set aside with $150 US for the three of us for the visas. It made it easier. The drive to Breezes took about an hour but the roads were much better than Kenya so it was easy. Along the way, the driver pointed out Colobus monkeys.

    At Breezes, we were served cool drinks then shown to our room. It was great. It had a nice bed for Mowgoli and a king-size bed for Dr. Livingston and I. The room was large and spacious with a patio facing the beach and ocean. Except for the fact we couldn't change into beach clothing, it was wonderful to sit on the patio and drink the beers from the mini bar. It would have been easy to get upset over the lack of luggage and therefore the inconvenience of not going onto the beach, but we just relaxed and read or played Crazy 8s. Basic Travel Rule - ALWAYS have a change of clothes in a carryon - regardless of the length of the trip.

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    After dinner, the luggage arrived and we turned in. The next morning we awoke to rain. Again, you can rant and rave about loosing a beach day or just make the most of it. To tell you the truth, it was wonderful to just lie in bed and listen to the rain, knowing you didn't have to get up to go anywhere. The whole past week we had been getting up at 0Dark:30. (Oh Dark Thirty) You can't imagine how good it felt, not needing to get up except for breakfast. Again, we spent the day relaxing on our patio, reading, me scribbling furiously in my journal, and playing Crazy 8s with Mowgoli. The downtime was enjoyable, this was such a good idea from Sujit. Later in the afternoon it cleared up a little so we went down on the beach to sit. One of the activity directors came around and rounded up Dr. Livingston and Mowgoli to go play beach volleyball.

    Now the next day was beautiful and we made the absolute most of it. First we got chairs down on the beach and slathered up with SPF 30 (we're too light to risk any exposure). Dr. Livingston and Mowgoli got masks and flippers to go snorkeling. I started soaking up radiation in between scribbling more in my journal.

    Dr. Livingston and Mowgoli came in from snorkeling and had some stories to tell. A fairly aggressive fish chased them away from its nest. Dr. Livingston made sure to memorize its markings so he could draw a picture of it for me to identify. Dr. Livingston also told me that they ended up swimming through a mass of tiny jellyfish and each got stung. He said he tried to keep it cool so Mowgoli didn't freak out.

    After a rest and some drinks, Mowgoli and I went for a walk along the beach. It's a really beautiful beach and has a lot of cool shells because you're encouraged to only take pictures home. Consequently we examined all kinds of shells – empty and occupied. Dr. Livingston took some great shots of some of the more unusual occupants we came across.

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    While down on the beach, I decided to get Mowgoli to do a beach-cleanup with me. Do our part for the environment. We emptied this huge sack of sand that was partly in the water and used it to collected plastic bags, a soggy backpack, and numerous articles of clothing that were buried in the sand. Now don't get me wrong, there wasn't a lot of things but there certainly were some interesting things. Mowgoli pulls up a pair of swimming trunks and wonders how you could lose them. It was funny but the night gowns were hard to explain. Part of Breezes has a more private honeymoon area with private bungalows and private beach cabanas. A few ladies were in them wearing the butt-floss bottoms. No wonder the local guys were almost having accidents riding their bikes by and rubbernecking – it's a Muslim island.

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    Once the tide went out, Mowgoli and I took a walk out into the corals. The water was anywhere from ankle to knee deep and if you're not into snorkeling, this is great. I wish I had taken the camera out with us. Some of the more interesting things we came across was a big sponge that looked like a warped record and had five baby clown fish swimming on it. Guess they hadn't learned about anemones yet. We stumbled on these two foot long, brown tube-like things with short feathery tentacles on one end – sea squirts? There were ALL kinds of baby tropical fish of all colors and sizes out there. I could have stood by one of these coral structures and watched for hours but Mowgoli kept urging me on. He wanted to follow the tide out. As we were weaving our way through the corals and the sea urchins, occasionally I thought a fish was darting out and nipping me to warn me away from its nest. Then, I was dragging my hand in the water when I got stung on my palm. I couldn't see what did it but I remembered Livingston's warning about the jellyfish. It was more itchy and annoying than painful. We saw huge starfish that looked like fat pentagons.

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    Once we got back in, we got Dr. Livingston, and headed to the pool. I found the pool only slightly cooler than the ocean. Still, we played catch and Mowgoli was loving it. All the "family" time that day made him say it was his best day ever.

    Finally its time to leave Zanzibar and board for the long trip home. Looking at the plane, we knew exactly what to do. We hung back as most people raced to get on. Consequently we were in the back third of the plane, behind the wings (which worked out very well). By a fluke, Mowgoli ended up changing seats and sitting in front of us so an elderly couple could sit together. Precision Air redeemed itself in my eyes on the flight back to Nairobi. Their altitude and flight path took them just south and slightly above Kilimanjaro. It was on our side of the plane and I will never forget the view. If there had been hikers on the summit we would have been able to see them. You could see the glacier that has been melting and causing concern. You could see the sunken caldera on the top of the volcano – it was incredibly awesome. You felt like you could reach out and touch it.

    What was funny is that before the volcano came into view, the pilot announced it would be coming up shortly on the left. Some people got up to stand in the aisle to see and one lady was hanging over Mowgoli and pointing to a distance mountain calling it Kilimanjaro. Mowgoli in turn tried to tell me it was Kilimanjaro so finally I said, and she couldn't help but hear, that's NOT Kilimanjaro. She asked me how I knew. I just showed her the cover of the breakfast box we had been served 15 minutes earlier. Her Kilimanjaro was a mountain with peaks and no snow, not a volcano with a glacier on top. She really got excited when she saw the real thing. And besides, I also had seen it from the ground a week earlier and if all that snow had melted that fast, what more need I say?

    Once we landed, it was perfect. We were among the first off the plane, into the airport, and at the front of the transfer desk to get tickets for the flight to Amsterdam and Stockholm. We had plenty of time to spare because we were at the front of the line, it got long quickly. It was nice that we came in gate 4 and went back out gate 5.

    This is the necessary farewell African Sunset picture. BTW, that sun dropped in moments because we were at the equator where it goes straight down (instead of at an angle like further north). We were lucky to get the shots that we did.

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    Unfortunately this story wouldn't be complete if I didn't tell about Mowgoli getting airsick for the first time. He ate and drank too much sugar during the flight and we never caught it. He almost made it with his head on my lap holding a cold wet cloth on his head but as we were taxi-ing to the gate in Amsterdam, he lost it and filled up an airsick bag. That wiped him out for the rest of the trip home, as you can see.

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    One final note, during the final leg to Arlanda, I felt my ankles starting to itch. I thought that maybe my wool socks had picked up some unwanted hitchhikers. Once we got home, I jumped in the shower before bed and they really started itching. I smeared Cortaid on some red spots I had and went to bed. The next day during my shower it happened again and I mentioned it to Dr. Livingston. He reminded me of the jellyfish. Now it all makes sense. No big deal, just itchy and annoying.

    It is my sincere hope and wish to one day revisit Africa. From Sweden was great because even though the main leg was over 10 hours, there was only a two hour time zone difference. To go from the States (East Coast) to Nairobi is about a 17-18 hour flight through 8 time zones. It would have to be a two week visit. If we ever do, look for the next tale!

  • Iran Incident an Excuse for War-Welfare State (Tinfoil Paul Promotion)

    01/14/2008 5:39:39 PM PST · 38 of 41
    schwing_wifey to gondramB

    Bwwhhaaaaaaa! ROTFLMAO.... The vultures are the crowning touch!

  • Using ‘taunting’ as an excuse for tiger’s attack is pathetic

    01/05/2008 9:29:29 AM PST · 28 of 79
    schwing_wifey to Mr. Brightside

    Darwinism rules....

    As I warn my son over and over... do dumb #$%@ and you can die....

    Too bad the tiger didn’t get the other two....

    Funny how the tiger (and other tigers) were fine in that enclosure for years and years and then suddenly, mysteriously got out and attacked those three Fine? Upstanding? young men, isn’t it? Why not go for some younger, tasty kiddies?

    How many visitors do you think have viewed that tiger and others over the past years at the San Fran Zoo? Seems to me, it could have picked easier targets.

    Hmmmm very strange.....but I’m sure the police will solve this mystery.

  • Swedes spurn bling but value education (Americans spurn education but value bling?)

    12/18/2007 11:13:07 AM PST · 45 of 57
    schwing_wifey to RogerFGay

    Lived in Sweden two years... been home for one now... beautiful country... full of slackers... when I have my notes complete, I’ll ping you with the story. Totally enjoyed the experience and travel but nothing compares to the U.S.

    Also, glad my great grandparents hopped the boat from there to the U.S. in the mid/late 1800s.

  • Caption Hillary

    12/02/2007 7:18:54 PM PST · 15 of 47
    schwing_wifey to april15Bendovr

    “Now let me tell you about my friend Muhammad...who’s NOT a teddy bear...”

  • Muslims: Teddy Bear Protesters Don't Represent Us

    12/02/2007 7:14:21 PM PST · 18 of 20
    schwing_wifey to Lorianne

    So they got their panties in a twist over a bear....

    well, we now have new definitions for Mohammad in my household like....

    “What the Mohammad?” and.....
    “I don’t give a Mohammad” and....
    “Hey, we need another roll of Mohammad in the bathroom”... and my personal favorite...

    “Kiss my Mohammad”.....

  • No Backup If Atlanta's Faucets Run Dry

    10/19/2007 2:18:59 PM PDT · 10 of 43
    schwing_wifey to trumandogz

    Honestly, I think they thought they were taking care of the problem by daming the Chattahoochee and creating Lake Lanier. Unfortunately Lanier is dropping faster than the stock market did today. And thats probably due to the fact that they’re still building here faster than the speed of light. The development north of Atlanta has been mind boggling over the past 10 years.

    I’m buying bottled water under the possible mistaken belief that its coming from someplace else. And my plants now take showers with us.

  • Man battled moose with slipper - and won---Drunken moose terrorizes family [Norway]

    10/10/2007 6:20:59 PM PDT · 22 of 23
    schwing_wifey to alwaysconservative

    You were right....I’ll always be interested in stuff from that part of the world.... rotf...


  • Wife divorced for watching male TV host [Saudi Arabia]

    09/29/2007 12:15:26 PM PDT · 24 of 34
    schwing_wifey to Lazarus Longer; MarineDad

    Hmmmm... forgot that getting a divorce is the easy way out...she could have gotten stoned or beheaded or some other delightful reprimand....

  • Wife divorced for watching male TV host [Saudi Arabia]

    09/29/2007 11:13:55 AM PDT · 15 of 34
    schwing_wifey to camerakid400


    Actually he wanted her gone cause she kept nagging him about his pet sheep and camels...if you get my drift....

  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Reaction Thread - SPOILERS!!!!

    07/27/2007 5:09:47 AM PDT · 1,450 of 1,567
    schwing_wifey to EmilyGeiger

    OMG! How did I miss that? Definitely going to reread OOTP and HBP after I re-read DH... (that should keep me tied up for a week or so)


  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Reaction Thread - SPOILERS!!!!

    07/27/2007 5:07:38 AM PDT · 1,449 of 1,567
    schwing_wifey to caseinpoint; GraceCoolidge

    It DOES make a nice escape from the real world. If I could only write ONE novel with the popularity that JKR enjoyed (sigh).

    Your insight about the family theme is “spot on” IMO. You have functional and disfunctional families throughout the whole series... I wonder if thats unconsciously why so many kids like HP, with a divorce rate around 50% in real life, its almost like having your parents die and being on your own like Harry. (Voice of experience here).

    And who knows, maybe Malfoy IS married to a mudblood... after all, the pure bloods could only intermarry so far and alot were already cousins as it is.

    The nicest thing about these books and the internet is it gives people yet another way of talking to others and discussing ideas... be they good, bad, or ugly... The thing I would emphasize the most with you is to form your own opinion and keep an open mind.

    And remember ITS JUST A STORY!

    Some folks forget that.

    Forget reading critics reviews of the books and movies IMO. I’ve started to think that critics take the opposite approach from the masses just to get noticed. I laugh with my husband all the time that if the critics hate a movie, we’re sure to like it and if they like a movie, we’ll find it a “yawn-fest”.

    With the Potter books you have :
    a) Adult fans
    b) Adult fans with kids READING the books too (my 15 year old son just finished the book the other morning at 2:30 am - so he read it in a 36 hour time frame..He’s only done that with the HP books.)
    c) Kid fans
    d) Critics trying to make a name for themselves
    e) Religious frootloops whining about witchcraft (I turned my annoying neighbor into a newt...but she got better...)
    f) Adults and kids just not interested - which is FINE and OK

    Between you and me, there are a LOAD of women I’ve come across working on “writing a children’s book”... so when I read a very harsh critique of ANY popular book (not only childrens), I think “sour grapes”.

  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Reaction Thread - SPOILERS!!!!

    07/27/2007 4:16:28 AM PDT · 1,441 of 1,567
    schwing_wifey to EmilyGeiger
    I think she started to like him when he saved Snape from Lupin. ANd Snape then began to really hate James because not only did he save his life but also because he knew Lily had changed toward James. That’s just my thought on that. :)

    Wait, you got me confused... when did James save Snape from Lupin? The only attack I ever remember is when James attacked Snape (hanging him upside down) and Lily interferred and he called her a "Mudblood" and said he didn't need her help?

    Did I miss something? (Could have at the rate I blast through the books on my first reading.) ;D
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Reaction Thread - SPOILERS!!!!

    07/26/2007 1:53:49 PM PDT · 1,382 of 1,567
    schwing_wifey to Tanniker Smith

    I know what you mean... maybe the next book will be

    “Harry Potter BC” (Before Children)

  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Reaction Thread - SPOILERS!!!!

    07/26/2007 1:52:00 PM PDT · 1,381 of 1,567
    schwing_wifey to EmilyGeiger

    I remember you saying that.... good call..

    I knew Snape had to be in love with her but I never guessed it was from so young...

    I’d sure love to know how Lily and James got together because she didn’t really think too highly of him and his attempts to get her to go out with him.

    Next Book : “Lily and James - Life Before Harry”

  • Potter Mania: Should Christian Kids Read 'Harry Potter'?

    07/25/2007 9:12:54 AM PDT · 292 of 309
    schwing_wifey to retrokitten; CholeraJoe

    Not this $#it again!!!!