my epic wintry Austro-Hungarian adventure

Last December, right around the time I started itching for my next getaway, I found out that I would be heading back to Nairobi for a conference in January. I had already appended a week-long vacation to my previous Kenya trip, and it was glorious. There is so much more that I would like to explore in the country and surrounding region, but at that particular moment, I was more in the mood for the cozy creature comforts of winter.

So, I found a flight to Nairobi through Zurich that was nearly the same price as the direct one, and I asked the travel agent to book me a one-week stopover. I then poured over Eurail maps and timetables, feasting my eyes upon all the tantalizing itineraries that were possible. I considered heading southwest towards Monaco and Nice by way of Turin, east towards Budapest by way of Vienna, or south towards Rome by way of Milan. But none of those seemed juicy enough to satisfy my ambitions. In the end, only a whistle-stop tour in every direction would do.

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Cote d’Ivoire: Korhogo and vicinity

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I had never heard of Korhogo, the fourth biggest city in Cote d’Ivoire, prior to a few months before my work trip. It is a city full of artisans, in a region full of artisans, and I’m excited to show you some of the beautiful handicrafts I saw while there. Continue reading

speaking of kennings…

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…I was deleting some photos from my laptop yesterday and found one that I took of a page from Iceland Air’s in-flight magazine on the way to Reykjavik. On the page were a bunch of facts about the Icelandic language. At the time, I thought I would share some of them when I posted my Iceland pictures, but by the time I got around to that, I had forgotten about it.

With the passage of almost a year, there’s only one fact on the page that I still find interesting. And I just realized that coincidentally, it is a fact about a kenning, whose definition — a compound word with a metaphorical meaning — I just learned.

“Icelanders have selected their favorite word in a national referendum: Ljósmóðir (literally, ‘mother of light’) is the Icelandic word for midwife.”

Isn’t that such a beautiful word and a beautiful sentiment? It reminds me of the Spanish phrase for “to give birth”: dar a luz (give to light), which I only know because I spotted it on a sign in a hospital waiting room.

It would make sense that Icelandic would be kenning-heavy, since kennings originated in Old Norse (and Old English), a precursor to Icelandic. And according to Wikipedia, “Since the written language has not changed much, Icelanders are able to read classic Old Norse literature created in the 10th through 13th centuries with relative ease.”

I’m not sure whether this counts as a kenning, but I also just discovered this Icelandic word that I love: gluggaveður, which means window-weather (weather = glugga; window = veður). It refers to “weather that is nice to look at through a window, but not nice to be out in.”

Oh words, you delightful poetic things!

Cote d’Ivoire: Abidjan

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It’s been so long since I was in Cote d’Ivoire that I need the photos to jog my memory. I went in late November / early December and spent most of my time in Korhogo, bookended on either side by a few days in Abidjan, as well as a day trip to Grand Bassam. Here are some brief Abidjan highlights…

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Iceland

IMG_6445Writing about past travels during stay-at-home time may cheer me up or it may make me even more angsty… We shall see.

Onward! Onward backward, I should say.

This past October, I went abroad with six of my oldest, dearest friends, to enter middle age in a land where more than half of the people believe in elves. It was exactly what I needed. Continue reading

a Kenya addendum

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Yesterday I told you that I was done with my Kenya posts. That’s not entirely true. I am done writing about Kenya itself, but I am not done (over)sharing about my bodily functions while there. Much as I felt compelled to tell you about my vacation-induced gastro-intestinal dilemmas, I now feel compelled to tell you all about my Kenyan pee fail. (39 was a momentous year.) Continue reading

Kenya: Masai Mara safari

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The Masai Mara National Reserve is a relatively small triangle of land on the Kenyan side of its southern border with Tanzania. On the Tanzania side,  the park continues southward as the much larger Serengeti. I had been on safari in the Serengeti and surrounding areas of Tanzania three years ago, and it was wonderful. I didn’t feel the need to repeat the experience in Kenya, except for two things. First of all, we had hoped to see the annual wildebeest migration in Tanzania but just missed it – the herds had already moved north into Kenya by the time we arrived. I happened to be in Kenya at the beginning of August, prime time for the migration, and so I felt compelled to take another shot — after all, I had heard that the migration is truly epic. Secondly, even though the Tanzania safari taught me that it is impossible for me to commune with wild animals when surrounded by a million other safari cars and the people leaning out of them to snap pictures, it also taught me that the scenery in that part of the world is breathtaking. I wanted to go back not to see safari animals but to see the landscapes around them. Continue reading

Kenya: Hell’s Gate, Naivasha, and a magical animal paradise

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When I tacked a week of vacation onto the end of my work trip in Kenya, I didn’t realize that it would be impossible to decide what to fit into that one week. In the end, rather than cut anything I deemed essential out, I squooshed everything I wanted to do into the time available. And so, I made a recklessly overambitious plan to fit Hell’s Gate and Lake Naivasha into barely two days when I should have given them four. No regrets – it was the most amazing, stunning, wonderful two days. Continue reading