PREFACE

1. INTRODUCTION

2: FAMILY HOLIDAYSS

3: NEW YORK CITY

4: SUMMER ARMY TRAINING

5: NASSAU AND JAMAICA

6: RULE BRITANNIA

7 EIRE

8: THE SUMMERS OF '67 AND '68

9: GERMANY

10: THE NETHERLANDS

11: BACK TO GERMANY

12: FINAL YEAR IN DENTAL SCHOOL

13: THE SHORT HAIRED PART OF THE STORY

14: BACK TO MONTREAL AND BEYOND

15: THE ROAD TO CYPRUS

16 CYPRUS / UN PEACEKEEPING

17: SIDE TRIPS FROM CYPRUS

18: CYPRUS WIND DOWN

19: GREECE

20: ITALY

21: ROAD HOME FROM CYPRUS

22: MEXICO Y ESPANA

23: AIRBORNE PARATROOPER COURSE

24: AUSTRALIA

25:MOROCCO AND PARIS

26: THE END OF THE BEGINNING

27 FEEDBACK

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SIDE TRIPS FROM CYPRUS

Lebanon:

                  Beirut Lebanon is a short two hour flight from Nicosia. Most of the Canadians in the United Nations Contingent took at least one trip to Beirut, during a tour of duty . We had a Lebanese travel agent who met us at Beirut airport. In Cyprus I become familiar with the  different ways of doing business. For example many items have three prices: the tourist price, the UN price and the Cypriot price. Whereas bartering is not routine in Canada, in the Levant or far Eastern Mediterranean it was an everyday affair. Again something I found both interesting and a broadening aspect of my life. When I got off the plane in Beirut I was met by our travel agent. I had lined up to pay for a visa and to have my passport checked. He’d been on the lookout for another Canadian and I was his client of the day. He quickly whisked me past the visa office and the usual customs check. I was now in Beirut. I believe he made his living by taking a cut of the hotel reservations , city country tours and the airfares. Something I was not used to ;but, as a matter of fact, it was something I came to appreciate.

                   The drive from the Beirut airport to my hotel was an adventure, to say the least. To again paraphrase an old expression,” When in Beirut, drive like the Lebanese drive” . As we approached a traffic circle I soon became aware of the cacophony of car horns Every car or taxi would honk his horn, almost throughout the traffic circle passage. Whether there was a car about to hit you or just out of habit the driver kept one hand on the horn all the way.

                      Arriving in a new country was again an exciting experience and one I always anticipated . As I’ve mentioned, all my senses were awakened and I became what I would now call, the Goggle camera. One area we drove by, was the Palestinian encampment called Shatilla which had seen considerable fighting between Palestinians and Israelis and Lebanese . The reasons, events and finger-pointing that surrounded it with the loss of so many lives is too complex to cover this book. In 1982 there was a further loss of life which really shakes one’s confidence in humanity. I cannot and will not place blame and guilt or opinion about the causes. But, when I want by this area  I was struck by the stark depressive look of the encampment. The short drive past Shatilla had a lifelong impact on me. As history is unfolded in the Middle East so many internal conflicts have made lives painful. I have neither the knowledge, the inclination, nor any preconceived political opinions on these matters. As a person who has led a relatively calm life in safe surroundings, I could not help but feel a deep pain for all concerned.

                            The Canadian contingent visitors had been staying at a small hotel called the Hotel Napoleon. It was on a side street and from the outside it looked more like a small apartment built into a series of buildings which were basically cheek to jowl. I believe the rate was $12 a night which included a bacon and eggs breakfast.. The staff of the hotel were very pleasant, as always a nice feeling when your presence is appreciated. I spoke in French to the waiter, at breakfast and he said he understood  me very well. On one of my visits there was another French-Canadian soldier from the UN contingent and I sat down and joined him. The waiter came over after few minutes and said “ I can understand a lot of what you’re saying but what language are you speaking”. In Canada our French developed independently of French spoken in France since about 1757 when the British took over  “New France . So our language, at least as spoken, has a very different accent from  that in France, of which we are rather proud . Later in Paris I found this to be particularly interesting and amusing . On many occasions I had people give me a rather quizzical look and I was frequently asked me to repeat what I had just said. All good fun.

        The Hotel Napoleon was very close to the main street, that ran across Beirut, called Alhamra Street. I’ve since found out that Alhamra means Red. I wandered about the area near the hotel Napoleon. There a lot of nice little stores in the area and the hustle and bustle on the street made for an active scene. From the hand gestures , changes in vocal volume and tone I surmised that haggling over prices was a local pastime. I tried not to appear to be listening in on conversations; but, it was really fascinating to take part, even if only passively, in this part of daily life. Again another aspect of travel outside the five-star hotel experience.

       My first evening I had  made reservations for a bus trip to the Casino de Liban. I had never been in a casino before, so it was quite an experience. I played a few inexpensive slot machines and of course I came away a loser. But I had a jacket and tie on and I was able to wander into the more expensive gambling areas. I was a bit surprised to see many men dressed in traditional Arabic garb. I was told that many of these men came from Saudi Arabia or the other Gulf states. I was taken aback when I found out that many of the chips were worth hundreds of dollars and they were throwing them around like I would throw around a few pennies. Again a learning experience and one that I enjoyed.

       The Casino had a rather exciting stage show. It looked like something straight out of Las Vegas, the room was well appointed. The ceiling opened when the show began and large chandeliers descended and they opened, like a large orange , as I can best describe it. And each of the chandeliers contained either a showgirl or a muscular male model , painted in gold . The girls wore bikini type outfits and the men wore Speedo type swimming suits. All , of course, accompanied by a full orchestra. Then the stage show began. The first act was four horses on treadmills and the theme was the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Later a couple of camels came on stage.. There were also on treadmills. Apparently the show was unique. The audience certainly seem to think so. I found out later that many in the audience were tourists from Europe . One was a French singer, named Gilbert Bécaud, who was introduced. I assumed by his enthusiastic response, that this must be comparatively, quite the spectacle. So first time in a Casino and I lucked out. St Pesmo has a gambling spirit.

    The bus ride back to the hotel showed that there was a considerable amount of hustle and bustle in Beirut at night time. I decided to wander about and I went to a couple bars. Sometimes I look back and wonder if I was doing the right thing; but, as I’ve mentioned, I read many times that the person who wanders in as if he owns the place is the least likely to be mugged or harmed in any way. In one bar I started talking to follow who wanted to know if I would like to go to a party. Naïvely, I said “sure why not” ( we were speaking in French) . So we drove about five or 10 minutes and he took me he took me upstairs to the apartment. I sat in the living room and nothing seem to be happening. Then he brought about a young girl who looked to be about 12 years old. I was overcome with disgust when I realized that he was basically a pimp selling under aged children. I didn’t really think of any danger I might be in, for all I know he could’ve had several friends waiting in a back room. I told him in no uncertain terms that I wanted to be taken back to where we first met. This disgusting incident still weighs on my mind. I thought of going to the police but I had heard stories of bribes and payoffs and I would likely be the person would be in trouble. One of the more unpleasant incidents I had in my travels. I share it just to let people know that despite so many wonderful people there are some very low lifes out there. I really never discussed this particular incident with anyone as I really wasn’t sure how to go  about doing it. It was in no way a reflection on the people of Beirut or of Lebanon. It was just an encounter with a real low life. In some ways I wonder if I should have acted more vigourously and turned him in.

The next day I took a day trip to Byblos the following is a description of the city from Wikipedia.

 

Byblois the Greek name of the Poenician city Gebal . It is a Mediterranean city in the Mount Lerbanon Governate of present-day Lebanon under the current Arabic name of Balbek

        I walked around the site of the ruins in a very contemplative frame of mind. One could almost hear the sounds the many inhabitants who had lived  in this ancient place. Byblos was presented as the longest inhabited city in the world.  This was of course my mental interpretation of the emotion I was feeling; but, when you stop to think about it such an ancient city must’ve held so many important insights into mankind. In a strange way I think that this day help erase horrible memories of the evening before. Regardless of how bad mankind can sometimes be there are always so many positive insights.

                     I visited Beirut on two other occasions. One time I spent a day trip driving into the mountains of Lebanon to visit the famous cedars of Lebanon. Coming from a land of forests, Canada, the site of trees was not a novel experience for me. Again from Wikipedia here is a short explanation of one of the Cedar reserves

                    One of the interesting aspects of this drive by bus was what I can only describe as a NASCAR experience. As we were leaving Beirut we were going up a long incline with two lanes and non-paved shoulders on each side of the road. The bus we were in began to overtake the bus in front of us. I was quite concerned as the traffic does go quite quickly up and down the roads in Beirut. I must admit that my heart skipped a few beats as I was checking the oncoming lane. Then I looked out to my left I saw a car passing both buses and the car was driving along on the unpaved shoulder. We all got back into our normal lanes I breathed a sigh of relief. We got to the mountain’s and a few other chills as I looked out the window straight down a mountainside. The road had no visible or discernible barriers. What an experience.

                On my third trip to Beirut I took a day trip to Damascus. The trip started with the drive over the mountains slightly south of Beirut. I found out later that there are ski resorts in this area. Then we descended into the Bekaa Valley. Again from Wikipedia

world

        As the above paragraph says it contains the largest Roman temples ever built. When one considers that Rome was relatively far away, this is another find that was unexpected and enthusiastically received by me. The tour guide explained that many of the columns and stones that went into building the city were transported down the Nile through the Mediterranean and up and over the mountain’s between Beirut and the Bekaa Valley. This is another example of some very difficult and challenging architecture that was present in the ancient world.

        The trip to Syria was quite short. At the border a customs agent came on the bus and asked us all for our passports which were placed in a paper bag. This was of course long before computers; but, even at that time the thought of having our passports disappear was not remote from my mind. A British traveler on the bus told me the same thing. But, both of us had a bit of a chuckle over it.

       Damascus is a city of historical significance. All civilizations in the Levant had some influence on the city of Damascus. There are ruins going back to a thousand BC and Christianity Judaism and Islam had important roles to play in the building of Damascus. When I visited Damascus I was particularly intrigued by the ruins in many parts of the city for example Ruins of the Jupiter Temple at the entrance of Al-Hamidiyah Souq . Lead to a very thriving and exciting market. In many ways ,as I travel the streets of the souk or market I felt that I had traveled  back several centuries in time. I say that in a positive way and in a way that really reflected the history of both the city and the people.

         We were only in Damascus for one day; but,  we got a wonderful tour of the city by our guide. He was particularly proud of the the city had to offer. I must admit I did a bit of a double take when he introduced himself as Mac. My British friend felt the same thing and looked at me and said , “Mac?” .

       As we drove about the city my attention was drawn to the many military vehicles. Some were trucks which had a number of young soldiers in the back. This is a site I had not seen before and it was a reflection of some of the reality in the Middle East.

       We also visited A  mosque and  I was intrigued by the beauty and the solemnity of the edifice. At no time did I feel that the people in the mosque regarded us as anything but welcome visitors. Damascus was a city in which I  wish I had more time to spend investigating and studying. But, it was a busy an event filled day. This future events unfolded I cannot help but feel I’ve been fortunate to see the city.

<Note, as I write this Syria is going through the sad consequences if the Arab Spring. When one has visited a scene of conflict in more peaceful times it does strike a deep sad chord.>

      The trip back to Beirut was uneventful and I must admit I was rather tired when I got back to the hotel Napoleon. As I mentioned the main street in Beirut , the Alhambra was near the hotel. I asked at the hotel what were the main sights to see along the Alhambra. I was told that Place du Canon was exciting area with many  shops and boutiques. The following day I discovered that I was not to be disappointed . The hustle and bustle that one found in the Place du Canon brought me to a different world. Many merchants had small out door stands and a number of shops lined the entire square. In one corner there were about 20 small shops in an  area  known as the gold market. Mr. Joseph Kassis, the Beirut jeweler who came to Nicosia every month, had started as a merchant in the gold market. A number of years before Canadians, who are were on UN duty in Egypt, had encountered Mr. Kassis and were impressed with this fine service and the fact he stood behind his merchandise. As a result he was able to move to a store on Alhambra Street where he had his own workshop and a storefront where he sold quality jewelry. As I have mentioned he lost his life in the Civil War in 1972.

        I was particularly intrigued by the hustle and bustle of the small outdoor merchants. Young boys were scurrying to and fro with straw baskets on their backs carrying merchandise. I assume there must have been storage areas near the market. There was also the fragrance and aroma of some fine local foods. As well a background of Arabic music seemed to come from all the shops, over the radio. It was a multisensory happening for me. I remember standing in a moment of contemplation thinking to myself how lucky I was to be given this experience and that 40 or 50 years from now I would remember standing in that place. In many ways that moment of contemplation summed up my philosophy of travel. I often traveled without preconceptions and without any real goals in mind of what to see it do. But, I was very open to new ideas and new experiences.

      An interesting thing occurred, once while I was wondering, I thought back to my basic training course. Part of this course was in fact an introduction to military etiquette. At a formal dinner, which is called a mess dinner the Canadian military all the young officers in training were shown the ropes by more senior members of the forces. This included the fact that there were certain etiquette as far as conversation was concerned. Two topics to be avoided were politics and religion. Back in Canada this is not really a big issue; but, in Beirut such topics could in fact cause some awkward moments. I recall sitting at a sidewalk café when a couple of local fellows got into a conversation with me. Initially the topics were basically the weather, where I came from, how long I was staying in Beirut. But as the conversation progressed one of the fellows got into a discussion about Israel. I realized that my best reaction would be to just nod in passive agreement. In point of fact they really were not interested in hearing what I have to say; but, they wanted to tell a stranger their point of view. Not discussing politics was always a mainstay of my travel. In fact I avoided controversy , which is a great way to not ruffle feathers.

       I spent a good part of the day just wondering about the Place de Canon. As the afternoon ended I realized that it was time to go back to my hotel. I should mention that on my way from the hotel along the Alhambra I stopped in a small donnair restaurant. There was something similar in Cyprus but a little bit different from what I saw in Beirut. They had large racks of beef on skewers that was tightly packed. The meat was placed and served in a flat pita type bread. One had a choice of various ingredients sour cream , cream with garlic salad ingredients and onion amongst others. Now despite my eclectic taste in food I must say I can never eat onions. I’m not sure why this is but that’s the way it is J . Many of little restaurants at the side of the street also serve what we now call frosties. Basically blender made fruit juice drinks. My favorite was a combination of orange and fresh strawberries I also believe the put water with sugar in it. It was served cold and was absolutely delicious. So at this one little restaurant I had a nice donnair and a ‘frosty’ drink. On the way back to the hotel I stopped in again at this the restaurant. As with the time in Jamaica where I visited a restaurant a couple of times, here in Beirut, I was also now considered a regular. This of course meant friendly smiles and to my mind even a little bit of extra food , not too bad really.

         The following day I paid a visit to Mr. Kassi’s jewelry shop. He proudly showed me the workshop upstairs in this store. He had a couple of craftsmen working with him and they produce the jewelry . It was all handmade and basically one-of-a-kind. I asked Mr. Kassis about an engagement ring. He seemed quite pleased that I was about to be married; but, I told him I was just planning ahead and I had him make the rings big which I could have adjusted later.  He found that amusing . I also bought some jewelry for my mother and when I got back to Nicosia the customs people wanted to search my jacket. They had an idea that I was probably bringing something back from Beirut. I was in civilian clothes and I flashed my UN card. They said that didn’t matter they still had to search me for any jewelry. I then pretended that I didn’t understand English and I was one of the French-Canadian troops. I guess my act worked as he got exasperated and passed me through without a search.

       The trips to Beirut were quite exciting. It was a new world for me and as in many of my travels I found wonderful people. And deep down inside me I felt a bit of pain for the fact that there were conflicts between these people who were so kind. I recall one day at the hotel I mentioned to the waiter that things seem quite quiet in Beirut compared to other parts of the Middle East. He gave me a very serious look and said ,” Well just below the surface there are problems”. The following summer, after I left Cyprus , a very painful civil war broke out in Lebanon between Christians and Moslems.

 

ISRAEL:

          In February of 1972 I was able to take a five-day break and fly to Israel. Like Lebanon it was but a short flight away, approximately 2 hours. I flew into Lod airport in Tel Aviv. Security was as expected, very tight in fact later in May of 1972 a group called the Japanese Red Army, a group of terrorists, killed 26 people and wounded 80 others. When the UN force members travel to Israel , we did so on a visa. The idea being that if our passport was stamped in Israel we would not be able to visit Arab countries. The Israelis were aware of this and very compliant with our request. But we have to show our passport, I asked that it not be stamped. The people of the border were not exactly overly ‘smiley‘. Under the circumstances I fully understood . The agent looked at my passport and gave me a stern look saying, “ I see you have been to bet Lebanon”. I’m not sure what possessed me; but, I looked at him and gave him a slight smile and said,” Yes I think you would like it”. The two fellows at the customs did give me a little smile. It wasn’t meant as a sarcastic comment just a bit of an icebreaker. At least that is how I meant it to be

         After I cleared customs I walked into the visitors area and as our travel agent in Nicosia had told me I had someone waiting for me. He carried a placard with my name. He drove me to Jerusalem where I spent several days.. As I have learned in my basic training it is best not to talk politics. So our conversation was pretty ordinary and certainly not into politics . I almost said,” You folks really fixed this place up since 1947”. It might’ve been a rather innocuous remark had I made it; but, it turns out that the driver was in fact a Palestinian.

          I will digress slightly and bring up something I noticed in Beirut. One night I was walking along Alhambra Street I stopped into a bar. It was what we might have called a disco back in Canada. There a lot of younger people and I noticed that the girls were quite attractive. And for a split second I noticed that they reminded me of some of the Jewish girls I knew in Montréal. My point here is that in my mind the Arabs and Jewish people are really cousins. I won’t get into deeper than that because it is a complex situation. But, I found that in Israel I had a hard time distinguishing between the Palestinians and Israelis. In a real way I still find this disturbing. But, that is part of the history of the whole world.

         I stayed as a nice hotel in Jerusalem ,which was also run by Palestinians. The staff are very friendly and they suggested several areas to see, in both the city and on day tours. One of the young fellows was a waiter told me, without my asking, that he had many Israeli friends; but, he said his desire for a Palestinian state went very deep. As in Beirut, I just nodded in agreement and did not make any comment. It was in fact a somewhat interesting topic to me; but, one which I felt I really should not engage in.

        The next day we took the bus to the Dead Sea we started with the visit to Jericho. And yes the walls did come tumbling down. Jericho is well known, probably due to the song of Joshua and the battle of Jericho. But I was intrigued to discover that it may in fact go back to Neolithic times about eight or 9000 BC. We spent some time wandering through the ruins. Again I had that mental transformation that was over awed by the mystery of the antiquity such a place. I found myself transfixed and almost hypnotic state as I slowly looked around and tried to contemplate with this history meant. As in all such instances I never really came to an answer; but, I felt a sense of expansion of my knowledge.

The next stop was an opportunity to actually swim in the Dead Sea

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) have reported higher salinities. It is 8.6 times saltier than the ocean. This salinity makes for a harsh environment in which animals cannot flourish, hence its name. The Dead Sea is 67 kilometres (42 mi) long and 18 kilometres (11 mi) wide at its widest point

        We stopped at a beach which had a small souvenir stand. I had not brought up bathing suit with me, which is something I really regretted. Then, I discovered that they were selling disposable bathing suits . A rather interesting innovation in that it was made of a very compressed type paper, obviously single use only. So I bought a bathing suit and went for a swim in the Dead Sea . It was an interesting sensation as  I did get a few drops of water in my mouth; but, I tried to avoid that like the plague. The taste was not too exciting. It was very easy to float on your back in fact it was actually difficult to put your arms totally into the water as your whole body was buoyed up. I flipped over on my stomach it was virtually impossible to maintain that position. The buoyancy of the water forced your chest and legs up and actually hurt the back of little bit. So I contented myself with splashing about on my back. At the showers there was a sign asking us to be frugal with the water. This of course made sense so I had a very quick shower and I was very content with the fact that I done something I thought about since I was a child. As they say dreams do come true. I sounded a bit like the Wizard of Oz there for a second.

        That evening I spent wandering around near the hotel in Jerusalem for a while. Again I would have to say that I was assimilating the actions of the Google camera. The cobblestone streets and ancient buildings certainly had a biblical character about them. I also noted that there seemed to be members of many denominations of Christianity. Many of the clerics wore the garb of the different denominations . Deep down I thought how nice it would be if there could be such acceptance across all religious barriers.

       The following day I went to Bethlehem and also had a walking tour of Jerusalem and saw many of the sites that are so familiar from the Bible. The Garden of Olives, Calvary, the site of Jesus’ burial. We also went to Manger Square in Bethlehem. It was all very moving in a personal way. These were sites I read about and heard about since I was a child. I was raised a Catholic and I have always felt that the rites and philosophies of this religion were all-encompassing. I also felt the same of other religions. So it evoked some serious thinking when I realized that as humans we have let religion divide us. This is not a new phenomenon just an observation on history.

          I was moved by the sense of devotion I saw in many of the pilgrims to the sites. To me this is what religion is about a sincere and kind observance of one’s faith.

         The following day was Friday , I didn’t have anything specifically planned for that day so much of my time was spent was wondering about and looking at the sites. Later in the afternoon I made my way to the Wailing Wall. The Wailing Wall is the remnants of the West wall of the Temple . It is a place deemed sacred to Judaism and contains reminders of the history and deep philosophy of this religion. When I say that it contains reminders I mean more in a figurative rather than a physical sense. I was quite moved to be standing there as people approached the wall to pray. According to custom many would write a small prayer on a piece of paper and place it between the cracks of the wall. I stood there in silence for almost an hour viewing the spirituality of the people who were praying with such devotion. I deeply feel that religious philosophy and practice should transcend all of humanity.

            Even though it was February and I had been in the “Med“ since July , I still found it unusual that I didn’t need a coat such as I would have ,back in Canada. In fact this day was fairly warm and I realized I was starting to get this thirsty. So I decided that a good beer was in order. But, all the nearby bars were closed. I asked the police officer if there were in fact any bars available in the area. He gave me directions to an area I assume was near the Jordanian side. I walked into a bar and I was oblivious to the fact that a dead silence fell over the bar. I noticed one fellow who had his shirt unbuttoned down to his navel, was wearing a gold chain with a large Star of David. He gave me a very dry and searching look. It all went over my head for a while. I went up to the bar where a cute redheaded young lady was tending bar. I asked what kind of beer they had here. She replied, in what I would best describe as a ‘sexy accent‘ . She replied “ Oh, you’re not from around here ? “ I replied,” No I’m with the Canadian Army on United Nations duty in Cyprus”. I didn’t notice it at the time ;but, later on when I thought about it, I realized that conversations had  picked up again. At the time I had a fairly dark Mediterranean sun tan from spending a lot of time outdoors in Cyprus. I also had grown a mustache, again many months later I realized that Israelis did not wear mustaches. Without realizing it, I again almost crossed the line. The tensions between Israelis and Palestinians is a long-standing fact. So this lad wanders in tanned with a mustache……one learns.

        The following day I took the bus to Tel Aviv. It is a very modern city . Because of its strategic location in the Middle East it also had an air of importance to me. As an old hitchhiker I decided I had to at least once, try hitchhiking in Israel. I got a ride downtown very quickly from the suburb of Ramat Gan. The fellow who picked me up I never met a Canadian and was intrigued about what I was doing in Cyprus. He was in the Israeli armored Corps. He told me of some of his experiences in the 1967 war. His narrative was not what I would call propaganda nor overly emotional. It was a statement of fact an explanation of his duties. It was in fact a conversation of one soldier to another. For those not familiar with this sort of thing it can best be described as mutual respect and understanding.

          He let me off a short walk from the main Street , Dizengoff. I took a bus and I asked the driver if I was in fact going the right way. He assured me I was, so I sat for 10 minutes before we got to the downtown area . An American had heard me speaking English, we had a short conversation. It was one of those instances where I again was able to learn a small detail that made this part of the trip a little unique. He told me of a small café that featured chocolate dessert. A nice major bit of information as that later that day I had a lovely coffee and chocolate croissant. Both were excellent as I took in the scenery it added a bit of a new dimension to this visit. I also went along a walkway between Haifa and Tel Aviv. A number of merchants had small stands selling souvenirs, vegetables or fruits. At one stand husband-and-wife had large Jaffa oranges. I heard them speaking French so I started to talk to them in French and asked how much the oranges were. They recognized my French-Canadian accent and told me how they have been liberated by French-Canadian soldiers in Normandy . I could feel my heart skip a beat or two. I selected two or three oranges and asked how much they were. The couple both said,” For you sir nothing”. I was taken aback and quite moved by their generosity and their respect for the soldiers at Normandy . But, I realize this is how these people make their living so I said something I’m rather proud of. “ I would like to pay in memory of those wonderful soldiers you met so many years ago”. They seem very happy with that, as was I. We had a short conversation and several times they smiled at some of the expressions I used, as they had  heard them for the first time on their day of liberation.

            Someone told me that Israeli’s tend to not get too involved with others on the street. They wander about looking straight forward, as opposed to my almost 360 degree head revolving gawking self  J All Israeli’s serve in the Military , including women. One day I spotted a cute gal in a mini skirted uniform. I was gawking at her and slammed right into a smaller middle age man . I was of course at fault and I apologized profusely, the man didn’t even stop, glance at me or make a response. He just walked on. By then the gal had disappeared as well J

          When I got back to Nicosia I spent some time thinking of that wonderful trip to Israel. I came to the realization that I, in fact looked more like a Palestinian ,than a Canadian as far as local interpretation was concerned. At the time it was slightly amusing; but, in the context of modern history it might’ve had some interesting consequences. I still think of the historic places I visited and in my Google camera mind I tend to blend them into human experience rather than a political one.

ETHIOPIA / KENYA

         As I have mentioned, I grew up in a neighborhood where you were either English or French. If you were English you were either Catholic or Protestant. By today’s standard it was rather limiting as far as life experiences go. I went to Loyola College, in Montreal for my undergrad studies. I was very excited to meet people from different countries. I had been a shortwave radio fan for years, I was a stamp collector and I always enjoyed geography. One of my classmates  was from Kenya. Lucas N. was from near Lake Victoria. He was a member of the Luo tribe. It was his first winter and we had a lot of fun telling him about the snow, the ice and other things he had only read about. One question he asked was really intriguing because it made a lot of sense. He had never seen snow so he asked if  it all fell at once. We got a bit of a chuckle from this ;but, we realized that it was a logical question. We told them that snowflakes, were in fact, a very delicate entity a small crystal. In fact some say no two are alike..but who has verified this J In late November of that year we had our first light snow fall and I still recall showing him the individual snowflakes as they landed on our dark gloves.

      The Loyola campus had a central heating bill and the pipes lead to the other buildings of the University. In those days we were little less conservation conscious than we are now, so a lot of heat escaped from the piping. The ground above the piping was warmer than the surrounding area and so the snow that fell on this line melted for a few days till winter really set in. . Lucas asked why the snow in this area melted. One of my friends said, “Oh that’s the 49th parallel and snow never falls there “. Of course we told him what was really about, we had a bit of a chuckle.

       Although I took the science degree, pre-medical /pre-dental, Loyola was a liberal arts college and I was able to study many arts subjects. One was an excellent course on African political science. As a result of my aforementioned hobbies I had a pretty good idea of the geography of this giant continent. So learning the political intrigues of Africa was something I really look forward to. It was also a bonus to take the course with a couple of African students.

          When I was in Cyprus I had a couple of weeks holidays during my tour of duty. I decided to go to Kenya. The flight took me from Nicosia to Cairo airport for a couple of hours then on to Ethiopia. At the airport in Cairo a “security” fellow told me for a small fee they would not bother checking my bags. Now I know I had nothing dangerous..but…what about others. Mind you at that time bombs were not de rigueur fortunately.

        I spent four days Ethiopia and it was a wonderful time. Rather sadly the Eritrea / Ethiopia was just getting underway. There was no evidence of this in Addis Ababa; but, I spoke with a number of people who were becoming very concerned. I stayed at a nice little hotel which had a restaurant that featured local foods. As I have stated I’ve always found it intriguing to eat food of the countries which are visiting. I went to a small day tour a few hours from Addis Ababa. We went to a riverside area that had hippopotamus Or is that hypopottimi...Latin doews help at times,  in the nearby water. We got within about 50 feet of them and I was totally mesmerized by the size and the majesty of animals I only read about. I was also intrigued by a birds nest built in a nearby tree. It looked more like a basket that was hand-woven and the birds entered through a small portal at the bottom of the nest.

          The following day, back in Addis Ababa, I was wondering about and three young men were obviously getting a bit of a kick out of how I looked. I caught them looking at me and kind of giggling to each other. So never one to shy away I walked over and introduced myself. They seemed quite intrigued to meet a foreigner. They offered to show me around the marketplace. I bought a few small souvenirs including an silver necklace with an amber jewel. I also bought a painting that was reportedly was about Solomon and Sheba. But before I left their company I gave each a couple of dollars in Ethiopian money. I told them to spend it wisely , to study hard, to learn as much they could. I think the school system in Ethiopia must be quite good because I ran into a number of young people who spoke excellent English. They also spoke Amharic the Ethiopian language.

           The next day was Sunday and I attended church. The Christian religion in Ethiopia was Orthodox Christianity. Ethiopia was the second country after Albania to adopt Christianity. There were a number of large drums at the back of the church and during certain hymns the drums played. One was the Kyrie Eleison. This is Greek for ‘Lord have mercy’. it was a hymn that I was familiar with from my Catholic upbringing. In a small way it was reminder of just how small the world really is. I was the only “European’ at the service and on the way out many people gave me a warm smile and said welcome to Ethiopia. I’m so glad that I attended the service both for spiritual and for deep inner satisfaction.

       The following day I took a flight to Nairobi. At the airport there was the customary clearance procedures. These went very well ;but ,I was a bit concerned when I was ushered into a room, where I was told I would have to have an anti-diphtheria injection. The needles were not the single use variety. They would use one and put it into some sort of alcohol dish to ’sterilize’ them. I explained to the medical person that I was in fact on United Nations duty in Cyprus and that all of my shots had been brought up to date. This seems satisfactory and I was not subjected to the needle test. ☺

         After I passed all the clearances I walked into the passenger concourse. My flight had been arranged by civilians, on the base in  Nicosia ,through a travel agency. They did a great job. There was a big sign with my last name on it and the fellow who became my ‘driver’ was holding it. I would call him several times during my stay in Nairobi so I had a nice ‘pied a terre’ . I found that whenever I was in a foreign country it was always nice to have a familiar face. I forget the driver’s name but I still remember his face. We got along very well and he shared a lot of small tidbits about Nairobi that became very helpful.

          The hotel I stayed in was slightly on the outskirts of Nairobi. It was an area called Westlands. The hotel was not in the heart of the city and was not what one would call a modern hotel. But , as I have mentioned I am more interested in seeing and feeling the real nature of the country. This hotel probably dated back to the prewar era. It was a two-story hotel of wooden construction. It had a nice bar and a pleasant dining area ,where I ate breakfast every day. It was about a 20 min. walk to downtown Nairobi from the hotel. I would walk by Kenyatta Park along Uhuru Boulevard. Uhuru is the Swahili word for freedom and this was a rallying cry during the Mau Mau revolution in the 1950s. The Park is named after the first president of Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta. As I walked along this pleasant road by the park I hearkened back to my political science course undergraduate years. Mr. Kenyatta was a great inspiration to all of the African liberation movements. I took several daily treks into Nairobi. One night I hitched back along Kenyatta Boulevard. It was a short run; but, I wanted to be able to say that I had hitched in Kenya. Back in Canada a few years later I met an exchange officer from Tanzania. He told me that Nairobi was a particularly dangerous city to be wandering about in at night. Again St. Pesmo was looking after me. J

         I took several day trips with my “driver”. One was to a small game park just outside the city. This park specialized in giving refuge to orphaned animals. The young cubs were in small cages and were being well treated. There were lions, a number of young monkeys and a couple of baby elephants. We were able to get fairly close to the animal’s and it was a prelude to what I would be seeing in Amboselli game Park later in my stay. The small park was particularly attractive due to the juxtaposition of wildlife and the local vegetation and Flora. Again I felt like a camera with five senses. It was what I had expected from this aspect of Kenya life.

       Later in the week I took a day trip to the famous rift valley. I saw a few animals along  the way; but, it was again the Flora and vegetation that caught my attention. The Rift Valley is a geological wonder.

From Wikipedia

The Great Rift Valley is a name given in the late 19th century by British explorer John Walter Gregory to the continuous geographic trench, approximately 6,000 kilometres (3,700 mi) in length, that runs from northern Syria in South WestAsia to central Mozambique in East Africa . The name continues in some usages, although it is today considered geologically imprecise as it combines features that are today regarded as separate, although related,rift and fault systems. Today, the term is most often used to refer to the valley of the East , the divergent plate boundary which extends from theAfar Triple Junction (see Afar Depression) southward across eastern Africa, and is in the process of splitting the Afdrican Plate into two new separate plates. Geologists generally refer to these incipient plates as the Nubian Plate and theSomali        

   Of course I did not travel anything near the length of the Valley but looked down from the elevated highway into the depths of the Valley, which was very straight. We of course have many such at sites in Canada; but, the vegetation in this area was very different from what I had experienced. It was a day to fulfill the dream I had since I first started collecting stamps and reading about some of these areas.

        Back at the hotel that evening I decided to take it a bit easy. I reserved a seat in the hotel restaurant, which was apparently not really necessary as they were not overly busy. After supper I took a turn at the bar for a little something before going to sleep. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was the only European at this bar. It apparently was a popular spot for young  Kenyan businessmen . I struck up a conversation with a few people who were quite interested in learning where I was from and asked me some questions about Canada. I met one woman named Grace, she had studied home economics in Washington DC. She told me that she earned her living while there, by broad casting in Swahili over the voice of America. As an avid short-wave listener I found this exciting and intriguing. As our conversation progressed I imagine that it must have become evident that I was particularly interested in all aspects of daily life in Kenya. She extended a very exciting invitation for me to join her on a trip to the countryside, as she went about her duties. Once again I was seeing something that most tourists do not get to see. THE REAL COUNTRYSIDE :)

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         We drove about an hour and she pointed out various items of interest. One was a small coffee plantation. I was surprised that the bushes of this area were not very high, so again I was learning. For some reason I thought coffee plants were the height of an apple tree. We arrived at the village that consisted of about 50 small homes. They were not grass huts, as one would see in a Tarzan movie; but , more like one or two room homes. Very modest ;but, certainly adequate. She introduced me to the chief of the village. Unlike the movie stereotype he was not dressed in long robes and carrying a spear. In fact he had a pair of gray flannels on, as I recall and a sport shirt. He would be more like the mayor rather than a Tarzan epic chief. J Along the road I spotted tall pillars in a field. I asked about it and grace told me that they were giant ant hills. She graciously stopped to allow me to check them out. I wasn’t sure what type of ants were building them so I didn’t touch. I had heard about red ants that tend to bite. She told me that some of the big hills were decades old. I have later learned that they may in fact have been termite hills. But regardless they were about a meter wide at the base and close to 3 meters high. To imagine the time and number of termites or ants required to make such a structure is awe inspiring . Again something one might not have seen on a tour.

               The three of us had a short conversation about the area where the villages  were located. He explained that the two main sources of revenue were crops which was used for both beef and for milk and also there considerable coffee crop revenue. He showed me a coffee tree, I guess I should say a coffee bush, when I showed interest in coffee. I explained that I had many cups of coffee; but, in all honesty I never knew what it looked like on the branch. He found that amusing in a gracious way. He showed me a bush and when I asked if I could pick one of the beans he smiled and said go ahead. It was rather a small adventure for me, it was more like a soft berry but it had a distinct coffee flavor. I’ve always enjoyed eating local foods and as I mentioned in my previous trip to Jamaica the thrill of eating a fresh coconut was again a form of culinary delight. And here I was on the coffee trail J

     We returned to Nairobi at around 2 PM. It’d been a really different sort of day. It was totally unexpected and I met people from Grace my hostess to people of the village, who were genuinely proud of their environment and eager to share with me. Again an experience one cannot get through a normal tour as a tourist.

       In the hotel room a copy of a tourist magazine “Nairobi This Month” was on my bed. It had the usual advertisements about tourist attractions, restaurants, hotels and even a few ads about movies that were playing. On one page there was an advertisement for a rugby club the Nairobi Harlequins. I called the number and the fellow who answered was a European Kenyan. We arranged to meet the following day.

         That evening I decided to take in a movie. I can’t recall what the movie was but for some reason the idea of socializing with local people seemed intriguing. I think it was some sort of an adventure ; but, the name of the film escapes me. What I found interesting were the ads that play between the main feature and the new cartoons before the main feature. Local products local foods local restaurants. Again kind of insight into what one can expect in the city.

          The next day I wandered into Nairobi and spent some time in a marketplace. There were some wonderful carvings of Masai warriors. They were rather inexpensive and very beautifully produced. I asked how much each one was and I was told was the equivalent to about two dollars Canadian. The monetary unit Kenya was the Kenya shilling. In this part of the world as in the Middle East , bartering is part of life. So I was all set to do little bit of bartering and when I asked how much each statue was the young lady who was working in this one stand added,” but if you buy two the price goes down a few buy three for an even better deal”. She was doing my bartering for me. I ended up buying two busts and four small masks and two large masks. They still adorn my dental office in Ottawa.

        Armed with a bag full of souvenirs I met my rugby playing friend. Robert was an interesting fellow, he was born in Kenya to parents who had come from England, in the colonial days. He worked at a bank and he still had, what I would objectively term a colonial mentality. I should elaborate as he was a kind person . He spoke highly of the Kenyan people who work for him. But, there was a definite tier structure in his life. He gave me a good insight into this aspect of the Kenyan divide. After a couple of ale in a pub he suggested an Indian restaurant. The majority of the people in Kenya are African background there were still a number of ”Europeans” as well as a sizable East Indies population. The latter were descendents from Indians who were brought in as labor for the British. Most were very active in various businesses and were having a successful life. The dinner was quite exciting. I was not very familiar with Indian food at that stage, so whatever was ordered was going to be  new to me. He ordered what he called a ”dry curry”. This is a term I have never heard since ; but, I recall that this curry was exceptionally hot. I must’ve downed several ales and a couple of glasses of water; but, my friend maybe had a sip of water. He was quite amused by my reaction. I did go to great pains to explain that I was very happy with the meal, which I was; but, I was just not able to tolerate a complete meal without several nice beers.

         Tusker ALE is a wheat beer brewed in Kenya. In my travels I would still say it is one of the top five beers I’ve ever had. And it is available in Ontario. Every now and then I have nice flashback to my lovely trip to Kenya by ordering a Tusker Ale when it’s available.

       The following evening I was invited to join the rugby club out at the nearby grounds. Most of the players were European Kenyans ;but, there were a number of British “ ex-pats” who work in Kenya for various periods of time. Nairobi is at about 7500 feet or 1500 m. Back in Nicosia I was playing rugby at sea level. One of the rugby players asked me if I wanted to “kit up” . Which means basically , join us in a practice. It was an unexpected treat. I could  now go back to Canada and tell people that I played rugby in Cyprus which is Asia and in Nairobi which is Africa. In a very small way I was in international rugby player. J

       I took one run across the field and I was overcome by a physical pressure I’ve never experienced. I wasn’t tired ; bur I was sort of winded , I couldn’t catch my breath. The fellows knew exactly what was I was going through. They got quite a chuckle and explained that I was experiencing ‘altitude”. All quite interesting. Afterwards we adjourned for a few cool ones back in the clubhouse. Nothing like a cool Tusker on tap to help me forget my altitude sickness J

         As I mentioned there was a bit of a divide between the Europeans and the Africans. I took an unjudgemental stance on some of the things I heard. I noticed that there was a picture of Jomo Kenyatta behind the bar at the clubhouse. One of the white Kenyans told me that in fact Mr. Kenyatta had played second row for the ‘detainees‘. This course is in reference to some of the preindependence circumstances where rebels were detained. Again when you’re a foreigner in a country I’ve always found it best to keep your opinions to yourself. I found that remark neither insulting nor particularly funny but rather a reflection on the political reality. In a small way it was actually revealing

          My experience at the rugby club was again something one could not buy. I got a bit of insight into some of the underlying frictions that still prevailed and I got a chance to again enjoy rugby.  Several of the players asked me to come to Nairobi to set up a dental practice . Sounded almost inviting .As I said rugby is a sport I only started playing at age 26 so I was hardly an expert; but, it was a sport unlike many others in that there was a strong social aspect

         One interesting insight was given me by my host. He worked for a British bank and he had a manservant. He paid this man about $20 a month. Even by the standards of 1972 that seem like a small amount. But, later that year, back in Canada I was reading an article about just this sort of an arrangement ,in Africa. The Canadian working for an aid agency told how the equivalent of about $20 can buy a man a small tract of land in the countryside which you could rent out for profit. The man running the small tract of land could produce enough food to sell and provide for his family. So the small amount by Canadian standards could actually support two or even three families. I learned something very valuable. Don’t place your own values on those in other parts of the world. I feel this can apply financially, socially and unfortunately politically and militarily as events of recent years shown. It was a lesson learned not expected; but, one for which I was grateful.

        I planned a weekend at the Indian Ocean in Mombassa. I could have taken the train but time was of essence so I took a flight. It got off to a slow start when one of the crew announced that the pilot had slept in. Gad ! I hoped he was not a tad hung over. It was about an hour flight. I took a cab into Mombassa and the driver suggested a couple of new German resorts. As we drove up to the seaside resorts I could see they were about 12 stories high, seemed well appointed and near the beach. In other words a resort such as I could find anywhere in the world. I asked about something a bit more “typical and he drove me into town. I can’t recall the name of the hotel and it is not available on Goggle; but, I recall as we pulled up I felt I was back in colonial times. It was a simple two story hotel, a screened in porch that went three quarters of the way around. The stairs leading some 10 steps up to the front entrance ,were about 5 meters wide and made of a lightly stained wood. When I went in I all but expected Sir Noel Coward to be sipping a Gin and tonic at a corner table. It was marvelous. When I entered my room I discovered something I had not seen it many years basically a little fly spray device lying on the floor. It had a sort of the can and a pump action lever that sprayed out material. I ignored it much to my peril, as I should’ve sprayed all the legs of the bed. That evening I was invaded in my sleep by red ants. The next morning I made sure that I sprayed the bed legs and area on the floor properly.

          I wandered about my first evening in Mombassa. I went to a small restaurant which was frequented by Kenyans. The food was slightly spicy and very well prepared. I recall talking to one man about what was worthwhile see the city. I told him I was more interested in seeing local events places. He told me of several parks and of some buildings of interest. The next day I started to walk about the city and I enjoyed the beauty of the parks that were nearby. There was a large square near the hotel that had large trunked trees that were quite short. The are called Baobab trees and they had an almost mystical look to them. When I was there they had full leaf coverage and I spent much time just walking around looking at them. It may seem strange that something like a tree would be attractive. But, as I have said it is the unusual it catches my attention. I also did a tour of Fort Jesus

From Wikipedia:

Fort Jesus is a Portuguese fort built in 1593 by order of KingPhilip V of Spain (King Philip I of Portugal), then ruler of the joint Spanish andPortuguese Kingdoms, located onMonbassa Island to guard the Old Port ofMombassa ,Kenya. It was built in the shape of a man (viewed from the air), and was given the name of Jesus. .

 

    Again I had an opportunity to step back in time as it were. I went on a tour of Fort Jesus; but, after the tour I spent a bit of time just wandering about. Kenya’s colonial past, as in much of Africa, left much pain and sorrow; but, from a historical point of view it was rich and interesting. I made my way back to the hotel and had a quick shower and reflected on the beautiful  sites I had enjoyed. I went down to dinner and the maître d’ the small hotel ushered me to a table where I joined another Canadian. He was a real estate salesman from Guelph Ontario. He told me that real estate had been rather slow that winter and that he’d always wanted to travel. So his wife said , "Why don’t you do it now?" He was 55 years old as I recall his first name was Lorne. He told me how he had taken a tramp steamer from Halifax Nova Scotia to New London South Africa. He was a man after my own spirit, he traveled by bus by train and lot of hitchhiking. This was during the apartheid era in South Africa and he said he had a few comfortable incidents. One time in Johannesburg he was watching a couple of Africans engaged in an animated game of cards. He said he really enjoyed the repartee back and forth. But a white policeman came by and in no uncertain terms he was told to move. Not a major incident but certainly something that underscored the tensions that existed in that country. He also climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. He told me it is something he has dreamt about since he was a child. I was in my element listening to him. We enjoyed a nice meal and we decided to wander some of the back streets of Mombassa. Again my patron Saint St. Pesmo the Bewildered came along for the walk. We ended up in a rough area of town. It was in fact a red light district. We went into one bar and ordered a couple of Tusker ales. A young woman asked if she could join us. We made it clear that we are just out for a couple of drinks and nothing else; but, we told her that if she wanted to join us we would be glad to share her company. We bought her a couple of beers as the evening wore on and she told us her story. I think the fact that we are respectful of her and didn’t treat her as perhaps many had, brought her out of her shell. She told us she had a son whose father was a Swedish sailor. She also told us that it was difficult to make an honest living with her background. It was a story that moved us both and when we left we quietly gave her the equivalent of about $10 or $15 each. We told her to make sure that she kept that to herself. We never did find out if she had to share it ;but, the thought that we had perhaps helped a little bit made us both feel as if we’ve accomplished something.

      The following day Lorne and I explored the market areas of Mombassa. The most exciting part was the cacophony of sounds and the rushing about of both vendors and shoppers. Some of the markets seem to cater to tourists while others, that had more produce, seem to have more of a local clientele. One thing about Mombassa that I found rather enjoyable was the intense humid heat. This is not something that many people would enjoy. But, I felt it was another aspect of my usual five senses travel sensations. The last time I had experienced such humidity was in Puerto Rico, two years previous. I bid my new friend Lorne a fond farewell the next morning at breakfast. I did contact him once when he came back to Canada. He spent a bit more time traveling along the coast of the Indian Ocean and then he return to Guelph. We both agreed that our short time chatting in Mombasa have been a pleasure for both of us.

   At the Mombassa air port I noticed a plane with UN markings. Apparently the Director general , U Thant was on board. I went to the plane and asked if they were flying to Nairobi, which they were. I asked a guard to see if I could join them, being on UN duty and all. No way I was told… So I flew commercial back to Nairobi and at the airport I inquired about a trip to Lake Nakuru. Lake Nakuru is called a soda Lake due to its alkaline nature. It has abundance of algae which attracts flamingos. At the time of  my tour to this Lake I was told that there could be as many as 2 million flamingos in this area. I wasn’t aware of this until I got there. I expect a couple of hundred, which would’ve been actually quite exciting. But when  the guide told me that the Lake has been known to have as many as 2 million flamingos I was overwhelmed. The site we drove to ,had many thousands. That is just an estimate but basically they covered the whole area that I could see. There delicate beauty in the serene place was very moving. When I say moving I mean it really affected all my emotions. Both the physical aspect of these flamingos and the fact that they were living in such peace and harmony with nature undisturbed by man. We also went to a small village which had nothing unusual to offer; but, the fact that it was a remote and small village was in itself of interest to me . When I got back to Nairobi I made plans for Safari trip to Amboselli National Park

From wikipedia

Amboseli National Park, formerly Maasai Amboseli Game Reserve, is inKajaido District t,Rift Valley Province inKenya . The park is 39,206 hectares (392 km2; 151 sq mi)[1] in size at the core of an 8,000 square kilometres (3,100 sq mi) ecosystem that spreads across the Kenya-Tanzaniaborder. The local people are mainlyMassai , but people from other parts of the country have settled there attracted by the successful tourist-driven economy and intensive agriculture along the system of swampa that makes this low-rainfall area (average 350 mm (14 in)) one of the best wildlife-viewing experiences in the world. The park protects two of the five main swamps, and includes a dried-up Pleistocene lake and semi-arid vegetation.

      As we approached Amboselli National Park we came upon a herd of giraffes. There must’ve been about 20 of this group. Some were grazing quite literally for leaves in the treetops. Others were walking about and a few were running hither and yon. I must admit I was totally amazed at how graceful these beautiful animals were. In most scenes I recall the giraffes were generally stationary. So I had no idea that they could in fact be so graceful. They ran with effortless gait. Again another unexpected and totally hypnotic experience. I have since spoken with people who have seen these animals and the grace and ease of movement also impressed them.

         Later we saw many elephants. It does tug at your heartstrings to realize that these magnificent animals are often poached for their ivory tasks. We saw several lions, in what I believe is called a pride of lions. Males , females and young cubs in what appeared to be social communities. We saw some many large birds which I could not recognize and a number of hyenas. As a child I was intrigued with the fact that they were called laughing hyenas. As we got close they were not particularly laughing; but, they had a constant cackle that one could extrapolate as being a laugh . There is an old rugby song that ends, “ the laughing hyena drinks once a day, eats once a week and has sex only once a year. What the hell does he have to laugh about?” But, these guys seem to be having a good chuckle so all was well with the hyena world. Later in the drive we came across a rhinoceros. I had read that they have a short memory span so if you’re ever charged by one it is best to standstill. As, according to some theories they will forget where they’re going. This one rhino did take a run at the Volkswagen van we were in. He took about 10 steps that suddenly stopped and started munching on some grass. Our guide told us that he got distracted rather easily. Just after we saw the rhinoceros we came across a long snake that was about six or 7 m long. I believe the driver called it a boa. He was quite excited by this sighting and he stopped several other vans and directed their drivers to the area where we had seen a large snake. There were three of us in the car and we looked at each other with a look of satisfaction that can only be gained by having seen something unusual.

      We were then driven to our overnight campsite. We each had our own “ROOM” that is a tent our own. There was a comfortable bed and a shower behind the Area. There was also a small dining area where we had an excellent supper. So it wasn’t quite roughing it as I had expected. Don’t get me wrong, I liked it J

      As the sun was going down it reflected on Mount Kilimanjaro in the distance. There seem to be haze rising off the ground of the Amboselli Plain . Only the top half of the mountain was visible but I decided to take a picture. That was a good decision because the following morning the haze had risen and all of Mount Kilimanjaro was obscured. At one point in my life I had ambition of climbing the mountain; but, that never came about. I have no real regrets about this and my good friend Richard fulfill that plan for me. During his 60th year he climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. Well done Rick. J

        I’ve long been a fan of many the explorers of the African continent. Stanley, Sir Richard Burton were of particular interest to me ;but, there were many from England, France, Portugal, Spain and Germany. In many ways their legacies are exciting; but, the aftermath of colonization and exploitation is still being felt. A couple of years ago I met a man from the Cameroon told me, “ we achieve their independence too soon”. It was a very deep insight into the problems that the Europeans left in Africa. What he meant was that independence was certainly an aim for all of Africa; but, the colonial powers left little in the way of guidance, when they were forced to pull out after many internal revolutions. Many countries were divided arbitrarily and tribal areas that had developed over hundreds of years were sometimes divided by a line on a map. One such area was between Nigeria and the Cameroon . Biafrans lived on both sides of the artificial border.

      I returned to Nairobi the next day and spent one last evening exploring the city. Again, I was not aware that this could be a rather dangerous experience. St. Pesmo, mission accomplished. When I left Nairobi to fly back to Nicosia I had my driver picked me up. He’d been the taxi driver I first met two weeks previous. I treated my driver to nice Tusker ale and I left him fairly generous tip. At the airport I met a couple of the rugby players who were “White Kenyans. They jokingly asked if the driver was given me any trouble. I laughed and said no I was just enjoying a drink and I had left the fellow a tip. What they said next was at once disturbing; but ,also a reflection on some of the inner workings of Kenyan society. They said, “ We don’t feed the animal’s here.” I’ve always had an open mind about people I found this remark offensive , and I still find it distasteful. One thing I learned in my travels was that one looks at other countries with an open and accepting point of view.

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BEIRUT
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BALBECK  , IN THE BEKKA VALLEY
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BALBECK  , IN THE BEKKA VALLEY
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 3 METER ANT HILLS OUTSIDE NAIROBI
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LAKE NAKURU, 1 MILLION FLAMENGOS