TV screens tuned to CNN and Fox News trumpeted the impending government shutdown as we made our way to our gate two Fridays ago, boarding our flight to Phoenix hours before a lapse in appropriations, which is now in its 13th day and appears to have no immediate end in sight. Our automated furlough notices arrived the next morning, as we started our second Southwest road trip with an ambitious itinerary of national and state parks in Arizona and New Mexico.
Posts tagged ‘birding’
Perhaps the saddest moment of our Kigali tour happened a couple of months before our departure, when D realized just a split second too late that he had neglected to zip up the side pocket of our camera bag. As if in slow motion, he watched with a sinking heart as the camera tumbled out and dropped several feet, the lens landing with a sickening crunch on the tiled floor.
As with our previous Foreign Service assignments, we have decided to mark the end of our tour abroad with an American road trip. After Kenya we had spent three weeks driving around California; following two years in Moldova we had returned home just long enough to drop our bags before heading to the Southwest. This time we strung together an itinerary that starts off in Salt Lake City and takes in parts of Wyoming and Idaho before culminating in Boise.
After one final morning in the office – to pay bills, tie up a dozen logistical loose ends, and formally hand over to his successor – D walked the 45 minutes home from the Embassy, something he had been meaning to do but never quite found the time or energy for. He got a bit of the typical mzungu treatment – an exuberant shopkeeper offered passport photos, a handful of kids recited “give-a me money” in heavily accented English, several passing moto-taxis honked to offer a ride – but mostly D was left alone with his thoughts as he soaked in the sights and smells of Kigali one last time.
As we prepare to bid adieu to Rwanda, we have been making mental notes of the things we will miss (and others that we definitely won’t). One thing high on D’s list – not just for Rwanda, but rather for the entire continent – is the region’s incredible birdlife.
In addition to a scenic coastline, great food and wine, and amazing hiking, the opportunity to see wild animals up close is one of South Africa’s main draws. We did not visit the world-famous Kruger National Park on this trip, a day in Addo being our only real safari of the vacation. However, upon entering the Garden Route, we discovered that we were staying in an “animal valley” of sorts, which offered a different kind of wildlife experience from the game drives we’ve come to love over the course of almost four years on the African continent.
One of the keys to parental happiness is either cultivating shared hobbies with one’s children, convincing (or cajoling) them to embrace one’s own favorite pastimes, or finding complementary activities that allow the simultaneous indulgence of both adult and child interests. In Maine for the summer with Munchkin, D struck gold on the latter front.
Flanking the busy road to Jinja, Mabira is a swath of dense rainforest that is not to be missed if one is a nature enthusiast. Hundreds of different bird species call this pristine corner of Uganda home, and Mabira is also one of the only places on Earth to see Old World mangabey monkeys.