Sunday, May 31, 2015

Love and Thailand

My work has been non-stop.  We’re in the field from 6am to 6pm running around in the bleeding heat, thrashing between tall grass to get to households, only to come home, analyze the data, have a debrief call and plan for tomorrow.  But this isn’t a post about my work.  (There will be a post on that later.)  This is a post about how I currently find myself on another bizarre adventure.

I was invited to a conference in Bangkok, so naturally, I realized this was the perfect excuse to spend a few days detoxing from my field work and deep cleaning my feet from swamp.  (I literally had to cross a swamp to get to one household.  More on that later.)

I fly from Uganda to  Bangkok and then straight to the beach town of Krabi.  I ask to see the travel book from a guy next  to me on the plane and quickly read up about the place.  I did 0 research except pick a hotel and realize that there is good rock climbing nearby. 

I have been to Bangkok before.  Traveled here when I was 22, stayed in a hotel that had no hot water and was rented by the hour, and explored the red light district with a man I had just met:

This wasn’t going to be like that time.

The hotel I picked is unreal.  Elephant statues spitting water, little pretty women always turning up with cold towels and shots of guava juice, 6 pools, and a view of the cliff beach.  I smooth talk/hustle ?Smustle?, my way into getting a room with a Jacuzzi tub.  The room has its own porch, and a Jacuzzi in the freaking bathroom. 

I feel so clever and pretty and even though I keep having to check in with work, well rested.  Until I get to the restaurant and realize, I’m not wearing any clothes.  Or rather I’m the only single person around for miles and miles.  Couples of all nationalities sit near me, holding hands, kissing in the pool, cheersing to their honeymoon/wedding/anniversary/affair.  And I’m alone.  So I order a drink and call Valerie.

“Why the hell are you not here.” 

Of course I invited her but she couldn’t join me because she’s going to Rwanda or some shit. 

“I’m stuck at home with Giardia or something.  I can’t move.”

“Serves you right.  I have a Jacuzzi tub damnit, and no one to share it with.”

What was just before a dream vacation was now tainted by all the loving whispers all around me.   I start to make flirty eyes with the waiter.

Then I heard one couple say “I can’t believe we’re here honey, all this planning, I love you so much.”

All this planning?  I jumped on a plane and barely knew what I was doing until I landed.  How ridiculous am I?  How could I wish it to be any different?  Why would I want to be that couple?

I hope our adventure will be right in the middle of all the others we will make for ourselves.  And when we look back on our honeymoon, at the amazing time we stayed on the beaches of Thailand, we’ll laugh and wonder “which time was that?”


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Gorillas in my Midst

The thing left to do in Uganda was to see the gorillas.  The thing I was told about when I first firstly first got to Uganda and the thing I was told I could not leave before doing. 

I know about the gorillas.  I watched Gorillas In the Mist.  I wanted to be Dian Fossey.  The Gorilla exhibit was my favorite part of the Bronx Zoo.

So I gathered up my partner in travel, Val, from Tanzania, joined together with 4 other women friends and went to the Impenetrable Forest bordering the Congo to see them. 

There are only around 700 gorillas remaining in the world and they are only found in two places:  in the Virunga Volcanoes of Rwanda, Uganda and the Congo, and in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda.

Our car tilted on the large cavern that separated us and the forest.  We carried our packs and walked, with armed guides, down the almost vertical wall into the canyon.  My legs shook and I fell an obscene number of times.

And then there, just ahead in the clearing, just casually loping along was a family of gorillas.  My breath caught and I started to cry.  But quickly pulled my shit together to take the following pictures.  The rest of the journey we whispered to ecstatically to each other, thrilled and terrified that they might charge us.  There was a 1 year old baby and an infant in the family and 2 silverbacks.  Valerie and I gripped each other as one of the gorillas brushed my leg.  Please see video for proof.

My first sight of the gorillas in the clearing

One of the brothers

The non-leading silverback

The gorilla family

Thinking Man/Gorilla

Mother with her infant

Baby playing with his brother


Head silverback



Impenetrable Forest