Africa, One Continent, Many Cultures

IMG_2768 - CopyWe live in the center of the North American continent. It consists of two large countries, considered ‘westernized’ by the rest of the world. With the exception of some aboriginals in the far north, and perhaps a few other groups trying to cling to their heritage, I believe we share a similar culture. We are composed of different races, with different beliefs, but we share common goals like freedom and democracy.

In the last month and a half, Cathryn and I have experienced three distinctly different countries in the African continent. A drop in the bucket when you consider there are currently fifty-four countries. Planning this trip, I had three separate goals: to see something different for my sixtieth birthday and check off the pyramids of Giza on my bucket list. To break up the trip into three, using each location as a base for further exploration. And to work our way into a warmer climate to wile away the cold Canadian winter.

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Blue Gardens by Cathryn Gagnon

52441743_300856517281021_5527814237860134912_nWe have been in Kiwengwa, Zanzibar for four days now.  I happened to bring a few plastic shopping bags with me from Cape Town, which we used up in the kitchen waste container.  Suddenly, out of kitchen garbage bags, I began to panic.  So the search began. We looked in the one small grocery store here in town with no luck.  We even searched in Stone Town without success.  I asked Ed, “What do we do with our kitchen waste?”

We asked Carola, the guesthouse owner, and she told us that plastic bags are outlawed and/or forbidden in this area.  You simply cannot get plastic bags anywhere, you can’t even buy them.

She said that her parents visited eleven years ago and commented on the blue gardens along the roads and in the fields. They were littered with blue plastic shopping bags.  When they returned a year ago, they noticed that the blue gardens had virtually disappeared.

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Same but Different

IMG_2572Let’s start with vacation vs. travel. To those inexperienced in the latter, as opposed to the former, you’ll completely understand. Others may think the two getaways are the same, but they are quite different. Vacations tend to be those one-week jaunts to somewhere warm, where you can relax and forget all about work or whatever other crap life throws at you on a daily basis.

Travelling entails extending those sojourns, not only to relax or escape every day life, but to explore new places and perhaps venture off the beaten path. Two weeks at an all-inclusive resort may sound the same as two weeks in Europe, but they are very different. So, the question is do you want everything to be the same as home? If you do then stay at home. One reason to travel is to experience something different, whether it’s the weather, or food or wine or landscape or culture.

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North & South, Egypt vs. Capetown

49938676_279635946044865_3597180374783885312_nWith the exception of a quick visit to Morocco many years ago, this is my first foray into the African continent. Our planned trip takes us from the top (Egypt), to the bottom (South Africa), and lastly to the eastern side (Tanzania). I split the itinerary into three segments, roughly ten days, three weeks and three weeks, giving us plenty of time to explore each destination, but also time to kick back and relax.

We’ve only been in Capetown, South Africa for six days. Comparing the north to the south, so far, it is like night and day – Egypt being the older, darker, and unfortunately dirtier country. I can accept the fact that anything four to five thousand years old ages with a certain patina over time, but I am disgusted by the country’s attitude toward garbage and litter.

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Reflecting on Egypt

img_1043We’ve been busy and on the go for eight days straight so there’s been no time to contemplate everything we’ve seen and attempted to absorb. Cathryn said it best after exploring our umpteenth temple, “it’s overwhelming.” It was meant in a good way since each and every ancient site was truly amazing. The pyramids at Giza are just a drop in the bucket of Egyptian wonders.

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