Letter #2

February 10, 2011

It is now the next night, and I'm sitting here at the Ngorongoro Farm House, an organic coffee farm and 51-room paradise of a place on the way to the Ngorngoro Crater. It is full of flowers, from roses to purple wandering jew to geraniums of all colors to-you name it. If that's what the garden looks like, I can't wait to see what they do for dinner. It is the perfect viewing distance from the Oldean Mountains, which rise up over the magnificent, fertile, and wild Rift Valley.

Laundry!! Oh my, laundry, clean clothes! I can't wait. Which brings up the dust. Tanzania, except in March and April during the rainiest season, has a lot of dust, and I've had a slight cough ever since I arrived. Between that and the remarkably rutted, washboarded, and bouldered roads we've been on, every day is a workout, complete with a haze of rusty dust on everything. The dust is held in place by the sweat we have been producing starting with the early morning ventures out into the bush. Africa is, especially in February, hot.

But here at The Farm, the main show at this moment, making it all more than worth while even when all I want is a shower, is the bird show. Just sitting here on my veranda (slathered with insect repellant, as this is prime malaria country), I have seen no fewer than four different bird species, every one of them exotic in some way. The trick for appreciating birds is to be able to spot them with the naked eye in the trees (or wherever) and then raise one's binoculars in such a way that you actually catch the bird you want to see through the lenses. It's an acquired skill that I sometimes do brilliantly, but often find myself incapable of. No matter. The wins are thrilling.

 

 

 

Right now I'm watching two birds that look like slightly scruffy buff colored cardinals, complete with crest and nerve, but also equipped with a tail that is longer than they are. They eat, whole, a flower that looks a bit like a magnolia, which sounds quite romantic and exotic, but they have no table manners. They look like trenchermen that have decided to get up on the table straddling the trench for a more advantageous dig-into-it. More glamorous is a curve-billed show-off with iridescent turquoise, purple, brilliant yellow, and more, shining like patent leather. Fun, even if you're not crazy for birds.

Before dinner, we are treated to a dancing performance in which women and men of our group who look interested are invited to join in. It's short enough to elicit some laughs and hone our appetites.

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