A Trip to Africa

IMG_1428.JPG

IMG_1407.JPGIMG_1399.JPG

 

 

What can I say about a dream come true?  Shall I say that I spent most of my life believing my dreams wouldn’t be fulfilled?  I lived much of my early years longing for the things that others had.  The thing about my longings is that it kept me out of the loop. There’s an unspoken presumption that it was beyond my reach. Growing up I heard about the trips to Florida my classmates took.  I longed to audition for a traveling high school production of Godspell, but had to work, and couldn’t afford to take time off, let alone pay for a ticket to California.  I felt left out.  Moving to New York in the early 80’s, there were apartments for sale at accessible prices. But for me, getting my hands on $200 was as elusive as paying for a $20,000 apartment.   It took years to learn that there were ways to have what I once thought as impossible.  I learned that by working hard in psychotherapy. And, throughout the years I’ve realized a few of my dreams, my own private practice, running the NYC Marathon at 56, and most recently, going on Safari in Africa.

IMG_1479.JPGDSC_0130.jpg

IMG_1552.JPG

It was a month ago Larry and I were in East Africa.  It truly was a dream come true.  I first had the idea when my mother mentioned wanting to go to Africa when I was a child. In my mind, we would go together. But through the years it became apparent she was not one who could travel easily.  I, on the other hand, started traveling in college. First studying art history in Paris, and visiting a few other European cities.  Then doing what I could to go on local road trips, and visit other countries.  But one of my bucket list trips had yet to be realized.

DSC_0132.jpg

A little over ten years ago I created the Africa fund.  This was separate from a vacation fund, or any other savings account I had.  I had thought I’d go for my 50th birthday, but I hadn’t saved enough to do anything but backpack, and I’m really no camper.  So, I aimed for my 60thbirthday.  When my mother died this year, I thought, “Why wait? We only live once. ”   And, so, I started planning the trip.  We chose Micato Safaris, which turned out to provide an amazing adventure.  They designed special experiences throughout.  Elephants are my favorite animal, and they made sure my time with Elephants surpassed any and all expectations.

IMG_1415.JPG

We started out in Kenya. We went to the Nairobi National Park. It was our first safari experience. There is a unique energy trying to visually locate animals in their natural habitat.  Giraffes can be easier to spot based on their height, but most of the animals blend in so beautifully that it was not as easy to spot them as I would have imagined.  Later we went to a Giraffe sanctuary.  They save endangered giraffes, and raise them until they can go back into the wild.  We got to feed these beautiful creatures with their purple, foot long tongues, and expressive eyes.  Later we visited the  Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, which is an orphanage for baby elephants.  They ran past us in the sweet line as they made their way into their nightly beds.  They are rescued elephants, who are raised for their first few years, then introduced back into the wild, with their dedicated foster parents.

 

IMG_1674.JPG

 

IMG_1508.JPG

IMG_1642.JPG

The next day we flew to Tanzania for the Tanzania Spectacular tour.  It is aptly named.  We visited Tarangire, where we stayed in luxurious treetop cabins.  From there we went to the Ngorongoro Crater. It is like nothing else in that it attracts all the wildlife since there is a good supply of water.  From there we drove to the Serengeti.  The Serengeti is vast and varied.  There we were able to see so much.  And, though I was enamored by all the animals we saw, I have to say, I loved meeting and speaking to everyone we encountered.  When our tour ended in Tanzania Larry and I went to Zambia to enjoy the beauty and splendor of Victoria Falls.  While there, we went on a motor boat on the Zambezi to The Elephant Cafe, a restaurant that serves local cuisine after feeding and petting the rescued elephants they care for. It was an outstanding experience, from the crocodiles and hippos by the river, to a five star meal after communing with the gentle giants.

IMG_1515.JPG

IMG_1598.JPG

DSC_0142.jpgIMG_1733.JPG

Each moment of each day was full and satisfying.  I felt transformed.  Not only was I able to go somewhere I had only dreamed of, but I was able to enjoy all the trip had to offer.  I don’t know how it’s changed me.  Only time will tell.

IMG_2029.JPG

 

IMG_1727.JPG

 

IMG_1694.JPG

Hidden in Plain Sight

 

Unknown.jpeg

This week Larry and I went on a tour of Gracie Mansion, an activity over 15 years in the making. We live a half a block from New York City’s first family home. Yet, we’ve only seen the façade prior to today. I would usually walk into Carl Shurz park passing by the city-guarded mansion.  We spoke of going on a tour during the Guiliani years, but we always found ourselves too busy. So, two weeks ago, I thought, screw that, we’ll always be busy, let’s just do it. And, we did.

images-2.jpeg

The tour is free. We just went to the .gov site and got on a list. Tours take place Tuesdays. They start on the hour beginning at 10 AM. We got a 2 PM time slot, a slim opening I had on a full work day. And, that was it. We were scanned going in, and then shown a home built in 1799 during the Federalist period. When it comes to style, I’m much more of an early and mid-twentieth century buff, but I appreciate history and Gracie Mansion is chock full of history. The architecture, furniture, art work and fixtures were the key focuses of the tour. We had a well-informed well-styled woman to take us around along with about 15 others. Another group tour of 20 well-heeled woman from a Bronx senior program were taken by their own tour guide.

images-3.jpeg

It was fun to learn new facts about the city. I learned that Frederick Douglass was a visitor, but never a resident, of New York City. I just assumed he lived here since there’s an impressive two-way Boulevard named after him. And, I learned that most of the present furniture were gifts rather than original pieces.

images-1.jpeg

It’s fun to find out that no matter where we live there’s something new to learn. I don’t always retain the information taken in, but I do cherish the experience. We enjoyed a peak into another era. It’s so easy to deny ourselves the simple pleasures of living in the city.

Unknown-1.jpeg

I’m much more apt to go downtown to the theater than walk down the block on a Tuesday afternoon to take in a quiet treasure. Sometimes slowing down to enjoy what’s hidden in plain sight can enrich us in ways we underestimate.

Letting Go in ’16

Unknown.jpeg

Stock picture online

 

What a concept! Letting go has been used as a catch phrase describing a way of not feeling what we don’t want. I am not amused when I make a complaint and I’m told, “just let it go.” If I could have let it go I wouldn’t be complaining in the first place. But 2016 feels like a good time for me to let things go. Partly because I haven’t liked what I’ve felt, but mostly because what I have previously over-enjoyed isn’t serving me right now.

 

images.jpeg(stock pic online)

I usually make lots of plans, however, my plan this year is to plan less. I’m letting go of being too busy. It means more Yes time to do less, and more “No”s in the scheduling category.

Unknown-2.jpeg(Stock Pic online

I feel relieved with this plan. In the past I would get overwhelmed with all that I had to do. I am smiling as I write this because I’m looking forward to less. And in this case less is more; more freedom, more ease, more inner peace.

Unknown.jpeg

I don’t imagine living a less fulfilling life. In fact I image I will be more fulfilled doing less. But New York City still offers a lot. I will try to relax as I choose plays more judicially, or pick what art exhibits I’ll see. I go to the opera and dance performances less, so that feels easier. Movies may be difficult to decide on, but I’m up for the challenge. I will be reading less based on recommendations and more on what moves me at any given time. I’ve been fortunate to have gone to a lot of parties and events over the years, and am happy to slow down significantly. I’m just not in the mood right now. I still look forward to going to work, walking, running, and spending time with my family. And I’m always up for a good laugh.

12059603-manhattan-new-york-city-usa--january-11-2011-times-square-featured-with-broadway-theaters-and-animat.jpgUnknown-1.jpeg

(stock Images)

It will be interesting what I end up doing or not doing, as the case may be. Yet, letting go does not feel like an imperative at this juncture, it feels natural, as if I made it to this point and letting go is what’s next.

Charleston

Charleston

It’s been almost two weeks since I returned from Charleston, SC. I so needed to get away, and Charleston was the perfect escape. It’s a great walking city. And, jogging in the city proved to be perfect. It’s surrounded by water with stunning homes in the interior. So running the streets, the parks, and up and down the historic district in the unseasonably cool days, was therapeutic for my mind, body and soul. As an extremely slow runner, I had a chance to take in the sites, and I drank them in for thee and half days.

When I wasn’t walking or jogging, I was enjoying the wonderful cuisine or napping. Both felt simply indulgent. It was all great for a vacation. The restaurants take pride in their food and it shows. I enjoyed new southern cuisine, fresh seafood, and traditional fare. From fine dining to easy cafes, the servers and staff were friendly, but not overly solicitous. It was so easy to dine alone. And being alone gave me time to refresh and restore.

IMG_3331 DSC03258

On one of my longest days, I ran by the Ashley and Cooper Rivers in the morning and walked to and from the Arthur Ravenel, Jr. Bridge, going over it’s 2 ½ mile expanse coming and then again when returning. There were a lot of walkers and joggers, so I surmised it’s a popular track.

DSC03247 DSC03248DSC03280

Later the same day, weary from being on my feet, I went to the pool for a quick swim. I found the water too cold, so I merely soaked my feet and ankles. It was wonderful. Sitting on Chaises was a lovely couple from Lititz, PA, in the Pennsylvania Dutch country, Trish & Gerry Link. Our family is big fans of Wilbur Buds, wonderful chocolate drops from the Wilbur Candy factory in Lititz. It’s a small world.

wilbur-chocolate-entrance-300x127

We spoke as the sun set. And, we shared our experiences on our short vacations. They had walked on the bridge their first day in Charleston, while I took a walking tour of the Historic District that day. They were kind enough to send me some pictures of their time in Charleston and the Bridge pictures are courtesy of Jerry.

images-1

It was good to get away. I had burned out and this short, yet essential vacation was invaluable. I know it’s a luxury, not only to go to Charleston, but to do so with a teen daughter, husband and dog at home. However this trip allowed me to regroup and refresh to start anew. I’m happy to be home. Being away really does make the heart grow fonder.

Unknown   imagesSome pictures come from images online.