A Travellerspoint blog

Then you ask, why I don't live here...

Honey, I just don't have the clothes


Obscure Dylan reference there for anyone who is so inclined.

Hello Darlings,
I know I haven't been about for a bit, and I wish I could say it was because I was Mrs. Busy-Knickers, but it's not. Fact is I am a lazy bastard.
I have been going back and forth from my home in St Andrews to the Edinburgh Fringe and I promise to tell you all about that at some point, including insider info from people I know who were performing a play. Lemme just say it is an incestuous little world, but I think they are all coming out alive!
Anyways, for the first time since I started writing this blog I am actually going somewhere (not Edinburgh, that doesn't count). Where are you going? I hear you ask. I answer with a little smirk and a casual wave of the hand...
Yeah, yeah my folks live there. Yeah, little house on the beach, well not little really, no big deal. Yeah, they have their own bit of beach, whatever. Why are you going green?
Sorry, my friends tend to try to physically hurt me whenever I announce I am going to Mauritius and it tends to bring out the worst in me. Tee hee.
But as usual I have the problem of what to wear. That is the one minor difficulty with living in Scotland but going on holiday to such a hot country all the time. All my clothes are for the one climate and not the other. I can hear you all sighing and going 'Wow, this woman has issues', but if you, like me, were a woman with a strong sense of her own personal style and and a highly tuned ability to recognise when one's bat-wing arms and tree-stump legs should not be on show to the general public, you too would worry about what the HELL to wear in Mauritius. Incidentally, don't imagine for a moment that I am saying this out of false modesty, or vanity, or self-obsession. It's a self-preservation thing.
So what do I do? Well first, I turned to the British woman's GBF Gok Wan for his advice on what to wear on the beach as a 'real woman'. Massive letdown. If I say the words gold bikini and sculpting underwear you will get what I mean. Secondly I had a sort-through. Now, I don't have that many clothes (at least, not as many as some women) on account of we moved around a lot when I was younger and so my collection hasn't mounted up. This is good for me because it means I don't have to be tidy, but bad because I have to wear the same crap over and over again. And have to try and make autumn UK clothes wearable in Mauritius. I drew a blank. Apart from three swimming costumes and one t-shirt all my clothes are either made of wool or denim, or are too long. Third, I pulled my laptop towards me and before I could stop myself had typed 'NEXT' into google and was staring longingly at beautiful floating dresses and adorable pairs of shorts worn by gorgeous models having the time of their lives on a sunkissed beach. I glanced at the prices, sighed, and pushed the computer away.
And so what have I decided to do? Easy really, I just won't take any clothes. I'll take the three swimming costumes and I'll borrow kangas from my family, then I will park my arse on a sunbed with a pile of books beside me and refuse to move for two weeks protesting that 'I've got nothing to wear!'

Posted by rosiescott 06:14 Archived in Mauritius Comments (0)

The continuing story (not of Bungalow Bill)

Continuing in the opposite direction that is...

It occurs to me that I never finished the story of our trip to Gombe, and that I have been very lazy with this blog recently. There is of course an excellent reason for that and for my lifestyle (The lifestyle of a sedentary camel who is obsessed with Ben and Jerry's) over the last couple of weeks. That reason can be summed up in one little acronym: The BBC. May they rot. But more of that later (don't know how much later, don't ask, but I will tell at some point, I promise).

OK, so, we saw the chimps. it was magical and tear in the eye, heart-stopping, thought-provoking fab. But now back in time one further day and where do we find ourselves?...Ahh it's the same forest. The same family of tired, scruffy, dusty people are trudging up a hill joined by two guides and by family friend Janet. We are relieved to be on what is basically a real path for once and not climbing over and under bushes and tree roots in search an elusive chimp or two. We take a well-earned break. Bottles of warm water are pulled from back-packs and poured lavishly over faces and sometimes into mouths. Energy failing us, my sister and I flop down on a rock and allow the quiet of the forest, the gentle faraway song of birds, the tiny background trill of insects and the hum settle over us for a moment. The hum appears to be growing louder and suddenly my sister, Jeannie, stands up shouting, 'Ow! They're stinging!' Even then I don't worry, I merely hop to my feet and look towards her. But they are on us before I can even think again. I am stung three times in quick succession before my brain gets into gear. It tells me one thing, and it is what my dad and my hysterical older sister, Becky, are already screaming, 'RUN!'

Well, I guess I know what you are thinking: Bit of a fuss about some bees. But anyone who has encountered African bees will know that to run is not only the best thing to do, it , might just save your life. The African bee will continue to sting anything in reach so if, by serious bad luck you should happen on a hive, just run! Even then you may not be safe as the bees will sometimes chase people for up to two kilometres. the only fatality that the researchers in Gombe had ever had was believed to be due to the bees. A woman was found at the bottom of a cliff and it was believed that she had run blindly from the bees and in her fear had run straight off the cliff. My sister Becky had already encountered bees in our hometown of Moshi, while on a school trip to a nearby lake. She had been told by her teachers (both English) to get into the lake and put her head under the water to avoid being stung. The girls in her class had all done as they were told, needless to say the boys had run for their lives. Survival of the git-est, I suppose. They had escaped with barely a sting between them while the girls had been stung repeatedly. I visited my sister in the medical building when she returned and was shocked by what I saw. It was like a war zone. Girls crouched on the beds picking stings out of one another's faces. A tissue lying by one girl's side was black with stings that her friend was removing from her ear. They were largely stung on their faces and ears as the rest of their bodies had been underwater. 'Whenever I came up for breath, they were stinging me again' Becky sobbed through swollen lips. Over the next few months her hands, feet, legs and face swelled up so that she sometimes couldn't move them, and the sound of any flying insect was enough to send her into a panic.

Hard to blame her then as now she runs for safety without looking back. I run too and after sometime cannot feel the bees stinging any more. My mum and dad catch up with us and eventually we find Becky crouched in a ditch by the side of the path, her hands over her head, sobbing. We cling together as a family, three girls, mum and dad. After a while the guides come running towards us, one of them is still shaking the shirt that he has torn off himself, his torso is covered with stings. And then it slowly becomes clear. One of us is missing.

All I've got time for at the moment. Some of us have to work ya know!

Posted by rosiescott 07:39 Archived in Tanzania Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

I had some time so...

Lessons learned in a St Andrews pub


Expect this to be a bit unstructured and generally meh...

I will now hold forth about an aspect of St Andrews life that I have become very fond of...the Old Man Pub. St Andrews is a very small Scottish town that during term time is dominated by students, where the most widely used phrase is something like, "yah, drinky poos back at mine, dahling" and where the average age decreases by about thirty years every time June comes around. Pubs in the centre of town tend to be either student orientated (cheap, bright and with Greenday or The Killers playing in the background) or glossy with good food (somewhere American golfers will go to try Guinness because they think it is Scottish). Old Man pubs are on the edge of things. They are a little dingy and don't have a touch-screen jukebox. The owners know most of the drinkers by name and new-comers are stared at. The man by the bar and his disconcertingly large grey dog (and there will be a man by the bar with a disconcertingly large grey dog) look up simultaneously as the stranger enters and both seem to utter the same low growl, deep in their throats...

But they soften up in time. And there are advantages to these pubs, particularly if you are a woman under the age of thirty and like having free drinks bought for you. And I am and I do. I know it's hypocritical and sexist, ra ra ra...whatevs. Chuckle.

A few lessons to learn before you go in:
Lesson 1: Do not be put off by the silence that will inevitably fall as you enter (particularly if you are under 30)
Lesson 2: Do not ask to see the wine list. There isn't one. And you will be glared at and have the words "Go to hell" transmitted telepathically to you by the bar man.
Lesson 3: Second thoughts, don't order wine.
Lesson 4: If possible, order a pint of Belhaven Best; if you can't stand this then get a lager.
Lesson 5: Only make eye-contact with people if you are ready to have a conversation that will go on for several hours about something that you will understand less that half of, or you will inevitably find yourself agreeing with and/or to things that you don't adhere to.

Most brilliant thing ever said to me in a St Andrews Old Man Pub: "If yer in shite up to yer nose, keep yer mouth shut!" How true.

All for now

Posted by rosiescott 06:21 Archived in Scotland Tagged educational Comments (0)

The evolution of me

Being a hopefully not too sentimental re-telling of my experience watching wild chimpanzees in Gombe. Part 2.

Eventually we came to a spot where the forest floor was sloped and covered with a thick, soft layer of clover-like plants; we sat down among the trees and watched the chimpanzees around us. There was no conversation. Eventually Dad even stopped snapping pictures, though this may have been more to do with the light and the blurry nature of the shots (Dad’s very fussy about his photos) than the feeling that was stealing over me. As I’m writing, I’m trying to get back there so I can explain how I felt. It was strange and my wonder was tinged with a hint of fear. I wasn’t ignorant of how strong chimpanzees are, and the wild crashing through, accompanied by a cacophony of hooting from of what seemed like every chimp in the forest, of the larger, older males made the hairs stand up on my arms and the breath leave my lungs to the point of pain. But every moment was so exciting, and every moment there was something to see so close to me that I could have reached out and touched it. They were so like us, but at the same time so different. The males had so much control as they swung down and were so fast, as they came past seeming to surf from tree to tree. They hands were so dextrous and every long, brown finger was perfectly shaped and had a clear shiny fingerprint on its end.
At the time the males were involved in a power struggle. The male who had been dominant for some years (Frodo) was either sick or injured and hadn’t been seen for some time. There had been rumours that he snatched, killed and tried to eat a baby from one of the villages on the island; what this had to do with his illness I don’t know. Now the struggle was between several males of the G family, making them violent and noisy. We had been told that if one of the dominant males came through we had to hold onto a tree trunk and appear submissive, but naturally I rather hoped it wouldn’t come to that. Full grown chimpanzees are unimaginably strong.
The moment when tears eventually sparked in my eyes, the culmination of what seemed like quite a journey, came when a mother chimp which I had been watching for some time stretched out her arm and brought her young one to her breast. She sat legs out in front and after picking something small and invisible from his head she stroked her hand down over it and got to her feet. She came forward on four legs, baby clinging on the front for several steps and then smoothly stood upright and walked the last few steps to the tree on two legs. She deposited junior on a low branch and then followed him as he began to climb. Those moments, from four legs, to standing, to two filled my chest with an excitement that it couldn’t contain. It looked like evolution happening in front of my eyes.
Love you and leave you now
P.S. Feel free to comment!

Posted by rosiescott 01:53 Archived in Tanzania Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

The evolution of me

Being a hopefully not too sentimental re-telling of my experience watching wild chimpanzees in Gombe. Part 1.

The chimpanzees of Gombe Stream National Park are world famous due to the pioneering work of Jane Goodall, who discovered much of what we know about the behaviour of our wild cousins during her research there. Of course Jane (one of my heroes) was criticised (by losers) for the way she conducted her research because she tended to anthropomorphise the chimps. She gave them names and what seemed to be human characteristics and (shocking) formed close relationships with some of them. Well, here’s the deal, I don’t think anyone who has actually seen the chimps could deny that they are quite a lot like us. When Darwin first published On the Origin of Species (bit of a meh title, by the way, for possibly the most revolutionary book ever written – Yep, bible included, take that religion) there was a lot of ‘Hmm, so we’re quite similar to chimpanzees are we, Charlie? Speak for yourself!’ And feel free to say the same thing to me. I won’t be listening, but, feel free.
The story of when I went to see the chimps is actually a bit of a saga and involved everything from sickness and life-threatening moments to massive, heart-thudding, tear-jerking highs. Have I whetted your appetite a bit? Good. Because this will take a bit of telling, and I’m not doing it all now. Because, you know, I’ve got two jobs. And a life. But first...the chimps themselves.
It was actually our third day in Gombe that we actually saw the chimps. We awoke, already emotionally and physically drained from the day before (wait and see!) and this was it, our last chance to see the chimpanzees. If we didn’t see them today, we would have to come away, and drive all the way home without experiencing what we had come for. My family are inveterate safari-goers. For me there is no greater thrill than finally, after hours of searching, with only the odd impala or zebra in sight, seeing something so exciting that it makes my heart wall up in my throat and my fingertips tingle. Usually it’s something big and toothy. I’m shallow like that. And this was more than that. There was no bouncy vehicle to take us everywhere around the national park. We’d had to trek and hike for hours the previous day through forest so thick it had been a hands and knees job some of the time. We saw no likelihood of it being different today, and so set off, hope fluttering under our skins, but outwardly pretending that it didn’t matter a bit.
“Even if we don’t see them today it’s been a lovely trip.”
“Yeah, it’s such a beautiful place.”
“I’ve probably had enough excitement to last a life...”
There it was. Just there a few metres away on the path in front. Bigger than expected and with a rolling, dragging gait, it gentled a fruit from a tree as it went past. A chimp. The guide told us immediately who she was, how old, who her family were. We followed her deeper into the forest.
“Is that her? No!”
“It’s another one! Look there’s two!”
The ‘Shhhh’ wasn’t necessary. None of us spoke above the sound of our own breathing and the tiny beep of Dad’s digital camera seemed indecent. The guide imitated a low pant-hoot and, after a short pause, was answered with a similar cry from somewhere in the trees up ahead. We saw two more chimps climbing along the forest floor as we hurried on trying to be quicker and quieter all the time.
“They are sisters,” muttered our guide (I don’t remember his name) and something about the way they brushed shoulders as they went along and eventually sat down to groom each other made my sister and I exchange glances.

Well that will have to be it for today, I'm afraid. Part 2, hopefully tomorrow.

Posted by rosiescott 11:15 Archived in Tanzania Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

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