Before I continue with my main train of thought, let me interrupt myself and share with you a pleasant memory of a half hour spent one evening on our trip – if for no other reason than to help me and, I hope, you decompress, and don’t we all need a little of that in these trying times.
Are the stars out tonight; I don’t know if it’s cloudy or bright.
We were near the end of our safari, once again staying at the Oldeani Mountain Lodge, and Barbara and I decided to take a few minutes one evening and sit on the back porch of our little cottage (one of the many amenities of this high-end lodge) and chill. There above us was the blanket of stars that in actual fact fills the sky no matter where you are – except you can’t see it, at least not now in most of the places we hang out in. For us, we’re content if we can locate the three stars that demarcate the end of Shabbat. Even then, we rely on the little chart that tells us what that time is supposed to be without even bothering to look towards the sky. Barbara remembers when she was staying in Jerusalem in 1968. Her apartment was in the area near what is now the Central Bus Station; but back then, it was at the edge of the city. And she could see stars then, lots of them, almost every night. Today? You’d have to go far away from the city, any city. Maybe down to the Negev, or in The States, out to the hinterlands. There’s probably an amazing array of celestial objects in the middle of the Serengeti, but come to think of it, being out alone there in the middle of the night, contemplating the vastness of the universe, may not be the safest thing to do. Lions, you know. I kept thinking how neat it would be without the light pollution, if we could see the stars in Ma’ale Adumim the way we see the trees. (At least where we live there are plenty of trees.) But there are trade-offs. There’s little pollution of any kind in rural Tanzania, but you can’t drink the water, you need mosquito netting around your bed at night, and the roads aren’t paved. As they say in these parts, ein ma la’asot (nothing you can do about it).
My second open letter to King Mohammed VI of Morocco.
Dear Serene Majesty,
I’m sure your failure to respond to my first letter, sent over a year ago, was due to a dereliction of duty by one of your staff members. I’d check up on them, if I were you.
Of course, you remember the thrust of my remarks, that a major impediment to reaching your goal of having twenty million tourists a year arrive in your country by 2020(understandably, your target date will have to be pushed back) is the lack of first-rate toilet facilities on the roads between cities and in your national parks. I suggest that, when your busy schedule permits, you and whoever is in charge of these matters take a journey to Tanzania – a poorer country than yours – and see what they have to offer in the way of amenities in their national parks and game preserves. Real toilets not holes in the ground. Clean. Smiling attendants who are there to keep it that way; not sulky women who charge you for toilet paper. Plus, they have obstacles you can’t even imagine. (See attached photo.) So, if I may be so bold, Get with it!
Back to our regularly scheduled program.
When we left off the last article, we were enjoying a cup of coffee at a small coffee plantation, where I took the hint and purchased a bag to bring back to The Land. When we got back into our ‘jeeps,’ and headed back along the dirt road, I assumed we were going straight back to the lodge. I wouldn’t have minded some quiet time before everybody else sat through Yigal’s daily ‘briefing’ and we all had dinner. We turned onto a main road (if it’s paved, it’s a main road!), and, all of a sudden, we were making a left turn, stopping, and getting off. Where are we? Not another tourist group in sight. Holy moly! We’re in a market, one for the locals. Before I get too excited and start running around with my camera, let me just look around and see what’s going on.
It’s easy to forget that there are places in the world where there are no Supersols or Shoprites where you can drive up, fill up your shopping cart, and drive away with everything you need for the next week or two. Life is different in rural Tanzania, if for no other reason that everything they consume comes from around there, and, because it’s a stone’s throw from the equator, there’s no off-season for growing things. Plus, like any well-run shuk, almost anything else you want is available.
You want the freshest fruits and vegetables? You got it.
You want a chicken? You got it.
You want a pair of shoes? You got it.
You need a haircut? You got it.
You need to know what’s the score? You got it.
I hope you get it: life is different. Appreciate it for what it’s worth.