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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

North Africa Film

North Africa from AIM On-Field Media on Vimeo.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


One of the things that I got to do while freelancing in North Africa was to take a camel desert tour into the Sahara and camp in tents with some locals. It was beautiful out there! Sand dunes as far as you could see! Two of my roommates and best friends flew over from the States to join me on this adventure. I took photos for the work I was doing and was in complete awe the whole time!

Our tour started with a night in a desert hotel. It was pretty vacant so my friends and I had tons of awkward laughs at not knowing what we should be doing or when. Like dinner... I think it wasn't until 10pm that we finally ate but we weren't sure if we were supposed to stay in our rooms or go to the dining room.

Around 9pm we went into the dining room wondering what the deal was since our sleepy eyes were winning over our hungry bellies. We found a room full of men sitting there and lounging on pillows. So, being 3 woman, we went to the furthest corner in the room and sat there staring at them wanting to say "hellooooo, we have no idea whats going on!" Finally our food came and it looked like a hot bubbly cheesy pizza... we were excited...until we found out what it really was. A shallow bowl of greasy fatty meat sunk in some tomato paste and topped with egg whites (what we thought was the bubbly cheese). Gulp. Had to be better than eye lashes, right? We ate what we could so we didn't waste food.

After dinner, the lounging men played drums for us. Sarah did an awesome job at being an apprentice to their drum beats.

The next day we woke up late and had some breakfast on the dunes. It was awesome... a cute little paris type table and chairs on top a dune with a little tiki umbrella and tea and coffee. It was amazing.

After breakfast, we headed out to hike up the biggest dune we could find. It took 'fo-eva' to hike it. We had some fun filming our own videos of our last words in the desert just in case...since it looked like we were in the middle of no-where. ;)

Around 4pm we hopped on some camels and headed out for a TWO HOUR camel ride. It was amazing. We had a big caravan of camels and we were led by a man in a turban who really liked to say "For example." Let me pause to explain this. You know when you need to pause and think for a moment while speaking? You usually use words like "so" or "um" right? Well, this man, our tour guide, used the phrase "for example" for every pause he needed to make. It took EVERYTHING out of me not to crack up every time he would explain something because most of his sentences sounded something like this...

"We will be leaving, for example, around 4 this afternoon, for example, evening time. We will then be riding on our camels, for example, each person gets their own camel. It will be about a, for example, 2 hour camel ride. We will stop for sunset, for example, on a dune, for example, where we will hike up."
Amazing, right??

We spent the night in tents in the desert. It was great. My roommates and I were put in this tent that was made of sticks and rugs hanging up. The rugs had holes in them and we commented how cool it was to see stars through the holes. We didn't think those holes were so cool later that night when the sky opened up and started pouring rain. I kept laughing through the night because there was nothing we could do about the rain or the holes letting in the rain. We were soaked.

We got up and had breakfast and figured we should caravan back to the hotel while there was no rain. The 'For Example' man told us that it only rains 4 times a year in the desert... and yes, we were experiencing it full on. Not 5 mins after we left our campsite on our wet camels did the sky open up again and it rained... then it poured. I then made the colossal mistake of saying "it couldn't possibly rain any harder!" ...because it did. Not only did it rain harder but it never let up. Not only did it not let up but it started to hail. Little pellets of frozen rain in the middle of the Sahara desert. Seriously? Our tour guide didn't even have a statistic for how many times it hails in the desert, in fact I'm pretty sure that it never does, for example.

We laughed the entire 2 hours back to the hotel. There was nothing else you could do. No trees, no shelter, just dunes. At one point we saw a 4x4 car come over a dune and we all got our hopes up thinking it was coming to rescue us from the hail-ish weather. Nope... just out for a joy ride. So we continued on. I now know the true meaning of the phrase 'soaked to the bone.'

The tour company that we were booked through kept apologizing for the bad weather thinking that it ruined our experience. Not at all, it actually enhanced it. We loved all the laughter that came from our helpless experience in the desert. We'd do it again in a heartbeat!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Orange Juice

Hello to you all! I'm sorry that I've been so MIA these past few months. I arrived back in Kenya mid January and while still getting over jet lag, hopped on another plane to travel to North Africa. I spent the entire month of February in North Africa doing freelance design and photography. I was nervous about this trip: the length of the trip, traveling alone, and a culture I was unfamiliar with. I think the fact that I was still jet lagged helped with my culture shock however... I was too out of it to really think much, I had to jump in head first and soak it all up.

North Africa is predominately Muslim. Islam is everywhere, again, something I was unfamiliar with. My first morning I woke up in North Africa was to the call of prayer, a constant reminder of the area I was living in for a month. This call to prayer happens 5 times a day and in the city I lived in, they seemed to have the speakers from the Mosque turned on high! I enjoyed being apart of this culture for a month.

I love experiencing new things, new sights, new smells, new tastes, new adventures! Ok, I take one of those back... the smell factor. Wow... there were some smells that I am ok never smelling again.

Because my trip was so long, I'd like to break up my blog posts in different stories and photos of the adventures I had up North. The first was something that happened on day 2 of my trip.Two of my co-workers joined me on my trip for two weeks of the month I lived in North Africa. We wanted to jump into this culture head first, no fear. So, our first day on the job we decided to go to a street cafe and grab some local breakfast. Our breakfast included a flaky tortilla covered in butter and honey, cafe au lait, and freshly squeezed orange juice. The interesting thing about these street cafes is that they don't have their own kitchen but rather have a runner who runs to different venders to grab the tortilla, cafe au lait, and orange juice.

After our runner sat our breakfast in front of us, I descretely inspected my food rather than throw it in my mouth blindly. Tortilla and the cafe au lait was fine and free of anything forgein but my orange juice was another story. I sat there, bug-eyed, swallowing hard as I pondered what to do about the two eyelashes that were mocking me and my adventurous spirit by floating at the top of my orange juice. I didn't say anything to my co-works about the eye lashes and tried to think if I should just scoop them out or ask for a new orange juice, but then I remembered that the orange juice would come from the same place. I pictured a man sitting there squeezing out a new glass of fresh orange juice as he's rubbing his sleepy morning thanks.

I don't know if I've ever mentioned this before, but all my co-workers are men. I often find myself trying to be more adventurous and less girly around them so I don't get identified as high maintenance or the weak link...kinda like the time we had to hike 10 miles in the mountains of Sudan and all. So, while all this was going on in my head, I peacefully continued eating breakfast and drinking my coffee. Finally I decided that I would scoop out the eyelashes and not think about it and just drink it. Trying to be descrete, I slipped my spoon into the top of my orange juice and started fishing. The man who ran around to get our breakfast saw what I was doing and unfortunately misinterpreted my actions. He thought I was trying to unsuccessfully stir my orange juice that had seperated since I took forever to drink it. Before I could even get one eyelash out our my glass, he runs over to my table, grabs the spoon out of my hand, plunges it straigt into my glass and starts stirring as hard as he could while smiling at me and saying in broken english, "fresh orange juice stay not mixed good, drink fast now." Perfect. What a sweet man. I tried not to think about the man who made my orange juice and what he looked like (or what his eyes looked like) and I knew for the rest of the month whenever I walked past an orange juice stand, I would try not to make eye contact with anyone squeezing orange juice. And with that...bottoms up, I drank it all as quickly as I could like a horrible tasting medicine. I figured as long as I'm not thinking about what I'm doing, my gag reflexes wouldn't set in. I eventually told my coworkers a week later what had happened and one of them did remember the guy stirring my juice and then using my spoon in their juice. Lets just say for the rest of my time in North Africa, I avoided orange juice!