Germany diary, days 1 & 2

15 October, 2018

22:15, Friday 28 September. Sydney Airport

Our plane is over an hour late departing Sydney, and we are still sitting at the gate waiting to close the doors. We left home just before 17:00, catching a taxi to the airport. We thought the traffic would be bad during the Friday evening peak hour, but it wasn’t except for a bit of a bottleneck entering the Eastern Distributor off the Harbour Bridge.

On the way, it started raining, a storm breaking the hot spring day. We saw lightning as we approached the airport, but the sun broke through as we arrived at the departures terminal and a huge rainbow arc shone over the runways. I commented to M. that planes could be delayed by lightning, but the storm passed and was over as we left the cab and entered the terminal.

We’d checked in and printed boarding passes online, and the instructions said if we had no checked bags to drop off we could go straight through security into the departure lounges. So we did that, passing through fairly quickly as there weren’t very many people going in. However we both got pulled over for a bomb residue check, which took a few minutes.

We checked the duty free shop and bought some gin and Campari to pick up on the way back in. Then we looked for something to eat as M. was hungry. We tried the food place we ate at the past couple of trips, but they had run out of vegetarian quiches, and M. didn’t fancy anything else they had. We looked around a bit and settled on a nearby place that did pizzas and pastas and some other things. We got a spaghetti with tomato sauce and a margherita pizza. The spaghetti was really good, the pizza very cheesy and with a thin but doughy and chewy crust.

After eating we walked to the gate at the far end of the terminal and relaxed for some time as we had arrived fairly early. At the indicated boarding time we went to the gate and stood close to the entrance for the economy passengers. But we’d seen the cabin crew arriving and they were all still sitting around the gate area, not on the plane. I realised there was some delay, and we ended up waiting quite some time before anything happened. At one point they called our names to come to the counter, and M. went over. They needed to scan our boarding passes for some reason, maybe because we hadn’t checked in any bags.

After a long delay they finally began boarding, letting everyone on at once. Since we were right near the front we got on quickly, finding our seats in the front section of the downstairs deck on the Airbus A380. After everyone had boarded there was more delay, as the flight crew announced that “some people have decided not to fly with us tonight and their baggage needs to be removed”.

Now, we’ve finally pushed back and begun taxiing, an hour and twenty minutes late. Oh well, at least we’ll have less time hanging around in Dubai waiting for our connecting flight to Frankfurt.

Read more: We arrive in Germany on Saturday and walk around Cologne a bit (with photos)

More frequent blogging here (due to G+ shutdown)

14 October, 2018

With the announced shutdown of Google+ as of next year, I’ll be losing one of my most active social media outlets. I still haven’t worked out what I’m going to do about all of the communities on there that were very active and that I enjoyed being part of. Some are moving to new platforms which I don’t entirely trust and so I’m a bit reluctant to just follow.

But to replace the function of me posting short bloggy things on Google+, I’m going to start posting them here instead. Or try to at least.

My habit had been to post short anecdotes and things I could get through in a couple of paragraphs at most over on G+, and longer things here. But from now on it’ll all be here. So expect an increase in number of posts on this blog.

That’s never happened while grocery shopping before

14 October, 2018

I was doing the grocery shopping today. We keep the shopping list in OneNote, synced live via cloud so wife and I can both add/remove items at any time wherever we are.

So as usual I’m deleting items from the list on my phone as I pick them up, to keep track of what I still need to grab. I got everything and the list was completely empty. Headed towards the checkouts…

The fire alarm goes off. Staff tell everyone to leave their unpaid groceries behind and evacuate the building immediately.

So I’m standing outside with about a hundred people, without my groceries, and with my entire shopping list deleted.

Tanzania diary, day 5

25 August, 2018

Tuesday, 3 July, 2018. 21:06, Nimali safari camp, Serengeti National Park

We both woke early, and got up before the alarm went off. We dressed and were ready to go to breakfast by 06:00. Since they said they started serving breakfast from then, we walked down to the restaurant, only to find some surprised looking staff just finishing setting up the breakfast buffet. Obviously nobody had fore-warned them that guests would be arriving at 06:00. Godfrey in particular was missing, and we had visions of the other staff calling him and saying, “They’re here already! Get down here ASAP!” He showed up at 06:30, as bright and cheerful as ever.

Breakfast at Acacia Farm Lodge
Last buffet breakfast at Acacia Farm Lodge

After finishing breakfast we returned to our room to use the bathroom and pack our bags to depart. We walked down to reception, at first pulling our wheeled bags behind us, but the noise quickly attracted the attention of a woman staff member who ran over and offered to take the bags for us. At reception we sat and used the WiFi until Timba arrived, at about 07:45. Since we were ready, we loaded up the car and left immediately. We thanked Godfrey for his personalised attention and I gave him a 50,000 shilling tip, which I hope was appropriate. The lodge staff ended our stay by singing a song of farewell as we departed.

Read more: we enter Ngorongoro Conservation Area, drive across to Serengeti National Park, settle into our new accommodation, and go on a late afternoon game drive where we see lots of animals!

Tanzania diary, day 4

4 August, 2018

Monday, 2 July, 2018. 18:30

We’ve had an incredibly full day already, and M. is having a nap before dinner while I type.

Our alarm went off at 06:00, and almost as I was turning it off the phone rang, being reception giving us a wake up call to make sure we made our morning start. We got up and dressed quickly, then headed down to the restaurant, taking everything we needed for the day so we wouldn’t have to return to our room before meeting Timba.

The breakfast buffet included eggs to order, plus fried potatoes, baked beans, sausages, bacon, as well as a variety of breads, cereals, fruit, yoghurt. One cereal was a dark muesli which looked very intriguing. I scooped a bunch into a bowl and added yoghurt. When I tried a spoonful, I discovered the muesli was hot! Going back for seconds, as it was so delicious and unusual, I asked what was in it, and the chef replied that it was hand made here at the lodge, using ground weet bix, oats, and some other ingredients, then they bake it. It was so good I even had thirds, forgetting about everything else on offer, except to try one of the local fried dough balls, which had a cinnamon and sugar dusting on the outside and was also pretty good.

Breakfast done, we quickly used the toilets in the reception lobby and then went out to meet Timba, who was waiting there for us. We loaded up the car and set out right on 07:00. The drive was initially back through Karatu and the way we’d come yesterday, until we reached the turn off for Lake Manyara National Park. Just inside the park we stopped at a gate where park staff recorded our names and nationality and then did some other paperwork with Timba while we used the toilets there (as it had been a fair drive already). A few other vehicles with tourists were also in the vicinity. Before we left here, Timba popped up the top of the Landcruiser, so we could stand up and see out through the opening in the roof, with some protection from the sun above us.

Then we set off into the park, following a dirt road that often branched and headed off in different directions. On the way here I’d asked Timba if we would have the chance to get out and walk around much, or if we essentially stayed in the car. He said we were required to stay in the car, except at designated picnic or toilet spots. He told us to keep an eye out for wildlife as we drove and yell at him to stop if we see anything.

Before long we spotted a troop of olive baboons. It turned out these were the most common thing to see, and we saw many groups of them throughout the day.

Olive baboon juvenile
Young olive baboon

But then we spotted vervet monkeys in the trees, small pale brown monkeys with black faces.

Read more: lots of animals in Lake Manyara National Park, back to Acacia Farm for a late lunch, walking around the farm, spotting lots of birds

How’s my Ethics teaching going?

4 August, 2018

I’ve been teaching Primary Ethics for 5 school terms now (a term is a quarter year) since I began in April last year. In 2017 I taught the Year 4 class. I’d hoped to move to Year 5 in 2018 so that I could have many of the same children, but due to a wave of teacher retirements I was assigned Year 6 at the beginning of this year.

Year 6 is the oldest kids at the primary school, so the most mature, around 11 years old. As one would expect, they generally have better concentration skills and are more interested in discussing the sorts of topics that we teach in the classes. So it’s been pretty good for the past two terms.

Topics we’ve discussed so far this year are:

  • What makes a fair society? What makes an unfair society?
  • What are human rights? Where do they come from? Should animals have rights too?
  • Fatalism: Is the future predestined, no matter what we choose to do?
  • Does it matter what other people believe? Should we respect other people’s beliefs, even if we don’t agree with them, or if they are harmful?
  • Determinism: Do we have free will, or are our choices determined by our circumstances? And if our choices are determined, are we responsible for our actions?

Some of it is pretty heavy stuff for kids this age, but the curriculum is designed to introduce the topics in ways they can understand, and they’ve been enjoying it.

Then yesterday I got an email from one of the other Ethics teachers (the Year 2 teacher), who has a son in Year 4, and who took my class for me a few weeks ago when I was holidaying in Tanzania:

David I keep meaning to tell you that my son (Year 4) when I told him I was taking your Year 6 class said “Mr Morgan’s class? Everyone wants him he’s the best Ethics teacher”.

Needless to say: wow, cool! Clearly the Year 6 kids have been telling everyone how much they enjoy their classes with me. So I’m pretty chuffed!

First day in the park

3 August, 2018

Today is a big day for Scully! She had her last puppy vaccination last week, and today is the official first day that she is safely allowed to go anywhere, including places where other dogs go.

So to celebrate I walked her down to Berry Island, which has a grassy park by the harbour where dogs are allowed off-leash. Here she is, playing on the grass for the first time!

Scully's first day in the park

Toilet training has been progressing pretty well recently. We had six days in a row with no toilet accidents in the house, and we were going for seven days in a row, but unfortunately she had one little peeing accident on the carpet yesterday, so we’ve had to reset the counter. We’ve obtained a dog bell which hangs near the front door, and we’ve been training her to ring it if she needs to go outside for toileting. Two days ago she rang it of her own accord for the first time, and yesterday she did it twice – each time we followed up by taking her straight outside and she peed on the grass each time. So that seems to be going pretty well (apart from yesterday’s accident).

She’s sleeping well through the night now. We put her in her crate in the bedroom with us when we go to sleep, and she settles in pretty quickly and sleeps soundly. I’m getting up around 03:30 each morning to take her down for a toilet, as she’s not old enough to be able to hold it in all night yet, but we’re slowly extending the time. She’s very sleep and groggy at 03:30, but she goes on the grass once outside, and then I pop her back in the crate to continue sleeping until we get up in the morning.

The main issue we have left to deal with is that she hates being left alone. We’ve been leaving her in the house for an hour or two while we overlap our work schedules, but a video we took during this time shows that she’s basically crying and howling the whole time until she exhausts herself more than an hour later. Our dog trainer came over on Wednesday to help us out, and she advised that we need to stop leaving her on her own, until we can train her to cope with it without getting upset. Doing this means getting her used to being left alone for very brief periods, just a few seconds, and then very slowly increasing it. This training could take weeks or months, but we have to do it. So we’re exploring possibilities of adjusting working hours and recruiting friends, relatives, neighbours to sit her if necessary when we absolutely have to go out without her.

Tanzania diary, day 3

3 August, 2018

Sunday, 1 July, 2018. 07:38

We’ve finished breakfast, a rich affair with lots of choice from the buffet, including mchicha with corn, roasted sweet potatoes, chapatis, small starchy bananas fried with onions and capsicum, mixed vegetables in a sauce which M. said was delicious after she plucked out some of the broccoli, and a chicken dish that looked like some sort of curry. There was also the usual breakfast things: eggs, bacon, sausages, grilled tomatoes, French toast, a bread selection and toaster, pastries, fresh fruit, muesli and other cereal, yoghurt, and so on. One item was a cake with a rich dark and light grainy texture, which turned out to be very almondy, like a dense sweet almond bread.

Arusha breakfast buffet
Four Points breakfast buffet

We sampled and ate our fill, washing down with some watermelon juice which was thick and dense, basically just pureed watermelon without straining it. After we ate, M. reminded us that we need to have our malaria tablet with breakfast, so I dashed back to the room to get them and we used it as an excuse to have a little more food.

On the road

The following was written in a combination of observations typed in the Land Cruiser while driving, mixed with details filled in later.

Read more: The drive from Arusha to Karatu, passing Lake Manyara, fancy lunch at Acacia Farm Lodge, a walk in the Ngorongoro Forest, seeing our first wildlife

Tanzania diary, day 2

29 July, 2018

Saturday, 30 June, 2018. 01:11. Johannesburg Airport

We have just boarded our connecting flight to Nairobi. It was supposed to depart at 00:55, so this one is running a bit late too. Hopefully we’ll have enough time to make our next connection from Nairobi to Kilimanjaro International Airport. We are supposed to have about an hour and a half to make the connection, but it will probably end up around an hour or maybe less.

This plane is a Boeing 737, which is quite a bit smaller than most planes I fly on, so it feels pretty squishy. There’s also some confusion over which row we’re sitting in. It’s highly ambiguous which row of seats the “row 25” label is over, and we dithered until another passenger confidently asserted that the one further back was 25. But now there are passengers in front of us who are supposed to be in the seats across the aisle, occupied by people with seats in row 24, but the seats in front of them are vacant, so maybe we’re all a row further back than we should be. It looks like only a few more people to board, so we’ll see what happens.

Inside the airport, we stayed in the Shangololo lounge until it closed at 22:00, then were forced to wander the terminal. By now most of the shops had closed, but there were a handful still open. We looked at some of the African art and housewares for a bit, but were tired so found a seat not too far from our gate to relax a bit more.

Monkey killing time in Johannesburg Airport
Killing time in Johannesburg Airport

Read more: Another flight connection in Nairobi, arrival in Tanzania, driving to Arusha, exploring the town

Tanzania diary, day 1

29 July, 2018

Friday, 29 June, 2018. 20:30, Johannesburg Airport

We are relaxing in the Shangololo lounge at Johannesburg International Airport in South Africa, awaiting our connecting flight to Nairobi in Kenya. Our Qantas flight arrived here at 18:20, over an hour late after leaving Sydney nearly two hours behind the scheduled departure time of 10:55 this morning.

Our day began with an alarm at 06:00, after not quite enough sleep. M. had School of Rock rehearsal last night, so we were late getting to bed, after prepping for the trip as best we could in the time we had. We had to get up at 06:00 and actually pack our bags, since we didn’t have time to do it before then. We had a rushed breakfast as well and showered, then scrambled to be ready to leave just after 07:00.

We walked to the station and caught a train to Central, where platform 23 was packed with other people either commuting to work or heading to the airport as well. The airport line trains were running late, and we had a ten minute wait as more and more people piled onto the platform. Fortunately when the train finally arrived, it was nearly empty, and everyone managed to squeeze on.

Read more: Day 1 of our big trip to Africa! We fly to Johannesburg and wait for a connecting flight…