My sister, Marie, sent me pictures of the quilts she had made for herself, my brother and my dad. And, Janice asked me a bunch of questions about my time in Africa.
I was young so the memories revolve around things that are important to a child. I remember my school, the International School in Dar es Salaam. I remember my blue and white striped uniform dress that came in two styles; a straight from the shoulders dress and the one I preferred -- it gathered at the waistline and the skirt flaring out below. I came back to the States with a British accent because the school was run by the British. I was very sad when I lost my accent; I enjoyed the attention it brought me at school when I returned. I also had to learn how to spell "American" -- airplane and color were especially troublesome (not aeroplane or colour. I still get grey and gray mixed up).
My best friend, Sandra, who lived down the street was Canadian. For a time, two boys also lived on our street. They were tough kids and one of them shoved Marie, causing her to fall into a barbed wire fence. I'm pretty sure she still has a scar. Alex and.... can't remember the other. I think Alex is the one who pushed her.
We went on safaris. I remember stepping in a pile of elephant poop at Ngorongoro crater and getting in trouble for doing so. We slept in tents on safari, under big mosquito nets that made me feel like a princess. We had to take pills for malaria. I didn't know how to swallow a pill so my dad ground up the pill with some water and I swallowed it down. Bitter. Horribly bitter. With the help of pieces of tootsie roll, I quickly learned to swallow pills.
I remember lions draped on tree limbs, cubs climbing on their mothers, and the males always sleeping. I loved zebra (big surprise) and elephants the most. My sister called ostrich "dancing ladies" which was an accurate description. We rode around in a Land Rover, open in the back. My parents and a guide were up front and us kids were in the back. We were charged by a rhino once and almost went into a ditch. I had no concept of the danger and thought it was wildly exciting.
We gave two young Masaii boys a ride. I sat knee-to-knee with them in the back of the Land Rover, fascinated by the scars on their adolescent faces and curious, but also repulsed, by the flask of cow's blood they carried. They offered me and my sister some and the look on our faces amused them immensely.
I remember the smell of the open air markets where we shopped with my mother. They smelled horribly acrid in the pervasive heat. We didn't have fresh milk; my mother mixed it from powder. Once a week, a man on a bicycle would pedal up to our door with a basket full of lobster and Blue fish. I loved both.
There were always praying mantis and lizards on the walls in the house. We had to be careful of snakes. My sister and I rode our bikes a lot. She took a bad fall one day and high-tailed it back home running towards the back door steps to find my mom. Instead, she found a snake laying across the small porch. She screeched to a stop and Sebastian, who helped around the house, killed it. He said it was a mamba but we don't really know -- there was only a pulp left when he finished with it.
We loved Sebastian. He lived with his wife and toddler in a small house behind ours. His wife didn't speak English and we didn't speak Swahili but she would grin at us as my sister painted the little girl's nails.
We lived near Oyster Bay and spent hours at the beach. There were coconut palms on the shore and coconuts laying on the beach. I remember the smell of my bamboo mat when it was wet from my skin after swimming. My dad taught me how to dive through the waves and I was very proud of that accomplishment. I was stung by a jelly fish and rushed to the doctor. It hurt a lot.
My dad had a small sailboat; the Pintail. He and my mom went sailing a lot. Sometimes, they took us kids along and we would drop anchor near a small island and then swim to shore where we had a picnic lunch. My sister would scream every time the boat listed but I loved the wind, the salt spray and the little boat slicing through the water. Even though my brother was just a toddler at the time, I like to think that those outings influenced his current love of sailing.
Those are the memories that are at the forefront of my mind when I think back on those years. Wonderful, magical, adventure filled years.