Wednesday, March 28, 2012

March 28, 2012 - yup, we rode an elephant!

Hey there, hi there and hello there to one and all from Zimbabwe, Africa:) We're on the final stretch of our honeymoon and this will probably be the last time we say jambo until we get state side because tomorrow we head out to the bungaloos of the Hwange National Park for our 4 day safari to see the Big 5!
Since we last typed together, we've seen so much, don't even know where to start, well I do, but that sounded nice! After Petra we drove out to the middle of the desert, yes the Captain's Desert Camp in Wadi Rum. Let's just say the first few hours did not impress the wife, but after many games of Phase 10, Cribbage and hangining out, it was time for a delicious dinner. Then our night turned around as we thought we were staying in a 120 sq ft tent, the manager came over and gave us our 4th honeymoon upgrade to the penthouse tent:) Ok, not a penthouse, but we had more room to spread out and even our own toilet and shower, which was key! The next day was great fun too as we toured the desert and climbed all over for great views!
The next day was full of traveling, starting with a 3 hour tour on the road to Amman, Jordan to bid this great country farewell. Amman to Cairo on a flight, then hopped on a big plane to Joburg's impressive airport on an 8 hour flight, o yes, then one more flight to Victoria Falls ... we were glad to land and be done with flights for a week!
We're currently in Vic Falls, and it's probably been the highlight of the trip. The first night we arrived and went on a sundowner cruise on the Zambezi River. We got to see so many species of birds, a couple crocodiles and yes, even the massive hippos ... my favorite! The sunset was gorgeous and our Vic Falls Safari Lodge is majestic, overlooking a watering hole where warthogs, water buffalo and elephants frequent!
Yesterday it was time to visit the actual falls, very impressive. Our guided walking tour took us through the beauty of the Main Falls, the Rainbow Falls and whilst walking, we got absolutely drenched because of the high water this time of year. Towards the end we even saw a few monkeys, which were pretty hilarious.
This next part the parents probably don't need to read ... because it involved me jumping off a bridge, but I'm here to tell you I survived. I had to do some convincing of Jenny on the honeymoon to bungee jump off of the Victoria Falls Bridge, but being the most amazing wife ever, she reluctantly let me:) It was the most intense experience of any of the extreme activities I have done jumping into the most beautiful falls where every photo had a rainbow and a view full of memories. I won't lie, dangling the toes over the edge knowing crocodiles were below was a bit weary, but I got ir done with the utmost safety and return to land:)
For my adventure, I did have to get Jenny something, so we decided to do an elephant safari. Yup, we rode on an elephant through the jungle and it was spectacular, even though their mufflers were a little gassy:) We were able to feed them and learn all about these gentle giants through the forest. After the tour, we went to the craft market where we were the beneficiaries of many "sunset specials," classic haggling at it's finest. Heck, I even traded two shirts I had bought at an outlet store for gifts back home, it was hilarious and a great time!
Today was our first experience on a true safari as we crossed the border to Botswana on the Chobe. We began the morning on the Zambezi River where we got close and personal with so many elephants and a bit too close and personal with hippos, but they just wiggled their big ol' ears at us. After a tasty lunch, we hopped on a safari 4x4 to tour the Chobe National Park. There we continued our games of cat and mouse with the elephants, too close for some's comfort! Then, we saw some Kudu, Impala, Warthogs, Water Buffalo and even Giraffe. It was an amazing day indeed, even though we didn't see any of the big cats, we're hoping to see them over the next few days in Hwange.
Welp, it's about that time to get some good rest to finish up our trip and our time in Vic Falls. We are continuing to be safe (even bungee jumping:) and are having a great time. Thanks again for all the well wishes and we can't wait to see you all soon ... especially after we visit Pizza Hut and get some Ovaltine:)
Nate and Jenny

Friday, March 23, 2012

Friday, March 23 - Check another off the list ...

Hey there, hi there and hello there to one and all from Petra, Jordan, one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. It’s been a few days, so after a nice nap Jenny and I thought we’d say hello, well actually Jenny is getting ice cream and shopping
It’s been a bit of a whirlwind since our last shout out aboard the Sonesta Star Goddess. After we got off the Nile, we made our way to Cairo to finish out our Egyptian portion of the honeymoon. We started our first day back on land with a visit to the ancient city of Memphis and Sakarra, site of the oldest man made structure in the world, the spectacular Step Pyramids, nearly 5,000 years old. It may not have been the most breathtaking of sights, but to close our eyes and think about the history of the place is amazing. Back in the states, we consider something historic if it’s 200 years old, and here, that would never make a tourist guides’ cut, but something 5,000 years old just amazes you.
Our lunch nestled us at the foot of the Great Pyramids of Giza, the highlight of the trip thus far. We actually got to climb inside of the Great Pyramid, about 2/3 of the way up in the smallest of tunnels built by the ancient Egyptians in 2600 BC. O, and we most definitely did the classic touristy thing by hopping on a camel for some photos in front of the 3 pyramids. And yes, that is our camel taking a moment to get comfortable before our hike, hilarious … except for the fact that we almost tipped over, but instead of accepting our guides help, we asked him to quickly snap a photo of a great memory! It was pretty fun to ride about in the desert and just look over the land and structures built so long ago.
After our walkabout, we went on to the Great Sphinx and happened upon one hilarious entrepreneur. This teenager took our hand and went Vogue on Jenny and me, snapping hilarious photos of us, the Sphinx and the pyramids. We had a blast and some great memories, and the little girl made a great tip in less than ten minutes, genius business mind!
Then, on Wednesday we woke up for our last day in Egypt that took us to the great Cairo Museum. We’ve never been big museum folks, but to see the ancient history in Cairo was stunning. Most memorable was the sarcophagus gallery featuring that of King Ramses II, the most prolific of the Egyptian pharaohs seen throughout our last week of tours. Kind of creepy we could still see nails and hair after 4,000 years, but pretty cool to think about the technology they created for preservation so long ago. King Tutankhamen’s wing was pretty legit too with shrines for the only in tact tomb found to date from the Valley of the Kings. His gold mask took our breath away, 30 pounds of pure gold and a tomb of 300 pounds of gold was breathtaking. A visit to the market that afternoon was our last farewell to Egypt filled with a lifetime of memories indeed.
Our sixth flight took us to Jordan for a few days. Jenny and I didn’t know what to expect of Jordan, but it has turned out to be the hidden gem of our trip thus far. Going from Cairo, a city of 20 million people, crazy traffic and not too much clean space to Jordan was shocking. The sandstone buildings and city set in the mountains was great, especially since we stopped that night for some food to settle our tummies, yes, nachos and pizza in Jordan. Egypt, we love you, but the food, did not love us back
Yesterday we took a long road trip from the capital of Amman to Petra by way of a few stops. The night before, I must say was a great treat was we benefited again from low tourism numbers with an upgrade to the executive suite, rose petals and all, quite the nice upgrade.
Mount Nebo, the supposed burial site of the prophet Moses was our miraculous first stop of the day. The view of the Holy Land atop the mountain was great, as well as St. George’s Church and the many mosaic pieces … almost forced us to purchase a mosaic table, but our haggling skills were not up to snuff, or we were too cheap, either way, no dice.
Last night we arrived in Petra to the great Movenpick Hotel (best showers yet) for our visit to check off another one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. Today’s tour was superb as we trekked through the ancient city traveled by nomads centuries ago on their way to and from Europe/Asia for trade. As we walked down the alley and turned the corner, the light shown through the crack for an amazing sight into the city, it helped us to see what has made this such a popular tourist attraction indeed. It was a pretty long 3 hour walk through the city today and to the top of the monastery for an amazing view.
What a whirlwind it has been, and to think we’re only halfway done! Tomorrow we head to Wadi Rum for a night’s stay in the desert before heading to Victoria Falls and the finale in Zimbabwe for the safari.
We hope all is well back home, know that everything here is great indeed. Can’t thank you all enough for the well wishes and prayers through our journeys. Can’t wait to see you all soon … o yes, and for a big glass of cold rich chocolate Ovaltine.
Nate and Jenny
PS, Nick and Lauren, thanks for watching the pooch, hope Caden is well … just a heads up Nick, while I am craving some Ovaltine, Jenny is craving the Nicholas cooking special
PSS, the classic saying over here for pretty girls is for the people to tell the man, “you a lucky man” and “how many camels?”, I’ve been asked that a lot

Monday, March 19, 2012

Monday, March 19 - Departing the Sonesta Star Goddess

Hey there, hi there and hello there from aboard the Sonesta Star Goddess on the Nile River. Jenny and I are here waiting for our transfer back to Cairo for the Sphinx, Step and Great Pyramids after our wondermous Nile cruise.
We departed Cairo a few days ago on our way to Abu Simbel, probably the most majestic temple we've seen yet on this trip in tribute to Ramses II and his wife Nefertari ... I told Jenny maybe someday I would build her a house, but didn't know if we'd have enough sandstone for an entire temple! The pillars were fantastic, but what was even better was that since the revolution last March tourism has been way down, so there are no lines for anything.
Our next stop was the High Dam that created Lake Nasser, and as you can see by Jenny's hair, it was electrifying ... or it was windy:) The Philae Temple was our next excursion aboard a small boat to an island once roamed by the crocodiles and now enshrined to the ancient Egyptian gods. That was our last stop before we heard about our upgrade from the small cabin aboard the Sonesta Sea Goddess to our deluxe suite aboard the Sonesta Star Goddess, another perk of low tourism, they needed to combine cruises and we got upgraded to a two room sweet, magnifico. O yes, we did participate in the folkloric and belly dancing aboard the ship, although we realized we probably won't quit our day job.
Our first night we also visited the bazzar where Jenny tried on her haggling skillz and won, or did we:)? It was a fun walkabout in the streets of Aswan before a great night's sleep. The staff aboard the cruise was amazing and the food was absolutely wonderful, they were all so kind (even kind enough to let me use the internet now for free:) Saturday and Sunday were filled with tours to ancient temples across Aswan to Kom Ombo and then on to Luxor where we had a full day of tours to the East/West banks.
Although many of the temples seem similar, you take a step back and realize that what you are seeing, much of which is still in amazing shape, is over 3,000 years old!!! To still see color and the construction absolutely takes your breath away to know that you're standing the same place that Kings and Pharohs did 3,000 years before you.
We continued on our travels to Luxor's Valley of the Kings, home of King Tutenkhamen as well as the Valley of the Queens, home of Queen Nefertari. The tunnels the Egyptians built were still in miraculous shape with so many amazing colors on the walls and ceilings to depict the battles, the sacrifices and the celebrations of the ancient times.
The great Karnac and Luxor Temples ended our Sunday in Luxor as the various obelisks and shrines to Ramses II and other kings took over the skyline. We bid farewell to our new South African friends and tour guide after an amazing last dinner. Today was spent at the local bazzar looking for gifts and relaxing before our day tomorrow that will include the Sphinx, Step and Great Pyramids which will be one of the best days of our honeymoon indeed. It's on to Petra, Jordan after that and then Victoria Falls before our safari.
Hope all continues well for everyone and we'll continue to try and stay in touch throughout our excursion.
Nate & Jenny

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Hey there, hi there and hello there to one and all. Welp, we made it safely from Atlanta to Paris and on to Cairo went smoothly. We had a beautiful view from the plan of the mountains as we crossed over the Mediterranean Sea to Egypt.
It was pretty much a full day of flying when we arrived late Thursday night to our magnificent Marriott Hotel, the largest Marriott in the world apparently with over 1,200 rooms, which is nice! We’re still debating on if we’re going to go to the casino or not, not speaking Arabic though might hinder us from determining if we actually win or lose!

Had some tasty Egyptian Sushi for dinner and wanted to sent this out to everyone to let you know we are here, and we are safe. Tomorrow we visit Abu Simbel and then hop on our Nile Cruise for the next three evenings so we will have lots of pictures the next time we send word back to the states.

Hope you all have a happy St. Patty’s Day … catch ya on the flip side.


Nate and Jenny … the African honeymooners

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

March 13, 2012 - Africa, here we come ...

Hey there, hi there and hello there. Hope everyone has been well as there have been some birthdays and celebrations along the way. It's about that time for Jenny and I to hop on the plane across the pond, back over the sea and down to the desert of Africa, we can barely contain ourselves:)
The Duck has been amazing the last few weeks. Had my first opportunity to hire someone onto my leadership team and with so many great candidates, it was tough, but am excited to have Josh join the squad! Then we had a promotion, a volunteer of the month and one of my mentees just got promoted today to an analyst, so life has been awesome! We went through a slight re-org, nothing too drastic though, just reporting up through different leadership. We had our quarterly volunteer event at Feeding the Valley Food Bank where our team packed more than 10,000 pounds of food for those in need throughout our community, puts life into perspective a bit indeed. O yeah, from the way-back archives, the original We Got You Remix, 2009 Aflac's Got Talent style ... if you want a good laugh:)
The volunteer front has been superb as well. My term as VP of Membership for the Young Professionals group has been rockin' and rollin' as we just found out we are 109% ahead of where we were this time last year! Plus, we're on target to have an awesome Timeraiser event towards the end of the year with our servant leadership squad. The Literacy Alliance has been fun with our Trivia Bee event and programs kicking back into gear. Most exciting over this last month was the 3rd Annual Live United Youth Camp. Words cannot explain the inspiration these students provided the adults at the camp, so here is the video to inspire you:)
The ol' doctorate has been going great working through my second course, Leadership and Applied Ethics. I finished up my first course, Leadership and Reflective Practices which really helped me to look at who I am as a leader forcing me to be a bit more introspective in what I do. Graduation at Emory is right around the corner too, just got my gown today so it's sinking in. I was honored to be one of the final two nominees to be the Master of Ceremonies/Orator for our class, hope to find out when I get back from Africa.
Speaking of, I should probably get some sleep. Tomorrow we fly out of Atlanta to Paris, then on to Cairo. We start our excursion hopping on a Nile Cruise, the Sonesta Nile Goddess, to see Abu Simbel. Luxor is to follow with a visit to Memphis, Sakkara, the original step pyramids and Giza to see the Great Pyramids and the Sphinx. Time to fly to Petra in Jordan and Wadi Rum after Egypt to visit the vast sand dunes. We then spend some time in the beautiful Victoria Falls and end the trip withabout 5 days of safari action staying out in the bungaloos of Zimbabwe ... wow, I think it's all just sinking in! O yes, and my wife rocks because we're doing all of this in three weeks with no checked luggage ... impressive!
We'll try to keep everyone posted on the blog with pictures and updates, if we can find internet connectivity:) If not, we'll get some of the pics/videos up when we get back. Hope you all have a happy St. Patty's Day and fingers crossed for us to have safe travels to and fro.
Nate & Jenny