Dar and Durban

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Dar and Durban

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been in Zambia for almost a year.  Tonight I fly back to NYC for 4 weeks of vacation…and then I’ll return at the end of July via Iceland and London!

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At the end of April, we took a small group of middle school students to Dar es Salaam for a choir festival.  They were very excited about the trip, as none of them had ever been on a plane without their parents before!

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This was the first real “East African Middle School Choir Fest” and they had imported a conductor and music educator from the University of Florida.  She was terrific and really knew how to work with the kids to build their confidence and get them sounding good.  Six different schools were represented. There were also workshops in drumming, dance and art.

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At the concert, each school performed separately before the large choir took the stage.  My 5 kids did a great job!  We sang a Russian folk song called “The Little Birch Tree” and the other teacher who came with us accompanied us on the flute.

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I found Dar es Salaam to be almost intolerably hot and humid.   However, on the last day, we went to Boyongo Island – a national park.  The water was crystal clear and it was beautiful.

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At the end of May, we had a long weekend and I took a short jaunt to Durban, a city of the coast in South Africa.  Unlike the hustle and bustle of Cape Town and Jo’burg, Durban is a bit more provincial and laid-back.  The airport reminded me of St. Pancreas Station in London and there was even a hotel with the London “Underground” symbol over the door.  The weather was absolutely perfect and I walked for several miles along the beach, where there are restaurants and shops and plenty of interesting people (and monkeys!) to watch!  Durban is also home to several huge sports arenas.

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I took an bus tour on the “Ricksha Bus.”  Unlike the larger bus tours, this one had a live tour guide who carefully explained all the sites and buildings we were passing.  More than once, she mentioned that such-and-such a building was “very, very old” which usually meant it was built in about 1910 or so.  It was funny that “very old” was only a hundred years.  Durban is still has specific areas divided by class, religion and race, although there does not seem to be a great deal of tension.

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Our bus guide!  She was lovely.

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We stopped at a beautiful viewpoint above the city.  There was a wedding party up there, taking pictures.

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I stayed in a lovely B & B in a room with its own private garden terrace and a huge soaking tub!  Then I took the sleeper train back to Jo’burg…enjoying the slow pace of the train and the scenery.  I booked two beds, so I had my own compartment.  It is an extremely cheap way to travel and you can see so much of the countryside and meet interesting people.  At about 6:00am, I was awakened by someone walking down the corridor calling “Coffee, coffee, coffee!  Morning coffee!”  I slid open my compartment door and there was a staff person with a tray of cups; I gave her 7 rand (about 65 cents) and was given a hot cup of coffee with milk and sugar already added.  I sipped it while I watched the sun come up through my window and the train rumbled along towards Jo’Burg.

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It was a very relaxing break…I may have to return!

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