PCSing to Pristina, Kosovo

Alice decided that the four walls of her crate were preferable to the low arching ceiling of Dulles’ terminal.  We bid her adieu after she was properly checked in, and made our way to the gate.  Our Austrian Air flight crew greeted us like a crew of Chinese brides, decked out in blazing red from head to toe.  Even though we were seated in a few different places, we managed to keep ourselves occupied with the inflight movie system, catching up on our feature-length entertainment and depriving ourselves of sleep while the attendants rolled the food trollies up and down our narrow aisles.

We arrived in Vienna and got shuttled through customs, as it was our entry into the EU.  We walked the entire length of the airport…at least once.  We boarded the flight to Pristina shortly after arriving at the gate and hopped just an hour or so to land in Kosovo.

Our bags came out eventually.  Alice came out first, yelping with sheer joy at seeing Jean, bursting quite easily through the crate door to the horror and surprise of the crowd around us (Albanian culture fears large dogs apparently).  Our sponsors met us outside with vans for our drive to our new home with our nine suitcases, dog crate and three children.  Jean conversed in Albanian with our driver, and I strained to pick up words to add to my miniscule vocabulary.  The children alternately made childish observations and slept during the 30 minute drive.

Our house.  Wow.  To hit the lottery once again was astounding.  The house is a grand two level affair with excellent doors and windows, spacious rooms, nicely furnished.  It has a fenced in yard, precenting Alice from the temptation of wandering, and also has a garage for our car (which should arrive in a couple months)

Our sponsor had done some shopping and had already set up internet (60Mbs!) for us, so within a few minutes we were online.  She took us shopping that afternoon, and we marveled at the selection of local produce and low prices on staples.  And the yoghurt.

Victoria Falls Trip Day 5: Kariba Ferry

Our fifth morning began early; we needed to make it to Kariba Ferry by 8:00am to board the ferry. We launched directly into the restaurant for a 6:00am breakfast and…waited. Fortunately the staff brought out our food in time, and we set off on the road just around 6:45. We sped along and followed the hotel staff’ directions and limited signage to make it to the ferry boarding point in time. We had booked passage on the ferry prior to arriving, so were nearly set, aside from boarding fees.
Jean and I took our passengers and over-night bags, and backed our cars onto the ferry.
Climbing up the stairs to the middle deck, we chose eight metal chaise lounge chairs in a row and set our baggage down. We stayed docked for another hour or so, waiting for the remaining cars to board, and one additional family to show. Our final car to board (the ferry is capable of holding up to 15, we had only a dozen) was a pair of Norwegian medical students who were serving in South Africa, driving an ancient Land Rover, constructed and patched with as many colors of paint and types of material as possible it seemed.
Once underway, we motored at around 10 knots, lazily cutting a north-east bearing along the length of the lake. We picked a table on the outer deck and sat underneath the sun shade. It was nice not having to drive to get to our destination, and for once Jean and I got to hang out during the day. The day wore on, and leagues of water passed beneath us.
We were served lunch, buffet style, with our fellow 30-40 passengers. It was tasty and filling, and we reveled in eating on the deck, the pleasant breeze and lack of mosquitos refreshing our spirits.
Around mid-afternoon, the captain brought the boat to a stop for a swim break! Yes, indeed, there are crocodiles in the lake, but the captain was betting (however erroneously) that there weren’t any here. Jean took a swim. I took photos.
By late afternoon, we came to a narrow point in the lake, and saw some game; hippos, eagles, kudu, elephants.
Pretty soon the sunlight began waning, and the staff cooked up dinner. We sat on the deck and enjoyed the view. Every few minutes the light changed and painted yet another beautiful impression of an African sunset.
Mom and Dad retired, Jean, Laura and I stayed up late into the evening, chatting on the deck.
The next morning we deboarded after a scrumptious breakfast and drove back to Harare. What an adventure!

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Victoria Falls Trip Day 4: Masumu Lodge, near Mlibizi

We began day four in Hwange, not having been disturbed by any animals. The landscape had all but soaked up the rains from the storm, leaving the red soil as dry as when we arrived. Packed and ready, we exited Hwange and got back on the road, coming to the same Total gas station whose mechanics saved us just a couple days before. They were quite amused to see us.
Unfortunately they had no power, so couldn’t provide us fuel, and diverted us some 10km out of our way in order to get said fuel at a nearby town. Fortunately our errand was successful, and we resumed our drive.

We pushed on through to Masumu Lodge (meaning “spear”), whose large game-proof gates parted to give us entry. The grounds were pretty spectacular, and we drove up a cobbled drive to reception. Our little “lodges” even had adjoining doors, so that the girls in Laura’s cabin could easily find their way to ours in the dead of night if need be. Within a few minutes we’d spotted a resident chameleon and arranged for a lunch, as we preferred something more than granola bars.

We ate lunch at the restaurant, a building situated on a point on Lake Kariba, with more than 180° views high above the lake. The pool was not in service, but the vistas were amazing. The kids discovered a docile cat who arranged himself artfully on the couches and then finally the rocks outside.

After lunch, the kids jumped and played on the rocks outside our rooms, and we made ourselves comfortable on the balcony seating, chatting. Dinner later was a slow affair, and as there was no power, the local generator feebly fed power to the electric stoves to cook our food.

Afterwards, we retired to our lodges for another mosquito-filled night, and again fortunately we had netting to protect us. I looked forward to something larger than a twin again.

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