What a Trip: A gals’ getaway in Africa

May 2, 2013

What a Trip is a new feature in which our readers share tales of their rambles around the world.

Who: Barbara Ossias of Urbana, Md., and Quebec; her two travel buddies, Louise Brenner and Marsha Reckley, both of Maryland; and her oldest daughter, Adar Roberts-Owen, who lives in London.

Where, when, why: A nine-day girls’ getaway to Tanzania and Zanzibar, stand-ins for Kenya. Three days before departing, election violence forced us to change destinations.

Highlights and high points: Tanzania was a gorgeous surprise, especially since we were only supposed to transit through Dar es Salaam. In a scramble to find a substitute for Kenya, my husband discovered a three-day safari in Selous Game Reserve. For a Marriott girl like me, sleeping in a tent in the bush while baboons played outside was amazing. For the second half of the trip, we used our original tickets to Mombasa to fly to Zanzibar, staying a lovely hotel in Stone Town right outside the ancient fort. My companions swam with dolphins and visited with tortoises. I had to work, but during breaks, I sat on the stoop outside the Maru Maru Hotel and talked with locals.

Cultural connection or disconnect: My daughter and I went to a women’s cooperative in Zanzibar that makes accessories and empowers women who have few or no options to provide for their families. The goods were lovely — I spent $300 on a green leather and palm frond bag called the “green monster” — but we were most touched by the workers’ generosity. When we entered the work area, the women were sitting on the floor eating their meager meals. They offered to share their lunches with us, a simple act of kindness that made the entire trip worthwhile.

Biggest laugh or cry: In Stone Town in Zanzibar, I watched a shopkeeper gesture to schoolchildren and ragged little ones, then reach into his shirt pocket for sweets to give them. He told me that he’d once been a poor child in these same streets and knew how hard life is for these kids. With this small gesture, he hoped to give them a moment of happiness. His kindness moved me to tears.


Trees in Tanzania’s verdant Selous Game Preserve. (Barbara Ossias)

How unexpected: Since we hadn’t planned to go to Tanzania and Zanzibar, most of the trip was a pleasant surprise. But we’ll get to the beach house in Kenya one day.

Fondest memory or memento: A small boy in a remote village on the mud road to the game preserve, running after our bush buggy, waving and yelling. He inspired me to send school supplies and toys to the safari camp staff to distribute to the local children.

To tell us about your own trip, go to www. washingtonpost.com/travel and fill out the What a Trip form with your best memories, finest moments and favorite photos.

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