The Oil Palm: Memories Uncovered

In composing the first blog post of the year, it had to be about something defining – something which identifies the reasons why I blog and fuels my passion for writing and sharing! It was only a year ago, when we were all walking through what hashed my memories of a palm tree plantation. We were on vacation in Cameroon, in the rural parts of the Littoral province. On this day during our family vacation, we drove 1.5hours from Littoral to the South-West Province and one could not help but notice along the route, farms and plantations covered in these palm trees, more specifically, the oil palm, Elaeis guineensis. We reached our destination and met with family that afternoon. After a quick meal, we walked through the yard with several palm trees. The oil palm species grows in the tropics, both wildly and cultivated, within 10degrees latitude of the equator in Africa, South/Central America, and Southeast Asia. Data collected and analyzed over time confirms the center of its origin and diversity to be in the tropical rainforests of west and central Africa. The "palm belt" of Africa runs from Guinea to Zanzibar and Madagascar and from Senegal to south of Angola. As I draft this post, I am cheered by vivid childhood memories of riding with my grandfather through an oil palm plantation accompanied by uncles, aunts, in the back of a truck. As an agriculturalist, he frequently went to survey and assess the farm work being done on his estate. These trips were filled with a naïve youthful excitement as the truck navigated windy, bumpy routes. I would listen to stories told by my seniors, full of folklore, and metaphors; stories interrupted by gasps as the branches of the palm trees brushed and beat about us more frequently the further and deeper, we got into the plantation. When I was eight years old, I learned soap could be made from palm oil, and was able to observe that process on a small scale. I watched the extraction of crude…

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Limbe, Cameroon – A stroll along the coast!

In writing this post I feel this post is incomplete. After 13 years, we revisited the coastal city of Limbe in Cameroon and a day trip did not do it justice. With the ongoing COVID pandemic, travel is not what it used to be and with Cameroon hosting the African Cup of Nations in a few days from our visit, there was much preparation with road construction between Douala and Limbe. Between the road detours and increased traffic after the Christmas holidays, a day trip was not enough time to revisit all those places Mark and I had enjoyed so many years ago. After hiring a driver and vehicle, we loaded up the van with all the kids and left Douala on a 90minute drive for an afternoon in Limbe visiting the beach and family. The drive was visually stunning particularly for the children as we drove past rubber plantations, palm nut farms, with the rolling hills in the shadow of Mount Cameroon and views of the coastline on the other side of the road. It was a great opportunity to talk about the processes involved in rubber and palm oil manufacturing. We went through Limbe town to the closest beach, down beach. Down beach is most popular for the outdoor restaurants where fresh fish is grilled along the shores accompanied by roasted plantains. We stopped here for a quick look around before meeting family for lunch at Hot Spot Restaurant which is located in the Limbe Botanical Gardens. This two minute mini vlog from our you tube channel brings these scenes to life. Day Trip To Limbe! LIMBE BOTANICAL GARDEN This botanical garden is home to a variety of plants and beautiful flowers. It is designed more like a park one can walk through. 13years ago Mark and I stayed at a lodge on the property which has since expanded to include a swimming pool and restaurant. We did choose to dine at Hot Spot where we would have a clear view of the Atlantic coast while we…

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Top Five Things to do with Kids in Nairobi
The Giraffe Center - Nairobi National Park

Top Five Things to do with Kids in Nairobi

Between January and June of 2021, Kenya recorded 49,000 tourists from the United States. Nairobi is a city well known for its National Parks, bustling way of life and developing infrastructure. For families traveling with young children, there are a lot of options for entertainment and learning. After our recent trip to Kenya's capital city we have a list of top 5 activities we recommend for children ages 5 and up. #1. The Giraffe Center Located 40minutes from the city center, the Giraffe Center (African Fund For Endangered Wildlife) is without a doubt a fun visit for children. Established 41years ago, the center focuses on protection of the endangered Rothschild giraffe subspecies, conservation of youth education programs and partnering with other organizations toward the conservation of flora and fauna in Kenya and East Africa. The center is currently under construction in phases but remains open to the public for a reasonable fee. The giraffes can be seeing strolling about freely about the park and occasionally stopping by the fence to be fed while they slobber all over their visitors. Right next to the giraffe center is the popular Giraffe Manor where guests who stay overnight can have breakfast on their balcony with giraffes walking up to the balcony to get fed - truly a sight to watch. There is a gift shop on site and educational building which can be toured for more information on the endangered species. Estimated timeframe to visit is 45minutes-1hour so get ready to get slobbered! #2. Nairobi National Museum In the middle of the hustle and bustle of the city is this well kept secret. The Nairobi National Museum could easily be three separate museums. You can do a self guided tour or have a tour guide with you. There are several sections within the museum. The first section we walked through was dedicated to Kenyan cultures and traditions. There is a section of natural history with taxidermy native to the country. The next exhibit gave an extensive history lesson on the history of currency…

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Nairobi – Sights Beyond the City (2014)

I have found one of the best ways to explore a new place is to visit when you have someone living there. In 2014, Mark and I had an in- law living in China when we visited Shanghai. Later that year, I would do the same when I visited Nairobi, Kenya and stayed with my sister who lived there at the time. That November, while visiting family in Cameroon, I traveled from Douala to Nairobi for a short 4day visit with my sister. It was a direct flight and 4hours later, I landed at the Jomo Kenyatta airport where I processed through health clearance for Hepatitis A/Yellow fever and was issued a single-entry visa. It was so lovely getting to visit with my sister, and she had a few days and a fully booked calendar to include much tourist activity. There are so many positive things I could highlight about my trip and many memorable moments we shared but I will highlight three attractions in this blog post. Crescent Island Game Sanctuary This wildlife reserve is located on Lake Naivasha in the Great Rift Valley of Kenya. It is home to a variety of birds, hippos, zebras, giraffes, impalas, and wildebeest. To access this walking safari, one must cross the lake by boat. The sanctuary is about 10km from the town of Naivasha and a 2hour drive from Nairobi. The drive was quite scenic with a stop in route at the beautiful lookout point of Mount Longonot. Once we arrived Crescent Island and paid fees for entry and boat ride, we had a guided walking safari of several wildlife present. This safari allowed us to get a close as possible to the animals and birds. There was a covered patio and one could take a break and have some refreshments after the walking tour. Crescent Island is famous for being the filming location for “Out of Africa” and the sequel to “Tomb Raider”. Check out the pics below. Mount LongonotViews of Lake NaivashaSanctuary And yes, we found the jawbone and…

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Soulful Senegal

(This blog post is updated and revised to include Covid-19 specifics) It is another rainy evening in Florida as I start writing this blog post. I had always wanted to visit Dakar. I had a few Senegalese friends and was always intrigued by the new reporters who got assigned to cover West African news and would often report from a location in Dakar. Growing up we talked about getting our hair braided "Senegalese style" which often indicated a microbraids or micro twists at the time. My initial impressions of Senegal were later reinforced by my husband who had visited a few times before. I looked forward to this trip and meeting his Senegalese friend of whom he often spoke. They met one summer in Paris during a semester studying abroad and had remained great friends for over 25 years now. In the fall of 2019 we were fortunate to have mom stay with the kids while I seized the opportunity to visit and experience Dakar for the first time. We arrived in the afternoon on a direct flight from JFK, New York. We typically try to stay at a locally owned hotel when we travel and because it was just the two of us, we chose a modest option located downtown, Le Ndiambour hotel et residence. It attracts all kinds of visitors as it has standard rooms and suites with kitchenette options, conference rooms, full-service restaurant with an amazing breakfast buffet (pre-pandemic), a rooftop gym and swimming pool. It can accommodate short or long term stay with standard wi-fi accessibility and friendly, helpful staff. It is located 2blocks from the corniche heading west and is within walking distance to several restaurants, coffee shops, and open markets.  When traveling with children, the resort Terrou Bi would be my choice for a relaxing and fun stay. Located along the corniche on Boulevard Martin Luther King in the Fann Hock neighborhood, it is conveniently located on a private beach and has more amenities than one could wish for.  It has rooms with seaside…

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Step into Ancient History – Four Days in Egypt (2016)

Family vacations without kids anyone? When Mark and I first got married we took a couple of vacations together. However, the more kids we have, the less “couple's” vacations we take. Wonder why? Lol! The main reason has been that we have always thought it more enriching to travel together with the children, sharing experiences, bonding, and making memories. However, whenever we were ready to travel without the kids, we have been fortunate to have a grandparent or aunt or another family member happy to babysit in our absence. Thank God for them! As our family has grown, there have been more times when we have had both grandparents or more than one adult with nanny available to cover all our bases and attend to the needs of each child accordingly. Family has always been a blessing to us in many ways. It was no different when we decided to squeeze in a last minute trip to Egypt. Mark was scheduled to travel to West Africa for work that December, and I was 6 months pregnant with our 4th child. The children were soon to be out of school for the holidays when I called an aunt to help watch the kids and we stole away for a 4day break that December. Ready to go! Mark was no stranger to Cairo. He had lived there a couple years while his parents worked with the foreign service. He graduated from The American International School in Egypt where he spent most afternoons playing basketball after school. Over the years, he had shared with me stories around beautiful memories of scuba diving in the Red Sea and the infamous excursion he took with his father hiking up Mount Sinai. At the time of this trip, his mom was back in Egypt on assignment and his brother would also be visiting for the holidays. Without ever visiting Egypt my impressions of this North African country was limited. I could only imagine a place I had read of and learned about in school. We got…

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Travel Destination 2021 The beginning of the year is always a great time to plan travel. Its a great time to budget and explore destination options. It is always fun to get the kids input and initial impressions because it gives us an opportunity to do some research. Traveling can sometimes confirm those impressions or we find out quite differently. Kids Travel Map 2021 - Colored = "Visited with Mom and Dad"; Circled or underlined = "Mom and Dad have been here and we want to go with them next time". The kid’s are reviewing the travel map for 2021. Their bucket list is long and ever-growing 😊. Help us plan our next trip by taking the poll. Click on the poll block above to edit it directly in this post. Add a question, and multiple answers and even change the styling of the block using the sidebar controls. Add new poll blocks by searching for "poll" or type "/poll" in a new block.

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Coming home – douala 2020

Aerial View Douala (Bonapriso) "Bonne anne! Bonne anne! Happy new year!" We were awakened on the flight from Casablanca to Douala to these phrases ringing through the plane. Festive passengers toasting champagne flutes and wine glasses aboard our flight cheering and ringing in a new year, 2020. Air hostesses skirted up and down the aisle at steady pace making sure the rousing travelers aboard this Royal Air Maroc flight were satisfied with the refreshments being served. Our four kids who had never seen such merry making on an airplane before were turning their heads trying to understand the shouts and laughter that carried through the air vessel. The older girls kept asking “What did he say?” “Mama, what’s going on?” as most conversations and interactions were conducted in French, the language communicated in by most in Cameroon. Soon enough the pilot announced over the intercom, “We would like to wish all passengers a happy and prosperous new year in 2020. We should be landing in Douala in approximately 90 minutes.” Our previous trip to Cameroon was in 2016 and so this homecoming was well overdue. Mark and I have both made numerous trips to Cameroon; both of our fathers were born and raised in Bamenda which is where most of our families used to live. It had been four years since we visited Bamenda and the conflict and political turmoil has rendered the area less safe. Because of the insecurity and various other reasons, several relatives of ours now live in nearby cities such as Yaounde and Douala. This visit would be less than a weeklong, it would take a lot of planning to get family together from different towns and cities, but this was Cameroon where most will candidly say in a tongue and cheek fashion “almost everything is negotiable”.     We landed in Douala International Airport and after the routine checkpoints with immigration and health screening (yellow fever card check point), we picked up our luggage and headed out to our meet our ride. The Douala airport is…

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Laying Over in casablanca

Duty Free Shop at Hassan V Mohammed Airport, Casablanca Most travelers will experience, every now and again, stumbling into unintended travel planning and end up exploring a destination unexpectedly. This was the case with our travel to Casablanca in January 2020. We were searching for flights to Cameroon for a long-awaited visit to grand and great grand parents with the entire family when we found rather affordable tickets from Washington, D.C. to Douala via Casablanca. Thinking such a deal could not last long, we quickly made the purchase and upon review discovered we would spend two days in Casablanca, one day on the way to Cameroon and the other on our return. We were “in transit” in Morocco for at least 10 hours each way! With four kids and another on the way, Mark and I ventured to explore Casablanca as safely as we possibly could within the allotted time. We figured a private guided tour was our best bet and so was my first stop and in no time, we were confirmed for Casablanca Layover Sightseeing Tour with Round Trip Airport Transfers. I related to our tour guide instantly via Whatsapp. We were able to review itinerary and confirm it was a private tour which would give us all the flexibility we needed with fatigued parents and kids’ schedules. We arrived Casablanca the morning of New Years Eve and our tour guide was specific about the meeting point where he was expecting us at noon. We were picked up in an air-conditioned van with refreshments and two children’s car seats were already in place for our younger two kids. Our driver was accompanied by our tour guide who was multi-lingual and our first stop was to have lunch at a local restaurant along the “corniche” or the coastline. We drove past Old Medina which is the oldest part of the city surrounded by a wall and our tour guide gave us a history lesson on the city and was ready to answer any questions we had. He shared…

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Returning to accra

"Akwaaba". Welcome. The year is still 2020 and travel is virtually at a standstill with the covid-19 pandemic. The month was November and after much consideration and adjustments, for good reason with constraint decision, we travelled with our oldest two children to Ghana. The girls were so excited, our nine year old, Bi-Neh, started learning Twi, the most commonly spoken language in Ghana besides English. After spending six hours learning on YouTube videos, she had memorized 25 most common conversational sayings. Before we knew it, our 5 year-old was spewing Twi words at the dinner table, his favorite being "Medaase" or "Thank you". Mark and I last visited Ghana eight years ago without kids and we would soon find a lot had changed in this bustling and fast-growing metropolis. We caught a direct flight from JFK International Airport to Accra. This was very convenient as we avoided stopping or laying over in Europe especially with covid-19 testing guidelines for travel requiring negative test results within 72hours of boarding all flights. Upon arrival we were impressed with the new Kotoka International Airport. Not only is it much bigger than the previous but it is much better organized and the process through immigration and baggage pick up was super easy. It maintains a great location and easy accessibility averaging between 20-30minutes from most of Accra during non-rush hour periods. We were picked up by family but with the touch of an app you can easily arrange for transportation using familiar services such as Bolt and Uber. Please note the vehicles typically used around the city by these services are small and holds a maximum capacity of four people. For a larger family, I would recommend renting a larger vehicle from a company such as Hertz or Avis Car Rental. Kotoka International Airport Happy kids. Arrived at last! Once in the city, we settled in for an early dinner. There are many options for dining especially with children. As a rule wherever we travel, we try to get a feel for the local cuisine.…

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