Friday, April 20, 2007

OK, but WHY?

So now that I've convinced most of you that I'm serious about this trip, the inevitable follow-up is "WHY?!?" I'm not sure I have a satisfactory answer for you, but I'll take a shot.

First and foremost, clearly, I wanted to impress women. Unfortunately, this plan has already backfired. Just two weeks ago, I was out to dinner on a first date of sorts with a girl we'll call 'Amelia.' When she asked about my post-bar exam plans, I was careful to build the suspense with a long-winded explanation of my desire for excitement and adventure (a novelty for me, because I've NEVER given a long-winded explanation of anything). Then, just as Amelia's anticipation reached a crescendo, I dropped the Kilimanjaro bomb. The exchange went something like this:

Me: Seriously I can't even tell you how stoked I am. It's gonna be a crazy adventure.
Amelia: Alright. I get it. Just tell me already what you're doing.
Me: OK, ready?
Amelia: (looking over menu nonchalantly) I guess.
Me: I'm climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.
Amelia: (finally looks up from menu)
Awkward 10 second silence
Me: So?
Amelia: (slowly rolls her eyes) Whatever it only takes like six days to climb and a grandma could do it. Hmm, these portobello mushrooms look good. Maybe I'll get a salad, too.

True story. Just my luck, it turns out I was talking to the only girl in all of central Illinois who had already looked into climbing the damn thing herself. So that's the last time I try to impress Amelia or any other women with my Tanzanian adventure.

But luckily, as with everything I do, I have several other reasons. Chief among them are the following two.

First, for about a year now I've had an obsession with East Africa. It all started with a copy of Isak Denisen's Out of Africa that I read in springtime '06. For those unread (or who haven't seen the movie) , it's the memoir of a Danish woman who moved to Kenya and ran a coffee plantation in the early 20th century. Few stories have better captured my imagination. To wit, I spent a significant portion of the following summer daydreaming of a life at the foot of the Ngong hills. Now, less than two years later, I'll actually get to find out what it's like. True, Kilimanjaro is several hundred kilometers south of Ms. Denisen's plantation, but it's close enough to do the trick for me.

Now, my second main reason for going is a bit of a downer. The truth of the matter is that Earth is heating up, and in the process we're losing many of our finest treasures. Only seventy years ago, Earnest Hemingway published a quasi-autobiographical short story The Snows of Kilimanjaro. Thirty years from now, his title may be no longer self-explanatory. Kilimanjaro's 11,000-year-old ice cap is melting away at a freakish rate.

Kilimanjaro's ice cap in 1993 (above), and seven years later in 2000 (below).

It's sad, but the ice cap will be gone very soon. For stories and the websites from which these photos came, see here and here. As a traveler, I want to experience as much as possible before it's too late. Ergo, I'm running off to climb Kili.

Sadly, I have a lengthy list of destinations I want to see before they disappear. Among them are Antarctica (melting), Venice (sinking), Greenland (melting), New Orleans (oh, wait...), and the Amazon (being chopped down). I have to start somewhere, so the snows of Mount Kilimanjaro seem like a good place. My kids won't have the privilege to see what I can, but perhaps a few pictures and a personal story can bring the place back to life, much like old photos and stories from my parents' past do for me. But even if I'm unsuccessful in this admittedly lofty endeavor, at the very least I'd like to experience the same majesty and power of Kilimanjaro that led eleven millennia of local Masai tribesmen to name the mountain the "House of God."

2 comments:

Yerry said...

tell woman you have sweet ninja moves. that always impresses them.

Anonymous said...

YES, YOU DID It!
IMPRESS A WOMEN FROM CROATIA... ME!
2 WEEKS AGO I WAS STANDING IN THE FOOT OF KILIMANJARO, AND KILIMANJARO IMPRESSED ME MORE THAN ANY MAN!
I PROMISED TO MYSELF;I LL BE BACK AND CLIMB THAT IMPRESSIVE NATURE CREATURE!
IM GLAD YOU DID IT!
BIG HUG FROM CROATIA
SANJA
P.S.
please, can u send me more picture from kilimanjaro, and maybe picture of loitokitok... if you have.
my mail
spell_4me@yahoo.com