Friday, February 16, 2007

Greetings from Djibouti

Hi everyone. I hope all is well with you.

I have finally arrived in Djibouti!

I forgot that I have to be patient when traveling. It sure seemed to take forever to get here.

Kristin didn't tell me why we were stopping in Paris on the way to Africa. But I learned as soon as I woke up from my trip to the city that Keith and Kristin were waiting to meet someone who is traveling with them to Africa. His name is Malcolm, and he is very nice. Malcolm works for Keith and Kristin's friend Simon in Washington, DC. Guess what? Malcolm is filming parts of the trip to make a television news story. Isn't that cool?! Here I am with my new friend Malcolm.

Keith, Kristin, and Malcolm had to wait for awhile in Paris before we could catch our flight to Ethiopia. Keith and Kristin had important things to talk to Malcolm about, so I kept busy watching the planes take off and land at Charles de Gaulle Airport.

Can you see there is a plane about to land in this photo? How cool is that?!

FINALLY, we boarded our plane to Ethiopia. But just as we were getting ready to leave the gate, all of the lights in the plane suddenly went out. The plane was VERY dark. I am not afraid of the dark but I was very scared when the lights went out. I was sure we were going to never make it to Africa. Keith even told me that he was convinced King Tut had placed a curse on Kristin.

The lights came back on after a few minutes (WHEW!). I guess King Tut wasn't too mad at Kristin. In the end, the plane left more than an hour late from Paris. I was so tired from being worried that I slept almost the entire flight.

Because we were late leaving Paris, Keith, Kristin, and Malcolm had to rush to get to the plane in Ethiopia that was taking us to Djibouti. Luckily, the Djibouti flight was also delayed. I'm not sure why the Djibouti flight was late. Kristin says it's because we are now on "Africa time." I'm not sure what that really means, but she didn't seemed worried that the plane was late.

Kristin and I had an entire row to ourselves on the flight to Djibouti and we were only on the plane for an hour. However, it took us almost as long to get through customs once we landed.

Keith, Kristin, and Malcolm had a special paper from the people at the military base. Kristin told me that the paper was supposed to help them get the "visa" or special pass they needed to get into Djibouti. I'm not so sure it helped. Keith, Kristin, and Malcolm had to wait in a special line while a very serious-looking police officer slowly looked at their passports and paperwork. I started to worry that it was my fault that they had to wait so long because I didn't have a special piece of paper. Kristin told me not to worry. She says flat people like me do not need a special piece of paper in Djibouti. Whew!

After several minutes, the police officer unlocked a drawer in his desk and asked Keith to pay him some money. The office then put several stamps in Keith, Kristin, and Malcolm's passports. They were able to leave as soon as they had their stamps. I'm still not sure why it took so long, but I am very glad Kristin had the special paper with her. I'm not sure we would have been allowed to leave the airport without it!

I think I told you that Keith and Kristin are here to visit a US military base. Several people from the base were waiting in the lobby for us when we finally got our luggage. All were dressed in the sand and beige uniforms I see on television. Keith says the uniforms are known as "fatigues" or "camouflage." Who knew?

I was hoping we were going to stay on the military base with the soldiers. But Kristin says there wasn't enough space for all of us. :( She also said we would have to stay in tents. I think that would be so COOL. But I could tell Kristin didn't want to stay in a tent. Instead, we are staying at the new Kempinski Hotel in Djibouti. It is very nice. You can see the Indian Ocean from the hotel lobby. Have you ever heard of the Indian Ocean? I haven't. I thought the Pacific and Atlantic were the only oceans in the world. Kristin says there are many oceans. I guess I had better study my new atlas to learn about all of the other oceans around the world.

The hotel is located near the Djibouti Port. There are HUGE ships and boats in the port and in the ocean near the hotel.

The hotel has a very nice pool (but Kristin says we will not have time to swim). If you look carefully in the photo below, you will see the Indian Ocean behind us.

Can you tell it was very windy when we first arrived at the hotel?

Do you see the flag flying behind us? Kristin says that is the national flag for Djibouti. That's all for now. Kristin says we will visit the military base tomorrow. She also says we will be very busy so I may not have time to write every day.

Until next time....

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Greetings from France!

Hi everyone. Greetings from Paris, France!

I arrived here with Keith and Kristin on Wednesday morning after leaving Chicago more than two hours late.

Just after I sent my last message, Keith and Kristin loaded up her car with their luggage. Kristin then drove us to O'Hare airport. It was only a mile from the hotel, but it was a scary trip! The roads were covered with snow and ice. I am SO glad Kristin is a good driver. I am also glad Kristin and Keith decided to drive to Chicago on Monday night. I am not sure we would have made it to the airport from Iowa in the snowstorm.

I don't even know how much snow fell in Chicago, but it must have been a lot. When Kristin pulled into the parking lot at the airport, it took her a LONG time to find a parking spot. The snow was SO high in parts of the parking lot that small cars were completely covered in snow! Kristin packed a shovel in her car before we left Iowa. I thought it was weird that she wanted a shovel in the car. Now I think she was smart to pack one. She might have to dig her car out of the parking lot when we get back to Chicago!

After Keith unloaded the luggage and Kristin parked the car, we rode a small train to the terminal where Keith and Kristin got their tickets. I thought there would be a long line, but it was pretty short. It didn't even take very long to go through security. I LOVE going through security. That's because I think it is so cool to go through the x-ray machine.

We got to the airport several hours before our flight. So Keith and Kristin waited in the business lounge and I watched the airport workers moving snow and loading airplanes with luggage. The snow was so bad at times that I couldn't even see planes taking off (but I could hear them!). Here I am watching workers "deicing" an airplane. That's when they spray pink liquid all over the plane to melt the ice and snow that stuck to the wings.
Keith and Kristin boarded the plane about 30 minutes late. Guess what? Keith and Kristin got "upgraded" to business class because they travel so much. I am SO glad. I have learned that "upgrades" mean a nicer seat. And Kristin's seat was much cooler than any of the other special seats she has had. It was very soft and there were so lots of buttons and switches on it. It even had its very own television screen. How cool is that?!! I was so busy playing with the buttons and switches before take-off that I forgot to ask Kristin to take a picture of me.

I was really tired by the time the plane took-off that I fell asleep. I didn't wake up until we almost landed. Kristin says she's glad I got plenty of sleep. Hopefully it means I won't have any of the "jet-lag" stuff.

As soon as we arrived in Paris, Keith and Kristin got their luggage and took a small van to our hotel. We are staying at the Hilton Hotel near Charles de Gaulle airport. It is very nice.
Once Kristin and Keith checked their rooms and stored their luggage, they told me to get ready for a small field trip. They told me they wanted to take me to some special places in Paris. I would have been very happy just watching the planes from the window in Kristin's room, but I wasn't going to argue.

We took a train to get to Paris. Keith had printed out a map of the places he wanted to take me to in Paris. It is a good thing he had a map. I couldn't read any of the signs. Kristin says that's because the signs are printed in French, the language of France.

The train ride was fun. Keith and Kristin had seats in a doubledecker train car. Did you know that some train cars have two floors? I had no idea!

Our first stop in Paris was a place called the Eiffel Tower. It is a very tall, metal tower. It is really cool. Kristin says it is one of the most famous landmarks in the world.
Did you know the Eiffel Tower is the tallest structure in Paris? That means all of the buildings in Paris are shorter than the Eiffel Tower. Who knew? Kristin told me that the tower was built in 1887. Wow! That's a long time ago. She also says that at the time it was built, it was the tallest structure in the entire world. It isn't the tallest anymore, but it is still really tall!

My favorite part of my visit to the tower was standing underneath it.

Keith told me that more than six million people visit the Eiffel Tower each year. You can even take a special car to the top of the tower. But it was raining when we visited the tower so we decided not to take the trip to the top of the tower. I was kind of disappointed, but Kristin told me that I should add the Eiffel Tower to my list of places I want to visit again someday. She's right. Now I know why Paris is one of Kristin's favorite places to visit.

After we left the Eiffel Tower, we took another train to a place called the "Louvre" or "Le Louvre" as it is known here in Paris. Kristin says it is one of the most famous museums in the entire world.

The Louvre is a HUGE building that is shaped like the letter "U." In the middle is a neat glass structure that looks like the pyramids I saw in Egypt. That's where you enter the museum. And guess what? I got to go through the x-ray machine again before I could go into the building with Kristin and Keith. Kristin says there is lots of security at the museum because there are so many important things at the Louvre. Here's what the pyramid looks like inside the museum.

I still wasn't so sure I wanted to visit another museum with Kristin, but she promised I would get to see some very special things. She was right! I did get to see some pretty cool stuff.

The museum is SO big that Kristin says it would take more than a full day to see everything. We didn't have that much time, so Keith took us to some of the most famous things in the museum.

Our first stop was a painting called the "Mona Lisa." It was painted by a man named Leonardo da Vinci more than 500 years ago. Wow! It is really old! The painting is in a very large room full of HUGE paintings. The Mona Lisa is actually the smallest painting in the room. As soon as Kristin showed me the painting, I knew I had seen it before. OK, I haven't seen the real painting before, but I have seen many pictures of it.

I really wanted Kristin to take a photo of me with the painting but she said that photos were not allowed. That's because the flash from Kristin's camera might harm the paint. I had no idea! Keith did take a picture of Kristin and I standing near a banner of the Mona Lisa. Do you recognize the Mona Lisa? Right next to the Mona Lisa banner in the photo above is a statue that Keith says is his favorite. It is called the "Winged Victory of Samothrace." I'm not sure why Keith likes it so much, it looks like a statue of an angel, except it is missing its head!
Keith says the statue honors the Greek goddess of victory, "Nike." He also says the wings of the statue remind him of the logo on Nike tennis shoes. I guess I can see that.

Down the hall from the "Nike" statue is another statue called, "Venus de Milo." Kristin says this is a VERY famous marble statue. It must be famous because lots of people were taking photos of it.
Kristin says the statue is one of the most famous of ancient Greek culture. Kristin says most people think the sculpture is of the Greek goddess of beauty, "Aphrodite." To me it looks like a woman who is missing her arms!

Kristin and Keith stopped by the museum gift shop before we left the Louvre. Kristin bought me postcards of some of the paintings and statues I saw today so I could remember my trip to the Louvre. She also let me buy a special gift for my Aunt Lynn. Thanks Kristin!

Keith and Kristin decided to walk to a place Keith found on the Internet to eat dinner. About a block from the museum, I saw a McDonald's.

It sure doesn't look like the McDonald's in Muscatine, does it?

The pictures in the windows of the hamburgers look like the ones I see in Muscatine, but they have different names. One was called the "Royale Deluxe." Very strange.

I was hoping we were going to stop at McDonald's but Keith and Kristin didn't want to eat there. :( Instead, they ate a small restaurant a few blocks away. It was OK, but I still think McDonald's would have been better (just don't tell Keith I said that!).

After dinner we walked to a huge park called "Tuilleries." Keith says it is a very famous park. It was starting to get dark outside so I couldn't see much, but the park has big fountain. You can also see something called the "Arc de Triomphe."

Kristin says the "Arc de Triomphe" is another very famous landmark in Paris. It was built in 1806 by Emperor Napoleon I. Kristin says Napoleon was the ruler of France. I think that means he was the president of France.

I could also see the Eiffel Tower during our visit at the Tulleries. At night there are lots of lights on the tower. It looks REALLY cool!

That's a recap of my whirlwind tour of Paris. Whew! I sure got to see lots of neat things during my short stay in the city. I must have been really tired by the excitement, because I feel asleep in Kristin's purse on the train ride back to the hotel.

Until next time....

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

My Latest Adventure Has Begun

Hi everyone! I am writing to you from Chicago. Today is the day I am supposed to leave for Djibouti!

Kristin and Keith were not supposed to leave for Chicago until this morning. But Kristin and Keith decided to leave late yesterday to try and beat a big snowstorm. I am SO glad they decided to drive to Chicago last night. It was windy but the roads were clear last night. Here's what it looked like outside Kristin's hotel room near O'Hare airport this morning.

Do you remember Kristin had to drive through a big blizzard to get to O'Hare when we went to Doha and Dubai? Now I am convinced King Tut has placed a travel curse on Kristin. It seems like there is always bad weather when Kristin wants to fly somewhere!

I am worried that our flight still won't go today because of the snow. But Keith and Kristin told me not to worry. So far, Keith says our flight is still on time.

Kristin says we are flying from Chicago to Paris, France. We will spend the night in Paris and then fly to Addis Abba, Ethiopia. See if you can find Paris and Addis Abba on the map. We will then get on another plane and fly to Djibouti. Did you know the capital of Djibouti is Djibouti? I had no idea!

I am very excited that we will be going to Paris, France. I've never been there before. Kristin says it is one of her favorite cities to visit.

I guess I had better pack up my things. Keith and Kristin need to clear all of the snow off of Kristin's car so we can drive down the road to the airport.

Bye for now....