Dear Ndugu

In the 2002 film About Schmidt Jack Nicholson gives one of the best performances of a long and brilliant career. Nicholson plays a 60ish insurance executive who loses everything that holds his life together in a short span of time: his job, his wife and his daughter. The first is lost to retirement, the second through a stroke and the third through marriage. I’m seriously hoping New Line Cinema and Jack Nicholson don’t sue me.

Seriously, Jack, I absolutely loved the film – not that it wasn’t flawed in some ways like several critics said. Nicholson seemed an odd character to play such a subdued role. But to me that was the essence of the film – inside everyone is a madman lurking to run off to Africa (or by Winnebago to Colorado in Warren Schmidt’s case.

The film has little to do with Africa but one thing: Schmidt finds a book of matches that leads him to  sponsor an African child. Schmidt/Nicholson writes letters to this Child in Tanzania, where Chiyemi and I wound up our trip. The salutations all Schmidt’s letters are “Dear Ndugu”, since that was how the letters from the orphanage to Schmidt were signed. Ndugu turns out not to be a name as Schmidt thought, but rather translates from Swahili as “brother” or “your friend”, according to our Tanzanian guide, John Timothy. More on him later…

So, the title to this post refers to an aging couple who, on the advent of their 40th wedding anniversary fly off to Africa to find their happiness or their souls or maybe just to have a good time, counter-Schmidtwise as it were. This blog is the story of the trip from Oct. 10, 2009 through Dec. 7, 2009 spent in eight different countries from Dubai to Tanzania.

Here is the happy couple the day before the 40th anniversary on the deck of Guma Lagoon Lodge where shortly all loaded into dugout canoes and the two spent the actual Nov. 1 date in Fox tent, on the edge of a hippo pathway, cut off from the world, no electricity, only our Makoro polers, fellow friends-of-the-road and crew to keep us company. (Thanks to Dave Hanna for brightening the shadows.)

We were exceedingly happy. More posts and pictures to follow…

1 Response to “Dear Ndugu”

  1. 1 Bonnie Umphreys
    March 2, 2010 at 4:39 am

    Ok…I’m a little slow in getting “a round tuit” but I have saved all the links and look forward to following your adventure…who knows, when we get to our 40th Anniversary, we may follow in your footsteps.

    Looks like I’m going to have to see the movie…again. From your blog, it appears that it has made a lasting impression.

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