Thursday, April 19, 2007

moving day

the africa blog is moving to

almost everything from this site and from philsgoodphoto is there now. this is the prelude to a full redesign of

please update your bookmarks or point your newsreaders to the new address, if you're hip to that jive.

thanks for checking in!


Monday, April 09, 2007

queen elizabeth national park

we have returned from a 6-day trip to queen elizabeth national park in western uganda. it was our first time there and it did not disappoint. every day was a 6something am wake up to view game or birds or drive to the next place so i don't have the energy just now to go into full detail, but here are some tidbits:

-click here
-or click the phil's photo blog link to the right
-or type or copy and paste into your browser
to see some photos from the trip and to read my comments about each.

-the drive was half as long time-wise as we were expecting. good roads all the way to qenp.
-amazing first-view overlook of the great rift valley on the drive there. kinda like seeing machu pichu for the first time from the sun gate.
-we're east african residents now, so we get the good rate for park entry fees.
-in total we identified 50 new bird species on this trip. black bee-eater was a highlight.
-we met up with friends erin & drew for two nights and a day. fun to share our new country with friends from home!
-a hippo showed up at dinner literally within arms reach of the deck with the outdoor dining. it just mowed the grass of the lawn as all the guests oohed and aahed.
-the ishasha sector of the park was my fave, but the road to get there is terrible. i may not go back because of that road, and it had the best landscape and wild life. more cats down there, though.
-lions! we cat people saw our first cats in the wild. we wanted to rub their tummies.
-we were bluff-charged by a huge (is there any other kind?) bull elephant shortly after i said that we were going to make it angry by continuously pulling ahead and cutting off its route. paige is screaming at me to drive as i'm trying to get the photo. in fairness to her, it was on her side of the car though i'm sure his tusks would have reached to the driver's seat, too.
-i got elsie (LC, land cruiser, our car) stuck for the first time. fortunately, close to park hq so it didn't take too long to get a tow. the differential was on a rock, so neither back tire was carrying weight.
-speaking of elsie, the aforementioned road was so rough that the bouncing severed the exhaust pipe from the manifold. we made a lot of noise on the drive home. all the windows open to avoid CO poisoning.
-and while we're on the subject, uganda is in a bit of a diesel shortage. so we had a bit of a tense drive around the south of qenp, running on fumes, tracking down some fuel. if the fourth and final pump that we had come to had been empty, we would have been stuck until a tanker came to town. this is around 100km from the next closest pump.
-that's the most of it. check out pics on philsgoodphoto.

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Abyssinian Chronicles by Moses Isegawa

i've been lethargic in my reading lately. i think it has a lot to do with phil being home. i read a lot more when he's gone, which explains why i have a new book review since i read a lot when he was in scandanavia last month.

abyssinian chronicles is one of the few (only?) books written by a ugandan about uganda. uganda is the lesser known sister of the e. african trio - kenya, tanzania, uganda. kenya and tanzania get much more attention in the popular press because of "better" tourism, stronger economy (kenya), or famous islands (tanzania). uganda is known for idi amin and maybe its gorillas. to find a novel set in uganda is rare, especially one that's not all about amin (last king of scotland) or gorillas (gorillas in the mist...sort of uganda and not really a novel, but you get my point).

i really enjoyed abyssinian chronicles. the story was good, but even more fun was reading a book that was set right out my backdoor - literally. minneapolis isn't a hotspot as a setting for novels and neither is kampala for that matter, so any books that are set in either place feel very personal. as if i'm one of a very few who are able to connect directly with the book having lived in that neighborhood, having driven on that road, having shopped in that market. that's how it was with abyssinian chronicles.

isegawa's prose is often reminescent of gabriel garcia marquez - i guess i'm not the only one who thinks that considering the back of the book jacket says "like an african one hundred years of solitude" - with its flowery magical descriptions of everyday events. the beginning of the book dragged for me as it was more the uber-detailed story of a young boy's life than about uganda, but by the middle i was engrossed. i liked reading fiction about the 1980s guerrilla insurgency and later the onset of HIV/AIDS (two seminal events in modern ugandan history) in familiar places like masaka. i could connect to the events on a more personal level, identifying with the places and the characters.

i felt like isegawa sometimes got caught up in his overly analogous, metaphorical language, which left me wondering what he was really talking about for sentences on end, but in the end his accurate portrayal of life in uganda (kampala, village and the in-between) leaves this on the top of my recommended-reading-if-you're-traveling-to-uganda list.

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Sunday, April 01, 2007

first-time party hosts

we've been together close to 7 years, living together for 3 1/2 and we've never lived in a place where we could truly throw a party. we do now, so yesterday we threw a going-away party for our friends chris and lindsey.

new year's eve 2003-2004 i tried to throw a party at our apartment in mpls. 6 guests - 2 didn't show and the other 4 came 5 minutes before midnight. i'd made food and snacks, bought drinks, cleaned and decorated the house. it was a huge disappointment for me and definitely made me "once biten, twice shy." the night wasn't a total bust luckily, we salvaged it by hanging out with my brother and sister and extras, but i certainly wasn't going to jump back into hosting any parties anytime soon.

my only past successful excursions into playing hostess came at the cabin. there was a stretch during our last 2 years in mpls where we regularly had friends to the cabin for long weekends - it's easy to entertain at a place that has built-in entertainment. i'll be excited to reinstate the weekends at the cabin once we're back in mn.

new year's '03-'04 was in the back of my mind yesterday as we waited for guests to show up. the first hour ticked by with no one. argh - not again! alas, history wasn't going to repeat itself and the party turned out to be a huge hit. all told we had something like 35 people, the first ones arriving at 1ish in the afternoon, the last ones leaving at 1ish at night. i really think it's all about the location. our patio is perfect for chatting, the garden is great for kids and games, the main room in the house is a good conversation starter with its dramatic ceiling and expansive view of the city.

hosting a party in africa is the way to go, i'm telling you. you have a cleaner to clean the house before, a husband to do all the grocery shopping, a cook to cook an amazing spread of food, a cleaner to clean the house after. none of which will break the bank. all i did was invite people and enjoy the party. i know, i have such a tough life.


introducing ttaano

the latest addition to the anderson bowen household is a tiny black and white cutie in the form of a 6-week old kitten that we've dubbed ttaano (pronounced ta-no) - luganda for 5. over the years there've been stray cats and dogs between uno and ttaano which accounted for 2, 3, and 4. yes, we're very creative with our naming scheme.

driving up mbuya hill on monday we passed a potentially sleeping, potentially dead kitten lying on the side of the road. phil was unanimously elected as the one to investigate since i wouldn't do so well finding a mangled kitten on the side of the road. lucky for all of us, ttaano was curled in a ball sleeping and responded with furtive, well-bellied meows to phil's tsk tsks. little did we know that those first meows were an indication of ttaano's persistent propensity for talking. so unlike quiet, observant uno. we're hoping ttaano grows out of his chatty cathy phase as he grows bigger.

the uno / ttaano introduction was drawn out over the first week - first to not stress uno, second to make sure ttaano didn't have any crazy infectious disease. uno is tolerant but cautious and is the one to run away when ttaano tries to get too much affection rubbing uno's belly. once uno figures out that he's 10 times bigger than ttaano, i'm hoping that he relaxes back to his regular laid-back, content self.

we're not commiting ourselves to being a two-cat household, yet. right now it's a waiting game to see how uno adapts. i anticipate though that the longer we wait, the harder it'll be to send ttaano away.