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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Thursday, March 29, 2007

this post has no title

i'm back in uganda after almost two weeks in norway and sweden. it was definitely a worthwhile trip in terms of ski racing photography and maintaining my contact to the nordic ski world. i had more tourist time than last year's trip, too, so i got to see some good sights in oslo and stockholm. and i went for a ski! if i hadn't, this would be the first year completely off snow since my first ski in 1979. and i bet i would have started sooner [than age 5] if we hadn't lived in arizona. i skated the 16.7km loop at holmenkollen, having a hard time imagining racing it 3 times around. but having an easy time wishing that i were in shape so i could do that (race it for real) again.

i'm glad that i found ski racing and that i had enough sense to pursue it for real, because i think it is what i was meant to do. not everyone finds what they were meant to do. sometimes i would think that ultimate was the sport for me and there were times when that was true. i was really good at it, but sporadically. and i never lead a team to a championship. which is a good thing to do if you're a really good player in a team sport. i had a great tournament at nationals my senior year of college and i owned alumni game for three or four years afterwards, but yeah, glory days. once in high school i was banging golf balls around in the field behind the school. walking back to kris's house i pointed at the 8-inch diameter trash can hanging on the chain-link fence around the tennis courts. it was about 50 yards away and i said "trash can." i dropped the ball on the ground, and dropped a 9-iron into the bottom of the trash can. but that doesn't make me a great golfer.

so anyway, skiing. the lifestyle suits me. i'm very good at relaxing and doing nothing, which can be a huge benefit for nordic ski training. and as long as i had a coach telling me what to do, my work ethic was impeccable. there are a lot of stories of type a athletes overdoing it, not resting enough, getting sick and not backing down. there are also stories of lazy athletes who never worked hard enough to get there. but i think most of the top tier xc ski athletes i've met are people that are able to turn it on in training and turn it off at all other times. people who's energy does not make you nervous to be around them.

skiing is solitary and i'm all about self-reliance. no, really, i am. but you need a big support staff to be successful and you need to communicate well with them. and i'm definitely social enough to work well with others. that said, i really like knowing that out on the road or the trails or on the race course, it's all about me. team sports have their pluses. to sacrifice together and succeed together, that's a tough feeling to top. but i don't know, because i never won a championship. i was 6 points and 3 points away in the two games i was involved in. so it kinda felt more like sacrifice than success. not that that's a bad thing. i never won a ski championship either, but there were a number of times that i finished a race with nothing left and knew i had done my best that day. and not once had the long trail runs through the forests in northern MN felt like sacrifice. team sports are so win/lose, and even if you win you can feel like crap because you didn't play well.

but skiing, that's the sport for me. and i'm lucky, because unlike ultimate, i'll get to do it til the day i die. the mimeographed sheet that coach horak passed around on the first day of high school practice in november always said "cross country skiing is a life long sport."

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Monday, March 12, 2007

hei from scandinavia

i arrived in stockholm yesterday morning, and after purchasing my train ticket and stowing my stuff in a locker, spent the day bumming around the city. i slept in a bed on the overnight train from stockholm to oslo, and today is a lot like yesterday. my stuff is in a locker at the oslo train station and i'm bumming around the city. this afternoon i'll catch a bus across town to the hotel that i'll be in for the next week.

i'm here doing the same thing that i did last year at this time: following the scandinavian spring world cup xc skiing circuit and taking photos. i'll post photos on my photo blog as well as photos and stories on i only wrote one story about last year's experience, but hopefully i can put some more things together this year. i have more time this year, which i'd like to fill with skiing and tourism in addition to more ski racing content.

it's fun to be in the cities yesterday and today. and holy cow different from africa. there are all the obvious differences of climate, infrastructure, skin color, lack of pollution, that kind of thing. but the first thing i noticed (ok, the second thing - the first thing i noticed was that it was noon and the shadows were longer than the object casting them were tall. right now on the equator, the sun is straight up.) the second thing i noticed was that graffiti covered everything. no surface in stockhom is sacred, except maybe the life-size dala horse at city hall. and along with the graffiti, i noticed all the teenagers. counterculture had run amok. posses of goths, skate punks, hyper soccer kids, cell phone girls, you name it, the standard teenager dressed in the colors of rebellion. know that i'm not trying to discourage. i was every one of those groups in my youth. but the reason they all stood out to me right away here is that i don't think that there are any teenagers, per se, in kampala.

in uganda there is no childhood; you go straight from toddler to adult. we see four year-olds on the side of the road carrying jerry cans of water home from the bore hole. the kids there don't have the time or the income to rebel, they're busy just surviving.

seeing all the counterculture here in scandinavia made me wonder about the future of uganda in terms of its youth. maybe all that graffiti and rebellion and attempted individuality is healthy for a society, and helps keep the adults in check? if the kids are unhappy, maybe they'll grow up wanting to do something about it. i don't know if that's the case in uganda. maybe i haven't been there long enough to recognize it, but i sure don't think i've seen any counterculture in kampala. i don't know if that's what keeps a president in office for 20 years, but it sure can't hurt.

paige and i have always commented on how happy the children are in uganda. they have nothing and they are always happy. now after seeing scandinavia with its ideal quality of life and its rebellious teenagers, i wonder if that's a good thing.


Thursday, March 08, 2007

do you value your life?

this happened in december, but it was just before our trip to rwanda, so it got lost in the shuffle of christmas, travel, guests and gorillas. it's probably the story that i tell the most here, though, (now eclipsed by bin laden's urine-mud balls) so i should get around to blogging it.

i enjoy driving around the city and i like the lack of rules of the road, or to put it another way, i like the one rule which is this: right-of-way belongs to the aggressive. actually, aggressive might be too strong a word, i wouldn't describe very many people here as aggressive. assertive. right of way belongs to the assertive. other than that, there aren't really any rules. this is changing, though. traffic lights are just starting to pop up in anticipation of the queen's visit in november. and lines are getting painted on the roads, though they only last a few days.

all around the city, police stand alongside the road and when they want to talk to you they'll take a step out and wave you down. it was my experience that the things they were concerned about dealt mostly with licenses, insurance, paperwork, that sort of thing. "your number plate is mounted too high on your bumper, i can write you a ticket or maybe you can settle this now." 10,000=/ (US $5.50) later, you drive off without having to deal with a ticket, and the policeman has just doubled his day's salary.

anyway. december. in downtown kampala, we dropped off tait and estela at the bank so they could get some cash. we drove around looking for parking or if none was to be found, just do laps until they were done. laps it was. when they came out of the bank, we were on the other side of the street, and unable to get their attention, i did a u-turn at the intersection to get over to the bank. when i stopped at the curb, a policeman came up and started talking, i thought telling me i couldn't park there. as it turns out he was telling us that the u-turn i just did was illegal.

paige pipes up: "there is no sign there!" "yes, but you can not turn there." so i'm getting ready to pay my way out of this and be on our way. but the policeman is young, and apparently hasn't yet realized or been taught that he could walk away 5,000=/ the richer. he tells us we have two options. he can write us a ticket and we can go to court the next day or we can go to the police station now. i spend the next one and a half seconds imagining how impossibly slow a ugandan court must be, so decide that we would go to the police station now. ok, i will go with you. uh, you want to drive? no (big smile) i will ride in back. so paige gets out, he takes off his helmet and ducks into the back seat. we make small talk on the way to the station, maybe six blocks away.

the police station has posters depicting car wrecks, smokers' bodies made up of a collage of photos of smoking-destroyed organs, and blackboards with grids showing the week-by-week number of accidents, fatalities, hit and runs, etc. hint: don't be a pedestrian or ride a motorcycle in kampala. our policeman, who had donned his white helmet immediately upon exiting our car, dropped us at the motor vehicle office and it was at this point that i realized that tait and estela were still at the bank and this could take just as long as a day in court. though no sooner had i thought it, than someone said we could see the chief now.

if our policeman looked young and green, the motor vehicle chief was at the other end of the spectrum. not that he was old, but that he looked like a uniformed african official that you didn't want to f with. we sat down and he said,
"what is your problem?"
"well, the policeman told us that we made an illegal u-turn, so we came here."
"where were you?"
"on kampala road, opposite barclay's."
"there is no sign there."
paige pipes up: "that's what i said!"

the chief proceeds to draw us an incredibly accurate map of the intersection and exactly what happened, which other lanes of traffic were stopped, which were moving, when i made the u-turn to the right, the works. he nailed it, i didn't have to describe a thing.
"there should be a sign there. there is no sign."
a pause while he marks the spot on the map. looking up,
"do you value your life?"
not the question you want to hear in a ugandan police station.
"so many drivers here, they do not value their lives. going here, there, it is dangerous."
the grids on the blackboard prove that last point. i tell him that i am a careful driver and that i do in fact value my life. he hints at a smile.
"you can go".

and we are off. i bet it was maybe 15 minutes from when we almost picked up tait and estela to when we actually did get them. by far the most efficient example of ugandan authority that we have encountered here. and i was pretty psyched to see that there were police that were playing by the book and not content to just pad their pockets. hopefully (though i doubt it) they're getting paid enough now that they aren't looking for extras.

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Monday, March 05, 2007

on assignment

i have started taking on some photo and design projects. it's nice to get some income (new lens, trip to scandinavia) and i imagine that international experience will look ok on the CV and help round out the portfolio when/if i apply for photo jobs. really though, it's just a big learning experience all around. there are technical issues - black skin and equatorial sunshine is a difficult combination for correct exposure. there are political issues - a sudanese mentioned that "if you want us to relate to the photo promoting mosquito nets, you better show it hanging from under a truck, because that's where we sleep." there are cultural issues - in uganda alone are there a large number of tribes with different dress and language, and promotional and aid materials need to have relevance to each. and on and on.

my first big project was a family planning calendar for paige's organization. they had a number of sayings to promote family planning, so my job was to photograph scenes depicting those sayings and put a calendar together with the photos. their main health educator did a great job of setting up the shots and getting the models together and all the other things that would have been way over my head. he took care of things like making sure that the skin colors on the husband/wife and child made them look like they were related and from the right tribe, making sure the settings fit the income level of the people we were trying to portray and the target audience, getting the costume right. he has worked for some 10+ years in the communities that this calendar will target, so he knew what would work and what wouldn't in terms of getting the message across to the audience. all i had to do was make photos. which is as it should be i guess. i had fun with the models - a lot of community-based health education here is done with drama troupes, so we had a great group of actors to play the scenes.

here is a .pdf of the calendar
. it's 4MB so you and your connection speed can decide if you want to just open it or right click and "save as".

over the past week i did two days of photoshoots for a health commnications NGO working on a campaign on malaria prevention education. especially after how smoothly the calendar project went, this definitely seemed like an exercise on how not to run a photo shoot. coming in to it, i thought i was just going to be shooting pregnant women, children and families of different ethnicities sleeping under a mosquito net. as it turned out, there were a number of different scenes to shoot, many involving young kids, and many outdoors. getting a kid to not stare at the mzungu taking his picture with $3000 of shiny camera equipment is yeah a challenge. i had to shoot outdoors in sun directly overhead, in clinics where they tried to shoo the actual sick people out of the waiting room so we could use it, all while trying to accurately depict africans of 11 different nationalities and who knows how many ethnicities.

to put that last point in a perspective americans might relate too: "you need a photo of a sioux indian in his home? here is an inuit model, that's the same right? they're all native americans."

the boy child was completely out of control and never made it in to any photos. one of the actors took to calling him bin laden. "he is a little terrorist!" bin laden's crowning achievement was wetting himself while playing in the dirt parking lot, making mud balls out of the urine-soaked dirt, and then throwing them at us. it was hilarious i think in part because it was so completely opposite the demeanor or behavior of every other african child i've seen or met. the happiest kids anywhere.

the shoot coordinator had come from a commercial advertising background and definitely didn't have the experience that paige's health educator had in depicting accurate scenes. i was taking the stance of "i'm the photographer, i just take the photos." that attitude was great for the calendar because the director knew his stuff, but this time i didn't trust that what i was shooting was correct. i spent the day thinking that i was going to have to re-shoot all the scenes with competent art direction or that the photos i took were actually going to get used and would have no positive effect at all. lose/lose.

i got through it unscathed and am happy, visually, with enough of the photos but i'm still not sure whether they will work for what the NGO has in mind. we'll see.

a couple photos from the days of shooting are over at

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Monday, February 26, 2007

rafting on the nile

uganda's main tourism attraction in terms of people and dollars is the wildlife and landscape and safari sort of thing. but there is also a bit of new zealand-esque adventure sport scene centered around jinja, the source of the white nile on lake victoria. last weekend was our first foray into this scene, and definitely a memorable one. jinja is only an hour and a half from kampala, but we hadn't been there yet even though there is a well-reviewed mexican restaurant there (none in kampala).

we did a one-day trip with nalubale rafting company and i would recommend them again, for sure. the trip is 29 km and goes over some 12 rapids, equal parts class 3, 4 and 5, and at least one class 6 that we have to portage around because it's not legal for commercial groups to run class 6. for good reason.

in terms of whitewater, one of the nile's defining characteristics is how safe it is. it's really deep so rocks generally aren't a problem, and it's dam-fed so the water level never really fluctuates seasonally. no crocs, hippos or sketchy parasites, either. that's all hard to remember when the raft flips and you're being tossed around underwater, feeling like you're at the whim of the river. we wear helmets though, and as long as you don't panic and can hold our breath for 5 seconds, the life jackets do their job of getting you back to the surface.

we had two rafts with 6 folks and a guide or two in each. the guides were canadian and just as you would expect career river rafting guides to be. they quoted south park and team america. there were also a few ugandans in the entourage in river kayaks and a raft fit with oars. these were the safety boats, and these guys had unreal upper bodies. i felt safe. midway through the trip i asked our guide, who had seven years experience guiding, what the gnarliest injury one of his clients had had. he said, "you mean besides dying?" oh.

the not-so-fun part of the trip was before we had even left the bay where we put in to the river. we were practicing our paddling and doing some capsizing and rescues and stuff. so it was the very first time that i was in the water and learning to get back in to the boat by grabbing the line that runs around the gunnel (if you call it that on an inflatable raft) and hoisting yourself up like getting out of a pool while someone pulls the shoulders of your life jacket. anyway, i went in the boat, but my wedding ring did not. i didn't tell paige because i didn't want to make the trip sad for her. but we're somewhat over it now, and i like to think that my ring will be found by a hobbit and make some kind of journey that changes the course of the events of our time.

when we left MN for africa, i finished the insurance paperwork for our wedding and engagement rings in the MSP business office just before we boarded our flight. between my two knee surgeries (among other things medical) and now this, i'm definitely beating the house at insurance. just my little way of sticking it to the man.

back to rafting, paige and i each exited the raft 3 times and only one of those times wasn't entirely fun. the last time i went under i was really glad that i had been under a couple times before because it was deep and it felt like a long time. but i just hung out knowing that life jackets float and it would do its job. one kayaker documented the trip on video and we will have a dvd of the action. we stopped mid-day for an excellent lunch at a somewhat posh lodge and i think paige and i will definitely go back there for a little vacation. watching some of the ugandan guys running class 5+ in river kayaks was awesome. river kayaking had never appealed to me until seeing that. they were doing all sorts of rodeo moves, too, that looked like a lot of fun.

there is probably more that i'm not thinking of, but for sure a good time was had by all. that all included me and paige, seth who is here for some months, chris who is about to do his PhD vive voce, lindsey who will soon be leaving us, emily who we may convince to stay, and simon who is on the lake vitoria tour researching the world bank for his PhD.

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Monday, January 29, 2007

photos from the zoo and the field

on the 23rd, we were at the MIHV field office to attend a certification and bike-giving ceremony for the community health workers that have received family planning education from MIHV. check out the day's photo gallery here with comments by paige. for me it was a long day of taking photos. felt like work.

and saturday we went to the uganda wildlife education center, aka entebbe zoo. entebbe is ~60,000 population, is 60km south of kampala proper and is the location of the international airport, among other things.

the zoo was pretty cool. nice atmosphere and about as low tech as you can get; you're separated from the lion by a chain link fence, from the rhinos by a sturdy steel fence that would be easy to walk through, and from the monkeys - well, the monkeys freely roam the grounds. the animals have a lot of space, they seem healthy and happy and their habitat seems nice and clean. the water for the otter, crocs and fish was a little sketch, but hopefully it's healthy. big highlights were seeing the shoebill, which we haven't seen in the wild yet, monkeys taking over the adjacent golf course, the jungle cats of course, and the red-tailed monkeys which had been our favorites in the wild but now we got to see them closer up.

check out the zoo photos here.
it was nice evening light, so i got some good pics.


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

post 100

we've been expats for nearly 7 months and you've had 100 posts to read. i feel like that's a reasonable job of keeping in touch, yeah? though i don't think a blog is quite the same as the real thing for the little nieces and nephews... but anna, benjamin, maggie, genevieve and lyra get to hear stories of wild africa and they get to visit uncle cool and aunt paige's home when they make trips to the zoo.

today's post will be about snow. i have none of it and i've been missing it bit. i just watched the fellowship of the ring, and gandalf, frodo and company are trying to get over the misty mountains via caradhras. anyway, sauroman does some magic and sends avalanches of snow down upon the fellowship. the snow is the one part of the movie that doesn't look right. it falls at a weird speed, is mushy where it should be sharp, sharp where it should be mushy. i can not think of a movie where i have seen realistic fake snow be it computerized or manufactured from ice or flakes of stuff (monsters inc is the closest that comes to mind). and i love that. the same movie that made a starring role out of a computer-generated character (gollum) can't get snow right.

how cool is it that we're this close to being able to replace live actors with computers but snow is still secure in its reality?


Thursday, January 18, 2007

life in the zoo

this morning was incredibly noisy in the trees, so i opened the shades to see what all the fuss was about and found the trees filled with parrots! sweet. they were around for more than an hour and flew closer to check out the cat, who paid no attention to them. 6-10 grey parrots and 4-5 brown parrots. i got pictures and if i don't get anything better today, you will probably see a grey parrot in today's photo post. but it was a light back-lit sky and i don't have a proper bird lens. a deficiency i may need to rectify in the near future. and a macro lens... and a full-frame body... sigh.

a couple days ago, robert the gardener found a chameleon in a tree. i have no idea how he spotted it. invisible even when you knew where to look. they have a ton of personality and the strangest legs and feet ever. i got some great pictures. will let you know when i post them.


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

on the phone

in the states, i have this aversion to making phone calls. it's not a phobia - ok, maybe it is. i like calling people i know, but making calls to get information or to arrange things isn't my cup of tea. anyway. here it's even worse because the first minute (i am not exaggerating. 60 seconds) of the call is spent figuring out who is on the other end of the line and establishing some sort of foundation for the conversation to actually start. so i don't make calls here. literally. paige makes all the calls. luc and majo asked paige the other day how i could be reached while she was gone because they thought i didn't have a phone.

here is a recent transcript. hiring a night guard for our place. paige dials the number:
tight security: hello.
paige a bowen: hello?
ts: hello?
pab: hello?
ts: this is tony at tight security. (paige hears unintelligible ugandan english)
pab: hello, is this tight security?
ts: this is tony at tight security.
pab: i am interested in hiring a night guard.
ts: what?
pab: i am interested in hiring a night guard from your company.
ts: which company?
pab: tight security. is this tight security?
ts: yes, this is tony at tight security.
and so it goes. i don't think any actual comprehension occurred until the second call. that was the day that paige left for the states. i was supposed to call them back to continue the process. yeah, that's gonna wait until paige gets back.

a while back at the shoprite grocery store, the incoming phone calls had accidentally been transferred over the store intercom. i was in hysterics listening to conversations broadcast across the store. 30 seconds of each party trying to establish whether there was in fact someone on the other end, whether they were fine, and why they were calling.

which brings me to my new favorite, the call ins on the local pop radio station that i listen to. all the above rules apply here, too. so far all the call ins that i've heard have been for contests. today you could win 100K shillings for correctly identifying the noise. it still takes 30 seconds to establish a connection, identify the caller, and finally get to the part where they make their guess. that is if they were calling about the contest. i'd say 30% are wrong numbers or were calling about something else or are answering an earlier contest.

it will be good when paige gets back, we'll finally get something done around here.

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Monday, January 15, 2007

philsgood photo a day

i am starting a month-long photo assignment over at philsgood photo a day. day one is posted as well as a paragraph about what i'm up to. check it out.

philsgood photo a day


Friday, January 12, 2007

a new blog post

we've moved, and our new place is sick. the good kind. more space but not too big. great view of the city and the sunsets (which are more or less always in the same place on the equator. and night happens fast afterwards). a living room wall that completely opens up on to the patio that faces the aforementioned view. and a huge garden. lush tropical flowers, trees, jungle vegetation, the works. good neighborhood. the house next door is renting for usd 6000/month. in case the saudi emir wants to move in? who pays that? oh, the us government. anyway, given the rental market around here, we got a steal. the place has been vacant for a few months. our property guy said people thought it was too small. that's perfect for us and the jungle cat. here are some flower pictures from today's walk around the garden and a couple from the other evening where you can see the house a little. wes, there is a coop in the lower terrace and plenty of space for chickens.

paige is in the states and in the rush of moving etc we forgot to make a cd of the gorilla trip that she could show her parents. so here is a small album of the rwanda trip that's a little anderson-centric, but you can look at it too. there are more pictures there than the few i put up on my photo a day site. no captions because i'm trying to get it up in a hurry while she's still with her parents. today is the first day of internet at our new house.

my brother is going to iraq. some town called fallujah? maybe you've heard of it. spellcheck wants me to change it to hallelujah. that's about as far off as you can get. you can learn all about it at his eric in iraq blog. tell your friends. he will increase the number of independent journalists currently embedded in iraq by 33%. so this is not stuff that you will see elsewhere.

on the subject of media, i recently installed the new york times reader. it's basically an electronic version of the paper. it's quite different from it caches on your hard drive and does not navigate like a web site (although most articles do have some hyperlinks). ads are almost non-existent and photos are few so it syncs pretty fast even on african internet. and then i can take my laptop anywhere and read the ny times! the fonts and headlines look just like the paper version and are large and easy to read. very cool. it is free in beta, but i'm sure they will start charging for it soon, because it's worth it.

ok, more soon.


Thursday, January 11, 2007


some of the best-known tourist attractions in uganda are the families of mountain gorilla (gorilla gorilla) that live in the southwest corner of the country, along the border of rwanda and the d.r. congo. there are 700 mountain gorillas left in the world, with ~380 living on that tri-border area in mgahinga natl park in uganda, parc national des volcans in rwanda, and parc national des virungas in the d.r. congo. the other ~320 are further north in uganda, in bwindi natl park. among all the parks, there are ~12 families that are habituated to humans and can be visited by tourists. only 8 people per day are allowed to visit each family, so it can be pretty hard to get a permit. it's spendy, too, at $300-400 per permit (one person per permit) depending on which park you visit. all three countries are raising the permit price to $500 later this year, with a profit-sharing scheme among the countries to make up for the times when the groups migrate across the border, leaving the county without its tourist attraction. i'm still a little amazed by the price, given the potential for failure in finding the gorillas in the mountain forests. imagine spending $500 for an NBA courtside ticket only to find out upon arrival that the game is being played at another arena? it happens here, so tourists (often?) book two days worth of permits in case day one doesn't pan out. no refunds.

rather than our standard adventure tourism bring-a-tent-and-some-guidebooks-and-a-full-tank-of-gas-do-it-yourself M.O., paige and i booked our trip with a tour company. i think the main rationale for this was the cost of the gorilla permits and the fact that it would be a huge letdown if our inexperience led us to miss our scheduled appointment. usually with travel, we're used to making mistakes along the way, rolling with them, and enjoying the serendipity that usually seems to follow. that said, we're also used to fairly meticulous planning ahead so those mistakes are few and far between. so. with a tour company, we would show them the money, sit back, and let them take care of us.

it's not that we're inherently mistrusting -well, maybe it is- but we have a really hard time letting someone else take care of business. if you want it done right... it turned out that the company doesn't really have much experience with rwanda, so there were plenty of issues along the way that make for good stories now, but were the source of a lot of stress along the way. so here is the quick version of the first 24 hours:

on the road at 6:30 from kampala.
stop for lunch. guide forgot that it was sunday, christmas eve, and that all the restaurants are closed. thank goodness not everyone is christian. we have a great lunch of indian chicken and curry and bread.
there is a lot of stopping and asking of directions. this does not instill confidence. later we find out that it is asking which roads do NOT have tanker trucks broken down across them and are therefore passable. good guide.
the open road (by road, i mean dirt track) turns out to be a 10km *3 hour* affair winding along the valley overlooking lake bunyonyi. it is incredibly beautiful and incredibly bumpy. and in fact, there is the obligatory double petrol tanker stuck in mud along it on a switchback. with the help of a number of strategically stationed youths our van is able to walk the muddy tightrope between the listing tanker to our right and the valley to our left. the youths collect their money and we are on our way. back in kampala, we find out from our neighbor that they had driven the same road two days later and the tanker had rolled into the valley and was surrounded by locals with jerry cans filling up on diesel.
back on to the main road leading to the rwandan border. seems just as bumpy but the scenery is amazing. hills, terraces, mountains. we are hours late, though, and the border closes soon and there is still this worrying asking of directions going on. we finally make it to the border at dusk, half an hour after it has closed, and begin figuring out how we get across.
they won't let our van through. we do not have the necessary papers with the car. bad guide. we do find the rubber stamp-wielding authorities to get us through, however, and we are able to hire a matatu on the other side. good guide.
communication is facilitated through a number of languages and dialects, none of which is english or french, the two languages of the countries. the matatu conductor understands swahili but cannot speak it. our guide understands kinyarwanda but cannot speak it. and so we get to our destination, though five hours late and with our two biggest rules of travel here -seatbelts and no night driving- broken like a light bulb in the mariana trench.
the hotel is posh and has of course canceled our reservations because we are late and our guide's cell phone is out of battery power so he has not informed them of our situation. bad guide. he gets us a room and negotiates the price down. good guide. meals and sleep, tomorrow is gorillas!

sleep is fantastic, we're at 2000 meters and it's so nice to require blankets for warmth. breakfast and waiting. our guide has overslept. bad guide. the matatu has arrived sans conductor and we are on the road. more asking of directions and a left turn. i'm pretty sure it should be right. bad guide. more directions and more turns and an arrival at nowhere and an admission that the driver and our guide cannot communicate. group orientation started 5 min ago. bad guide. some tense words later, things get worked out and we show up at park headquarters as groups of leiderhosen-clad, hiking boot-wearing, rucksack-toting, walking stick-wielding euros are heading out on a trek. we are here and everything is ok. breathe.

more soon on the actual tracking. read paige's post and see pictures here.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

two albums for your approval

we have edited & compiled all our wedding photos from seven+ photographers into one comprehensive chronological album. hard to do when everyone's camera is set to a different time! here are two links for it, one lightbox style album and one grey-background photoshop album. do you like one style better than the other? let us know. note that while the lightbox album has all 252 thumbnails on one page, the grey album has three pages of 84 thumbs. arrows to scroll. pages are a little big, sorry dial-uppers. (are there any of you?)

it's been six+ months since the wedding and it was a lot of fun to revisit all these images. in two years, we can print out the top 24 and actually put together our real albums waiting for us back in storage!

enjoy. :)

grey album

ps. there are more pictures arranged by photographer on our wedding page.


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

fun with the blog

i just switched the blog over the the new blogger beta platform to take advantage of a few cool new features, most notably labels and the drop-down archives. as it turns out, since i publish to an ftp (so the blog appears at and not and so i can add some features like the lightbox photo viewer) neither labels nor the archives function the same as if i were to publish to the blogspot server. and now the archives aren't even publishing to the correct url at all.

so. i've got most of it working, but know that the blog will be under construction somewhat over the next few days as i get things figured out.

stoked about labels, though. way better than our earlier patchwork system. and lightbox works, so we're 90% there, i think.

and i'll keep plugging this: don't forget to check out my (almost) photo a day page!

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Friday, December 01, 2006

murchison day 3

since we couldn't bring our car across the river and hiring a ride on the other side was cost prohibitive, we decided to do the next best thing and take a walking safari instead of driving. a little boat brought us the couple hundred yards across the river where we met up with dennis and set out in to the bush. we have yet to meet a ugandan wildlife guide who doesn't really know their stuff, and dennis was no exception. we learned a lot about flora and fauna alike and added some new birds and beasts to our checklist. most of our walk was along the banks and bluffs of the nile, and dennis was really careful about checking for water buffalo or hippo that might surprise us. it was the first time that i realized that we were not in the safety of a zoo. apparantly hippos kill more people than any other animal in the world. and water buffalo are no picnic. it was great to get such a personal view of the area and the wildlife, made all the more clear once we were on a boat with 10 other people which felt a little more like a canned tour.

back to the camp for lunch and cokes and shade to sit out the mid-day heat until our boat launch began at 2.

the trip upriver to the falls was very cool. tons of animals and birds. dozens of schools of dozens of hippos, red-throated flycatchers and kingfishers by the dozens, water buffalo, huge crocs, water buck...and elephants! africa for real. there was wildlife galore and this was during the wet season when animals don't have to come down to the banks of the nile to get a drink. a highlight was seeing a water buffalo walking up the path that we had been on with dennis only three hours before. yikes. the boat stopped about a km from the falls but you still get a pretty good idea of the magnitude. besides, The Plan was to camp at the top of the falls that evening, so we'd have a closer look soon enough. on our way back a not so minor squall blew in and we had to run aground and wait out the wind. cold and soaked but fun nonetheless.

another new bird on the drive to the campsite at the top of the falls. a pair of abyssinian hornbill. huge prehistoric-looking walking along the road.
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the falls in person are amazing. the nile is a huge river and not slow-flowing and meandering. and at murchison falls, the entire thing shoots through a gap that a decent college long-jumper could clear. after catching the sunset, we set up camp right on rivers edge above the falls by a pool with three or four hippos. how did they get there? how do they leave? it's class 4+ rapids above and the falls below. it was a little hard to sleep that night wondering what hippo vs tent would be like. i don't know if i buy the adage that they're more scared of us than we are of them.

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Thursday, November 30, 2006


i've been sick for a month. mostly a diffuse, general, non-specific sort of sick in my head and sinuses and throat. on a couple occasions, however, it (the sickness) has found its way in to my ear canal and caused a severe headache and sore throat on the left side of my head. so yesterday i visited a pharmacy and bought a bottle of cough syrup with codeine. four bucks. i have a pretty good relationship with opiates from my various surgeries, and pain relief was very appealing to me at the time.
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the cough syrup knocked me on my ass. it was great. hopefully healthy days are ahead.


more on murchison

The Plan was to leave the rhinos and make it all the way to murchison by the evening. there was four+ hours of daylight left and it was under 150km to our destination, but depending on the rain and the condition of dirt roads, maximum speed can vary dramatically. i have an excellent sense of direction and quick command of any map i see, so of course we got lost. but we knew we were lost, which is much better than not knowing you are lost. at least in our case. had we continued for another hour to not know that we were lost, we would have ended up in gulu, which is the staging ground for uganda's little war on the LRA. no, moms, we aren't planning on going up there. this detour made arrival at murchison by nightfall out of the question, so we set about looking for a place to stay in masindi and found a fantastic hotel with camping, outdoor flush toilet, hot water shower, sinks with mirrors and a great restaurant. see, we knew what we were doing the whole time.
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next day on the way to murchison we stopped at the kanyiyo pabidi forest preserve and hired a guide to take us bird watching. he was quiet and informative and we often had a hard time distinguishing between the actual birds' calls and his responses. we had a number of good finds and with every opportunity we are getting more and more into bird watching and more and more appreciative of my dad and val's wedding gift of his and hers binoculars.

the nile runs east to west through murchison. the north side of the river has most of the large animals and you get there by taking a ferry across. The Plan was to hire a guide in murchison and spend thursday afternoon on a safari with our own car. guides are cheap. land rover rental is not. so it was with no small amount of disappointment that we learned the ferry was broken down for months and it would be months until it was fixed. we could hire a car for $100 though. it would have been nice if the person at the uganda wildlife authority had mentioned that when i told her Our Plans and made what she told me were all the necessary reservations.

so no game drive. plan b? we were scheduled* to take a boat trip upriver to the falls the next morning, but with nothing else on the docket for today, we called the nile safari lodge, one of many swank $150-200 per night lodges around the country, to do a short boat trip downriver among the islands near their lodge. the pipedream goal was to see a shoebill stork, a bird that needs its own blog entry, which nests in the area but would probably not be seen in the following day's boat trip towards the falls. just getting to nile safari lodge was an adventure in itself as we followed a sign which lead us to a 4x4 track with mud holes big enough to make me seriously consider turning around. but when trees are simultaneously scraping both sides of your car, turning around isn't a simple matter and that probably contributed to our forging ahead. we passed local villagers and i just knew they were thinking "look at the silly mzungu. every week at least one car follows that sign. we'll see them coming back in a few minutes." so we got to a t with a bad road to the right and a worse road to the left. we take the worse and paige finally convinces me to stop so she can ask a boy for directions. his excellent english informs us that nile safari lodge is just back where we came from. about 100 yards the other direction at the t we pull up to the gate. this was definitely the least-developed road that i have been on in uganda so far, and it is the only way in to a lodge that charges $150-200 a night for rooms.

our boat cruise was very cool, and though we didn't see any shoebills, we did see our first hippos and crocs as well as some great birds. a cameo by an elephant just as we were turning around was a highlight as well. hippos are big. many tons. but this elephant dwarfed them all and how.

*confirming the time of our morning launch to the falls, we are informed that no one else is signed up for the morning. sweet! we have the boat to ourselves. no, minimum price for the boat is $150. there need to be at least 10 people or else you have to pay more. another bit of information that would have been nice to have from the person at uwa when i reserved our spot and paid our $15 each for the trip. so again The Plan has changed and we will go on the afternoon launch instead.

back to the campground for very good and very cheap spaghetti and meat sauce and spending the night among the warthogs. we'll figure out plan b 2.0 tomorrow.
don't forget to check out the photo blog page. images of murchison a plenty.

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

thanksgiving wknd - rhinos

where to start? over the thanksgiving wknd, paige and i drove to murchison falls national park in northwest uganda. we're trying to get out of the city for a sightseeing adventure at least once a month. other than the mountain gorilla tracking, which has a year+ waiting list, uganda is largely undiscovered as a tourist destination for getting into nature and viewing african animals. the national park system is well-established, though, and there are a ton of opportunities to get in to the wild with just you and your guide, surrounded by wildlife. kenya is arguably more spectacular, but you will always be sharing the experience with six other landcruisers filled with tourists.

first stop on the way to murchison was the ziwa rhino preserve. rhinos were poached to local extinction during amin, and it is only in the last year that this 80km square fenced reserve has opened for visiting. the only six rhinos in uganda are here, 4 brought from elsewhere in africa, two donated by disney. an armed guard is with the rhinos in the wild 24/7. christopher, the current monitor on watch said that for the first year, they had to climb trees. now the rhinos are used to people so they won't charge. they still hoot at them though when the rhinos start to walk towards us with curious looks in their eyes. anyway, we picked up a guide at the gate and he radioed to the guard to find out where the rhinos were and off we were in to the bush. we have named our toyota elsie (Land Cruiser, LC, elsie) and this was her first true off-roading and she was a champ driving through swamps and across fields. we walk the last km to the rhinos and spend the next hour some 20 yards away from moja, bella and cory. it's pretty awesome.
go here for photos, and check back shortly for further write ups about our adventures to, from, and in murchison.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

new photos

if you frequent the blogosphere, you'll have no doubt noticed that unlike many/most blogs out there, we don't have photos with the text of our blog entries. the reasons are that 1) we like the look of just having text 2) there are plenty of photos elsewhere on our site and 3) even if we wanted photos with the text, the system is buggy and i haven't figured out how to make it happen. so the times that we have had an image to go along with what we are talking about, we've just linked to the individual image on its own page. it's clunky and not so visually appealing.

but now i have found a great new plugin that keeps the blog page clean and texty and gives a stylish way to view images without visually seperating from the blog. i think it's dope. to see individual images, scroll down to the "food" and "white ants" links in paige's mugole eats enswa post.
it also does slide shows. here are a number of images from my first few days back on the continent. most are from monday's there-and-back-again (which reminds me, i think i will start reading the hobbit next) trip to mihv's ssembabule field site. i have my long lens now so i can start taking proper bird photos. at least if they come close. *mouse over the image and click to advance to the next photo*

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Sunday, November 12, 2006

...and i'm hitting the ground running

more hitting the ground than running.

today was my first weekend morning run with peter since my last day here in august. you may recall what happened that time. i'm still sick enough that i'm not too interested in going running, but i felt so bad saying no yesterday that i couldn't turn peter down two days in a row. he showed up this morning asking if i was feeling better and i lied that yes i was feeling better and i told the truth that i still had pressure in my head and that my nose was stuffed. he said ok here is what will do. get a glass of drinking water - we will keep a little in the mouth and run. it's not 20km, only 10. i looked at him in a way that said i know i didn't just hear you say that we are going to do our entire run with water in our mouths and he repeated that yes, indeed, it is good to breathe through the nose. in my head i'm thinking didn't i just tell you that my nose is stuffed? i can't say no. so off we go using hand signals and such because we can't open our mouths or the water will fall out. it's amazing how heavy an ounce of water feels in your mouth after ten minutes of running. and so you don't have to find out on your own, i'll let you know that when it's warm out and you find yourself going on a little jog, 98.6 degree water does not feel clean or refreshing. i made it to the top of the hill at kololo airfield before peter noticed that more snot was coming out of my nose than was air entering it, and we both spit out our water. ah, beautiful air! stunning elixir!
peter says the boxers run with water in their mouths because you can't breathe through your mouth during a fight. mouthguard and keeping your jaw closed and all.

otherwise, everything is normal and i'm finding my african pace of life again. now that i'm here for potentially a couple years without interruption i'm realizing that i'm going to need some occupation. idle hands are the devil's workshop. so a job hunt may begin soon. right to play being a possible first stop.

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Friday, November 10, 2006

...and i'm back

in some ways it feels like i never left, though paige assures me that in fact i did. new things include having our cat running around the house, a softer, greener feel to the city (i left just as the wet season was getting underway), and the sun going to the south now that it's winter in the northern hemisphere (earlier post about that here). otherwise it just feels like i'm back at home.

the trip here was no picnic because i've been dealing with a head cold/sinus thing for the past 10 days or so. the headache part of the equation decided to get going just as i got on the plane and lasted all 20 hours of travel. ick. the odd part of the sinus thing that's never happened to me before is that i've lost all sense of smell and taste. i first noticed it in MSP when i got a coke and it didn't taste right. it wasn't until i got a meal on the plane that i realized that i had no idea what i was eating (nothing new for plane food, i know). i had a bag of skittles, my normal routine being to eat the red and purple ones first because i like to save the orange, yellow and green citrus ones for last because they're my favorite. they all tasted exactly the same so that was pointless. it's starting to get really annoying now that i'm in africa and actually want to be able to taste all the good food and fruit we have. i cut up a pineapple yesterday morning and as i told paige, "it might as well be styrofoam packing peanuts." the pineapple here has this amazing sweet fresh smell. nothing. last night i had intentionally too-spicy indian from the restaurant across the street hoping that it might clear my sinuses some. i put it and the garlic naan down as though it had all the intensity of a bowl of special k with skim milk. paige finished up what i didn't eat (she's in a two-week all-day workshop, so she gets all her meals there) and her first reaction was "wow, this naan is garlic-y" and her second reaction was to nearly explode at the spiciness of the food. we have pretty much the same heat index for our spicy food, too. this is all totally new for me, never having had sinus troubles. so i'm hoping it goes away.

i brought back a couple new toys, the main one being a good set of computer speakers so now we can watch movies without having to use headphones. this is a big step up in terms of our entertainment center experience. i also made a productive dvd run to best buy. so our video library now includes the following:
101phil 101africa
sopranos season 1 :: sopranos season 2 :: sopranos season 3 :: sopranos season 4 :: sopranos season 5 :: entourage season 1 :: entourage season 2 :: gilmore girls season 1 :: gilmore girls season 2 :: gilmore girls season 6 :: west wing season 1 :: west wing season 2 :: west wing season 3 :: west wing season 4 :: west wing season 5 :: west wing season 6 :: 24 season 1 :: 24 season 3 :: 24 season 4 :: alias season 1 :: sports night complete series :: northern exposure season 1 :: cstv upa college ultimate championships 2004 & 2005 :: upa club championships 2005 :: upa ultimate 101: laying out the game :: generation x-ski :: american skier :: high fidelity :: bourne identity :: bourne supremacy :: she's the one :: hero :: spider man :: spiderman 2 :: casino :: fargo :: motorcycle diaries :: x2 x-men united :: american beauty :: lost in translation :: enron: the smartest guys in the room :: pixies 2004 reunion tour :: coming to america :: leaving las vegas :: go :: oceans eleven :: 8 mile :: trainspotting :: collateral :: unforgiven :: swingers :: man on fire :: the contender :: star wars episode II :: napoleon dynamite :: grease :: finding nemo :: monsters inc :: the incredibles :: pirates of the carribean :: garden state :: syriana ::

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Monday, October 23, 2006

Last King of Scotland

i saw the last king of scotland the other day. i'm not really a reviewer but i think you should see it. forest whitaker will win the oscar for leading actor, and for the most part it's often worth watching oscar-winning movies.

the last king of scotland is historical fiction about idi amin and his rule over uganda in the 1970's. a lot (most? all?) of it was shot in uganda and it was totally a thrill to see kampala and the countryside. i wanted to brag to everyone in the theatre that i live there. i heard an interview with forest on NPR, and he told an interesting story about shooting scenes of amin giving a political speech to villagers out in the country. apparantly there were some villagers who were wondering why amin was giving the same speech over and over (answer: multiple shoots of the same scene). they were extras who had been paid to be in the crowd. they thought forest was really amin. getting paid to show up to a political speech back in the day wasn't out of the ordinary, and they didn't know that amin was dead. when told that amin was really an actor from LA, they said no, that is really amin. forest is that good. his accent is ridiculous.

anway. the scottish doctor who is the other starring role was a little annoying. i liked his character better in the book. and they put more sex in than i think there needed to be, but what are you going to do with hollywood?
watching the movie made me really miss uganda. it has an attraction to me that i can't really explain. it took no time at all for me to think of it as home. on paper, nothing about uganda really matches who i am or what i've done with my life up to this point. but there it is; it just feels right. this is sort of random, but i have a similar relationship to sailing. i am totally happy riding the rail and staring at the water for hours and i'm not sure why. both my brothers have sailed and raced internationally, extensively, at times fanatically. i have sailed minimally, but i know that i could be totally content setting off around the world. uganda seems to have that same unexplainable pull.

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Thursday, September 21, 2006

more about the hand

i know you're all wondering, so i'll just save you the trouble of asking. my hand is doing well. i played in an ultimate tournament 7 days later and took the stitches out afterwards, 8 days after the injury. there was never any infection and it's all closed up nicely. the added benefit is that now my life line is extra long and, might i add, quite robust in the latter stages. or is that my love line? well, either way it's win/win.

3M nexcare band-aids are the bomb. i also used a brush-on antiseptic superglue substance that i liked a lot. comes off with fingernail polish remover? wish i'd found both of those sooner, as i think the hand would have healed faster, and that first tournament would have been more comfortable.

the US is ok, and it's especially good to be back in MN for the fall. my favorite season here. paige got in yesterday to do some work here at world headquarters and we head to washington island (lake michigan. door county, WI) this wknd for a wedding.
uno and i have similar luck with dentists. he got two molars out yesterday, and he has one more pre-flight trip to the vet to get all the paperwork in order. an official africat!


Wednesday, September 06, 2006


so i'm back in the states now for a couple months playing ultimate with sub zero. jumping right in, five days after i got back i was out in santa cruz for the labor day tornament where we lost to seattle sockeye in semis. i've been bouncing around a little, but now i'm settled in and even got the cat back from CY and TY, who were generously taking care of him. thanks!

a coffee shop with free wireless is right across the street from my apt, and this morning i finally installed skype, which is a free program that allows you to make phone calls online. it's 100% free to talk to other computer skype users online, and costs something like 2.1 cents a minute to call land land lines or mobiles. not so bad.
so i fired it up and called paige, and the sound quality was perfect and it really couldn't have been easier. the pace of technology in the last ten years has been ridiculous. wasn't too long ago that i was psyched to get long distance for under 25 cents a minute. the world is getting so small and accessable.

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Saturday, August 26, 2006

a small operation

tonight i fly back to minneapolis to join sub zero for the fall ultimate season. so this morning was my last run with peter. about 15 minutes into our run, we were moving along a stretch of road that was full of parked trucks so there wasn't space along the shoulder. peter was on the road side of the trucks but i took the other side (next to the kampala equivalent of a garden center; basically a wide open lot full of plants, trees, etc. for sale) because it looked like the gravel along the shoulder continued next to a row of planted seedlings.

yeah. so. that gravel path and the row of planted seedlings was ringed by an ankle-high string of barbed wire. it either wasn't complete or i miraculously stepped over the first line because i made it in to the rectangle, but i sure didn't make it out. at least not upright.

the wire caught my ankle and i was instantly on the ground, but hey, at least with good lay-out form. arms up, land on your chest, all that. unfortunately my left palm found something sharp in the dusty bed of gravel because when i popped up there was a canyon staring back at me. i told peter, "this is bad." so we turned around and ran the 15 minutes home with him apologizing the whole time and me feeling bad that he felt bad.

as it turns out, people do stare at the white guy running down the side of the road when he's holding his hand up and there's blood everywhere.

after getting home, i spent the next half hour or so washing with surgical scrub from paige's brother and trying to dig out the dirt. we were thinking of closing the cut with 3M steristrips and just getting stitches when i got back to the US on sunday. but once we could better see how deep it was and how impossible it was to really clean it, we decided to see the professionals. our neighbor and friend astrid gave us a recommendation for the good clinic, so off we went.

we walked in, paige wrote my name and address on their sign-in sheet, and after putting down a 60,000 shilling deposit, the doctor called me in. if you've seen babe (the movie about the sheep pig) she (the doc) reminded me a lot of the farmers wife. jolly, roly poly, sweaty. the latter being less surprising after learning that she was here for two months on a rotation from sweden. not quite as hot up there. she and the cute finnish nurse were pleasantly all business and appear to have done a stellar job on my hand. so 9 stitches and 45 minutes after leaving home, we were out the door.
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cost for stitches, antibiotics and pain killers was 70,000 shillings = $38 USD. last time i had stitches, four above my eye, the fairview urgent care bill (not including drugs) was over $400. and i was in and out the door in 2+ hours.

if you don't mind a little blood, paige's pics from the trip to the doctor are here.

afterward: now that it's been a couple hours, my wrist is starting to hurt. i definitely hit it in a place that's easy to break one of those little hand/wrist bones. i'm not that worried about it, but it leads in to a good suggestion from astrid that neither paige nor i had thought of. she said to get an x-ray here; it would cost 20,000 ($11 USD) and i could just bring the film home for my radiologist friend to look at. i don't have time because i leave for the airport in two hours, but a good idea that could save me a couple hundred dollars. so all in all a very stress-free first medical experience.

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Thursday, August 24, 2006


a few things that i've forgotten to relay over the course of my being here.

we flew club world on british air from chicago to heathrow on our way over here. it was ridiculous. and by ridiculous i mean it was amazing. yours for only 8K round trip.

the wireless mouse for my laptop works as a remote control. we don't have a tv, so we watch dvds on my flat screen monitor. we can sit on the bed with the screen on the dresser and do all the controls with the mouse.

there's a picture up in the first africa gallery, but if you like words more than pictures... my first time at sunday evening ultimate, i ran into a carleton classmate. seth roomed with one of my best friends on 3rd nourse and i was on 4th our freshman year. huge dose of small worlditis, though maybe not that random when you think about the probability that there is a carleton alum at just about every international ultimate pick up game. he and wife leila (carleton '95) and new son jibril (sp? hope that's close) were here for 2-3 years but moved back home shortly after we got here. leila worked for the IRC and seth was working on his PhD from yale.

check out my new gallery index page on post-it notes featured prominently in my catalog work at gear west, and here they are again. tell me if you like the look.

all the links on this post are brought to you by sethypooh who seems to post using nothing but links. 101phil



exercising has been a bit of an adventure here in kampala but it's actually been quite a bit more stress-free than i imagined. we have a pool, and although i am the world's worst swimmer, it didn't take long before i could put in a half hour of laps. and my knee thanks me for any non-impact activity that i can do. bicycling is absolutely not an option for me. i'm leery enough of wide-shouldered roads in the US. here it is a whole nother* level. pot holes, washed out shoulders that were still there this morning before the rain, bicycles with their crazy cargos, and the traffic...forgetaboutit. so running it is.

i was not excited about my first trip out, imagining the stares and the pointing. i despise being the center of attention.** so it was a pleasant surprise, and almost disarming, when the locals hardly paid me any mind at all. if i had been here longer before i started running i probably wouldn't have been so surprised. people are very laid back and have better things to do with their day than be surprised by the white guy running down the road.

i started off by running on the railroad tracks, since i was still terrified by the traffic and hadn't gotten used to it's being on the wrong side of the road. and i would probably still be going back and forth on the railroad tracks if it weren't for peter. peter was a regular taxi driver for us before we got our car. he told me that he was a boxer and that he went jogging a lot. i told him that i had just been running that morning and that we could go jogging together sometime. the next saturday, paige and i wondered what her phone was doing ringing at 7am. twice. it turns out it was peter looking to go for a jog, and we haven't missed a wknd morning since.

he kicks my ass. through the hypoxia, i have gotten to know a lot of the city, especially the hills. locals are happy to point out all the hills of kampala, and peter points them out to me by making me sprint up them. then we do exercises at the top. cool boxer exercises. i'm a lot more comfortable dealing with the unique hazards of the road, now, but i still maintain a healthy degree of vigilance because it wouldn't be fair to paige if i got pummeled by a speeding taxi.

i'm starting to get to know some of the boxers, and plan on doing some photo stories of their training and competition. the first few pics of them are up in today's new photo gallery. i'm having a hard time convincing them that i'm more interested in taking pictures of them than learning how to box. i'm almost as good a boxer as a swimmer.
101phil 101africa
*i think that this should be correct usage and should be included in real dictionaries. someone get on that. i have heard NPR employees say this, and that's all the proof i need.

**in situations were you're supposed to get attention, then i'm all for it. i'm all about participating in sports for the glory of success. but i prefer to be fairly anonomous about the rest of it. oh wait, i have a web site and a blog. damn.

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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

must be doing something right...

today is the first time i've ever checked out the site statistics for picked a good day to start. yesterday i posted here about some site updates, and paige sent a mass email with her updated contact information. if you're reading this and didn't get that email, how did you ever stumble across this site? anyway, yesterday we had 6,800 page views. dear god. and it's cool to know that i'm not padding the statistics - our connection is too slow to do any surfing. i just view what's on my hard drive.

so thanks for checking in! as your reward i have updated the look of my photo albums and added three new galleries for you viewing pleasure. just go here or click photo galleries on the right. i've also added to my photo information page. i'm particularly proud of my new little icons.

for the photo galleries, i've taken some canned albums that live in the automate menu of photoshop cs and cs2. then i go into the directory and mess around with the code in golive to get the look i want. i like the current one. grey background, white borders, drop shadow, little icons at the bottom.

if the new stuff isn't up when you check, that's because our connection is so slow. it's 11:20pm here, 3:20pm central. i'll start the upload on the new content now and when i check in the morning it'll be mostly finished with some errors. our internet connection is a wireless connection from mtn, same company as our cell coverage. it's just an antenna that plugs into the usb, and gives us something like 1kbs. yeah. that 50k image? it's a minute. sunday morning is the best time for internetting here, no one is on the phone. afternoons? forget about it. the current plan is just a stop gap. i hope.

today i ran sprints at the soccer field just up the road at the business school. it's a nice field. i did the michelle akers workout that paige brought to syzygy from riot. it's a keeper.
12 x 20 yard :20 sec rest
10 x 40 yard :30 sec rest
8 x 60 yard :45 sec rest
5 x 80 yard 1:15 rest
3 x 100 yard 1:30 rest
we work harder. 101phil 101ultimate

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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

news and updates

updates! there are a couple new photo sets up on andersonbowen. you can click photo or africa on the links at the right of the blog. paige took pictures at a printmaking workshop we attended with local artist fred mutebi. he spent a year in tennessee as a fulbright scholar and has an amazing portfolio. we're hoping to spend more time with him and of course buy some art. also up are select photos (with captions) from our first month here. and check out the quicktime movie of the drive home to kampala from the MIHV field site in ssembabule. if you're not patient enough to sit through four minutes at 1 frame per second, there's a speedy :39 sec version at 6 fps. you can always use the arrow keys on the keyboard to scroll through the photos at your own speed, too. quicktime pro is a pretty nifty little application, by the way.

i probably won't get a satellite radio until the next time i fly through amsterdam (!), so i've been getting my NPR fix with podcasts. i get a weekly 20min digest of marketplace, science comentary by robert krulwich, sports commentary by frank deford and the full hour of on the media. pretty sweet.

speaking of ipods, i'd be interested to find out what people use to rip dvds to an mpeg. thanks.

i don't mean to always write about food, but so it goes. i got on a granola kick before we moved to africa because we had three leftover bags of granola from our wedding sunday brunch. there's no granola in kampala so we've been making our own. here's my recipe for all you tree huggers out there:
3/4 cup canola oil
3/4 cup peanut butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup honey
(if we had real maple syrup, i'd probably put 3/4 cup of that in, too)
4 Tbl butter
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1 Tbl grated ginger
put all that stuff together and heat it up or microwave it so you can stir it up and mix it. put the following in a big mixing bowl:
1/2 cup wheat bran
1/2 cup sesame seeds
3/4 cup slivered almonds
3/4 cup chopped cashews
3/4 cup chopped brazil nuts
3/4 cup sunflower seeds
(or 3/4 cup pumpkin seeds)
6 cups quaker oatmeal (not the minute kind)
in four or five stages, pour the liquid over all the dry stuff and stir it up real good. apparantly the secret to crispy granola is to fully coat the dry stuff. spread the mixture out on greased cookie sheets, and stick it in the oven at something like 300 degrees. you have to be fairly vigilant and take it out and stir it every 10 min or so to keep it from burning. we don't have a thermometer on our oven, but we go for like 40-50 min.

once it's done, stir in the dried fruit. don't cook the dried fruit, it'll turn to rock.
3/4 cup chopped dried pineapple
3/4 cup currants (dried like raisins)
yum. 101phil 101ht


Thursday, July 27, 2006

what is worse than walmart?

one of the best parts about moving was that it forced us to consolidate, simplify, get rid of all of our crap. our one-bedroom apartment wasn’t so big, but anytime you live someplace for 3 years, you manage to accumulate a lot of stuff you don’t really need. i had all four chicken little bobbleheads from frosted flakes. stuff like that. even though we didn’t really start packing for africa until a couple days before we left, we spent over a month making trips to the goodwill, shredding papers we didn’t need and throwing away anything that didn’t have an obvious home. we filled a 5x10 storage unit with all the stuff that we left behind. so the storage unit and the 8 bags we checked (at $190 per for the four extras) is everything we own. it felt good to know that i didn’t have anything that i didn’t want. sounds obvious, but try moving and you’ll see how much stuff you have that you don’t want.

sometimes you have to have Things, though. seemingly mostly related to kitchen and bath. we didn’t register for wedding gifts, but for the first time i can see why you’d want to if you were getting married and moving in together in a new place (that wasn’t in africa). anyway, the good feelings of inventory reduction only lasted until we walked into game. game is like walmart, but more than double the price and less than half the quality. i got so ornery that after so much work put in to getting rid of stuff, we were right back into it, spending money on plastic trash cans and crappy kitchen utensils. i had to get an extension cord so we could run the washing machine and it wasn’t until i got home that i realized that the grounding plug wasn’t actually connected to a grounding wire. the cord melted and blew our inverter and fridge. anyway.

the bright spot in buying items for making our new home (and i am very much a homemaker here) has been furniture shopping. every weekend we’ve been going back to the same man on the side of the road and ordering new items for pick-up the following week. so far we have a dining room table and chairs, two shelving units as well as two desks, a dresser and three more shelving units from a neighboring furniture maker (before we found our guy up the street).

“what kind of wood is this?” “african wood.” so, all our stuff is made of african wood. it’s beefy, simple and beautiful. we draw a picture of what we want and a week later there it is. the cash goes into the pocket of a guy with really rough hands. right where it should be. 101phil 101africa

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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

electricity doesn't come from a light switch

the electricity here is only on every other day. it goes roughly from 6pm to 6pm. andrea, the italian who installed our inverter, has been here for 11 years and says that it is getting worse. initially it was only off for 3 hours a day. the current (ha!) format of day on/day off started abruptly in recent years when kenya went through a drought. apparently, all of lake victoria’s water comes in from kenya and exits via the nile in uganda, among others. anyway, the drought caused a nine meter drop in water level and occurred concurrently (ha!) with a proposed dam construction for power for uganda. so. not so much of the electricity.

back to the inverter. to have electricity on the off days you can either get a generator or an inverter. generators make noise and diesel fumes and diesel is $4.20 a gallon. you have to start the generator and turn it off manually. you know how when you read in bed and have to get up to walk the 5 feet to switch off the light switch on the wall? if that doesn’t sound familiar, it’s because you have a bedside lamp next to you for the specific purpose of not doing the above. imagine finishing reading and then having to get up to go outside behind the apartment to shut off the power. yeah. no.

an inverter is a box about the size of a coca cola fridge pack that is connected to the main power supply (with a serious on/off switch in between – the kind you would flip in the natural to get all the stadium lights to come on). the inverter is connected to six batteries each the size of three car batteries and each weighing 70 kilograms. you can get more batteries if you want and if you have the money. we got six to power the fridge and the lights but left the two water heaters out of the loop. so when the power is on the inverter draws power to charge the batteries. when the power goes off, the inverter sends all those watts, amps and volts right back out and other than a little flicker at the changeover, we never know the difference. it takes about 6 hours to charge the batteries in full, and other than the melting extension cord incident when we didn’t know the fuse was blown, we’ve never run out of power. 101phil 101africa

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Monday, July 24, 2006

site/blog progress update

there is worthwhile stuff to report every day (plenty!), but i've been spending most of my time putting together the web site and getting the blog up and running. once the foundation of the site is complete and i have time to type, you can look for daily updates. well, daily is optimistic but we're still in the early stages of life in africa and every experience is new, so it makes for good blogging.
check out my catalog of personal belongings now and expect to see more photo galleries from the last 2-3 years as i work on cataloging my images. we'll have plenty of info and photos from the wedding and we'll trick out the about us and africa pages with lots of stuff as well.
thanks for checking in and thanks for being patient for news from us. (although at the time of this writing i think only 4-5 people know this site exists :) we'll get the word out shortly. 101phil

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Sunday, July 23, 2006

i found candy!

there’s lots of chocolate here and i like chocolate fine, but i’m more into fruit candies. lemonheads. starbursts. mentos. sprees. sweetarts. mike and ikes. skittles. i make my own mix of jelly bellys at the mall. pineapple, tangerine, pink grapefruit, coconut, pina colada, lime, and margarita. if you need ideas for a care package…

there are no fruit candies in Uganda. but yesterday i found some! fruitella. they come in strawberry, orange and grape. and really pretty good. come individually wrapped in a roll about the size and shape of starbursts.

on a related note, i’ve found really good cashews at the payless across the street and they’re pretty cheap. also, pop is super cheap. everything in returnable glass bottles, and about 45 cents for a half litre of coke. perfect. 101phil 101africa

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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

photo printing

we brought a portable printer with us to Africa. canon pixma ip90. it’s the size of a small but thick laptop and has a couple of sweet features.

one, like i said, it’s small. it easily fits into my little computer backpack with the laptop and a bunch of other flat stuff.

two, it prints fantastic photos, which was my necessary feature. i like the canon photo paper plus semi gloss. not such a fan of the gloss. the plus paper is $5 for 50 4x6 sheets which is a ton cheaper than the pro paper and looks just fine to me. and i’m picky.

three, and this is the kicker, we got the battery for the printer so it works when the power is off or we can bring it to the field where there is no electricity and take and print photos for the villagers. i can also connect my camera straight to the printer which I would never do here at home, but i probably don’t want to bring my laptop to the field and I can still take and print photos immediately.

the bureaucracy here loves to have a passport-sized photo with every form you fill out. there are a lot of forms to fill out here. so the printer has already paid off in the time saved from going to the photo shop to get a passport photo taken. 101phil 101africa

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Thursday, July 06, 2006

it's ok to eat regular food

it’s interesting moving somewhere as opposed to vacationing there. other than three months in bend, oregon i’ve never lived outside of minnesota. i’ve traveled plenty, though, and for the most part i’m very conscious of trying to get the most of the local scene – trying to not take the easy route of going to the places that cater to tourists or americans, more specifically. so when i got here i was immediately in the mode of doing as the ugandans do.

there’s a huge market across the street and as well as all the fresh fruit, vegetables and meat sold there, the vendors set up their fires and make food for lunch and dinner. they cook meat and fish, rice and beans, and ever-present matooke, a starchy mash of green bananas steamed under a mat of banana plant leaves. it has the consistency of sweet potatos and tastes kind of neutral heavy. i wanted to go to the market every day and eat a big meal for next to nothing. one for the cost savings and two because of how uneasy i felt when i would walk into an italian or indian restaurant and see all the other white people. i always feel like a sell-out when i eat typically western foods while i’m in a foreign country.

the problem was that i didn’t like the ugandan food. so this was going to be a long couple years. but then i had a bit of an epiphany brought on by the neighborhood that we lived in mpls. there’s a restaurant called tariq on stevens and franklin and the little parking lot is always filled with taxis and the tables are always filled with somali immigrants. same with the ethiopian restaurants. same with the taquerias in the mexican neighborhoods. same with all the ethnic grocery stores… i never thought twice about that at the time. of course they hang out in those restaurants and grocery stores, that’s what they grew up with, that’s who they are. i never looked at them askance and thought that these nationals couldn’t hack American food and had to retreat to what was comfortable. you pick good ethnic restaurants based on the ethnicity of the clientele. but you never walk in there looking at the family from saigon thinking “what are you doing in a vietnamese restaurant? shouldn’t you be at perkins?”

i’m clearly not in the same shoes as the mexican and eastern african immigrants in mpls, but i do live in a foreign country so i guess it seems reasonable that it’s ok to go the amazing restaurants close by that serve food that i’m more comfortable with. but i’m still thinking that i need a shirt that says “i’m not selling out, i live here.” 101phil 101africa

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Tuesday, July 04, 2006

how to make phone call

when paige was here in march, i was in sweden and norway. i needed a phone there, and when i was setting up international calling on our account, i noticed that our phones’ GSM frequencies weren’t available in east africa. paige’s phone didn’t work here or in tanzania, so that in fact turned out to be true.

when we moved here, it didn’t occur to me to try out our phones, so it wasn’t until after paige had bought a local phone that i decided to turn on my phone to give it a try. actually, i think i was just turning it on to check somebody’s contact info that i had stored and saw that i had full bars of coverage and thought to try making a call. pressed the speed dial key for mom’s studio, and sure enough the phone rang. cool. mom not in today, driving around lake superior.

i knew the phone was locked to cingular but i decided to try a local sim card in it just in case… no go. i tried placing a call and got the “phone restricted” message on the screen. so now it was time to figure out how to unlock the phone. the only reason i knew that cell phones are locked in the first place was because on eBay the auctions make a big deal out of a phone being unlocked. A+++++!!!!! Motorola Razr **UNLOCKED** (not Anna Kournikova, Manolo Blahnik, ipod) anyway, that kind of thing. so after what should have been about a minute and a half of google time but was actually 45 minutes internet café time, i found a site where you enter your phone’s 15-digit IMEI# and it spits out a code to type in that removes all its restrictions.
the site gives you seven lines of codes. apparently you’re best off using the 7th one. i used the first one the first time but i could only receive calls and could neither send nor receive texts. then used the 7th and all was good.
press the # key
press the * key three times to get p
press the * key four times for w
press the * key two times for +
then you enter the code they give you followed by + and the number of the line of code you used (in our case number 7)
press the # key
paige’s unlock code looked like this #pw+106514321302201+7#
press send.

so now we’re both using our phones from home and we’ll keep the extra phone to give to friends who come to visit. (so come visit) 101phil 101ht 101africa

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Friday, June 30, 2006

equator living and the solstice

i should have remembered this from our trip to peru a couple years ago. i normally have an instant sense of direction, even in new places. but after looking at a city map of where we are, i’m realizing that i’m a little turned around. so then it dawns (ha!) on me – the sun rises in the east and heads north as it travels west. it was the same in peru in the southern hemisphere. astute geographers will note that i am not in the southern hemisphere – kampala is about 30km north of the equator. but astute astronomers will inform those geographers about the orbit of the earth around the sun and what goes on with that 23 degree tilt of the axis.

i am neither an astute geographer nor astronomer so you can correct my reasoning here. we got here a week after the solstice, leaving minneapolis and its 45 degree north latitude. subtracting the 23 degrees that the northern hemisphere tilts toward the sun during the day, minneapolis was somewhere between 22 and 23 degrees north of the virtual equator. my own made-up name. on the solstice, the sun is directly over the tropic of cancer at noon. anyway, when we arrived here at the equator, with the southern hemisphere’s 23 degree tilt away from the sun, we were somewhere between 22 and 23 degrees south of the virtual equator. more simply put, because minneapolis and kampala are the same distance from the tropic of cancer, on the summer solstice the sun ascends to the same height in the sky. except the sun is to the south in minneapolis and to the north in kampala.

it was also interesting traveling on the solstice because we went from the longest day of the year at 16 hours to one of the shortest day here. granted, at the equator it doesn’t change much from june to december, but the change from minneapolis was pretty dramatic. 101phil 101africa

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