Saturday, January 22, 2011

*How* did the elephants cross the road?

So, we're were in Murchison National Park and came
across about a dozen elephants. They were maybe 50 yards
from the road. Water was on the other side so they
had to cross it, but we were sitting there gawking
at them. Over the next 5-10 minutes they formed and
implemented a strategy. Here they are:

They bunched together in a tight group and headed
for the road.

First they sent an adolescent across. The flapping ears
are supposedly a warning.

Then the mothers came across shielding the babies from us.

The last one was an adolescent too.

Finally, when they were across the road one of them stared
us down and made sure we didn't follow them into the tall grass.

Later on we saw this bird

and these lions. I got out of the car to take pictures of the
elephants, but stayed inside for the lions!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


If anyone is actually reading this, I have not
disappeared. Just went to Uganda where I don't
have a fast internet connection and can't upload

I went to Murchison Falls National Park. On the
way we stopped at a rhino rehabilitation project
that has the only rhinos in the country. Three are
recent babies, one is named Obama as he has a
Kenyan father and American mother! At Murchison I
saw kob (National animal), water buffalo, giraffes,
elephants, a couple lions and all sorts of birds.
Pictures and a cool elephant story when I get home
this weekend.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

So I leave for Uganda tomorrow. I haven't posted much as what
I've been up to is only interesting to me, walking around,
seeing people, doing math.

I ran into a few of my algebra students from two years ago:

It was fun seeing them again!

So how do you get around town? Well, there are minibuses
and moto-taxis. The minibuses are the size of a small van.
They have a driver and conductor then they squeeze in 17
passengers. There are (an increasing number of) bigger
buses too, but none the size of what we have at home.

You can hail a moto-taxi almost anywhere and go anywhere
in town, up to 4 miles away for less than $3. The minibus
is about 30 cents, but obviously takes a lot longer. Also,
if it empties out too much at a stop, they may wait til it
fills up some before going on. Two years ago I did not see a
single woman as either minibus driver, conductor, moto-taxi
driver or cab driver. In the last two weeks I have seen at
least one of each.

A correction to two years ago: I said Gandhi worked in Uganda.
It was South Africa. I have no idea why they built a bust of
him in Uganda and scattered some of his ashes in the Nile there.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


So I haven't done much exciting, but figured I'd post anyways.
I did go to Lake Kivu in the west for a couple days. I visited the town
of Kibuye (not on the Congo border mom and dad, so I did not go to
Congo this time). Kibuye is stunning. I stayed at a small hotel right
on the water:

Here's the view from my porch:

So I took a boat ride out to Napolean island (named so because it is
shaped like his hat). It's funny how your mindset changes with location.
There were no oars in the boat and I asked what they do when the motor fails.
They said you can call for help. Of course the motor failed. But you just
sit back, relax, enjoy the water instead of wondering how this can happen.
They got it running, it failed again, they got it running, it failed,...
you get the picture.

Lake Kivu is interesting - not many fish species, because of the methane gas
being released from beneath it. The notion is that this leads to periodic
extinctions. Also, the guys driving my boat were complaining the fish are
not as big as they used to be. On the flip side, they're building a huge
plant to generate electricity by burning the methane. Should bring $$$ into
the local economy.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Two years later

I'm back, but this time only for a month.

My flight was delayed a few days because of weather
in Northern Europe, but I made it here ... with my luggage.

Substantial posts to follow in a few days when I've actually
done something interesting!


Monday, May 25, 2009

Out of Africa...

Ok, so I left Rwanda on April 28th and went to Lebanon to visit
Kamal (a grad school buddy) and give a talk at the American
University in Beirut. The campus is stunning, maybe nicer than
Cornell's. Kamal's office overlooks the Mediterranean. Mostly
I hung out with Kamal and talked math. I did visit Byblos, a place
where people ave lived for 7000 years. The pictures below are
from there.

We stopped at a seaside restaurant as well.

After 6 days there I went to Ethiopia. I spent two days in Addis
Ababa, then spent a day in Gonder and a day in Lalibela. Both towns
are a few hundred kilometers north of Addis. There are some beautiful
old palaces from the 1600s in Gonder. In Ethiopia there are guides
everywhere. The guide in Gonder took me to a church as well and invited
me to an English class he taught in the evening. We ended up coteaching it.
It was a lot of fun. First time I taught English!

Lalibela is amazing. About 800 years ago they carved, in the solid
mountain, 11 churches underground. All in 23 years. The place is up
in the Simien mountains at 9000 feet.

Anyways, in between the trips to Gonder and Lalibela and
flying back to the US that was 5 days in a row on airplanes.

The whole term was a great time, and I am done with posting, at
least til my next trip to Rwanda. Anybody who wants to see more
pictures should swing by my office. I have over a thousand.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Heading out

Well, I leave Rwanda today. I'll go to Beirut for six days
(and visit Kamal for those of you from grad school) then
to Ethiopia for six days. Then I go to New Hampshire to visit
my brother and parents for a few days and to NYC to see my
first game in the new Yankee Stadium (will they give up 22
runs again?) and finally to Ithaca in mid-May.

So I will miss lots of things about Rwanda. The first that
comes to mind is being a rock star to children when I walk
around some of the non-rich (=poor) neighborhoods. They get
so excited and happy when they see a mzungu. They really like
it when I shake their hand, or return their offered fist bump.
One time a little three year old girl saw me and ran out to
give me a big hug.

I have tons of great memories. Certainly the trips that I've
already mentioned here (I can't bring myself to use blog as
a verb) I'll remember for the rest of my life, but there are
many little moments. Like the time when I was in this very
poor neighborhood and it started to poor and these people who
ran a tiny store in their house invited me in during the rain.
They didn't have anything I wanted to buy, and it rained hard
for maybe half an hour, so I left a small amount of money on
my chair when I headed out. It was still raining some. A
couple hundred meters down the road the girl chased me down
barefoot through the rain to offer to return the money. These
people had pretty much nothing and they I knew I was rich.

Seeing children in Goma running around in a group of 5 laughing
and screaming and realizing that one was riding on a bike with
no back wheel while the other four holding up the back of the
bike and serving as the back wheel. This made my both happy to
see them have fun and sad they probably never will have a proper

Or watching the moms carry babies papoose style. It looks like
it would be uncomfortable for the kid, but they seem pretty happy.

Riding the minibuses. These are the size of old VW van. They
carry the driver, conductor and about 17 passengers. They don't
leave until they are full and if half way through the run they
are too empty they'll just wait at a stop til they fill up more.

The birds and flora in the city are just so different from home
that I am constantly amazed.

I'll miss my guy on the street with one leg who makes his living
selling postcards and batiks. He always says hi to me, but never
pesters or pursues me if I say `not today'.

Ok, this is getting too long and pretty soon I can talk to anyone
interested about this in person.