Sunday, March 29, 2009


So even though the graduating students finished their finals back
in September, KIST just had graduation last week. I have no idea why.
I went, but since first class of math students graduates next year I
didn't know anybody. This is me in my gown.

Ok, here's a better picture of me.

I was tempted to steal the gown - the red would be nice at Cornell
graduations. Mom, dad, unfortunately those lessons about stealing
being wrong ended up sticking, so I don't have a nice gown.

This is your fault.

They had the Kigali police band

and a student dance troupe as well.

So I have not really had much time to do anything too exciting
recently. I give my final in a couple days. After that I go back
to Butare to give a lecture at the National University and then
I'll travel some in the south. Then I get back for the first day
of the National Week of Mourning marking the beginning of the
genocide. There is no school that week. Things slow down quite
a bit in town. Then I go to Uganda for a week, mostly to be a
tourist but I'll be giving a lecture a day for a week or so. For
those of you who are profs, if you want to come to East Africa
at your own expense and lecture, contact Teach and Tour Sojourners
(TATS). They'll arrange for it. Every Cornell prof got an email
from them a month or two ago, and since I was already here I figured
I may as well do it.

Hopefully I'll have more interesting things to post after these

Wednesday, March 18, 2009



Not a whole lot to report. I gave an exam last week and was
busy with grading it. And a colleague was sick so I took his
game theory class. That was fun - hadn't thought about that
stuff since I took the class in college.

The week before I went to Butare - that's where the National
University of Rwanda is. It's a couple hours south of here.
Butare is a much smaller town than Kigali. It's also spread
over many hills but here in Kigali the valleys are filled with
slums. In Butare the valleys are mostly undeveloped. It's very
pretty. I finally got to go to a museum after two months here!
(Not counting genocide memorials.) I did once see a sign for a
Natural History Museum a couple kilometers from the guest
house at KIST and have twice gone to look for it, but I never
found it. Anyways, there's a nice museum in Butare (a gift from
Belgium to commemorate the 25th anniversary of independence).
Here it is:

They don't allow photographs inside, but there's a a botanical
garden behind it. I've put up a bunch of pictures of fauna in
previous posts. This is the flora edition.

Before going to Butare I went to Gikongoro (the city has a new name
now - I forget it) to visit a particularly sad memorial. It is in
an area very near Nyungwe National Park. The setting is stunning,
with steep hills that are terraced for farming. It's very incongruous
to think of what went on in this gorgeous place 15 years ago.

I saw this bird there. Click on the photo to check out its tail!

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Volcano

The Volcano we hiked, Mount Bisoke is not active. The
Volcano in nearby Congo is. It erupted in 2002 and buried
a big part of the town. It was slow moving lava so most people
evacuated. It's possible to hike there and spend the night, and
see lava. When I went to Goma I half hoped to find some UN people
who were going to go do that and join them, but it didn't happen.

Bisoke has a lake down in the crater. When you get to the top
there are signs that forbid swimming. Methane gas is being
released into the lake and there are areas on the surface where
there is no oxygen. It's the same deal in Lake Kivu to the west.
People have died swimming in Lake Kivu. You also can't walk around
the rim as Bisoke crosses national boundaries, I think into Congo.
The hike was really tough. Age is starting to catch up with me - I
was the laggard of the group and in the end the decision was made
(with my acquiescence) that a porter would carry my backpack. I did
make it to the top fine. The previous day when visiting the gorillas
at 10K feet I could feel the altitude. For a few minutes I was a bit
lightheaded. Going up to 12K on the volcano I was fine, just slow.
Altitude affects people strangely that way. A guy on the hike
organizes tours up Kilimanjaro. He's been up seven times. The first
three and last three were fine. On the middle try he got altitude
sickness and he said "I thought I was going to die."

Since people like gorillas, I added a bunch more pics. There's
a nice picture of a silverback, though not the boss of the group.
According to the guides when the boss passes away, there will be
no primacy fight among the other three silverbacks. The ranking is
understood by all. The first picture is Mt. Karisimbi, taken from
the *top* of Bisoke. It goes 2500 feet higher than Bisoke! It's a
two day hike to the top.