29 September 2008

Pineapple Express

Fear not! Despite my lack of blogging, we are still alive and well in Bujumbura. I was away for a week for training for my job. Then I came back and I was very busy actually doing my job. Plus we don't have the internet at home so we're still sneaking time in at work. Things don't happen quickly here.

We are past the honeymoon phase. We still love it, but it's not as novel as it was 6 weeks ago. We moved beyond overall angst pretty quickly and we've settled on pinpointing some very annoying things about this place that we just have to learn to deal with.

Traffic. Mike has dubbed it Roadrageistan.

No milk. Just when I was getting used to the powdered stuff, guess who showed up on that original list of five countries that imported tainted dairy from China?

Our house might have termites. It definitely has ants and I am tired of finding them on the toothpaste. What can you possibly do about that?

On the plus side, we finally found a case of pineapple juice! You'd think that in a country that's practically made of pineapple, the juice would be easy to find. It's a hot item -- never on store shelves and expensive at restaurants. (Do they purposely keep it off the shelves to drive up prices? Perhaps. But infrastructure sucks here. It could be that the truck carrying the pineapples fell into a gigantic pothole and then all its cargo was stolen. Anything's likely.) The bottle depot finally had cases of the coveted pineapple juice and the Amstel Bock that Mike likes. We also learned that the secret to shopping is to do it on Sunday morning. The whole city is in church and the stores are empty.

17 September 2008

Things to do in Garmisch when you're dead

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I'm in Garmisch, Germany, for a work conference. It's supposed to be all magical, adorable, and Bavarian, but we're staying in a American hotel, with American food, American faux-German decor, U.S. currency, Americans and their silly English language... it's not really Germany.

So why the giraffe picture? Because I had a 10-hour layover in Nairobi and I busted out of the airport for the afternoon, despite the expense. I went to the Giraffe Centre, where you can hand-feed giraffes and look at warthogs. Then I had a very tasty chicken curry lunch at a nice restaurant. I did a little shopping, spending way too much money on touristy crap.

Then I took the red-eye to Amsterdam, then Munich, and then I took a train to Garmisch. Oh, and guess what? When I got off the plane in Munich, my luggage did not! And it's freezing in Germany, at least compared to Africa. I didn't have a long-sleeved shirt or jacket with me, so froze waiting for my trains. It was raining when I got off the train in Garmisch; the cab driver thought I was crazy. Luckily my bag showed up later that night, actually right before I fell asleep. I was so relieved!

I was enjoying filling up on American food for the first couple days but now I just feel full.

Signing off in a moment. I've been uploading photos. But the battery charger for my computer isn't working and I want to conserve the energy. Pics are here.

11 September 2008

Gecko Rescue

Our home has become the home for disabled geckos. It's also the home where the geckos are becoming disabled. Ellie has figured out that the front door is a high-traffic area for the little critters and she waits there every night for them to come inside. One night I noticed a tail-less gecko scurrying across the wall. The next night I nearly stepped on one that was mostly dead. It was the same color as the carpet and I didn't see it at first. It was also tail-less. It was just barely breathing, so I picked it up and moved him outside to a garden. On other nights geckos haven't been so lucky. One ran under the carpet and when Mike got up from bed to see what the cats were so exited about, he ended up stepping on the spot where the gecko was. Ellie cornered one in the bathroom and played with it until it was an ex-gecko. I've noticed that the larger they are, the more likely they are to escape-- tail-less of course, but the tails grow back.

I have a little gecko that lives in my office. He must be getting used to me because he's spending more time out of hiding and he's venturing closer and closer to my desk.

Geckos eat mosquitoes, so I'm happy to let them stick around

08 September 2008

Hippo Sighting!

I saw my first hippo on Saturday! Just a glimpse, really. Mike's boss took us sailing on Lake Tanganyika and as we were approaching the marina on the way home, a hippo popped up between us and the beach. Mike missed it unfortunately, but his boss saw it and immediately we turned around. When a hippo blocks your path, you turn around and wait for it to move out of the way. Especially when you're in a sailboat and the combined weight of the boat and passengers is still less than half what the hippo weighs.

After our sailing adventure we sat at the bar at Cercle Nautique watching for more hippos. We didn't see any, but I did notice what I think is a monitor lizard walk across the mud and into some grass.

I love all the animals here!

01 September 2008

Rainy Season Preview

The rains are early! We were told not to expect them until mid-September at the earliest, but it's downpouring as I type. The first big storm came in last Tuesday night and it was a spectacular thunderstorm. Since then it's rained every day but one. But it only rains for a short time. Just hope you're not outside when that rain starts.

More pictures are going up, slowly but surely. Click here.

Today we went to the Musee Vivant, a little natural history museum here in Bujumbura. It's essentially cages and enclosures of crocodiles and snakes looking very sad. For two dollars each we had a private tour, including the guide scratching a large croc on the back with a stick to make it open its mouth wide for us and him taking a snake from the cage and wrapping it around my neck. He also poked at a cobra to make it puff up and do its cobra thing. (Pics of all that to follow in a few days!) The first display cage you see is the guinea pigs they keep stocked for feeding the snakes. Yay nature! I might have paid double admission if they let me watch the snake feeding. Maybe next time.

Chapter Six: The Shoemaker: A Tale of Two Cities with Women

For background on the project and to see all the chapters at once, go to the tag A Tale of Two Cities Project . Chapter Six: The Shoemak...