Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Back to Bushara

This weekend we had a fantastic time once again at Bushara Island, Lake Bunyoni, Uganda, about 4 hours (including the slow border crossing) from Kigali. This time, unfortunately, Niamh's family couldn't come, but many others did. Most of them stayed in cabins, but we were in our new lovely gigantic tent, and camping with us were Hazel's family as well as Zoe's friend Miranda and her mother Anne.

I'll post a few photos to give an idea of the time.

This is at the border, bags of "Irish" potatoes awaiting export to Rwanda, I think. Perhaps they just came from Rwanda. Hard to tell.

Counterclockwise from top left: Zoe and Miranda's flying trapeze, the Three Amigas (Hazel, Zoe, and Miranda) held hands spontaneously and frequently, I carved a pumpkin with my assistant, and we got our inflatable kayak wet again, which was a lot of fun.

Above from top left: Zoe proudly displays Kirsti's excellence in facepainting; Snow White's debut; Our tent decked out to receive trick-or-treaters (it actually rained before they arrived); and a gang of happy revelers.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Welcome Back? Haiku

It's been a long time,
but I'm starting up again.
Will anyone notice?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Haiku June: Day 21

Out for a quick run,
Ribs aching as I breathe deep,
in the green shadows.

Haiku June: Day 20

Father's Day Part II was no slouch either. Andrea and I slept until NINE-FIFTEEN! Zoe had slept over at Papa and Ama's which was wonderful for us, and perhaps better for her, as her cousins Paige, Ethan, and Brock were there as well. Once we were fully awake, we made our way to St. Paul, where Mali and Chad met us as well for a long fun brunch out on the back patio. I got to watch Brazil dominate once again in World Cup action, in a long, lazy Sunday with great food and great company. We ran a few errands, and went home for Andrea to pack.

Egg bake and coffee,
A robin in the bird bath,
brunch in the back yard.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Haiku June: Day 19

We had a great Father's Day Part I, making eggs benedict for Michael and later going out for exceptionally good sushi at Origami in Minneapolis's Warehouse District. Andrea and I then had Date Night, walking from the Nicollet Island Pavillion (where we were married in 2000) to the Stone Arch Bridge Festival of Arts. It was an incredibly beautiful June Minnesota night. Then a stroll Uptown for used books and dessert at Lucia's, and home!

O Mississippi,
Swiftly passing by our feet,
murmuring greetings.

Friday, June 18, 2010

May Haiku Book Reviews

In which I attempt to summarize an entire book in 17 unmetered syllables.

Into the Wild, by Jon Krakauer

A young pilgrim,
starves foolishly and alone,
under silent stars.

A Slight Trick of the Mind, by Mitch Cullen (audiobook)

Aged Sherlock Holmes:
mind and memories fading,
reflects on his life.

The Hermit of Eyton Forest, by Ellis Peters (audiobook)

Brother Cadfael,
Murder and intrigue, the young
lovers are absolved.

PuppyPerfect: The User-Friendly Guide to Puppy Parenting, by Sarah Hodgson

A simple primer
for we who forget the work
of getting dogs right.

Babbitt, by Sinclair Lewis (audiobook)

A scathingly fun
satire on America's
staid conformity.

A Murder at the Vicarage, by Agatha Christie

Miss Marple's debut,
reveals small-town politics
deadly, pre-Blue Velvet

Haiku June: Day 18

Fresh coffee and juice,
Vuvuzelas and songbirds,
A World Cup breakfast.

Haiku June: Day 17

Carefully I step,
Around the yard with Zoe,
going "exploring".

Haiku June: Day 16

Dazzling selection!
Grapes, berries, seafood and nuts,
Things not in Rwanda.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Haiku June: :Day 15

This morning's breakfast,
Zoe said "It's getting warm out!"
Sun-dappled wet leaves.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Haiku June: Day 14

Family photos,
chemotherapy coming,
smiling for cameras.

Haiku June: Day 13

Wonderful party,
two families together,
good food and soccer.

Haiku June: Day 12

Cold and rainy days,
cloudy from dawn until dusk,
reflecting our thoughts.

Haiku June: Day 11

The first night back home,
so good to see our people,
dinner at Plautzes.

Haiku June: Day 10

Back on the ground, tired,
smelly, worn out, and jet-lagged:
happy to be here.

Haiku June, Day 9

Travel and arriving in Minnesota has been hectic (though good). We are just now adjusting to the time change, and getting into a little bit of routine. I'll try to catch up the days I've missed over the next day or two.

Nairobi airport,
children's playroom for hours,
sticky but friendly too.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Haiku June: Day 8

Broken rib from crash,
Pops when coughing or twisting,
Biking still worth it.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Haiku June: Day 7

Bittersweet goodbyes,
Leaving our African life,
Lake country summer.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Haiku June: Day 6

Cool morning, then sun;
Banana and coffee fields,
legs and bike muddy.

Haiku June: Day 5

Indian curry,
good food and conversation:
dinner with good friends.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Haiku June, Day 4

A happy surprise:
Rain during the dry season,
Mud rather than dust.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Haiku June: Day 3

In which I continue my little quest for a haiku for each day of June.

Running up mountains,
Equatorial sunshine
Takes away my breath.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Haiku June: Day 2

Thanks to Triciep and Cold Spaghetti for yesterday's excellent comments.

"Oscar" or "Poochie"?
Do puppies care about names
more than a fresh bone?

Monday, May 31, 2010

Haiku June: Day 1

This has been an extremely stressful time in our family, due to reasons I will elaborate upon soon. It will continue to be stressful for the foreseeable future. I think a little moment of quiet contemplation each day will help to minimize this, and so I am writing one haiku per day for the month of June. I encourage each of you to do the same, whether in your own journals or -preferably- in the Comments section of the post. It's not hard: 5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables. This is flexible though. A haiku traditionally has a piece of the natural world in at least one of the 5 senses included, examples are "yellow moon," "smell of pine," or "woodpecker knocking." Beyond that, even in the traditional sense, there's a lot of room for whatever describes a moment or a thought. In short, don't worry too much about rules, but the rules help serve as a framework.

Biking Mount Kigali,
Heart pounding, fully aware,
fine dust on switchbacks.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Ten Things I Like About Rwanda Right Now

Idea stolen from Leigh Ann. A chance to reflect on our life here, in response to our coming one year anniversary.

1. Our house. I know there's been a lot of drama with this place. Perhaps having been through it even makes me like it more, like we earned it. Either way, it's big, it's pretty nice, and it's our home here. We like our friends' houses just fine, but this one is ours. We also really love that we have access to a lot in our neighborhood, including Zoe's friends in walking distance. Unlike some of the other neighborhoods where many expats live, ours has a lot of Rwandans of varying socioeconomic status, and so we have some reminders that this is not California, like wandering goats and turkeys, and people walking down our street ready to sell you jeans, or shoes, or bananas.

2. Running. I don't remember if I've mentioned it here, but this is really a great place for a good challenging run. In about 8 minutes on foot from our door, I can get to a dirt road that leads into the foothills of either one of two large hills / small mountains. Once there, it's very hard to tell you are in the city limits, as it is dominated by small farms and simple villages. There are still people everywhere (it is, after all, the most densely populated country in Africa), but it's much more simple and personal. Also, car traffic is seldom and slow, as the roads are terrible for driving. So not very much smoke to cough out. And the terrain is great for a good trial of wills, as the hills seem to go up forever. Then you turn around to head home, and the view (or is it the altitude?) takes your breath away.

3. Avocados, Potatoes, and Tomatoes. I definitely have talked about these before, but I'll talk about them all day to anyone who'll listen. Before we came, I thought the greatest delight food-wise would be tropical fruits, like mangoes or bananas. I shouldn't sell them short: they are great. I can't complain. The pineapple is awesome, and so are tree tomatoes. But the vegetables were the big surprise for me. I've never had better avocados in my life. I've had better tomatoes, but not nearly as consistently. Same for potatoes: they aren't the very best in the world, but they are very very good, and plentiful. Especially good for French fries, which seem to be everywhere. Honorable mention: peanuts, roasted or fried.

4. Brochettes. This is the word that appears on just about every menu in the country. It is essentially a skewer of meat, usually with onion, sometimes with other green pepper and tomato, grilled over a wood fire. Often served with fries (see #3). The meat can be beef, chicken, or fish (tilapia), but my favorite is also the cheapest: goat. Since Rwanda does not have true street food, this is the closest thing to it. I know, it's simple, but sometimes the simple things are the most rewarding, and paradoxically hardest to do just right.

5. Bourbon Coffee. This is not a recipe or an after-hours drink, though I'll take some if you're offering it. This is the name of the fanciest and most expensive coffee shop in Rwanda. There are three locations in Kigali: the airport, the UTC center in the commercial district, and my favorite, the flagship store in the Nyarutarama neighborhood. This last location is a spacious, cozy spot with some seating on huge leather couches and some on a covered terrace with a wonderful view. They get beans directly from Rwandan farm collectives, roast them on site, and also have a restaurant. They have some of the best baked goods and gelato in town. In describing this I always like to say that this place is not just good relative to Rwanda, this is an unusually good coffee place, period. There is also one location in Washington, DC, which I'd love to visit. By the way, I haven't mentioned the best part: the coffee is really good.

6. Pub Quiz. This should come as no surprise to those of you who have been to the Crown and Anchor in New Orleans' Algiers Point with me on a Thursday evening. The quiz here is in an pizza restaurant run by an Italian guy, Dionigi. My friend Dave has been working with Dionigi to add on and completely rebuild the place from the ground up, and the result is a really hospitable environment for beer drinking, carousing, and occasionally answering a trivia question correctly. Monday nights at Sol e Luna are one of the two social events I absolutely plan my week around. Our team was victorious a few weeks ago, and so we hosted the quiz this past Monday; we were told that we were really tough. What a blast.

7. Mountain biking. This would be the other social event I try to never miss. Nearly every weekend on either Saturday or Sunday morning, I ride my bike to (usually) the Cercle Sportif tennis club's parking lot to meet Dave (not the same one), Ludwig, Craig, S'rait, and a few other more occasional riders for a few hours of climbing mountains and then riding down them. We have developed a reputation of being very serious or very fast or some thing, but we're actually very laid back. When Craig and I joined, Dave and Ludwig were happy to wait at the top or (more commonly) the bottom of the hill while I muddled through. When you come to ride, I'll be happy to wait as well. This is a very Zen experience: we're not really interested in doing everything quickly, though it is fun to be fast. It's really more about experiencing the day completely. For me, the long, slow uphills can be just as rewarding as a blisteringly fast downhill. The climate here is really conducive to being on a bike, rainy season or dry, and Rwanda is a nation of single-track. Everywhere we go, there are choices of new trails to try, ranging from asphalt busy roads to tiny goat trails through banana fields. And everywhere we go, we are cheered on by locals. Sometimes, it's asking for money, sometimes, just shouting, "Muzungu!!!", and quite often, cheering, "Hey, Le Sport!" or "Courage!" Either way, we must seem like aliens landing on their streets or farms, and the reaction is always friendly and positive. I also love riding through coffee fields (see above).

8. Getting Away in Rwanda. Though Rwanda is a small country (the mantra is "about the size of Maryland"), there are of course a few places to explore. We have been camping in Akagera National Park only once, but really loved it. We have been to stay at the Serena, a fancy resort-type hotel, in Gisenyi often enough that Zoe has a little "we're goin' to Gisenyi" song. It's on the shore of Lake Kivu, in the north, near both Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo, and absolutely beautiful. It is a high-altitude region on an enormous lake, surrounded by volcanoes, like a cross between Austria and Hawaii. There is also gorilla trekking, which I did with our visiting friends Alistair and Tanya last saturday (a really incredible experience), high in the mountains. There are a few other places that we haven't yet been to, such as another Lake Kivu resort area to the south, Kibuye, and another national park to the South, Nyungwe Forest, for further exploration. It's all fairly close and fairly easy to do.

9. Zoe's friends. We have been so incredibly lucky in finding friends for Zoe, that it hasn't involved any effort at all. It seems that there are so many expats living here with young children, that we just seem to continue to acquire new friends that she likes, with parents that we like. In fact, of the 5 other guys in my regular quiz team, three of them have daughters that Zoe considers best friends. The other two have kids that just are a little older or younger than Zoe's "play age". When we had a week off for "spring" break, we had too many offers of playdates, and had to actually decline one, as we were too busy! And she has really found her groove with a few of them in particular; no more "parallel play," these kids really like to be together.

10. The sense of hope. Since the war in 1994, Rwanda has been the recipient of an tremendous amount of "guilt aid," money from the developed world to redevelop Rwanda, from countries who turned away without acting to stop the genocide. For whatever reason the money has come, it has been welcomed here (of course) with a unique blend of caution and pride. Rwanda has insisted that aid is a partnership, not simply a gift, and actively participates in its own development. In fact, I've heard some criticism from aid workers that Rwanda is perhaps some times too involved in every process from international aid. I can understand this, as I can understand criticism of occasionally incompetent bosses who micromanage, but this is also a compliment to Rwanda, that the people and the government see a future for themselves, and that they want it to be done right, and on their own terms. It means that -in spite of incredible tragedy on so many levels, and continuing real difficulties- people here really believe that their country will continue to grow and improve. That's pretty cool.

Next post: a few things I don't like, too.

Monday, May 10, 2010

More Puppy Business

Well, we met with the puppies again, and decided on the one currently called Poochie. As I've already said, this name has to go; its not terrible by any means, but it always reminds me of an odious character on an old Simpsons episode, and that's not a fair way to start life. He's brown and black and grey with white patches -sort of a beagle pattern- and has grown tremendously since we last saw him. He is slightly more docile or deferential than his brother, Doggo, who is grey all over. They both bite everything in site and are incredibly enthusiastic. They love to play fight with each other or whoever else they can engage. And they are fairly free with peeing but tend to go more outside than in the house. So we've got some major work cut out for us.

We're going to keep them at Isabel's house for two more weeks of being together and with the older "mentor" dogs, then bring them into our own chaotic home. That gives us a little time to get all the chewable things (less furniture) out of reach, and a little planning time for figuring where everything will go. It also gives me time to finish my puppy guide I'm reading, for whatever that's worth.

We had lunch there and spent a good part of the afternoon playing with Sam and the puppies (including a little kiddie pool time), and the weather really cooperated. At the end of our time there, Andrea's friend and co-worker Nicola came by and agreed to adopt Doggo, too! So they will both live in Kimihurura -our neighborhood- and have some visit time and maybe even occasional shared walks.

One of the reasons it's good they're coming in two weeks, is because we are expecting houseguests starting tomorrow evening (ash-cloud willing). Tanya and Alistair are our British friends by way of New Orleans, and their son Edwin is one of Zoe's favorite people in the whole world. They'll stay a week, including a Gorilla safari for the grownup guests and me, which I'm really looking forward to. I'm sorry I won't have our good camera to bring with me, but I'll just have to remember the experience.

Thanks to Isabel for loaning her camera.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Call For Submissions

We have decided to adopt a puppy. Our friends Isabel, with her daughter and son, have been foster-parents for some puppies she found abandoned on the side of the road about three weeks ago. She brought them home and cleaned them up before calling Jode, an American veterinarian who runs a small nongovernmental (NGO) project here, trying to empower women to raise goats for milk to produce cheese. Jode looked them over and figured they were then right around two weeks old, and with bellies full of worms, but otherwise healthy.

There were three but one was adopted in the first week, and taken to live in the new family's house immediately. After our robbery, we told Isabel we'd like to come over and meet the puppies, to start thinking more concretely about bringing a dog into our house. We found two tiny soft fuzzy creatures, full of enthusiasm and friendly as can be. Do I need to mention they were adorable? Probably not. Anyway, Isabel has two elderly but active African mutts already, and is moving back to London in a year, so has no space for any more. So these little guys are in a home with older mentor dogs and children, and we really liked them both, one grey, the other black with white spots.

It took a week or more for us to really feel like we are ready to make this leap, but we have committed. Crossing the Rubicon for us was the Amazon order of puppy supplies for a few hundred dollars for delivery in our big consumables shipment leaving the US soon. It's amazing how complex it is to set up for one of these simple tiny creatures, but then again, we're trying to buy everything at once for the first two years of life.

So the difficulty we face most immediately is a name! We have come up with several that we like, though none that feels perfect yet: Sherlock, Watson, Sven, Ole, (Andrea's not so crazy about the last two), Thor, Ponchatoula, Pontchartrain, Boudreaux, Thibodeaux, Ignatius, and Zoe's contributions, Chewbacca and Bobby. Please, let us know if you have any interesting names, or any opinions on the above names. We'd like his name to mean something or be interesting in some way, such as a figure from literature or history or a movie, or with an interesting meaning behind the word itself. We need your help! Please leave comments at the bottom of the post.

PS We're hoping to see them this weekend, and will post photos after that visit.

Friday, April 30, 2010

April Haiku Book Reviews

Note: this series is meant to be a summary of the books I read this past month, told in 17 syllables.

The Modern Scholar Presents: The Anglo-Saxon World, by Prof. Michael D. C. Drout [audiobook]

A peek at ancient
times, of foundations we think
are stone, but are wood.

The Diamond as Big as the Ritz and other stories, by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Stories well-told, but:
people wealthy and pretty,
yet petty and cruel.

The Deceiver, by Frederick Forsyth

M.I.6 reviews
Veteran spy's career,
In four great cases.

The Geography of Bliss, by Eric Weiner

Happiness, as told
country by country, some more,
some less. A fun read.

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, by Jules Verne [audiobook]

Captain Nemo: Mad?
Genius? Visionary? Cruel?
All these, and much more.

The Full Cupboard of Life, by Alexander McCall Smith

Mr. J.L.B.
Matekoni finally
gets it right in the end.

The Sign of the Four, by Arthur Conan Doyle

Secret pacts, treasure,
Poison darts and boat chases;
Watson meets his bride.

Lion in the Valley [audiobook] by Elizabeth Peters

Emersons, Sethos
meet again, in disguise, and
in antiquities.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Not a Morning Person

This morning as I was trying to go through the usual first-thing checklist of a weekday, I had a tough time of it. Getting out of bed was tough, as Zoe and I have had tickling coughs that woke us both up a bit. I brushed my teeth, dressed, and dragged myself to the kitchen to feed the ravenous cat, make coffee, and get everyone's breakfast ready while Andrea got Zoe dressed and groomed, just like every day.

However, unlike every day, our kitchen set-up was a little different. The step-down voltage transformer is a device that sits on our countertop and is absolutely vital to allowing our American 110V appliances work safely despite running on a 220V power grid. Our coffee grinder and my wonderful Zojirushi drip coffee maker were unplugged, and I plugged them in. I fired up the grinder, it started, and then stopped. No more. I tried it on the transformer in the office, and no dice still. I came back to try one last time in the kitchen, and found that the coffee maker had stopped working as well. I turned on the toaster, and it was instantly blazing hot. It took a minute before I figured it out: I had the power strip plugged into the side putting out 220V! I had nearly instantaneously fried my coffee maker and my mill.

As far as the mill is concerned, it was a cheapy; a simple spinning rotor that worked well enough but wasn't particularly loved. But it worked. And now it doesn't. And I have other ways of making coffee (here the "French Press" and "Mokka Express"are ubiquitous and work quite well when there's no electricity, and I have them both). But I love a good-ol' American pot of coffee, and now, it's finished.

So the reason the appliances were not plugged in this morning was that I had to replace the transformer I had been using. This was because our old transformer was stolen from our kitchen while we slept last Thursday night. Some thieves broke into our house by cutting the screen of the window in Zoe's play room and made off with a pirate's chest worth of our stuff, including Andrea's work laptop, our good camera, our DVD player, our stereo with speakers and subwoofer, and cash from Andrea's purse (though strangely no phones or credit cards, thank goodness).

We'll miss all of these, and probably replace all from our own pockets, but the worst part is the really unnerving loss of a sense of security in our own home. We had a guard on duty who did not hear the thieves, but then again, neither did we, and we were inside the house. Now, before bed, we lock every ground floor window (except one in our bedroom -it's just too hot here for that), as well as the doors to the guest room, the play room, the office, and the kitchen. We keep one more external light on all night. We don't keep our iPods or keys or Andrea's purse or anything electronic out -even in our bedroom. It takes 5 minutes longer to get ready for bed and to open up the house. And we're thinking of getting a dog. We met a few puppies who applied for the job from our friend Isabel, who found them on the side of the road two weeks ago. This is the biggest step, and we're not entirely ready to go ahead, but think it's coming.

So that's how my morning started. But Zoe got to school well, Andrea got to work on time, and I used a mortar and pestle to try to grind the coffee. I don't recommend it.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Camping Again

A few weeks ago -over Easter weekend- we were able to get away with some friends for a great weekend of camping. Andrea had Good Friday off as a national holiday, so we took off in the late morning in convoy with our friends Sion, Emma, their daughter Niamh, and their lovely big black dog Griff (actually spelled differently as it's a Welsh name, but I can't for the life of me remember it, as Welsh words make less sense to me than Chinese words). We drove North to the Ugandan border, crossed over into Kabale, through it, and a few miles out of town, headed off the beaten track, and up into the high mountain passes to Lake Bunyoni.

The worst roads were tied between the single-lane dirt roads into the lake area, and the awful dirt roads in our neighborhood. The most time-consuming portion was actually crossing from Rwanda to Uganda. Sion and I handled all the paperwork, and girls and dog stayed in the SUVs. We had one predicted office for passport stamps and visas (efficient, though it ought to be for $50 US per passport). Then for the car there were FIVE offices to go to just for the Ugandan government, including one for security and one separate one for the police. While in the police office we asked the very bored female police officer whether we were required to purchase third-party insurance for their side of the border, and she had absolutely no idea. Strange, but we shrugged our shoulders and bought some (there are at least 3 insurance offices at the border), and then exchanged Rwandan Francs for Ugandan Shillings. So of all our travel from door-to-door, we were on the road about 4 1/2 hours, with a good deal of that at the border.

Then once we arrived at the lake, we dropped off all our gear (and it was a lot) in the transport company's office (a tiny wooden shack with a desk), parked the cars in a lot, then watched porters load all our stuff on a stretched-out rowboat with an outboard motor. With six or eight chickens. Because of Griff, they decided the goat could wait for the next crossing.

We jumped in as well, and were off to the middle of the lake.

Ten minutes later we were disembarking on Bushara Island and climbing through the forest to the reception area.

In the interest of not taking forever to get this out, I'll continue it in another post soon.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Zoe Fait La Betisse

"Zoe fait la betisse" is the local French term for "Zoe is being silly" or "Zoe is making silliness". She says is a lot, and usually with a great effervescent giggle, often with various other noises, and rocking the head back and forth like a broken metronome.

The first photo is her playing in my sleeping bag on a very hot afternoon; we had been airing it out after camping in Uganda.

The next is entirely her idea as well. We were airing out the borrowed tent (thanks, Sam and Lindsey!) a day or two later, and occasionally playing in it. After bath, she thought it a wonderfully witty idea to put her underpants on her head, and walk around giggling and tilting her head.

By the way, she LOVES camping. We are already working on getting a gigantic family-size tent and several other items for people who never pitch a tent more than a block away from their car. Actually, it's probably telling that I used a block for a measure of distance rather than miles or kilometers. We're talking easy camping. But if that's what it takes to get us out there, I'm for it.

The last two are a playdate with her friend -and close neighbor- Miranda. It should be noted that Miranda is one of her few American playmates. She's about 8 months younger, full of energy, not at all shy, and usually loads of fun. Despite their completely different temperaments, they get along really well.

By the way, I'm sorry it's taken so long for a post with actual photographs. I've got a little ways to go in finally fixing all the photo bugs, but it's still getting better. Hopefully another post is coming soon.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

More March Haiku Book Reviews

The Voyage, by Robert MacNeil

Francesca, David,
Love, betrayal, confusion,
sailing off the map.

Morality for Beautiful Girls, by Alexander McCall Smith

Rra Matekoni,
depressed, Mma Makutsi leads,
poisoner foiled.

The Devil in the White City, by Erik Larsson

Doctor H. H. Holmes,
spellbinding, sociopathic,
serial killer,

World stage, Chicago:
The Columbian World's Fair,
Massive ambition,

The two together:
operatic in scale,
Surprise! Nonfiction!

The Kalahari Typing School for Men, by Alexander McCall Smith

Another venture
for Mma Makutsi and boss,
Botswana's ladies.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Haiku Book Reviews: March (so far)

I'm trying to create a new category with no pressure for photos, in order to get me writing more often. Hopefully this will trigger a habit of more frequent posting.

The Last Days of the Incas by Kim MacQuarrie (audiobook)

A tragic story,
no beginning or middle
Spaniards win. Too bad.

Vector Prime (Star Wars: New Jedi Order) by R. A. Salvatore

Luke, Leia, Han et al:
Jedi teens in tow, they fight
alien villians.

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway

Robert Jordan in Spain,
American Guerilla
lost in love and war.

Tears of the Giraffe by Alexander McCall Smith

Mma Ramotswe back,
fiance and adopting,
old mysteries solved.

The Mummy Case by Elizabeth Peters (audiobook)

Emersons with son
Ramses, ancient papyrus,
Gospel of Thomas.

Haiku Book Reviews: February

The Curse of the Pharoahs by Elizabeth Peters (audiobook)

Valley of the Kings,
Emersons set forth to dig;
rumors of curses.

Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking by Michael Ruhlman

Simple numbers show:
how chefs take ingredients
and give us cuisine.

Dixie City Jam by James Lee Burke (audiobook)

Thoughtful and slow tale
of New Orleans and Nazis:
gumbo of suspense.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

Long exposition,
Jekyll's friends worry, as Hyde
takes control; tragic.

The Blue Zones by Dan Buettner

Four groups of people,
Living long and happy lives,
what are their secrets?

Book Review Haikus, Vol. 1: January

A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle

Watson, vet adrift,
takes roommate; murder most foul
long adventure told well.

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

Poor Jim: sailing on
to Skull Island, John Silver
and danger abound.

Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters (audiobook)

Amelia P.,
Spinster with strong mind and will,
to Egypt and love.

I will add that I loved all three of these. The third is the first in what is now a series of 19 novels that I think will be considered classics of historical mystery-adventure fiction. I've read more than half of these, and probably all of the Sherlock Holmes stories, though am going back over them again.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Camp Life

We went camping this past weekend in Akagera Game Reserve in Eastern Rwanda, on the Tanzanian border. It took about 2 hours, 20 minutes to get to the entrance, where we checked in with the rangers and gave them a lot of money. Then we drove a few hours in the park to get to our campsite. I don't know if Andrea or I have ever driven on anything remotely as rough or difficult. We really maxed out our big-ass 4X4. The park roads really suffered from lack of maintenance; in fact they often were nearly unidentifiable.

Anyway, we got to the campsite and had to hack down the grass with machetes to pitch tents. The conditions were pretty rough for a campsite; no latrines, fire pits, or picnic tables. We found a dead tree 500 meters away and hacked the largest branches off to throw on the top of our friends' truck before towing the rest of the whole tree back to camp. We had the grandaddy of campfires until late at night, then stoked it up in the morning for a short spell, and still left plenty for the next folks there. That night was the brightest moon of the year (so the astronomers say), and we enjoyed it eating good food, drinking wine and good single malt among one family we were already friends with, and another we now count as friends. And these people know how to camp in luxury, though the conditions were quite primitive. It was so bright and the fire so warm we could have stayed up all night talking. It reminded me of camping in Alaska in July.

The next morning after breakfast, we packed and drove around looking for game. We went to Plage Hippos (Hippo Beach), where we weren't disappointed for hippos, crocodiles, or waterfowl. We saw giraffes, roan antelope, cape elands, impala, a few other antelope types, a small family of baboons, and zillions of birds. We heard hyenas by moonlight, and saw spoor and tracks of elephants, but no such beasts. Maybe next time. When we returned home that night we were utterly exhausted but very pleased. Zoe has asked three or four times about the next time we go camping. I think for her it's all about roasting marshmallows, being together with friends and family, and seeing animals. Who's to argue with that?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Quiet Afternoon

While we were in Minnesota over the holidays, we made our home base in the cozy little bedroom with bath in my parents' basement. However, Zoe did have many great days at Andrea's parents' (Nana and Ata) house during the days when Andrea and I were running errands all over the Twin Cities. They spent time with LEGO, playing with Christmas decorations, cooking, and with Ata's painting lessons, which Zoe loved.

During our time home, Zoe only took one or two naps per week, which was frustrating for all, as she had been taking 5-6 naps per week before coming home. Every day we were in a place where nap time was possible, we tried to push a nap, but not always with luck.

One afternoon at Nana and Ata's, after a nice lunch, Ata brought Zoe to their bed, and read a few stories to her quietly. He told her that it was a good time for a nap. She denied she needed one. He lay with her quietly for awhile before she started to get a little antsy, then suggested that they take a nap together. No way. Finally, Ata thought he would appeal to her need for cuddling and closeness, as well as her need to take care of others. He told her, "Zoe, I need to take a nap; I'm really tired." They laid together silently for a few minutes, then she slowly and quietly snuck out of bed, left the room, and carefully closed the door, before going downstairs to play with Nana.

Friday, January 15, 2010

So Many Updates

Well, it's been more than a month since the last post, and what a month it's been. We went to Minnesota, saw a lot of people, celebrated both of Andrea's grandmother's lives, celebrated Christmas and New Year's Eve, had a side trip to New Orleans, and came back. Of course, this is the briefest summary possible. I'll try to fill in some gaps as time allows, but let me say for now that it's been a slightly difficult re-entry to normal life, and it may take awhile for things like a blog to catch up.

But I will say that I can honestly tell the difference in Zoe before and Zoe after the trip. I can honestly say I can see her more confident, funny, complicated in her play and in her use of English, and even perhaps a little taller. I've had some difficulties with our photo gathering and editing software on the Mac and so have not been able to post photos, but will when it's easier.

See you soon!