Wednesday, August 6, 2008

That's It

As of today, this blog is officially defunct. I got back to the US two weeks ago and am currently wending my way from Provo (home of my long-suffering parents who were kind enough to store my stuff) to New York where I'll be starting graduate school at NYU Law. I'm writing a wrap up post regarding what I learned both personally and professionally from my experience in Africa, but that and all future posts regarding what's going on with me will be posted at my other blog, Messy Room, available at Thanks for reading.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Sprint to the Finish

I got home from my Tanzanian vacation two days ago with only five days left to wrap up a bunch of projects before heading home to the US on 7/15. I am sprinting to get everything finished and so I have not had a great amount of time for self-reflection about this experience, but I imagine the 16+ hour odyssey back to the American West will provide ample opportunity. After I get back to the States, I am planning a month-long road trip to see various friends and family, culminating in selling my car and enrolling at NYU Law in late August. More details will follow before this blog is retired permanently, but the end is (quickly) nearing.

Last minute adventure

After getting pretty burned out providing the financial analysis and budgeting on a large HIV grant proposal, I decided to take a last-second vacation. I had a couple of things in mind (park ranger training, Great White Shark dive), but what finally worked out was hiking Kilimanjaro. I contacted a few tour companies, got some quotes, and about five days later was on my way to Tanzania. I’ll write a more complete travelogue later, but here are a few shots from the trip. I don’t have any from the top (who knew cameras could freeze solid?), but I should have a more complete photo narrative after the members of my hiking group finish trading our shots. It was not that difficult a hike from a technical perspective, and I would recommend it to anyone who wants a unique African experience.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Bearded Comparisons

I have been known to grow a beard under some circumstances. These include cold weather, brief exits from corporate constraints, and environments suffering from a paucity of eligible girls. As living in Lesotho has recently provided a combination of all three, I just let it grow. A few days back however I got tired of finding myself eating 'stache and shaved the whole thing off. As to why I'm so "happy" in the Before shot, the only reason I have photos of this process was a request by a colleague to do a comparison shot of me and a certain former president during his formative college years that has a prominent place in our office. Staff consensus is that I win on beard versus beard but that he takes it with the awesome white boy fro. As to why I'm so "serious" in the After shot, you don't really understand the insulative effects of a beard until you shave it off, and my apartment is really cold.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Winter Break

On Friday I noticed a lot of school kids out and about during lunch and mentioned it to my driver later in the day. It turns out that Friday was the last day of school here in Lesotho, with a break extending until mid-August. This confused me. In the U.S. the origins of the summer break lie in agriculture, of families needing kids at home to aid in the harvest. As Lesotho is in the southern hemisphere and just entering deep winter, obviously the rationale did not hold. My driver explained that they had a break because it was so cold. Having been in a few school houses here and seen the utter lack of heating or insulation, that argument actually holds some weight. Walking uphill five miles in the snow to get to school is one thing, but then being forced to sit in a school house as cold as or only marginally warmer than the outside is another.

I feel rather sorry for the children of Lesotho at this moment. American kids get time off when the days are long and warm, lending themselves to outdoor fun and adventures. Lesotho kids get time off when the daylight is scarce and the only thing you want to do is huddle by a heat source.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Cold House 6.7.2008

I love my house, in part because it reminds me of the house I grew up in in Hawaii. Cinder block construction, louvered windows, flat roof. While that style of architecture works fine in tropical climes and worked well here in the summer time, now that we are fully into winter it is freezing cold. My house literally holds no heat. No insulation, no double panes, loosely fit doors allowing drafts from both above and below. If anything it is a heat sink as the interior of the house will remain cold hours into the day after the sun has warmed up the outside to a reasonable degree. I am considering ways in which I can improve the insulative properties of the house because while I have managed with a large pile of blankets and an electric heater to date that strategy is (i) wasteful in terms of energy and (ii) not particularly effective when rolling blackouts hours in duration are a regular occurrence. I am incredibly grateful to my mom for making me buy thermal underwear all those years ago as it is the only thing allowing me to sleep half the time.

Taxi Issues 6.7.2008

Last week a dispute between the private taxi industry and the government concerning the opening of public buses on routes previously reserved for taxis spilled into violence. A few taxi drivers were shot, one passed away, and for two days the entire town was incredibly tense. The second day there was a taxi strike, enforced by blockades of minibuses on most of the major roads leading into town. As most of the workforce for the factories located in town actually live in the surrounding villages, there were thousands of people streaming into and out of town on foot all day. I did not get any photos, but imagine the density of the stream of people leaving a professional sporting arena and you get the idea.

I was not directly affected, but a few of our office staff that live in surrounding areas were unable to get into work. One of my co-workers got stranded right outside of town when the minibus she was riding on hit a blockade and the passengers were forced to either get out and walk or ride back to their starting point. As she was calling the office for one of our drivers to come pick her up, shots were fired behind across the street from her. She was fine, and in fact no one was hurt at that time. Later reports indicate it was the police firing into the air to warn taxi owners to stop physically preventing people from boarding a public bus, but accounts vary. By the time I arrived at the office it was a frantic scene as our admin staff tried to track down all of the staff to verify that they were safe. In the end everything died down as quickly as it appeared. Though the conflict was localized to a very small interest group, the number of people forced onto the street and the prevalent mood made for a highly flammable situation.