Saturday, March 20, 2010

Ce n'est pas une post.

So this little quickie isn't really blog-post worthy, but it amused me.  I am just back from two weeks in Dar es Salaam - where all I did was work - so I don't have any good stories.  But on the way out of the country, the power was out at the airport.  As printing the boarding passes as they usually do was not possible, Ethiopian Airlines had to hand write them.  And knowing the unreliability of the power supply in Dar, you would think they would be prepared.  Instead however, someone dug way back into the way-back file to find these 70s vintage specials.  Note the retro font and color scheme.  And the box to tick as to whether I wanted a smoking or non-smoking seat. 

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Scenes from Malawi

So alas, my three week field adventure in Malawi was cut short by a small crisis in Tanzania.  I am back in Dar es Salaam - working constantly - and with no more monkeys on my roof.  Consequently, I don't have much in the way of wild adventure.  But I will post a couple of pictures from the one day in the field in Malawi that we did have.  I am also adding a couple of pictures about what my life is like (conducting household and agricultural surveys in developing countries).  Note the overabundance of corn in these pictures.  That is true both of like in Malawi and my life lately. 

Here we go with life in Malawi... And in honor of the Yankees upcoming 2010 World Championship Series, I choose a baseball narrative for this post:

Leading off and playing left field we have Corn!

In the second spot, playing short stop, we have Road Side Mushroom Stand...
Playing center and batting third we have the speedy but pesky, Kids at the Pump!

Batting clean up is the strong man of the order, the DH, Guy with Bamboo on Bike!

In the five spot and playing a gold glove first base, we have More Frigging Corn!

Batting sixth and guarding against the double down the line at third, we have Lady with Boy and Pumpkins...

Down the bottom three in our order, we have the man behind the plate, Shucking "Guess What" Corn!

Batting eighth and guarding the short porch in right, we have Bored Old Lady Getting Interviewed!

And finally, in the nine spot and playing second, we have My Class of Field Enumerators in Training!

Well that concludes our trip around the horn!  For those of you who are interested in a little substance with your photos, I am adding a vignette to the previous post about me along braining a Norwegian with a scalding hot iron. 

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Hickory Smoked Knickers and Other Tales from the Road

I only have one picture for this entry.  I was working in Dar and then Nairobi, mostly the inside of office buildings, and now I am down in Zomba, Malawi.  Which is beautiful and green – mostly due to the weather’s continuous state of downpour.  The picture is of my room (#10) with a bunch of god damned monkeys on the roof.  And I assure you, nothing is louder at 5:15 am than a troop of monkeys on a corrugated metal roof.

The best I can do is send a quick series of vignettes from the last two weeks on the road.

Hickory Smoked Knickers: As I mentioned, it rains all the time here in southern Malawi.  It rains while I sleep, rains while I eat, rains while I work, rains while I run (the final one being the most unpleasant of the lot).  Other than the fact that my hair never dries and is sprouting mushrooms, I have almost gotten used to it.  One of its more unexpected externalities however is that it makes line drying clothing impossible.  As a result, my clothes are dried in a closed room with a wood fire.  (I am guessing the same on used for smoking crops at the end of the season…)  Everything therefore has the slight tinge of wood smoke, like one had been using hickory scented fabric softener.

Most Dangerous Thing He Did That Day: So the hotel I was staying at for the conference in Nairobi is a new hotel - Ole Sereni.  Built on the site of the former US embassy, it borders directly on the Nairobi National Park and is convenient to the airport.  On the down side, the staff is god awful.  I arrived fairly late for Tanzania and had to work early in the morning, so I decided to do my ironing at night.  I was watching CNN, ironing linen, when someone lets himself into my room.  Nairobi isn't the safest place on a good day, and this was nearly 11 pm.  I pull the iron from the wall and advance on the still opening door - which eventually reveals an SAS pilot backing up as quickly as his roller bag allows.  The desk had double assigned my room and given him a key.  He left quickly to sort it out.

Eating Meat Like It Is My Job: So my vegetarianism has been curtailed for this trip as it has been basically meat or nothing.  But if I am going to fall off the wagon, I am going to do it in style.  In Nairobi I went to a work dinner at the famous Carnivore restaurant.  Back in the day, it used to serve all sorts of weird game meats (gazelle, Cape buffalo, zebra – you can imagine what a country that serves springbok as an airplane meal could come up with when trying).  But, alas for the flesh eater and fortunately for the endangered species, this practice has been outlawed in Kenya.  I had to settle for crocodile (nice but a little boney), ostrich meatballs (heavenly – those big dumb birds were made for the ground meat culinary genre), and the internal organs of several less exotic species (livers, gizzards, etc.)  All of this left me feeling more than a little nauseous, but that was nothing a few Tuskers couldn’t fix.

Unibomber in 14A: So in addition to my work schedule, I have been taking a class one day a week at UMD on topics in advanced sampling.  (Tell me that is a sexy way to pass one’s limited spare time.)  As a result, I end up doing my homework problem sets whenever I get a chance.  In this case, it was on the 7:30 pm flight from Dar to Nairobi.  It had been a really long day and I was in a foul mood, so I just hunkered down in the corner with a handful of airplane mini-beers – scrawling sigmas and deltas on my yellow legal pad and trying to make this &%*$ing proof come out right.  About 45 minutes in – as I ordered my third shot glass of Heinkein, I noticed the person sitting at the end of the aisle was staring at me like my panties were stuffed with C4.  The poor kid couldn’t have been more than 16 and my drinking and growling at the page with a mechanical pencil stuck in my hair was stranger than anything he had seen on safari that week.  I tried to smile at him but I must have looked a little manic because he just leaned away.  Oh well.  Making friends wherever I go.

Newspaper Headline:  The media in Africa is quite vibrant and I like reading the local papers.  My favorite headline of the week: "80 passengers hurt when 36 seater bus veers off road..."