Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

To celebrate Thanksgiving, we went on a walk in the forest and planned a dinner of Ugandan-style thanksgiving food. W e are going to have Pumpkin soup, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, canned corn, greens, rice, wine, and a chocolate cake for dessert. We hope you all have a wonderful day and enjoy the yummy food!

A few things we did this week to celebrate the holidays:
1) We went to one of the primary schools that Jeff works with and handed out t-shirts that my Aunt sent. We had about two hundred t-shirts and thanks to the poor attendance at the end of the school year, we were able to give a shirt to every kid. Our friend Alex came along to document, so check out the pictures. One of the funniest moments was at the end of the day when a first grader came up to us crying because he had been outside playing instead of in his classroom when we handed out the shirts. You would have thought this kid just broke his leg, not missed out on a free Akron Zips t-shirt. The tears were streaming down his face. So we gave him one. But the older kids who decided to skip class got a stern warning and no t-shirt.

This day was really nice for Jeff because he often has to deal with solving a lot of problems at the school. The work he is doing here is wonderful and important, but that also means complicated and frustrating. So having a day to just hand out free t-shirts and enjoy the instant gratification that it brought to the kids and us was wonderful. In the end, the t-shirts won’t mean as much as the other things he has done, but it was so rewarding to have a nice, uncomplicated day of giving.

2)On Tuesday, we went to the Kasiisi Primary School “Christmas Concert”. More on this in a future post.

3) Today I handed out sugarcane to my field assistants to enjoy. My guys love sweet things, so this was a real treat that made them super happy first thing in the morning. I suggested that they could pick it up after work, but they definitely wanted it right away.

Alain’s Second Birthday

My first field assistant and good friend, Prime, has a beautiful little girl named Alain. She is one of our favorite kids around. So we threw her a make-shift birthday party with little notice. Jeff made pancakes and we covered them all around in Nutella to look like a cake, we had candles, gifts, and Finding Nemo to watch. It was really fun. Here are some pictures, including her blowing out her candles, sharing her gifts with everyone and enjoying them herself, and a video of her hilarious response to the movie. She was so concerned that her Dad wasn’t watching, so she kept pointing everything out to him. She is so smart and can say so many things. She is adorable. And she is wearing an outfit my Mom bought for her. :)

The Introduction

In Uganda, when a man wants to “wed” a woman, there is a very formal process. In Uganda, there is a difference between being married (a less official, kind of common-law situation, usually because people don’t have money for all that goes into a wedding and introduction) and being wedded, which is the typical US idea of marriage. The first part of getting wedded is the introduction. This is a huge party and huge charade of acts to try to work out the logistics of the marriage. It includes the groom needing to be able to pick out the bride (from a hilarious selection of first very young girls, then slightly older, finally a group that includes the bride dressed very fancy). Then the girl is sent back into the house and the negotiation begins. Each side has a negotiator and they discuss the bride price. This is mostly how many cows for the girl. Our friends that we sat near said that they have seen every extreme of this. Sometimes the family is so happy for their daughter, they say they don’t want anything. Other times, the groom is willing to pay anything. And sometimes a decision can’t be reached, so there is no wedding. Our negotiations started at 18 cows, I think, but ended in 4 being paid. Plus, there were crates of beer and soda, which were brought in different waves, which added to the suspense. There were interesting jokes, like if the beer crates were missing any, the brides family would say they were being cheated by the man. If they were all full, they would say the man must have no friends to come all this way and not meet anyone to share a drink with. After all the formalities, there was great entertainment, including a man dressed as a woman and doing traditional women dancing. And there was food. It was a great time, so check out the videos and pictures. This couple will probably be getting married in the spring.

Invaded by Ants!!!

Hello Everyone -- Sorry that it has been so long since the blog has been updated. We have both been very busy, so we decided to put in a joint effort to get things updated. So Jeff will upload some pictures and I’ll write some descriptions. I hope you enjoy! - Krista

Invaded by Ants!!!

Africa is full of many different types of menacing ants. There are ants that destroy the food, ants that eat the house, little ants that inject poison in you and give you a fever, and big ants with huge mouths that bite and cling to you. They are amazing creatures, but mostly really annoying when they are biting you and destroying your things.

The big biting ants, safari ants, invaded our house twice in one week. These creatures are amazing. They build bridges by linking their legs together so that many form a cluster and others can walk over them. They can even form these bridges over moving water! It is amazing to think about but terrifying when you wake up to find these bridges all over your house as the ants work to invade every space. Worst of all, is that we usually realize that these guys are around the house when we go out to pee in the middle of the night and start to feel painful bites all over our feet and legs. The ants have been around our house a lot, but only invaded twice, which is good, I guess. But every time they invade, it is a major rebuilding. We have to throw out all the food, wash all the dishes, clean out the whole house. We use soapy water to initially try to get them to go so then all of that needs cleaned up. And we applied kerosene (which stinks and gives you a big headache) and ash around the house to keep them out. Unfortunately, the moment it rains, those things get washed away and the ants come back in. So eventually, I did a completely un-conservationist thing and decided the ants need to go. Keep in mind, these are things that can eat animals alive, especially if the animals are captive and can’t get away. So they are scary.

If the nest had been in the forest, I would have left it alone, but it was at the field station behind the big trash pit. It was HUGE! The size of a US bathroom, I would say. The whole area was covered in reddish dirt mixed with lots of little black spots. The black spots were actually heads of dead ants that had been eaten by the others. It was amazing. It is hard to capture such a crazy thing, but we got one picture and one very shaky video that just looks like the earth moving.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Charging Baboon and Mob Justice

We made it to Kibale National Park safely and are now back in Kampala for a few days. We've had two interesting experiences that we want to share with you.

We were sitting on our couch with our backs to an open window when we heard the familiar sound of a "galloping" baboon. We turned around to watch them pass by (which is always entertaining) when we were startled to find a large male baboon charging toward the window directly at us. We weren't in any real danger because our window has both a screen and bars. It came within a few feet of the window before it stopped short at our window and flashed its teeth at us in a clear attempt to show us that it 1. wasn't afraid of us and 2. we should be afraid of it. I ran outside with a pan and ran after it making all the noise I could and trying to look really scary, although I'm sure I looked funny to anyone else who happened to see me. At least Krista was supportive of my banging-pan display.

The other experience happened as we were unloading

off the bus from Kibale. The bus lot in Kampala is a very

busy place with buses and people all around. I heard some commotion outside the bus where the luggage was being unloaded. There was a group of people gathered around a man who was holding his body sitting on the ground as if to protect himself. The people around him were grabbing at his clothing and hitting him with papers, ropes, and different fabric pieces (this is what your average person at a bus “station” in Kampala is carrying around with them apparently). Before long the man’s shirt was torn off and he was trying to run away but he didn’t make it far before the crowd knocked him down again. I lost sight of him for a moment as the crowd closed in around him. The next thing I heard was a cheer from the crowd and I saw the man running, completely naked, out of the lot down the busy street. Then we saw some of the people from the crowd walking away with his torn pants and shirt as they were going through is pockets. It seems as though we was trying to steal something and the crowd decided to inflict it’s own sort of punishment against him.

Otherwise we are having fun catching up with everyone here and getting settled back in our house.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

NIghtime walk in London

We were lucky to get upgraded to 1st class on our flight to London. We enjoyed comfy reclining chairs, gourmet food, great entertainment, and endless drinks. After taking a much needed nap, we hit the town to have a yummy meal in the West End and on to a romantic walk along the Thames. Here is a picture from that walk. We went on to try to visit our old clubbing stomping grounds at the Sports Cafe in Piccadilly Circus, but they were way too posh for us with their dress code, cover charge, and line to get in. Today, we're hoping to re-visit the British Museum. Jeff recalls thinking of a Simpson's episode the last time we were there. "Give my regards to the British Museum!" Chief Wiggum said to Bart as he locked him in an Egyption Pyramid Tomb.

Tonight, we are off to Uganda! Jeff has an exciting new project introducing computers into one of the schools where he is working. The laptops were provided through a great program called One Laptop Per Child ( And I will be working double hard on collecting lots of great data and samples from the red colobus monkeys.
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Monday, May 25, 2009


We came home for a few months and while we had access to good internet service, we wanted to post some pictures. So of course, we waited until the very last second while we are hanging out in London on our layover heading BACK to Uganda. We hope you enjoy these images from the first part of our trip.

Out to dinner on our first night in Uganda. Enjoying one of Kampala's excellent Indian Restaurants.

At Murchison Falls National Park. Walking up the Falls on the Nile River. Murchison Falls is known as the most powerful waterfall on the Nile.

Crocodile on the Nile.
View from the Top of Murchison Falls

And More Animals...

The Family Visit: Krista's Mom and Sister came for the Holidays!!!

I think I'll have the fish....

During one of Jeff's drawing contests.

Here's to hoping for many more months of fun in Uganda. And definitely for staying safe and healthy! Hope you all continue to read the blog and enjoy...

Torro Dance Video

Here is a video of a local dance group that preformed for us while Krista's family was visiting. These traditional dances always feature drums, girls with short grass skirts around their waists, and guys with seeds on the lower legs that rattle when they stomp.