Thursday, December 25, 2014

It's a Christmas Miracle!


I have too many toys (kid and adult) to put together to make this a long blog, but I wanted to share some Christmas morning videos and pictures for those of you on the other coast that we won't be able to see this year.

Merry Christmas from the Weavers!

 This print from Kristen is particularly special because it was commissioned by the PA ARNG to commemorate two of Kurt's unit members who died in Afghanistan.  Definitely the best gift of the year for Kurt.

 Whoo hoo!  An iPad just like Will's!  Now we can play Talking Tom wherever we go!

 Maybe the biggest surprise of them all...  a new phone after going a month with an old school flip phone.
 I actually dog-eared this cap in the Hammacher Schlemmer catalog because I thought it was awesome.  So glad mom and dad read my mind!  It is awesome.

 Jon was excited about his robot (one of the best toys of the year) but since I haven't put batteries in it yet, these little minecraft figures were the first thing he wanted to play with:


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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Jon's Musical Debut

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This whole video is pretty funny, but the file was too big to share here.  Jon did great.  At one point he forgot he was the cow for a second (the kid who was supposed to be the cow got sick), but the audience loved it. :)

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Rwanda

 
I've been meaning to share some of the pictures from our trip to Rwanda last month and now that the movers are packing up our stuff, I finally have time to do it.  (Ok, so I didn't finish it while they were packing, and now that I am unpacking, free time is not that much better, so I just need to finish).  Here is a picture recap of the trip.
 
I think our hotel selection really had a huge impact on how well this trip went.  Hotel Le Garni du Centre was a lot cheaper than the Western-style hotels and while it was small, it was also very nice, clean, and comfortable and the staff got to know us and treated us very well.  I was also very happy with how well the Wi-Fi worked here (and throughout the trip really).
 



We got a tour of the US Embassy on our first day in Rwanda and Nakumatt store was one of the things they told us about, basically a Rwandan version of Walmart within 5 min walk of our hotel.  Very convenient and very helpful.  We mostly used it to buy bottles of water.  Not the typical Eastern African experience.  Kigali is well developed.  Our first meal was a lunch buffet just outside the store with typical Rwandan fare of cassava, beans, spinach, meat, and some other things I wasn't sure about, but it was good.


 
Right next door to the Nakumatt is a Bourbon Coffee which is basically a Rwandan Starbucks with overpriced drinks and all (they were good though).  This picture was taken at the one in the Kigali Tower. 
 


After our first interview was complete, we had the afternoon free and decided to walk to the Natural History Museum which was a little over a mile from our hotel.  Now that doesn't sound too bad, but Rwanda's nickname of "land of a thousand hills" is absolutely true (poor me, I know).  The back patio of the museum had some great views of the Southern portion of the city as well as a live poisonous snake collection.  Did you know Black Mambas aren't actually black? 
 



The first restaurant we decided to have dinner at was called Heaven.  It had a great outdoor patio which we came to learn was characteristic of most of the nice restaurants in Kigali and the brochettes (BBQ skewers) were delicious.  The owners of the restaurant are American and have a neat story.
 


After a few facebook posts showing us as tourists in Rwanda, my mom reminded me that we were there doing research and that I was only showing half of the trip.  The work pictures aren't as exciting and generally consist of the picture below shown multiple times.  Working at the hotel made for a  very nice office though and the students did a great job.
 

 
After one of our interviews, our gracious hosts (university professors) took us to lunch at Chez Lando.  This was a great experience because our only interactions to this point were in office settings.  They thought is was strange when we all asked for water with our meals instead of Mutzig (a favorite beer) or some other beverage.  The world cup was playing in the background and was very nice to have because restaurant service is VERY slow in Rwanda.  An hour and forty five minutes for lunch was about the average.


One evening we decided to visit Hotel des Milles Collines which is one of the nicer Western style hotels in the City Center just up the street from where we were staying.  We saw more Muzungus (what they called us) there then we had seen all week walking around the city center.  The restaurant at Milles Collines was nice and had a nice view, but it was also the most expensive and we decided we preferred the less formal restaurants. 



The restaurant below was called New Cactus and was decorated in a Southwestern sort of theme. It served good Italian food, go figure.  It also had a nice open setting and a great view.  Doug's boss recommended this one to us (I really like the how many surprise Rwanda connections I had).


I just took a picture of the street to show how nice and clean they are.  Not what I expected.
 
 
On our way back from New Cactus we stopped at a big store, but didn't buy anything because we still had some traveling to do.  I meant to go back and buy a big map I liked, but never made it.


One of our favorite days was the day we spent doing the Azizi Life Experience.  We basically met with eight women from a weaving co-op and they showed us some of the chores they do in a typical day and then taught us some weaving.  This was the house of one of the women.  And yes, I look ridiculous, and lunch was delicious.












  After our Azizi Life Experience, we continued on to the Southern city of Butare.  It was nothing like Kigali.  We were very comfortable in the capital, but we were definitely outsiders here and we got a lot of stares.  People were still generally friendly though.  I read that Butare is the intellectual capital of Rwanda with the main government supported university located there.  It is also where the National Museum is located.  We spent a whole day walking through the seven galleries.  It was also our first monkey sighting.  Can you find him in the second picture?
 




Rice paddies on the drive back to Kigali
 


 This picture is deceiving.  There were so many people in this part of Kigali.  I don't know how I managed to take a picture with so few.  It really is a very population dense country.  I like the name of the restaurant... Mama Boy.
 


We had one day where our interview fell through and we didn't have morning plans.  It was rough.
 


 I really knew nothing about soccer or the World Cup before this trip, but I learned quickly because it was everywhere.  Usually projected on a gigantic screen.
 


This is the day I let the students take charge.  They decided to go hike to the top of Mount Kigali.  They were very excited to not have to dress up (since they were in charge) and to wear athletic shorts.  I was kind of missing that aspect of U.S. culture as well. 
 
Their plan was to start at the stadium and then follow their nose to get to the top of the hill (as suggested on a blog).  I was skeptical, but played the roll of follower and went along with it, and it actually turned out pretty well.




Which way should we go (they said to each other)?
 

After our 3 mile hike, we found the one and only bagel café in Kigali (run by an American).
 



A few days before our flight home we arranged to go on a two-day guided tour of Akagera National Park.  Due to the high population in Rwanda, the park had been reduced in size, and the lions were killed by farmers a while back because they were attacking the livestock, but the park still boasts some pretty cool animals: hippos, elephants, monkeys, baboons, giraffes, zebra, eagles, antelope, etc.
 




It looked much closer in person (I think we drove up a bit), but Maria is pointing to an elephant in the road.











We spent our next to last day in Rwanda finishing up the work we had started.  I still need to do something with the results (like write a journal article), but I think I'll finish unpacking the house first.
 


 
Our last day in Rwanda we got to experience Umuganda where EVERYTHING shuts down and citizens are expected to clean up their neighborhood from 0700 to 1100. No stores are allowed to be open and no one is allowed to drive. I like this policy and think we should do in the U.S.  This traffic circle was always busy and we always felt like we were playing Frogger trying to cross the streets, so it was very strange to see it empty.
 


This is the market where we bought souvenirs before coming home.  With our luggage all packed, we were a bit limited on space, but glad to have a few tokens from the trip.  There were 22 separate shops, but they all sold basically the same stuff.  I'm not a great haggler and I feel bad when I buy something for almost nothing, so it wasn't really my favorite, but I did okay.


And that's all.  24 hours after we got to the Kigali airport we landed in NY and were glad to be home.