Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tim Is No Longer in Africa

Many of you probably know this, but I'm in the midst of a big transition from East Africa to the East Coast of America, specifically Washington, D.C. My year in Rwanda has come to an end, but I was fortunate to be offered another contract by VisionFund, which will allow me to be based out of the USA while I take trips around the world to do a couple projects at their MFIs.

It'll probably be several months or years before I can do a proper postmortem on my time in Rwanda- it was definitely transformative, and one of the best times of my life, but for the moment I'm looking forward. I will be joining many good friends who are already in our nation's capitol; living with fellow T4 alum and 'Old Man' Peter Chang, and definitely meeting with all my other friends for regular freedom celebrations at Old Glory.

I'm going to be very busy the next few weeks and months; furnishing the apartment, getting settled in DC, conducting training for work/being trained, and preparing for (possibly) several more trips overseas before the end of the year.

If the first few days back in the states are any model for what my life will be like now, I may decide to just ship off back to Africa. I arrived from Dubai early Saturday morning, went through immigration, and was notified that my 11 am flight down to DC had been canceled on account of the hurricane.

No problem, said I; I'll find a flight on Sunday or Monday, use my World Vision card to get a hotel room, and wait out the storm. After all, my time traveling through Africa has made me nothing if not flexible.

A series of events followed that resulted in something of a perfect travel storm- my phone was out of battery, it was the weekend and couldn't reach the travel office, there were no available flights for the next two days, no available hotels in the entire city, and we were told to evacuate the airport. I joined forces with a couple Austrian ladies ("G'day, mate!" Yes, I said it to them) who were trying to get back to Europe, and we shared a taxi to the evacuation shelter. The friendly New Yorkers at the first location told us to go elsewhere, as we didn't want to stay there unless we had a gun.

So I spent Sunday afternoon and night on a cot at School 108 in Queens, listening to the drizzle + breeze outside reach epic, hurricane-like conditions of a slightly heavier drizzle and slightly stronger wind. Anthony Perez was able to pick me up the following morning, and we went to his house on Long Beach to hang out until transportation resumed.

Finally caught a Bolt Bus down to DC, and here I am- a couple days late, but non the worse for wear. I'll post occasionally about the places I go. Your prayers for travel mercies are always welcome.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Lake Bunyonyi

Last weekend, I went to Lake Bunyonyi with Caitlin and Christina. Bunyonyi is in Uganda, just north of the Rwandan border. We took a matatu two hours north, went through customs, and then took two taxis a couple more hours to the lake. We arrived shortly before sunset, and hopped in a canoe for the trip to the island.

Bunyonyi is part of the African Rift Valley lakes, and though it is small, it is thought to be over 900 meters deep, making it the second deepest lake in Africa. It is dotted with dozens of small islands, many of which house their own resorts and campgrounds.

The accommodations are rustic, but comfortable. The cabins have solar hot water heaters and electricity, and the food in the restaurant is excellent.

The view from the shower was terrific.

Travel companions Caitie and Christina

Saturday we slept in, ate a leisurely breakfast, and rented a dugout canoe to go out on the lake. Upon learning how to steer, we went to another small island a couple kilometers away where we found a rope swing and a dock to lay out on. (Sorry, no photos- I was pretty sure that we were going to capsize, so I didn't bring my camera.) We returned to our home island before sundown, and joined a group of Scandinavian travelers for a game of soccer. My team lost, but I improved greatly in the hour that we played.

We then settled down for another enormous meal of delicious lake crawfish.

Seriously, the food was delicious.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


A couple weeks ago, I went with a group of friends to Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi. Burundi is just south of Rwanda- in pre-colonial Africa, they were both part of the Kingdom of Rwanda, so they share the same ethnic makeup and language. It had a civil war which ended in 2004, so they are still very much on the rebound. Bujumbura is not as clean and orderly as Kigali, and overall seems poorer, but has some very nice clubs and restaurants.

We stayed in a bungalow on the shore of lake Tangyanika, the second largest lake in the world by volume (4500 cubic miles) and the second deepest lake in the world (4,800 feet at the lowest point.) By comparison, lake Superior has only 2900 cubic miles and is 1300 feet deep. I'm told the diving is terrific, but recommended only for the experienced.

There's not a ton to do in Bujumbura, except eat/drink/hang out at the lake, but we heard about a zoo in the city.

This zoo was charming yet terrifying, as only a zoo in the developing world can be. Here in the reptile house, our guide pulled a large viper out of his cage and set it on the floor so we could pet it. He also walked into a crocodile cage to tease one with a stick that was not very long.

The chimp, Tina, was a little more worrying for me than the snakes, what with the news stories in the last few years about people being mauled and killed by 'domesticated' chimpanzees. She tried to pull off peoples' clothes, jackets, rings, and bracelets.

The leopard was surprisingly similar to a housecat- playful, rubbing against the bars and letting us scratch her through the wire.

We also went into a cage with a monkey, who jumped around on our arms and heads for about half an hour before he started getting wound up and biting people.

We hung out a lot of the time at Bora Bora, a lakeside restaurant with a pool and delicious food, and at the Havana Club, a swanky night spot for dancing. Cool trip overall, mostly because of the people who shared it.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Sunday, May 29, 2011


I went to Kibuye on Friday with some of my housemates- partly for my birthday, partly just to get out of the city for a bit.

As you can see, it's beautiful there. Kibuye is on the southern part of lake Kivu, one of the African Great Lakes in the region. A couple of us woke up at 5 am on Saturday to catch the sunrise:

This is the view from the night before, before a little rain:

Monday, April 4, 2011

Enjoying the Little Things

Rwanda is now 50% more 'extreme.'
Mountain Dew-

and bagels. Both of which I haven't had in 5+ months, and both of which I have become very fond of through their absences.