Wednesday, July 31, 2013

I am going Vegan for August

Well, here we go! I am doing this 90% to lose weight, even just a couple pounds could be the difference between a highly satisfying marathon and a not so satisfying run. I am doing this 10% because if everyone in the world ate the meat and animal products that Americans eat, the world could not feed itself. I am not doing this for the animals.

I have been reducing my meat consumption for years so it was really a matter of time before I have vegan a try. Why not just do vegetarian? I have done that before and the truth is, milk and eggs and cheese contain more fat, especially saturated fat, than I need. Those products also tend to be higher in salt content, which raises blood pressure. Another reason is vegan will be a challenge. I enjoy challenging myself and my diet has not been very interesting lately. 

As for what will I eat? Actually, it will be similar to what I already eat, pastas and vegetables, nuts and more emphasis on beans. In fact, I am looking forward to new recipes and new foods. Did you know aloe vera is a fruit you can drink?

The first challenge is bread. There are vegan breads out there, but I don't think they exist at my Hy-Vee. I will likely eat a lot of "salsa" although after I finish adding ingredients it's more diverse and heavy than most salads. This will certainly be an interesting month of experimenting.
Cucumber, Corn, Mushroom, Blueberry, Cilantro, Sunflower Seed Salsa

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

You Are Too Kind

While in Rwanda every meal was an event. The red carpet was rolled out every time us mzungos were there. It was embarrassing at times. It was humbling and sad too. How much did all this extra food cost? Why do this for me? I am not an overly generous person, I have not helped make your life better. Yet they cooked enormous meals for us.
Cooking for the Celebration
Using pots and kettles so big only an industrial kitchen would have those kind of resources, they cooked for us. They have us their best food, they killed the goat, perhaps even actually, to celebrate us. 
Preparing Bananas
Beans and vegetables and rice and meat and all manner of calories, tens of thousands of calories prepared for us when others were hungry. 

Is it better to be blessed and not know it or know just how blessed one is? I don't deserve this, any of this. Knowing that I enjoy what others do not honestly makes it harder to enjoy my luxuries. It is good that I become less materialistic, and in short, that is kind of the point. Life is about relationships, not possessions. The more one sees that, the more one can align with that idea. 

Monday, July 29, 2013

I Live in Iowa: Week 116

It was a busy week. A lot of work, a lot of running. The work, there are quite a few projects to do at the moment. It is interesting, I felt, and I think many feel, after struggling through engineering school that after solving a number of problems, we will have solved all the problems and move on to more difficult problems. While that is true in the long run, it takes decades of work by tens to even thousands of people. That is the nature of work, it takes effort.

Running was a great 101 miles for the week including a somewhat hard 22 miler on Saturday at 6:29 pace average. One of the challenges of marathon training is that I would like to have a person bicycle along with me on long runs with a water bottle so that I could practice drinking, and also push the pace without worrying about running out of energy before the finish. However, it's nearly impossible to find a person. I even offered to pay someone this past weekend and still no takers!

In closing, I'm going to pass 300,000 miles on my Toyota Previa this week! Kind of amazing that after years of hoping to get to this point, I am only days away. The value of a 300,000 mile vehicle must be more than average, and for this blessing I am thankful.
299,900 Miles on my Toyota Previa!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

A Vegan Experiment?

"Vegans are crazy. They are always so skinny and pale. There is no way they get enough nutrition." Oh how I love to eat my own words. Yes, I have more or less said those things a number of times when  discussing diets. My freshman year of college I was pescetarian for about two months and strait up vegetarian for a month. The reason was in three weeks, my first three weeks of college, I gained five pounds, from about 140 to 145 (although it could have been 135 to 140, my memory is not 100% clear it is probably the former not the later), the heaviest I have ever been. It worked, cutting out most meat while not really changing my activity level (I took a six month complete break from running) did not add a pound to me. I didn't lose any weight, but losing weight was not the goal, the goal was simply not gaining any more.

Given that I read 1-2 books a month it was only a matter of time before I read Eat and Run by Scott Jurek. I am only about a quarter of the way through it, but between the book, a fair amount of Internet reading and my own experience, I'm considering giving vegan a try. I know, even in the month of July this year in Africa, I had the vegan dismissing discussion with a high school girl. "Vegans are crazy," I said.

However, I have really been thinking about it, and I'm not that far away already.

  • I eat steak about once a week, the same for fish, often salmon. 
  • I eat about 3/4-1 pound of sliced deli meat per week on sandwiches at lunch. 
  • I drink 1-2 gallons of milk per week. 
  • I probably have a total of 3-4 eggs per week when I eat second breakfast at work. 
  • I eat about 1/2 pound of cheese a week. 
  • I do consume a fair amount of junk food and I have not done the research to really understand what is out and what is in for a vegan, turns out a lot of junk food is vegan diet legal.
Critiquing those areas where I am not a vegan:
  • The other five nights a week my supper meal is actually already vegan. Some sort of pasta or grain with vegetables. This is the fuel long distance runners need to function.
  • I already have tried lettuce sandwiches and tomato sandwiches which are not that bad. I suppose I could experiment with tofu, eggplant, and mushroom too.
  • Almond milk, soy milk, coconut milk, and rice milk are all available in my local Hy-Vee and I know I like the first three. It will cost a little more but is not really a sacrifice at all.
  • I do eat toast and bagels as well. I suppose I could eat more of those with peanut butter instead of cream cheese or butter. Again, this is an area where I know I already like the alternative so I don't expect much suffering.
  • Cheese will be an issue. I eat it on sandwiches, plain, on bagels, it's on pizza, and in a variety of dishes. That being said I have craved it less the last few months, hopefully a variety of grains/pasta and bread can take the place of any desires I have for cheese.
  • I suppose this will come down to reading labels and passing on the home baked goods. I will need a bigger lunch box for sure. Speaking of home baked goods, butter will be an issue, it's everywhere.
  • Another challenge will be eating out. I do not go out terribly often for a full meal maybe 1-2 times a week, that will likely be reduced even farther.
I don't know. I have not decided yet if I will actually try it. If I do it will probably be here in August so that I have time to recover in September if it goes poorly. Why would I try it? To drop just a few more pounds so that I run even faster. I know, I know, I'm already American skinny, but I'm not professional runner skinny. I like my body and weight where it is, but with big goals comes big sacrifice, and attempting being vegan is likely part of that challenge.

Friday, July 26, 2013

A Packed House Celebration in Rwanda

The day I left Rwanda we had a big celebration for the 30th wedding anniversary of our hosts. They basically renewed their wedding vows. Anyway, hundreds of people came, I would like to give a more specific estimate of the number of people, but it could have been 200 or 400 because of the walls and hills and buildings I could not really tell. People had traveled four hours from Kigali the capital and similar hours from Uganda, well, I suppose we traveled from the US in large part for this celebration.
View to My Right
Celebrations like this are apparently very common in Rwanda. They even had a choir in shiny button up shirts sing for us!
View to my Left
The point is that community still exists. Maybe most of the people were there for a free meal or sorghum beer, or to see use mzungos, or because this was the richest family in town and people like handouts. Regardless, it was fantastic! I did cry taking the second picture. Again these people were singing about how happy they were, yet the situation was far more tenuous than anything we experience in the US. 

This was the reason going with a local was the ideal way to visit a country. I would not draw crowds like this, of more than 200 people. The whole experience reinforced the fact that I am, and we all are, so blessed. Even in a desperate place to live, like rural Rwanda, there is no conflict, most people have food and most people have extended families. There are many things in the world to be grateful for, it is important to remember those things and not take our wealth, our power, our authority for granted.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Refugees and Kids in Africa

Two topics today, first refugees, second kids, there will be videos about the kids in the future too.

Shown below is a United Nations refugee tarp, which I am told you can easily buy in the markets. I may have a video, and I know my dad does, of going to a market and unwrapping bundles of clothing. It turns out that clothing people donate to Africa is often given to someone to sell, while it seems unfair at first, keep in mind someone is economically profiting from those sales and probably feeding her family. In other words, in many organizations, items donated are actually sold to the people they are meant to help.

The second refugee point that I was also told, by a Rwandan, "Africans only move when they are refugees." In other words, aside from the general migration from the country to the city people don't move for work or family or climate reasons, they move because they are refugees. That is to say, they flee a war.
UN Refugee Tarp Over Richest House in Musasa
I attach the subject of kids to this because life is harder in Africa and I think it relates to being a refugee. In sub-Saharan Africa about one in nine children die before age 5, which is actually an improvement on 10, 20, 50 years ago. There is a certain maturity in kids, at least in Rwanda, that I feel is a consequence of a challenging life. In other words, it is common to see children under ten and even five carrying 10 and 20 liter water jugs, full, on roads and trails alone, with no parent in sight. No child in the US would do that. I understand now why Angelina Jolie has adopted three kids from around the world, despite the fact she is made fun of in this country for it. I see these kids and think, 'I could house half a dozen of these kids in my little apartment and feed them and give them a better chance at economic success and a longer life.' This led to a strange, very strange, idea that I had in Rwanda, I want to get married and have kids, but if that doesn't work out maybe I would adopt several from Africa as a single parent. Ridiculous right? Yet it seems like a very concrete way to make a difference in several people's lives. What more can I do for others, for the world, than open up my house and all that I have to those far less fortunate?
He is Really Just Playing
What Do You Say?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

International Relationships: China in Africa

One of the big topics is international aid and international investment in the developing world. Just yesterday I listened to a story about Egyptians hating the US, despite them getting more money than I certainly get from the US government.

One of the interesting topics seems to be the competition for the hearts, minds, and resources of the undeveloped parts of the world by the two dominant economic countries, in this decade that is the US and China. In the second half of the 1900s it was the US and the USSR. In the first half of the 1900s it was probably between European powers. France, England, Spain, Portugal, and Germany have all spent time in the role of developing the rest of the world. Although we look back at the atrocities that many countries ruled other nations using and it is often appalling. 

Here are two images below of China both educating and investing in Rwanda. We must be happy for the Rwandans to have international investment, after all, even Detroit would probably like international investment right now.
The Inyange Girls School in Rwanda
China and Rwanda 
The one thing that struck me as unusual about all of this is the "Wisdom, Science & Patriotism". In the United States, we just would not say that. The reason being we generally feel that patriotism is loyalty to the country (the government) while we prefer that our government is loyal to us. In other words, China and Rwanda have more hierarchy and status in their cultures than in the US and that impacts how we view our government as well. 

For the record I saw a number of USAID signs of similar size, shape, and text, probably over a dozen, while I was in Rwanda, but I might have neglected to take a picture, these two signs just stood out to me because it was one of the very few references I saw to China.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

An African House

'You call that a house? How rich we are in the United States that even our barns and sheds have concrete floors? My wealth makes me sick. I could house a family in the space that I take up for myself better than they are housed now.' I thought to myself as I took these pictures.
The Church Sam Started in 1988 and Parsonage They are Building
Sam, the man in the white suit jacket started this church you see on the right of the photo above in 1988. Of course the congregation did not have a church when he started it. They even have a blue sign that mentioned it is an Anglican church of the Byumba Diocese.

Parsonage for a Future Pastor
This is how most houses start in the countryside in Rwanda, and likely much of Africa. Basically it looks like bricks around the perimeter and then local clay blocks for the interior walls. Then, I believe, they are covered in an adobe like plaster to give a smooth surface.
Close Up of the Wall
Totally different building standards. Yes, that is some sort of mud or clay holding those bricks together.

Monday, July 22, 2013

I Live in Iowa: Week 115

This was a busy week. I did not have a chance to do laundry and I ended up sleeping and working more than I expected.

Work was work, getting back into the rhythm after vacation. I will not lie, I was not terribly productive this week. I feel it is good to be honest about my productivity because it goes up and down and learning from those fluctuations can help me be more productive. For example, I spent more time reading this week than I ever have before, maybe only an hour, and during lunch time, but I've never done that before. Having been there, and within 12 miles of the fighting in Congo it has new meaning for me. I have seen the issues Africa has. It resonates with me more. Thus it took away from my productivity a little. Secondly, it was hot out, I make trips out to our testing areas and manufacturing areas to check on the progress of different programs, and the heat kind of took it out of me walking around in 90 degree Fahrenheit sunlight. That may be unavoidable, but it meant more trips to the water fountain and a little more time getting focused at my air-conditioned desk after a ten minute sweaty walk. Regardless, my productivity was not terrible.

I ran 72 miles and bicycled 64 miles, including a number of Strava KOMs and personal bests. I have been losing a little weight so I go up the hills alright. Running I had a nice 20 miler at 6:46 pace and a short hills workout for quality. I'm not too concerned about quality right now as long as I get the mileage, long runs, and a little bit of fast leg turnover. I think I will be announcing my fall marathon this week.

I worked the weekend at the winery. It's a great place to hang out, but it does get tiring. Saturday I ran 20 miles, went out for breakfast and had two mochas (coffees), because the first was so good, then ran another five miles before working a six hour shift at the winery. My legs were dead Saturday night and Sunday morning! They are still tired!

While I feel some impetuous to differentiate my weeks, this was pretty standard. I am incredibly fortunate to have the job that I do, to have the physical abilities I do, to have the family and friends support system I have. I am blessed.

I mean, I could be this guy carrying 15 mattresses around. I'd like to see an American try this.
Carrying 15 Mattresses

Friday, July 19, 2013

Cell Phone Charging Station

One of the interesting things of the undeveloped and developing world is cell phone charging stations. People are so poor they cannot afford electricity, yet almost everyone can afford a $10 cell phone if for no other reason than the business of theirs it helps facilitate. As we walked around the business district in Ruhengeri, Rwanda we saw a number of cell phone charging stations. We were in a developed part of the country, so no solar panels, you can just see the electric cord on the lower left in the picture. MTN is like an AT&T or Verizon service provider.
Cell Phone Charging Station Ruhengeri, Rwanda July 2013
What does this say about the wealth or the economy, both of the world and in Rwanda, or much of Africa?
  1. For one it highlights the importance of connections between people. People don't have lights in their house, but they have a cell phone to connect with people. 
  2. A light bulb, the most basic of electric appliances, is still a luxury for many. Forget computers, refrigerators, ovens, flat screens, and DVD players, these people don't even have a single outlet in their house to charge a phone.
  3. Not only do people pay to charge their phones at this stand, it is worth it for this lady to sit here and guard them. Her job is recharging and guarding up to 20 cell phones at a time. I guarantee she does not make $7.25 an hour, the minimum wage in the United States. At an electricity cost of about $0.15 per kilowatt hour (1000 watt hours) wholesale and cell phone battery size of 4-5 watts this is a business of cents not dollars.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Reminders of the Genocide

In Rwanda there were many reminders of the 1994 genocide, or civil war as I think of it. Shown below is a picture of a soccer stadium in Ruhengeri across the street from our hotel.

Soccer Stadium in Ruhengeri, Rwanda
From what our guide told us it is basically a memorial to those that died in the genocide, perhaps even people that were killed inside that very soccer stadium. While we were there at least five people brought up the 1994 civil war on their own in my presence. There is a lot of talk of unity in Rwanda and being all one people, which they really are considering they all speak the same language and have lived in the same country for a long time. 

We met all manner of people that had connections to the genocide. A woman who lost her husband, a family who's house was destroyed, we heard of relatives that fought and lived, for every Rawandan old enough to remember 1994, it is something they do not want to relive.

Even memorials like this, smaller than a road exit sign, are important to keep. When we forget the past we are doomed to repeat our former mistakes. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Livestock and Cattle in Rwanda

Here is a quick taste that in my mind gives the best overall representation of subsistence or just more than subsistence farming in Rwanda. Instead of ranchers having hundreds of cows, as in the US, they have one. It is surprising to see just one cow, in a little pen, but that is relatively common. Keep in mind, chickens and goats are more common because the cost less, so having a cow is a luxury and sign of wealth.
For me seeing this 3/4 size cow alone in this wooden pen and knowing the wealth even it represents, makes me sad. We have it so well in this country. If for no other reason than we have so much land.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Price of a View

What is the price of a good view from a house? We certainly pay a lot for it in the US.
View From Sam's Mother's House in Musasa, Lakes District, Rwanda
Yet in foreign countries it is ignored compared to the size of the land and the productivity of that land. I look at this view, this picture and I am amazed how beautiful it is. Still having been there and taken the picture I know that this plot of land is just like all the surrounding ones. You could buy the land for a few thousand dollars, and put up any kind of house you wanted. The views from many places in Rwanda were just amazing!

On a side note, that is Innocent in the corner of the picture, you will see him more in pictures and videos later because he was my guide in the village basically.

Monday, July 15, 2013

"Clean" Water in Rwanda

One of, if not the biggest challenge to health in the developing world is clean water. Many people live in perpetual states of dysentery and dehydration from dysentery. Unclean water also leads to the spread of diseases like cholera. This is a short video of a drinking water well in Rwanda at the village Musasa in the lakes region of northern Rwanda. Seen are the husband, wife and at least five of their kids. They were all very excited to see the first mzungo (white person me) to ever set foot in their village and at their water source.

What is the solution? I mean how do we purify the water in a way they can afford. There is basically boiling, filters, chemicals, and UV. All work but boiling requires stove fuel, filters require changing, chemicals cost money, and UV takes electricity. This is not a one stop problem, the solution must be sustainable. After the mzungos leave the solution must keep working. My guess is filters is the best option, maybe a ceramic filter that can be cleaned like MSR filters, but capable of tens of thousands of gallons, and including a valve instead of the continuous flow shown in the video. They couple perhaps be cleaned every month and changed a couple times a year. It would cost money but it would reduce diseases too.

How was Africa? Heartbreaking.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

A Week in Rwanda

Actually I did not spend a single hour of the week in Iowa. Obviously I have more to talk about and more pictures to analyze. Seriously, I have a number of pictures that are complicated enough to deserve their own blog post. Here is what we did day by day:

Sunday: Spent the night at ALARM in Kigali about three miles from the embassies and diplomatic district. We went to church in the morning and hung out at our new friend's, Jean Claude's, house. We had a large meal and took a walk around the neighborhood including seeing bullet marks from the 1994 genocide on the side of a soccer field wall of a formerly private Catholic school. The war affected them all. We spent the night at ALARM again.

Monday: Spent the morning waiting around because things in Africa do not always happen fast or early. We also met up with the four other mzungos who would complement the three in my family during the journey. They included a pediatrician, his wife and daughters aged 18 and 17. Spent the afternoon basically at a mall trying to get cell phones to work and money exchanged, another difficult time consuming task. In the evening we drove to Byumba and stayed at the Anglican Dioscese guest house and hotel.

Tuesday: An emotional day marked by "giving away" two houses to families in need and visiting Hannah Ministries and having a lunch attended by single mothers, orphans, and kids born with AIDs. In the future I will talk about the first and the second house. The first we celebrated was headed by a 20 year old woman who raised her brothers and I posted a picture of that July 10th. The second house I have not posted a picture of yet but it was the more emotional one. They sang for us as we approached on the 600 meter hike. Without shoes, and "dying of hunger" to translate from an old woman in the town, they were happy to see us. I cried.

We then toured the Sorwathe Tea Factory at which our host had worked from age 19 to 29 while saving money for college. I have not posted any pictures about that yet either. Quite interesting.

Wednesday: After once again driving though the dark to reach Ruhengeri we basically spent the whole day in town. After the hustle and bustle of traveling late the last few days it was nice to have a down day. I also managed to run over 12 miles in two runs this day, the longest mileage of the trip. Some of that was with the 17 year old girl we traveled with who was preparing for cross country. Turns out women get whistled at in Rwanda for running wearing short shorts just like in the US.

Thursday: We took a more serious tour of Ruhengeri on foot and made a road trip to see the volcanoes and a Pigmy village. That was an ordeal, first the bus station was energetic to say the least, especially for seven white people who don't speak Kinyarwanda. Then the Pigmy village, we didn't even get out of the van because we were basically mobbed by 30 people pounding on the windows. To get there turn right (north) off the main road, after maybe a mile you come to the place where organized Pigmy dances take place, but we were not organized so we drove all the way to the village, where mzungos apparently never drive.

That night, knowing that it was my last in Rwanda our host Sam picked me up to go stay in the village where his mom and sister lived and where he was born. I was the first white person to stop in the village and first to spend the night. There is nothing extremely special about it. However, if land with that view was in Europe it would cost a fortune, I will share more pictures later. I made my biggest mistake of the trip that night, I said I was hungry at 10 PM because I had not eaten in nine hours and after I did I realized that there were half a dozen children in the room who were probably more hungry at that moment than I have been in years if not ever.
Showing the Village the iPhone
What you are looking at in the picture above is our host's very American daughter in white with long hair showing the village of her nephews and nieces her iPhone. On her right in brown is a woman sponsored by Taraja to finish secondary school (high school) who had dropped out three years short. She is now unemployed but was a significant help while I was there cooking and cleaning up after everyone else. Look at the excitement! All for just one iPhone, a 4S I think too. 

Friday: This was the celebration of maybe 200 people. I posted two pictures of it on July 13th. The one with the kids on the hillside is heartbreaking. They stared at us mzungos until the Fanta was brought out, then they stared at the soda. Generally speaking the light brown/tan shirts, like the one of the boy in the picture above seemed to be the clothing of the poorest. I have a number of videos from the ceremony as our host and his wife renewed their vows after 30 years of marriage. I cried. Not because the couple was renewing their values, but because everyone was so happy, yet again there were few shoes, clothing with holes, hungry hungry people, people who could not afford school, even secondary (high) school. 

After getting a quick bite to eat I headed out with Jean Claude. First in the parking lot we had a flat tire. In the words of Jean Claude, "This is Africa". After the flat tire we made decent time stopping every few miles to let someone off or on. Finally on the paved road 30k from Kigali we ran out of gas. About 10k from Kigali the headlights started flickering on and off. That's when I worried I might miss my flight. However, I made the flight and caught a few hours of sleep.
Flat Tire
Saturday: Belgium! It was my first time in Europe and I had a blast thanks to my host, Wim. Quite a few observations from Belgium and my time in Antwerp. Life is good. 

After two more flights I arrived in Chicago and made the three hour drive home arriving in my bed at 5 AM Sunday. Hardly a week of restful vacation.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Headed the Long Journey Home

After I stop in Brussels and take a train to Antwerp for a run and lunch with a friend I will be on a flight back to the states. However, I'm sitting in the Kigali, Rwanda airport waiting to board my flight, in about ten minutes, because we had two "this is Africa" delays and one case of intermittent headlights.

I slept last night in our host's village. It's more village than most mzungos ever get. It was a bit like camping, but people do it everyday all the time. I am awfully emotionally affected by the whole ordeal. They sang songs of thanks and praise to God for their blessings, and they have so little, I would say nothing but their relationships are certainly not nothing. It is a hard life.
That is basically a hard dirt wall on the right as they prepared the food for the feast. 
They sang and danced as hungry shoeless kids watched the rich people, us. By the way that is toilet paper around the poles going to the refugee tarps, which you can buy in the markets. 

It is different. It wore me down. It doesn't feel like a vacation. However, the experience renews my resolve to make a difference and be excellent in everything I do. With great wealth comes great responsibility.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Air Pollution Affects Us All

Over here in Rwanda, air pollution is a serious problem. Between the vehicle emissions and the fires used for cooking and the dust from the dry season, it's not friendly air to breathe. I hear people coughing rather frequently. The air was not this bad in other countries I have visited. Plus, having seen the mountains the gorillas inhabit, I realize it is a small area. Tens of square miles not hundreds. Will they be pushed out to the top in global warming with the island effect? Also, while everyone walks here how long before asthma and emphysema cripple the aerobic ability of the general population? I hear the problem is worse in China.
 Do you see the haze above? Yet how can someone like I say they need better air quality when their standard of living is so much lower than mine. One might suggest using more machinery that would be more efficient, yet it would pollute more and put people out of work. How can we say to people that live in mud houses that their air quality is bad and they need to change and pay to clean it up when so many people can not afford food every day, let alone AIDS medications that hundreds of thousands need?
 There are many challenges here and frankly they don't have the money to throw at it that we can to our problems in the developed world. It's funny to consider a polluted day in the United States because compared to this, it is not very bad. I feel that global air quality, if only for the asthma and lung cancer effects, will rise to be a more significant global issue in the next decade, and that neglects any climate change issues.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Rwanda Thus Far

It is emotional. We are seeing poverty first hand. I am also surprised and disappointed about others reactions to travel and delays. Rwanda is just like Pakistan and Indonesia in that respect. Have I failed to communicate how difficult travel in the rest of world is?

In a way, I've seen it. I don't want to see more. I don't want to stay in a house in a village tonight. Tears will be shed again. We have it so much better than they do. I like my carpet but the floors here are often concrete. 

On the other hand we toured the Sworthe tea factory (and saw an ABB switchboard) which is shipped internationally as Rwanda Tea Packers Ltd. Also, seeing the myriad reactions as my compatriots experience poverty for the first time first hand is rewarding. Everybody who has it as well as most Americans have it should see how the rest of the world lives. My wealth makes me sick. 

We are in Ruhengheri (I think that is how to spell it) which is the gateway city to the gorillas and Uganda and even the Congo. Tonight we are headed to a village of our host Sam.
This is the first donated house we dedicated yesterday. The young woman in the red sweater was the head of the house I believe her parents were dead or gone and she raised her brothers. Those are some cooking utensils we gave her. Mind you, I didn't donate any money to this particular cause. Talk about feeling guilty at a presentation of a $3,000 house and $75 worth of supplies when I didn't help at all. It is emotional.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The First Hour in a Foreign Country

Last year I published an article about spending the first minute in a foreign country and what it can tell you about the country you are visiting. Given that I am now in Rwanda I wanted to give a more thorough account of going to a foreign country and include some details that are less important but possibly still slightly traumatic.
  1. Customs. Your first hurdle is going through customs. It's not a huge hassle but it can be a little nerve racking as you are likely the minority. You may pass through alone or with your family. It is common to see parents with their children or an old couple at the counter at the same time. Although, you may get yelled at for trying to go through together. After you determine if you will go through the counter alone or with your family, the customs person will ask several questions. Are you here for business or pleasure? Where are you staying? How long will you be here? Are you bringing any guns into the country? You may also be asked other questions about the purpose of your traveling. For example I was detained for 45 minutes returning into the US from Canada in 2009 shortly after returning from Pakistan. It will probably happen again given the variety of countries that is accumulating on my passport. 
  2. Transportation from the Airport. Generally walking out of security there will be a crowd of other's families and taxi drivers waiting to take people to their destinations. It can be a little intimidating as two hundred people or more watch each person walk down out of customs. Again, feel prepared to be the minority. Do all the talking and hand shaking necessary in the airport desirably before leaving, because once you leave very shortly you will be likely in a dark parking lot putting your luggage into an old vehicle with a driver you don't really know. Make sure it's the right guy. 
  3. Traffic. Once your vehicle is loaded up with all of your luggage prepare to experience some at first scary driving. Vehicles travel much closer to each other in other countries than in the United States. The roads often have road blocks designed to slow traffic down. There may be many potholes. The driver may seem to be driving very fast given the road. Listen, international travel is not for the faint of heart. 
  4. Your Hotel. Once you arrive at your hotel, assuming you spend the first night in a hotel, chances are they will have someone who speaks decent english that can check you in. They will likely send a bus boy up to take care of your luggage too, and he will likely want a small tip. Generally speaking, I always feel pretty amped up and on edge first getting into a country so I usually have to flip through the channels, check out the minibar, and search for wifi before getting into bed. If you have made it this far, with all of your luggage consider travel a huge success. In fact you might want to make a phone call to your loved ones back home to let that know that you traveled a third of the way around the world safely. I mean, people do it every day, but not you, this is an adventure. 
That's about all there is to the first hour. This may even be the first two hours depending on how slow the customs line is and how far your hotel is from the airport. Hey, if you ever get to experience this kind of trauma, savor the experience. For having the wealth to visit a foreign land we are fortunate.

Monday, July 8, 2013

First Day in Rwanda

A rather busy start to the adventure. After arriving around 9 PM we ate dinner at our new friend's, Jean Claude's, house. After 11:30 PM we arrived at ALARM the unity center and went to sleep! The next morning, Sunday, I woke up and went for a 4.6 mile run on the street to the cheers of "mzungo!" After breakfast we made it to church for the last two hours of a 2:45 service. The choir, all three actually, were quite good. Then we had another grand meal around 3 PM after trying to get some phones and SIM cards. We spent most of the day at JC's house before stopping by a rental property, which felt half a step above a slum, but I've never been to an actual slum so I don't know. Now I sleep again, before getting up again to run Kigali.

Friday, July 5, 2013

The Three Aspects of Engineering

Perhaps this is the three aspects of the economy, or business in general. It has simply dawned on me lately that there is more to the business than the factory or the design that people talk about. It takes a massive effort to get something from an idea to sold.
Engineering: Factory, Office, Field
I tried to give examples of just about everything, except for T shaped people. As we get into more and more complex designs the need for T shaped people rises. For example, no longer will one person in his garage build something that takes the world by storm, it will nearly always be a group of talented people working together. The point being, each of us gets so bogged down in what we do be it the office or the factory and we forget about other aspects that are all needed to successfully design, build, market and sell a product.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Packing for Rwanda

We fly out of Chicago tomorrow evening and tonight were busy packing. We are taking so many "gifts" that this trips feels as though it is turning into a mission trip.
Packing for Rwanda

Sorry for the late post, and happy United States Independence Day!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Getting My Shots and Pills

Yellow Fever shot: Check
Malaria Malerone pills: Check

That was all the pre-trip medication I was required or recommended for Rwanda. I will be taking malaria pills this go around. I did not take any in Costa Rica or Indonesia, but apparently the incidence of deadly malaria is higher in central Africa than in most other locations. So I decided that $115 was worth the insurance of probably not getting malaria. Plus I plan to use permithrin and DEET to ward off mosquitoes. Getting sick for several weeks is not conducive to much in terms of training improvement. I don't run all those miles for fun alone.

This situation brings up a larger point, what is the cost benefit of preventative medicine? For example, the records concerning my Hepatitis A and Polio were not clear that I was safe. Chances are I am fine, but the point is what would the cost of that shot be compared to the possibility that I contract either disease? I bring this up because it seems we are almost entirely reactive when it comes to health care instead of proactive, and it frustrates me. We worry about the obesity epidemic then take away recess so kids have more time available to sit in a chair in a classroom.

An ounce of prevention beats a pound of cure, at least for the person paying the bills.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

I Live in Iowa: Week 114

Another very busy week. The week started on Sunday with a 6 AM run, church and a trip to Des Moines for the USATF Championships. I had never been to a track championship before, and I was given a couple free tickets by a friend a few days before so I went. It was amazing! This too deserves it's own article, complete with pictures.

The week flew by in a flurry of finite element problems to work through and physical machine issues to correct. This is how it goes I suppose. Part of the verification process is a team of people trying every which way to break the product. 

I only ran 55 miles but I bicycled as well. No big workouts, mostly recovery from the long run last Saturday. Speaking of bicycling I had a blessing in a flat tire. I was 20 miles west of Dubuque going down a hill at over 40 mph and I saw a break in the asphalt about 1.5 inches high across the whole lane. There was a truck behind me so I didn't want to swerve into the opposite lane so I hit the lip of the asphalt and immediately popped my front tire. It was the kind of situation that takes bicycles down so I was careful to take a nearly strait line and apply the brakes so that I didn't fall over. I successfully slowed to the edge of the road and fearing I had a double flat I was fortunate to only have my front tire flat. I changed it, despite some whistling frome the valve when it was frozen, after several bursts of CO2 it inflated and stayed up for the next 15 miles. By then it was raining and I stopped at a friend's house for a ride home. An eight mile run and 43 mile bicycle ride is enough for one day. 

I also worked out at the winery Friday and Saturday. It is such a change compared to engineering. I thoroughly enjoy it, to the extent that I can fit everything else in my life I want to do. I realize, seeing the owners there nearly all the time, that regardless of the business it will take a substantial amount of work. 

A busy week indeed. I have some longer articles in the queue that I will polish up before jetting to Rwanda for a week. One article is over 2500 words, it's huge.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Learning to Serve

Over the weekend I worked a total of 12 hours in the service industry serving food and drink, doing dishes, cleaning tables, trying to please others. It is at time invigorating when the establishment is busy, and at the same time exhausting after spending hours on your feet.

This is a really good experience for me because it directly reminds me to humble myself and place others enjoyment above my own. It also helps me appreciate others who serve me at so many other restaurants. I appreciate their service even more now that I have done it.

Obviously there is more I can say, but today I just want to let you know that I am learning to serve others and it is educational.