Oh Captain, My Captain

So, the rats have been acting kind of strange for the past month or so.  They’ve been losing weight despite eating fairly regularly and they’ve been breathing kind of heavy.  A few days after returning, I went on a shopping spree and got all sorts of new food to try to bring them back up in weight.  I was trying to figure out what might have been causing the change in their health, but couldn’t think of anything.  We don’t really know their age, so it’s possible that they’re just getting old.  After a week of yogurt drops and cage cleaning, I woke up Sunday to find that Jasper had passed.

Me being an oddly emotional person, I was pretty upset that morning.  I lost my first mammal and my second pet that day.  Vlad is still having similar symptoms, so I’m redoubling my efforts to make sure he’s well-fed and has a clean home.  As of right now, it’s all I can do. I might move the cage around and see if that helps at all.  I’ll give an update on how that goes; I just wanted to post an update for Jasper.

Captain Jasper von Rattenstein III

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Coming to America

So, I’m back!  I’m still getting used to everything here.  With the help of a steadier internet connection, I’ve put pictures up about Murchison Falls, Prom and Kampala for your enjoyment. I’ve also started the cultural detox of trying to use regular English a bit more (still saying a Ugandan rendition of “sorry” and I “ah-ah”-d our dog as if she were Ugandan).  I’ve been home for a good week now, and things are finally settling.

Saturday I launched full speed into life.  I met our dog Cindy, who is completely adorable and kind but can be very timid – sometimes I think she’s scared of me.  I’ve enjoyed walking her, though, and it’ll be nice to get to know her better.  Saturday night Kim and I took her to a dog park in Scottsdale and met up with Kenny.  I also cleaned out the rat cage, and Vlad and Jasper have gotten really skinny, so I’ll be checking on their health and making sure they’re okay.  Sunday I went over to my parents’ house and enjoyed a nice welcome back party.  Almost all of my family showed up and I got to see everyone and have some delicious food.  I ended up doing a (somewhat) impromptu slideshow and talking about random points of interest before we watched a movie.

Mariah, my car, is completely broken.  She worked okay on Saturday but has been out of commission ever since.  I got a new battery and I fiddled with the terminals a bit, but it’s looking like it might be the starter or alternator, which sucks a lot.  Hopefully I’ll get everything patched up before school starts.  Speaking of which, I’ve spent the past couple of days buying books here and there getting ready for a rompin’ course load.  School starts on Thursday, so I’ll be getting into the groove soon enough.  I’ve enjoyed my first and last full week of work – back to the grind of splitting my time between building ScanGauges, boxing them, and answering e-mails.  Things haven’t changed too much while I’ve been gone, so that’s good.  Next week I’ll be dealing more with car problems and school starting so we’ll see how I fair then.

Murchison Weekend

Typed on the afternoon of the 26th of June at the house.  Sorry this post is out of chronological order and still lacks pictures – should be rectified in a few days.

I got back from a two-day, one-night trip to Murchison Falls National Park last night.  This post will be half-positive and half-negative, so bear with me.

Saturday morning I went into town and met Moses, the guy from whom I was going to hire a Rav4 for the weekend. He had just had some fine-tuning work done to it and it was ready to go, but getting paperwork filled out took a bit longer than I had anticipated, so I was behind schedule and didn’t get out of town until around 10.  That said, I enjoyed the drive a lot.  I hadn’t been in the driver’s seat of a car in two months, and a right-hand drive car in ever.  The road from Lira to Kamdini is pretty ugly, and I had to ensure a few heavily speed bumped roads, and there were chunks where there just wasn’t any pavement at all.  It was still nice to drive, though, and I brought along a burned CD to keep me busy.  Just passed Kamdini, I took the turnoff before Karuma and found myself on a really nice, wide and paved road soaring westward.  I finally made it to a village called Purongo and turned down a dirt path through some villages on my way into the park.  Finally made it to the gate around 1.30, a bit behind schedule but in high spirits.

Spirits were a bit dampened by the cost of entry.  Not sure how, but I mixed up the numbers in my head and was thoroughly surprised at the gate.  But I was soon driving through the park and spotting tons of gazelles and some giraffes and warthogs too.  I got some basic directions from the guard and I slowly made my way towards Paraa (where most of the accommodations are).  After a lot of sightseeing and no Paraa, though, I started to convince myself that I had missed the junction and was on my way back out to the gate at Pakwach.  This was exacerbated when I asked for directions from a lost couple who were coming from said gate.  Turned around and headed back whence I came, with the other car following.  After a while, we were informed we were headed in the wrong direction (which means I had originally been heading in the right direction) so we turned around again!

This is where things got bad. As I was driving here, things went awry.  My front right tire stopped steering completely.  I swerved hard to the right, and then skidded to the left across the road and ended up against a bank of dirt.  Somehow, I kept my cool and tried to steer it forwards, but realized something was definitely wrong.  I called every number in the park that I had while I climbed under the car and realized that the drive shaft was clear off the wheel.  I finally reached a mechanic who said he’d call me back while I managed to affix the shaft back onto the wheel, but there was a nut missing and I knew it wouldn’t last.  I continued forwards, and after a few meters it popped right off again.  For the next two hours I would be under the car at least a dozen times, and this is including a good 45-minute ceasefire during which the car worked and I played spot-the-junction-or-you’ll-end-up-in-Pakwach.  I informed Moses of the problem and told him I’d keep him updated, and in the meantime I never heard from the mechanic ever.  Eventually, I found the junction and realized that, had I not stopped to ask for directions, I would have found it in another ten minutes or so.  Slowly rolled into Paraa and sat at the Nile for a bit while waiting for the ferry.

A good chunk of the day had been wasted with a broken car, but I was glad I wasn’t 100% stranded. But I was angry about the circumstances and slowly realizing I had no idea if I would get back to Lira.  But, I made it over the river and to Red Chili Rest Camp, the only inexpensive and probably the coolest hangout/accommodation place in the park.  I knew it was booked, but was hoping I could fenagle a tent or something.  I ended up secretly sleeping in the car in the parking lot for free, which is comparable to a $5 camping fee and a whole lot better than all of the $140 rooms at the other lodges.  Before going to bed I hung around the campfire and met some pretty cool people.  There was a guitar and a group of Brits sang a lot of great songs and it was really fun.  A few of them even improvised blues songs!  Oh, and on our way back to our respective camp sites we saw three hippos in the camp site. It was totally freaky being that close to those things since, you know, they could kill me.  It was a nice way to end the evening.

The next morning I went out on an early drive to the Falls. It took about an hour and 7 quick-fixes to make it there, but it was a really cool sight, so I’m glad I made it out there. I’m also glad that on the way back to Red Chili a bus stopped to help me with my car troubles and I got some international support. A bunch of Ugandans and expats tried to help and eventually we got some rope and tied the drive shaft in place. From then on I was able to drive, albeit with some hesitancy. From there I grabbed a small lunch and made my way north to the Pakwach gate while keeping an eye out for animals. Got to see some more giraffes and antelope, and one faraway elephant! Then I made my way home with my roped up car and called it a trip.

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A Dog’s Introduction

Typed on the 24th of June with pictures from Kim!

So, now that you know about all of the animals at the house here in Lira, you should know another animal.  After having a heck of a time looking for a great dane before I left, Kim and I decided to expand the search and keep it going.  We looked at a few before I left, and a little while ago we welcomed an adorable dog to our home.

Meet our dog!  She’s tentatively named Cindy, and she’s a real cutie.  She is really gentle and well-trained, and she always carries around this turtle squeak toy like it’s her baby (until she tore it up, but that’s not relevant to how cute she is).  I am so, so excited to meet her when I get back, but until then you can see these pictures that Kim has sent me.

Eying her turtle

Apparently she likes to sleep in this corner

This is her on her bed

And this is her close-up

Bleats and Clucks

Typed on June 23rd at home.  Pictures uploaded on June 29th at Kope Cafe in Gulu, the Jaguar Bus Station in Kampala, and Bourbon Coffee Shop in Kigali.  These pictures have traveled!

So, I thought I’d share some animals with you.  Rambo, who I thought was named Rumble but I’m getting used to the accents, has since left the house when Erik moved to the ACF house for his work.  But the compound is still alive with animals and I thought I’d share them with you.  First, is Amacha – our lovely little goat.  She’s pretty adorable and gentle, but she’s on a leash because she likes to eat flowers more than she likes to eat grass.  Also she tried to eat my pants the other day.

Our other companions in the compound are chickens.  The rooster is named Martin and one hen is named Annett, after Martin and Annett since they provided the first two birds. Another hen is named Adelheid after Monica’s mom (Martin is her dad’s name so it’s a two-for-one name), this hen’s busy sitting on eggs and I don’t see her too much.  The brown one is named Bora Bora after the village it came from.  And last but not least is the Other One.  This one looks like Annett and before they named her people got confused so she just evolved into the Other One.

Bora Bora, Martin, Annett, and the Other One

UPDATE: While waiting for good enough internet to post pictures on here, Adelheid has emerged with four chicks!  They are oh so adorable and they chirp a lot.  Unfortunately, after just two days of wandering the compound, the little white one was kidnapped by a bird of prey.  Hopefully the others stay safe, and I’ll keep you updated on the growing up process.

Adelheid and her chicks!

Along with the Rain

So, as I type, I can hear a particular noise. I’ve heard this noise before, but never so loud as 4 o’clock this morning. It’s a buzzing, flapping sound, and when I woke up at 4 and turned on the light, I found out that it’s also the sound of white ants.

White ants are these little black bugs with long white wings. They tend to crawl around, but in the light they sometimes fly and sometimes lose their wings.  They’re a delicacy in Uganda, and after a big rain people tend to round them up for snacks.

In my drowsy, half-awake state last night, I didn’t notice them at first. And when I did I was bewildered. There were dozens of white ants in my room, crawling all over the floor and zig-zagging the air. The first thing I did was walk the house to assess the situation: all over the hallway outside my room, a couple dozen in the living room.  I went outside and called Fred, our night guard. He explained that they were white ants (all I knew at this point was that they were big bugs) and we spent the next hour or so sweeping hundreds of ants and collecting them in a bucket.

After everything was said and done I went back to sleep, but when I got up there were tons of wings on the patio outside, so I spent the morning sweeping them. This afternoon I went to the ILF House and hung out with Alison for a bit, and they had quite a few wings scattered outside too. It was a busy night for white ants! And right now, as I’m typing, there are about a dozen in my room and another dozen in the hallway. I should go gather them up, wings and all.

Dog Day Afternoon

Rounding out blog post #3 of my lunch break is a dog post.  It’s part sad and part happy, so bear with me.

On Saturday, Kim and I met Callista, the super-kind black dog that we really liked.  After talking with the foster family and making sure she was perfect for us (and boy was she!) we went home and called the rescue to set up a house-check and move forward with the adoption.  She said she’d give me a call in a few days and we could set everything up.  That night, Callista’s page on petfinder said “adoption pending.”  Whoo hoo, right?!

Days went by without a call.

I finally called the rescue and she gave me bad news and made me all mad news.  Apparently, someone else adopted her.  The rescue didn’t think that our work- and school-schedules worked well enough with Callista’s personality and a stay-at-home mom was interested and got her.  I honestly wouldn’t mind if we lost Callista to somebody else, but it’s the fact that the foster family said she did fine home alone for several hours (we specifically asked about our 8-hour workdays).  Plus, the foster family said we were the first ones to meet her, and that night it said her adoption was pending – we naturally thought that meant it was us.  And then someone else magically managed to contact, meet, and do a house-check before I even got a call-back.  Alas and alack.

SO! Kim and I talked to the rescue that we looked at for Thor (the first one we liked).  She has another dog named Zeus that we actually wanted before Thor – he was adopted and then returned because the family’s other animals didn’t get along with him.  He’s on his way back to the rescue and Kim and I are going to go meet him today and see how things go.  Maybe a Callista lost is a Zeus gained!  We’ll find out tonight, I guess.

Of Canines and a Couple

So, the dog-hunt is continuing.

A couple of weeks ago, we singled out an adorably big Great Dane named Thor.  He was a total cutie and, on paper, was a real sweetie.  The only drawback was that we were not 100% on how good he would be with cats.  So, Kim and I went out to meet him two weekends ago.  Half-way there, we called the rescue and she informed us that Thor had been kicked in the head by a horse and was in the hospital.

After several worrisome days,  Kim and I debated what to do for a while.  We anxiously waited to hear how Thor was doing (hopefully improving), but we also did not even know if he would have been okay with cats in the first place.  Plus, the injury could have A. changed his temperament, 2. left him with special needs that we could not provide, or III. delayed meeting him until I was gone, making the decision-making process that much more difficult.  So we kept in touch with the rescue and also looked at other ones.

We recently received word that Thor is alive and recovering, but that it will be a long haul.  Our hearts go out to him and hope he recovers speedily and finds a great home.  The lady at the rescue recommended some other dogs and said she would help us out in finding another to adopt.  This passed weekend we met a gentle giant named Callista.  She’s really cute and kind, and I think we’re smitten.  She fits literally every one of our needs: she’s good with cats, good with rats, can stay in during the day, loves to lay around, doesn’t bark too much. Oh, and she runs like a giraffe, and who doesn’t like that?

So, we’re trying to clean up the house in preparation for a doggy.  The plan is to get a dog soon and get to know each other.  I’ll be gone for most of the summer, but Kim will be able to get said dog used to our home and find a routine.  When I return I’ll jump right in the mix and we’ll have two people instead of one when school starts and we both have more hectic schedules.  Current status is that we are waiting to hear from somebody to do a house-check to make sure we’re good to go.

Man’s Best Friend

Ever since… well, the dawn of time, Kim and I have talked about getting a dog.  Back at the apartment, we kept our hopes at bay due to money and the fact that we still had Kim’s cats at her parents’ house.  Now that we have our own place, we’ve been itching for a canine companion.  This whole semester since we’ve moved here, we’ve been bogged down with busy school and work schedules.  In a few weeks, though, we’ll have better schedules.

In recent months, I’ve toyed with the idea of getting a dog to keep Kim company while I’m gone.  Well, we talked it out and are excited to see if we can get a dog soon.  If we get it right as school winds down, I’d be here for the first few weeks of introducing the dog to the house and its inhabitants.  Once I get back, I’ll have some time to catch up before school starts.  Then, Kim’s and my schedules will work a little better next semester for taking care of a dog.

So, Kim has e-mailed a few local rescues and there is this one adorable giant that we’re hoping for.  The lady that runs the rescue has been very receptive, and we’re just waiting to hear back from her so we can find time to go visit and decide.  After a lifetime of wanting a dog and several years of talking about it with Kim, we might be getting a dog super soon.  Needless to say, I’m freaking excited!

Getting my Betta in the summer of 2007 was exciting, Gruber was my first pet ever and he was awesome (as awesome as a solitary fish could be).  Getting the rats once we moved to the apartments was a huge step for me, and I loved hanging out with them.  Lately I’ve been neglecting them a little bit but I hope to interact with them more in the future.  Kim’s cats are awesome and it’s been interesting trying to adapt to having furry quadrupeds with jingly collars roaming freely.  I’m excited to see what a gangly dog would do to the mix. :D