Friday, November 24, 2006

What it's Like, Killing a Turkey

That title is actually an extremely obscure Vanilla Ice reference. Kudos to anyone that may have caught it, as unlikely as that is.

Anyway, yesterday was the fourth Thursday in November. I am thankful for the fact that in addition to being able to quote Kanye West and name at least ten players from this year's NFL draft from memory (Mario Williams, Reggie Bush, Vince Young, AJ Hawk, Jay Cutler, Matt Leinart, Santonio Holmes, Bobby Carpenter, Nick Mangold, Marvin Philips, Lendale White), I am also able to quote Karl Popper, program computers, do statistics, and pretend to know what I'm talking about when it comes to Plato's analogy of the cave. However, it always bugs me that I don't know shit when it comes to fixing cars, building a house, or farming. So yesterday I bought a turkey, cut its head off, pulled out all its feathers, ripped out its intestines, and threw it in an oven for several hours.

I don't think the details of the story are fabulously interesting, so I'll leave it to the pictures for the most part, with just a few thoughts.

When you are picking an animal that you're about to kill and eat, don't pick the old, extremely mean looking one. The soft young one will taste better.

It is pretty hard to slit something's throat with a dull knife. Be sure to strongly secure any limbs that may flail around in the process.

If it can be avoided, do not cut into the animal's stomach. The "Dude, what is that, grass?" "No, I think it's a grasshopper." conversation is not one you want to have.

The whole process took me from 3:00 PM to a little after 1:00 AM. But the story doesn't end there. The owner of the turkey came by the office this morning and demanded more money. He hadn't been there when I bought it and was now demanding over twice the price. Everyone at the office told me he just thought I was rich and that the price (1200 shillings/ $17 for a 14 pound bird) was fair. So if the person who sold it to me had no right to do so and now his prize bird and livelihood are lost, that totally sucks. If he heard his wife sold a bird to a loaded (in relative terms) white dude and wanted to try and suck him dry, well that sucks too. It might be nice if you could trust everyone, always, and if cultural differences about bargaining or shopping or who's entitled to what or what's fair didn't exist, and if we all spoke the language so we could always understand each other perfectly, but it also might make the world pretty boring.

As it is, I'm thankful for everything I've got, including these photos.




the cleaning (don't worry, I wasn't really relishing the whole death-and-dismemberment thing like that smile makes it look like)

Sophie and Esther, the girls at the restaurant that helped me out

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Hippos on the Rampage, Iranian Economists, Hiking Naked

A grad school friend and former EC in Busia sent me an article about flooding that made a hippo kill six people in town here. I'm pretty sure that it didn't actually happen, because there's no water here and no flooding. Especially if no one actually died, it's cool to see Busia in the news.

I also got an interesting e-mail from a stranger today:

Dear Mr. Garret Christensen

My name is Murteza Khodamoradi an MA economics student, University of Tehran ( Iran ). While studying the book Advanced Macroeconomics by David Romer, I came across with some difficulty to answer its end-of-chapter problems. Since there is no access to its solution manuals here in Iran , so I thought to mail for you and ask for its solution manuals in file text format or sending me a downloadable link to my email if possible. Since I'm in rush to access it please answer this mail as soon as possible. In trying to access its solutions I saw this web se=gglsc&d=5001352203 but unable to download there.

I look forward to hearing from you

Yours sincerely

Also, just for kicks, here's another e-mail I got a while back that's good for a few laughs:

Mr. Christensen,

I noticed the pics of the nude hike on your website while researching nudity on campus. I'm editor of Nude & Natural magazine, a magazine for naturists (nudists), and i'd like to ask you about the hikes and how often they take place.

Are you willing to be interviewed?

Jef Decker

I didn't make that up. Google "hike naked" if you don't believe me.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Not Until February

First off, it looks like I'll be here a little longer than expected. Ted really wants to get to 80% tracking, and there's no way that's happening by the end of the year as we'd hoped, so I'll probably be here until the mid/end February to see tracking out until the end. This also means that I finally mentioned my stay-dropped-out-of-school, stay-here-longer, then-hike-the-CDT plans to Ted, and his response was "wow, that sounds amazing." Woo-ha. Grad school has sucked so much for me that it is extremely cool to have a prof as supportive as Ted. Also, my sister Emily deserves a shout-out for once dating one of Ted's co-authors and now allowing me to mooch off her vast network of cool friends. It's not set in stone yet, as I have to run things by the grad chair, but all looks to be in order. Everyone pray for a low snow-year in Colorado so I can start northbound May 1. Crap, I totally just jinxed myself.

So are you all sure that you don't want to come and climb Mt. Kenya and/or Kili with me over Christmas break? Since I'll now have to come back to work after Christmas break it looks like my vacation will be a bit shorter, but I still might be able to do Rwanda-Mt. Kenya-Kili as planned. The big hitch in the plan is that I've been told that solo trips up Mt. Kenya are not allowed--not that you need a guide, just that parties must be at least two people, and I don't have anyone to go with. I'm willing to take a guide up Kili because you have to, as bagging one of the Seven Summits takes precedence over my loathing of guides, but not so for Mt. Kenya. Sure it's Africa's second highest, but that's only the technical summit that I wouldn't make it to anyway, and the regular-people-summit wouldn't be an altitude record for me. Perhaps you should all write me and tell me I am a snob for not using guides and I can write you back and tell you what weaklings you all are :)

I went to Saiwa Swamp National Park this weekend. It's only 3 square kilometers, so it's nothing spectacular, but I did see vervet monkeys (they're the ones with the bright blue scrotum), a ton more black and white colobus, a Ross' turaco, crowned cranes, and some sitatunga antelope, as well as some proper British settler folk--I stayed at Sirikwa Safaris run by two women from the Barnley family. The oldest (80+?) has been here since she was four years old, and her daughter was born here and chose Kenyan citizenship. They said things like "Never mind my knickers drying by the fire. Would you like a cup of tea? That's grand. He's a nice chap," along with frequent use of the words "smart," "proper," and "rather." I was hoping to get the word "brilliant" out of them in a context totally unrelated to intelligence, but I failed.

Their staff made some great food and they were good company. I went to a local waterfall that wasn't that scenic itself but had decent views off the edge of the escarpment to the north. I got mad that a local girl tagged along and told that if I was a man of God I'd give her a pencil. That was forgotten when I was walking back along the main road to town waiting for a matatu to come along and a couple tiny kids ran up to me and held my hand and walked with me without saying a word, just smiling and waving when I finally caught a ride.

A few recent photos (which're kinda tiny, sorry).

Life in the EC (evaluation consultant) house. Everyone brings stuff when they come and never take it with them when they leave. This is our sunblock collection.

A grey crowned crane

More evidence that I can hold my camera close to stationary objects

Are you getting tired of the shots of rolling green hills dotted with huts that for some reason make me think of hobbits and the Shire? Too bad, I'm not.

The Barnleys in front of their garden

Friday, November 17, 2006

Rest in Peace, Milton Friedman

Four different people sent me links to newspaper articles about the
death of Nobel laureate economist Milton Friedman today. I think he's
the only person I've ever sent fan-mail to in my life, so I guess it
makes sense, even though I now just respect him and no longer worship
him like I used to (and like I still appear to if you google my name).

Monday, November 13, 2006

This One's About Poop

That's right, I'm a white man in Africa, so what could be more relevant than a discussion of the consistency and frequency of my bowel movements? Actually, I'll spare you the details since there aren't any funny stories about shitting myself in public places or witnessing miracle-diarrhea that manages to travel out your butt and down your pant leg without actually hitting your pants. I just think I have giardiasis. It's not a big deal, and I've got some old flagyl I scored a while back, and I'm in way more pain from the two canker sores in my mouth. I'm just disappointed in my genetics that I'm not one of the lucky people that get to carry giardia lamblia around in their gut without getting symptomatic. Also having the herpes strain that urban legend says causes canker sores sucks too.

Anyway, I went to Sipi Falls in Uganda over the weekend. The three huge waterfalls are a beautiful sight, but the place is kind of touristy. The road up from the valley below is the best I've seen in Africa--complete with side-rails and drainage ditches--so it gets a fair number of wazungu, and everyone and their brother either just straight up begs for money or tries to become your guide to lead you around the area. Call me a jerk that hates children in the developing world if you want, but if you're wandering around by yourself on a road and you walk by somebody and say "is this the way to X?" and they say "yes" you do not owe that person money. I suppose if I'd gotten a guide then everyone else would've quit trying to become by guide, but then I would've had to go with a guide. And maybe I was especially tight-wad-ish over the weekend thanks to Ugandan currency coming in such large denominations. A Kenyan shilling will get you 25 Ugandan shillings, so everything costs thousands of shillings, and for some reason it just seems more important to save that extra thousand Ugandan shillings than forty measly Kenyan shillings.

I wonder if there's a research paper on behavioral economics somewhere in that idea or if I'm just crazy/grumpy from staying up too late and watching too much 24. I know that my just now starting to watch 24 is totally uninteresting to you, but bear with me--I just started liking Rage Against the Machine a few years ago, and I fell in love with Guns N' Roses two months ago. (Seriously, have you heard the Chinese Democracy demos? Amazing. But I really hope this belated love affair with harder bands doesn't mean I'll start liking Korn in the future.) I'll just say that I felt gypped that season 2 ends with the president falling ill to an assassin's germy handshake, and then season 3 takes place several years later and doesn't really incorporate the germy handshake. Did the writers think "Oh, this'll be cool, we'll make it 48 rather than just 24 and kill/injure the president," then over the summer they couldn't come up with a story line and just said screw it? But so you don't think I'm in a bad mood, one more thing: on my way down from the highest waterfall on Sunday I stumbled upon a Catholic church with some fantastic percussion/choir/traditional/gospel music being performed, so I took a seat in the back and had myself a good happy listen.

OK, now that I've bored you sufficiently, here's what you really came for: hard core nudity!

the main waterfall
banana slug
banana tree leaves
behind the second waterfall

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

La la la

I'm trying to get some work done so that my data analysts will actually have work to do tomorrow while I go to the field, but my computer is taking forever so it's driving me nuts, so here are some pictures.

kids taking roosters to town

along the ridge of the Cherangani hills

looking west at dusk from the ridge near Nyarkulyan
flowers along the route

the start of the marathon

That's it for now. Things are good. I'm enjoying my 24, I'm reading Moby Dick which is great (I finished The Kite Runner, which was good but made me realize I really just wanted to read a history of Afghanistan or better yet, visit Afghanistan) and I treated my mosquitoe net this morning, so all is well.

My Friend Scott

My buddy/Pacific Crest Trail legend Scott Williamson was in The New York Times yesterday. He's always jokingly told me he wanted to be in People magazine because Brian Robinson got in when he did the Triple Crown (AT, PCT, CDT) all in one year in 2001, but the Times is pretty cool. I was in the Times once. I'm the crazy bearded man at the end of the article. Seriously. I have pictures of me with the kids to prove it. Makes me pretty excited about my 2007 CDT plans.

Oh, and if this entry shows up twice, it's because I'm impatient.

Thursday, November 02, 2006


Dear Mr. Christensen,

Thank you for taking the time to e-mail Cingular Wireless regarding yourrequest for a suspension of service without the monthly reoccurring charges for your service. I am happy to help you with your inquiry and I apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.I have discussed this matter with my direct supervisor, and he has authorized me to waive four months of monthly service fees from your account beginning on September 5, 2006.

Unfortunately the option of suspending your service at no cost is no longer an option for our customers. This waiver of the fees that has been placed on your account is considered a one time courtesy waiver and as such, future suspensions would result in the charge remaining on your account. The credit remaining on your account is $99.23. You will note that if you view yourbalance online, the balance of $99.23 will appear in parenthesis; this is to indicate that the balance is a credit. Please allow 72 hours for this credit balance to appear online at "My Account" at

Again, we thank you for allowing us the opportunity to assist you with your account. If we can be of further assistance, please contact us at always, thank you for choosing Cingular Wireless!


Seth Michaels

Cingular Wireless Online Customer Care Professional

Oh wait, I'll be gone for at least four and a half months. Dang. Maybe I should have mentioned that. I hate the fact that I really needed to request more than I deserved so that we'd meet in the appropriate middle. If I'm bargaining for bootleg DVDs in the market like I did just now (four complete seasons of 24 for $14 total) I understand that's part of the game, but here? Anyway, it's all good. I've got to go watch some 24.

Pics from the Cherangani Hill and Turkanaland

a flower

a lizard

after the night fog rolled in

the hillside descending into the Tamkal valley covered in huts and shamba

a Turkana man in broad-rimmed hat and toga, carrying ubiquitous cattle stick and tiny stool,
also Turkana girl with toga and necklaces