Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Man-Eating Crickets, Avocado, Sugar Cane

So I got woken up last night by some scurrying and discovered a ridiculously large cricket hopping around.  For some reason I like to think that it was flesh-eating, but somehow I doubt it.  I am certainly an economist, because as I was falling asleep again, I was thinking to myself, "What effect do man-eating crickets have on development?  Is the USA's dearth of scary bugs the reason we're so well off?  But then why is Australia so well off? What about endogeneity--maybe development causes the no-bugs, rather than the other way around."
ANYWAY, you should be proud of me because I ate an avocado today.  I'm pretty sure that's a first for me.  There apparently isn't a Costco anywhere near here, so my usual buying a month's worth of food at a time in the form of cereal, bagels, and spaghetti probably won't work.  I also went to the field with the team.  Today I tagged along with Esther.  Instead of the usual finding the liguru (local chief) and having him show us where he thinks everybody lives, we just asked a bunch of boda-bodas hanging around town. (A boda-boda is a bicycle taxi.  The word for bicycle is pretty close to "bicycle," and the word for taxi is "taxi."  Put them together and you get "boda-boda.")  They rode us around, and for a while I played cowboy trying to keep this dude's cows out of his cassava so he could tell Esther where his daughter was. We found one of the focus respondents, but when we didn't have any significant financial reward for doing our survey she said she thought we were witches and refused to participate.  Then some dude gave me a piece of sugar cane and tried to convince me that you died if you swallowed the fibers. Sucking cane was a first for me, and maybe a last, because I could totally feel the cavities and gum disease forming while tearing into the stuff.
Good times.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

More Pictures

Raaargh! Scared ya, didn't I?
(Bonus points for anyone that can name the commercial that come from.)

My child, wait first, then protect yourself every time.

Fruit Stand

Thursday, September 21, 2006


kids with homemade toys

do not mess with ICS--typical fencing

Mumias Sugar Company at work

the signs out front of my office

mouse on a fake christmas tree at the internet cafe

where plastic bags go to die

average housing compound

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

I Guess Not

Let's See If This Works

Can I post a pic by including it as an attachment in an e-mail to my
automatic-posting address?

I Failed the Labor Field Exam, Here Are Some Pictures

I better get these freaking pictures to upload or I'll be ticked. I failed the stupid labor economics field exam. So yet again, I'm behind in graduate school. All I had going for me was that I took some cool pictures in the field and was going to post them on my blog for all to enjoy. But no, neither Professor Enrico Moretti nor the server seem to like me today. Great, just great.

Man, I bet this blog seem pretty freaking bitter. Well welcome to my world, baby. I didn't win the "Most bitter, prematurely filled with angst" senior superlative in high school for nothin'.

Nah, things are good. We caught some mice using glue traps, I'm getting along with my coworkers, and I manage to either go running or go to the field almost every day. You'll just have to imagine cool pictures of half-clothed kids playing with toys made from sticks, thatch-roofed huts, trucks overflowing with sugar cane, and the office where I work.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

LDS Church in Kenya, Crickets

I took a couple-three matatus for a couple-three hours to attend LDS
church today. I don't know why I should be surprised by this, but the
music totally sucked ass. Every song was a funeral dirge. That's par
for the course in America, but having heard all the Pentacostal church
choirs in Busia, I set my expectations too high. Also, the meetings,
the lesson manuals, the Bible and Book of Mormon, and everything else
was in English, which I thought was lame. With
Pentacostal/Evangelical churches so big around here, I guess we
wouldn't want people getting excited about the gospel or singing
half-way decent :)

A lady offered me some crickets for lunch. I had just bought a bunch
of bananas, so I guess crickets'll have to wait till next time.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

It's My Birthday And I'll Clean Turds If I Want To

Yesterday was my 27th birthday. What have I accomplished in the past
27 years? Well, I'm a virgin, I've had all of two girlfriends, and
I've earned more than $10,000 a year only twice. Sounds like success
to me. If I were to shoot my self in the face with a shotgun or choke
on my own vomit I would surely become a rock legend, but I think I'll

So how did I spend my birthday? I went out with my tracking team, but
we didn't have much success ("My daughter is somewhere in Nairobi" is
not so helpful) and while waiting for the rest of the team to come
back I took a nap under a tree and was continually getting ants all
over me. Then at night I was finally able to unpack my stuff. The
previous occupant moved across the hall, and I spent a couple hours
sweeping up thousands and thousands of mouse turds. The room is now
livable (ie, no large collection of turds on the roof of my mosquito
netting) but the turds keep reappearing. Go for a run, find more
turds. Take a shower, find more turds. Thankfully it's only one or
two at a time. I put out a trap baited with peanuts (they like
peanuts, right?) and some poison, and I'm going to work on improving
my relationship with the cat, and hopefully that will solve the

This may make it seem like my birthday sucked, but not really. In a
nerdy sort of way it felt like a big accomplishment sweeping up turds
from eons ago.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Why this Blog Is Going to Suck

I'm really good at making fun of people. Or at least I think I am.
I'm just fine with doing that in private, either by talking amongst
friends or writing it in my journal. But posting it online? That
strikes me as a little odd. I'm in Kenya till January, living in the
same tiny rural town with about 5 wazungu, most of whom are my
housemates. I'm sure I could write some really funny stuff about
them: how messy the house is, how emotional girls are, and the quirks
about the Kenyan staff. What if I were to make fun of my roommates
scarves-and-brandy-bottles collection, and word somehow got back to
her that I think such a thing is retarded, even though it's obviously
not a deliberate collection? And if I leave out such items, how am I
supposed to entertain you? "Went running, got lost again" and "Went
to the field, still didn't understand a word of the Swahili or Luhya"
would certainly get boring eventually, and "Worked in the office doing
data stuff" is boring the _first_ time I write it. Unless you know
Stata really well my making jokes about type mismatches would totally
suck, and even if you know Stata well enough to understand that pretty
much every error you'll ever get is because the default for a variable
with no observations is a byte and you're trying to put strings into
it, you shouldn't go admitting this knowledge in public.

I see why someone might want to read my blog based on my previous
experiences--AT, PCT, hitching up the California coast, Peru,
Pakistan, etc., but that's a little different. I'm not sure that
anybody'd want to read this anyway. I mean, my sister tells me I'm
funny all the time, but maybe that's just her flattering me so that
I'll keep on editing her papers for her. Who knows.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

African Repetitive Stress Injury

Well, I've seen what my job will be like, I think. I spent yesterday
in the office doing data work and developing carpal tunnel syndrome.
(Seriously. My laptop is freaking death trap for forearms.) Today I
went to the field with my tracking team. I don't speak a lick of
Swahili or Luhya, which would certainly improve things, but it was
still cool to drive around in the bush and stuff. We managed to find
11 of the students, which is pretty good for a days work.
Things are good. My first impression of Busia Town wasn't so
fantastic, but now that I've left the paved road (of which there is
only one) and gone for a run in the bush, I'm pretty happy. Getting
chased by kids yelling "Mzungu, how are you?" hasn't quite gotten
annoying yet.
On a side note, I have a kitten that is a boy named Sue. Its job is
to keep the rats away.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Thank you God for Norwegian women.

Thank you God for Norwegian women.

Well, I've left Nairobi now and am in Busia. Am I happy to have
finally left the dirty, polluted, dangerous city of Nairobi? Not at
all. I spent my last night there hanging out with five
drop-dead-gorgeous Norwegian nurses. Maybe I'm just especially
forlorn these days, but holy crap. I haven't generally considered
myself as being into blondes before, but holy crap. And those blue
eyes. Holy crap. The whole time I was thinking about a discussion in
Chuck Klosterman's "Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs" about how Norwegians
engage in the most frequent casual sex of any western people.
Unfortunately Henrietta didn't seem to catch my telepathic vibes that
we totally needed to make out. Or maybe she caught them and my
discussion of how fjords reminded me of fractals and how the research
project I'm working on is great because the econometrics are so easy
thanks to randomization turned her off. Oh well. At least now I know
that all that talk about Scandinavian women is not just urban legend.

I also met a pilot for an NGO that is pretty sure he's run guns to the
Lord's Resistance Army in northern Uganda and an Israeli that got out
of the IDF by feigning psychological problems. Well, half "feigning,"
half "having."

Friday, September 08, 2006

Hooray for Clean Underwear

It's Thursday, September 7 and I'm sitting at the Upper Hill Campsite hostel in Nairobi, and thanks to a dearth of powers outlets, I'm sitting directly in front of the TV blaring crappy American sci-fi trying to drown it out with iTunes and my headphones and writing an entry to post on my blog at a later date. Nairobi seems like a pretty boring dirty place, so I'm not that happy to still be here, but my luggage didn't arrive, so I've been taking care of some errands, waiting, and smoking the equivalent of a pack or two of Pall Mall unfiltereds a day by walking around in Nairobi traffic. My bag got here this afternoon, so I celebrated by putting on clean underwear. True, I've gone 93 consecutive days in the same pair of underwear before, so this past 6 days shouldn't be a big deal, but there's a difference between doing it because you want to (while ultra-light backpacking, don't worry, it wasn't 93 days without washing, it was just 93 days of the same pair, I think) and doing it because you have to and you're already grumpy because you're stuck in a hostel with not much to do.