Friday, May 30, 2008

An afternoon with Doodles

The weather in Vienna has been incredible. It's been in the low 80's so Emily and I have been taking advantage of it and going exploring. We first went to the Butterfly museum gift shop to see if they had any fun stuff. They really didn't but Emily did get a postcard.
We also walked on the grounds of the palace and took some pictures. We then took the s-baun around the ring. The ring is the center part of the city. We stopped at Karlsplatz to see what we could find. We found and Italian ice cream stand and bought some to eat.
It tastes a lot like regular ice cream.
We went into souvenir stores and stopped at every fountain to cool off.
We were so tempted to jump in and splash around. We also stopped at the Manner store and bought matching t-shirts and lots of cookies and candy.
We could never buy too much of that. It was a great afternoon exploring. But the funnest part was the time I got to spend with Emily. She is such a fun and sweet person to be with. I love you Doodles!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Prom---by Nate Peck

So, last Saturday I was invited/asked to go to prom with some of the Girls in my ward. So i decide to that i would go because, I'm cool like that...hehe...anyway, it was pretty exhilarating. So when i got there apparently a lot of there friends already knew who i was, which was pretty weird, because everyone kinda knew who i was but i had no idea who anyone was. So anyway, Prom here is a lot different, its less of a date thing and more of just a dance that kinda surprised me. So it started out with a dinner thing which was alright, not the best. and after the dinner there was a Dancing part thing..but instead of slow dances that you would think they would have alot of at Prom, there was only techno, which i dont really like so it was kinda weird like. That went on for a couple of hours, untill midnight when everyone left to go to a "after Prom" party which was at a club, the S club to be exact, but anyway, to make a weird and long story short, we mormons/people hanging out with us mormons, just decided not to go into the club because, we got word that the club was really bad, loud and not very fun. so instead we decided just to go to a pub that was close by...and when we got there everyone got there beers and what not and us mormons had our coke and fanta's, it was a really cool experiance. and then after the pub stuff i went home..and thats it, in a nut shell. And all in all i had a really fun time and it was great geting out of the house, for once.

From Left to Right: Trisha, Millie, Nate (me) Lauren.

Random Picture of people dancing

Picture of the Club (with bouncer) we went to but not go into

Friday, May 23, 2008

Out of Africa Part II

On Sunday Morning we took Ethiopian Air to Arbaminch a city on the shores of one of the Great Rift Valley lakes, Lake Abaya.

I have always wanted to go to Africa. The reason was to see the vast herds of game animals. To see elephants, wildebeest, herds of zebra being chased by a pride of lions, the cackle of hyenas tussling with wild dogs over the carcass of a warthog. Well, I didn't see any of those things, although once a troop of baboons crossed the road which thrilled me. Also I did get a glimpse of the rare and nocturnal dik-dik, a small rabbit-like deer. They are very shy and hard to spy. Here's all the closer I was able to get:

Actually this one was begging bread at our table at our Hotel. There was a mom, dad and baby dik-dik all moving carefully through the tables begging people breakfast. There was also this swimming monkey. One night as we were sitting at a table talking, this conniving beast jumped into my lap. I screamed like a little girl and jumped to my feet. Udo thought it the funniest thing and roared with laughter. I didn't find it funny at all. Stupid monkey.

The hotel was very nice. It was in a gated compound with an armed guard that carried a long gun that I sware looked exactly like the guns that the Sand People carried in Star Wars. The rooms were very small, scarcely big enough for a bed and a couple of night stands. My room had a leaky spray hose used to wash down the room and had to kept in the toilet, so about twice a day I would take it out to pee and forget to put the nozzle back in the toilet. I had to ask that someone come and mop it up.

In Ethiopia the drought has left little water for hydro-electric power and so they have rolling blackouts that cause day long power outages three or four times a week. We had power about half the time we were there. Running water was on a different schedule and we had it about half the time, but usually a different half. The morning we left we had neither power or water so I used a liter and a half bottle of water to take what Udo called a "Russian Shower." Somehow this all seemed normal and not a hardship in Africa. In a Western hotel I would have been incensed, here I was just grateful for the times we actually had both power and water! It was beautiful though. This was taken standing at the door of my room:

So here is the reason I came to Africa. Tsetse fly devastates Africa. It transmits trypanosomiosis (sleeping sickness) in people and animals. Most of the crops are grown with the help of animal traction. I never saw a tractor in Africa I saw many Ox-drawn plows like this one:

There are many areas being cleared. We drove deep into the forest on a four-wheel drive road that would have made any Moabite happy to have navigated and found little settlements like this. These grass houses are actually very well insulated, keep out the rain and are very energy efficient to heat, and keep cool in the summer. These lands though are being turned into croplands at a rapid pace. We are very close to a National Park here. We had dinner that night on the escarpment above this forest and could hear large trees falling. I asked about it and they told me that the people were clearing the forest to plant corn and at night the guards were easy to avoid.

This is the view from the escapement with the forest we were in earlier below. It causes a strange mixture of feelings. I want the people to be blessed with the ability to grow crops, but I also hate to see the wild places of Africa go down under the Ax. Africa constantly challenged my assumptions about there being easy solutions to anything.

Africa is in the middle of an unprecedented drought. It is feeling climate change in the form of fewer rains. This year the February rains never came at all meaning the people would only get a single crop in rather than the two they used to get. The summer rains were also supposed to start weeks ago and in most areas they have not come. You can see the difference in these two photos that I took on the plane from Addis Ababa to Arbeminch. In the first the area has not received the summer rains in the second it has. The difference is dramatic. This has created a complex food shortage in which a combination of hoarding, bad government decisions, and wars have driven food prices in Ethiopia up 50% in the last two months. This can cause huge instabilities. The poor cannot afford this and the World Health Organization is trying to bring in food for the children of Ethiopia to keep them from starving. Many die everyday anyway due to hunger here. The worry is that this was how both Somalia and the Sudan collapsed into the chaos of the present situation there.

So one thing that would help would be to keep the people's animals healthy and so this was why the Southern Tsetse Eradication Program (STEP) program was set up under the African Union. This is the vet I mentioned in the last blog and in the distance you see a tsetse target. They attract the flies by looking like a large animal and smell like one--they have cow urine in a bottle attached. The cloth is impregnated with pesticide. These are set up in a grid covering hundreds of square miles in order to get rid of the flies.

Here is Udo and the two vets in charge of the program, by the target.

The other approach is to but a band of pesticide on the cattle themselves. We drove to some of the small villages near Arbaminch to see this happening. This was probably my most scary moment in Africa. It was not a good idea to see Blood Diamond (about the diamond trade, complete with accurate depictions of boy solders and The Last King of Scotland (the rise of Ugandan President Idi Ahmin) before going. I should have watched The African Queen or something. Blow up this picture and look closely before going on:

Ok, in retrospect, I suspect the gun was for leopards--these are cow herders after all and there is probably no difference between this kid and a Wyoming ranch teenager looking out for coyote and cougar, but at the time that didn't occur to me. All that kept going through my head was the song, "Mama told me not to come." and the scene from blood diamonds where the doctor is shot arbitrarily by the boy shoulders. Was I really scared? Yes. I was.

They treated over 1000 head of cattle this day and tsetse has been reduced drastically.

Here Udo showed the kids pictures he had taken of them. They were delighted. An older lady wanted her picture taken too, so he took it and showed it to her. She laughed historically. Udo really knows how move in Africa. I was glad I was on the ground with someone so experienced.

What was also cool is that we went where tourists never go. We went into the heart of the real Africa, seeing people that aren't on the tours. People living their lives. The people were friendly and warm. We were indeed a curiosity, but in a good way. They were clearly surprised to see us, as few Westerners visit these parts, but there was no hostility or resentment. Kids kept smiling at me and giving me the thumbs up. Ladies and men greeted me warmly (although a little shyly). It was a wonderful chance to enter a world that few ever see from the West.

We drove back to Addis from Arbaminch. It's a distance similar from Salt Lake to Moab, except the roads were mostly like this:

And this:

It took two days. Our diver honking and moving back and forth to avoid ubiquitous potholes, people, and livestock. I kept up the mantra "Please don't hit anyone, please don't hit anyone, please don't hit anyone." I really didn't want to get in a wreck. We would have a close call of one kind or another with near misses about every 15 minutes that had it happened in the states I would have spend the evening telling everyone I knew about my close call. After a while I realized the driver knew how to maneuver in the world of people, potholes and animals and relaxed.

We drove the first day to a city called Awasa and stayed in a nice hotel almost as good as a Motel 6. It was suppose to have a generator but power went off at about 11pm. Udo was furious as he had tons of work to do and they promised he had a generator to keep the power going. I'd been warned by my travel book so had brought a flashlight and the power outages were just an inconvenience. I also had not brought my computer because I was afraid of loosing it and I don't think we could have afforded to have it replaced.

The drive was very long, but I don't think I minded. We passed hundreds of donkey carts, cows, people walking, more people walking, more people walking in an endless sea of people carrying loads of water to firewood, Ox plows dragging through the fields.

Well, in the end it was a life changing event. I met with a professor from Addis University and he wants to do collaboration. I saw things that restructured everything I think about Africa. I thought life was hard. I had no idea what hard is. But then it wasn't that long ago that our own ancestors lived close to the edge. I think of Grandpa Peck farming and using a milk cow to keep the family afloat. Perhaps in the next few years Africa will emerge into what we think of as 20th century life. There are deep problems though. Government corruption is rampant. People are afraid. Wars and conflicts are scattered everywhere. I was thinking that one of the things that allowed our country to emerge from it's initial chaos was the deep integrity and wisdom of our founding fathers. They were willing to sacrifice power for right, to put the building of a Nation before their personal desire for wealth, to commit to the rule of law and to make the sacrifices and commitment that that takes. I think Africa will not emerge until they can have similar commitments to truth and justice. Of course they are facing challenges we can't imagine. Desertification is making cropping harder, tribal warfare creates suspicions and resentments that last for generations, poverty is consuming many of its best and brightest minds. Religious differences spawn wars without end. But again, that history is ours all through the middle ages, think of the crusades. We got past these problems and my hope is that Africa can too. There is a lot to be done. I'll be working on the Tsetse fly problem. Not much, but it is a place to start.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Out of Africa Part I Addis Ababa

I've come back. A week in Africa does not sound like a long time, but I don't think I've ever been exposed to so much in such an intense way in my life. I'll try and give you as much as I can, but I find that the pictures don't really speak to what it like to be there. Africa is not just these sights but an experience of being embedded in a place that seems to resist being summarized easily. The smell of diesel, the noises of people, the long peaceful pauses over herb tea looking into one of the great rift valleys, of never knowing when to tip or how much, feeling lost and yet feeling a common bond, seeing great poverty, seeing people succeed with so little, smiles, angry eyes, people walking miles to sell firewood, being afraid, letting a shoeshine boy clean my tennis shoes and the excitement expressed to his friend when I obviously overpaid him, its seeing a man on the road that might have either been hit by a car or praying I couldn't tell but people were squeezing passed him in their cars and staring, or the constant yells at seeing a westerner to get your attention, it is so hard to express what it was like, but I'll try. I'll start at the beginning as that seems obvious and will help me somehow make sense of this confusion.

Addis Ababa is a city of about four million people. It is higher than Denver and is about ~7600 feet above sea level and so is cooler than most of the lowland cities in Africa. I flew on the German airline Lufthansa and we had to land in Khartoum Sudan for an hour layover. I was nervous about that because if for whatever reason we had to deplane (say they discover the engine was leaking or something) I would be in big trouble as an American. I was traveling with a guy from the UN who had lots of experience in Africa and had lived in Nigeria for several years. Which was nice. We got in late and so checked into the Axum Hotel. It was a rundown place but he preferred to the the Hilton because it was not a target for attack because few Westerners stay there. I guess a few years ago a Hotel that catered to Westerners was blown up. While we were driving back to Addis Tuesday night a car bomb was exploded between the Hilton and the Foreign Ministry. Three people were killed and maybe 20 wounded. It did not make the news in the US. I was fretting that you would all be worried, but it was just one of those third world events that don't make the US papers. When I first arrived, the Hotel seemed primitive to me. The floor was badly stained, and the room was Spartan and shabby. But after a day or two in Africa it seemed homey and comfortable.

The next day we went to a UN security briefing. Some areas of Ethiopia are at war and are very dangerous. In UN speak Addis is a Phase I area, which means there are possible dangers and they want you to check in twice a day on the satellite phone. Much of Ethiopia is in Phase III, especially on their borders with Eritrea which which they are at war, and near the Somalia and Sudan borders which are filled with a zillion Liberation Fronts. I was really glad to be there with the UN because they were constantly monitoring things and very aware of what was going on, where to go and where not to go. A few weeks previous an American Aid worker had been kidnapped from a convoy in one of these areas and the UN was the only one that could have negotiated his release. They warned that travel for Americans was especially dangerous in these areas. While the current administration claimed to make Americans safe from the world, he as made the world very unsafe for Americans. Americans are seen now by much of the world like a German would be in 1945 we really have lost any of the moral authority we once had. It is sad to say but many conversations, even in my presence were about American harms. We are seen as arrogant bullies without conscious who take what we want and leave destruction in our wake. One fellow was particularly vehement that Americans would do anything to get what they wanted--torture, drop nukes willy-nilly on the innocent (he argued that only Americans have actually used a nuclear bomb and that on civilians), attack other nations if they had oil we wanted. It was very hard to listen to. This guy was a veterinary doctor. America, as a country, was a monster he thought. Oddly, I felt welcome enough and felt no personal animosity from them. Nothing personal, but you happen to be a citizen of an evil empire.

The next day the UN guy had meetings that sounded boring so I signed up at the Hilton for a guided tour. I pictured me and a bunch of folks touring around the city while a guide gave us an explanation of this and that. Well it was sort of like that except the group of tourists turned out to be, well, . . . me. So me and the tour guide and our driver visited an old Orthodox cathedral. about 50 percent of the population is Ethiopian Orthodox and the other half is Muslim. This is one:

We visited the National Museum which houses the bones of the famous hominid Lucy. She was an ape-like woman that stood about waist high and walked completely upright like we do. She was found in Ethiopia. Of course, her real bones weren't there--they were on tour in Texas. They look like this:

This was my tour guide. He was much more funloving than this picture would indicate. He was very informative and seemed delighted to share with me the history of his city. We visited some other neat churches and museums.

These are some street scenes from Addis. Note the scaffolding on these buildings. I could not see how these frames where being held together. There is no rope no twine anything binding them as far as I could tell. Very strange.

Tomorrow I'll write about my trip to Arbemench and the Tsetse fly project. It's late and and want to get some things out. Sorry this in sounds like I'm rambling. I'm still exhausted from the trip, but at least this is a start! More tomorrow!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008 belongs on the cob!

Since Steve is still in Africa, I decide to just go out and get pizza for dinner tonight. So I walked there so get a half of a pepperoni pizza and half of a ham pizza. I'm not sure what it is but I've noticed that Austrians love corn. So much that they like it on EVERYTHING. Yes, even pizza. So I went there fully aware that I would have to order the pizza with NO corn. I believe that corn does fine on it's own or on the cob. It doesn't have to be on anything or in anything. It does great on it's own with lots of butter. The guy working there knows no English so I tried to use my hands to describe no corn on the pizza because ALL of them in the display had corn on them. I was successful in getting the pepperoni with zero corn on it. I was also successful in getting 1/4 of the ham with no corn but he made sure the other quarter had as much corn on it as possible. I gave up and gave him the money and went home. All 3 of us ate the pizza without the corn on it and then Nathan got brave to try the corn one. He ate one bite and the rest is still sitting on the table.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Big Bang---by Nate Peck

Hello people of America!! (and anywhere else you may be). well things here are fine and dandy. Theres not much to say seeing how nothing has really been going on here. Although on thursday night my mom and me were on the computers when we heard this Poping noise. So we were like what was we look in my sisters room to see if something fell...notihng then we look in my room and it turned out my bed a way. there is a HUGE bump coming out of it which makes it imposibble to sleep one :( <-Sad Face. I would show you pictures but the Pops has the camra in Africa and im not in the mood to go run over there and get it. So now im sleeping on the couch. which isnt that great but i think ill live, and its only for like 3 more its all cool. Well thats about all thats gone on here. So all of you people reading this blog have fun where ever you may be;.

Friday, May 16, 2008

A day for micky D's By Emily

Today mom, Nathan, and me went to mickey d's. So Nathan thought we should eat it at our apartment. But me and mom thought we should eat there. Usually the mom wins so we got to eat there. You could win stuff like $220,000.00. Mom wanted to win. There was tickets for a soccer game. There was a t.v. There was a car, I wanted to win the car. Last there was an apple pie. At micky D's , I had chicken nuggets, Nathan got a Big mac. Mom got a fish sandwich. The Drinks, mom got a coke light, Nathan coke, Me fanta. Nathan was done way before any of us. Mom was done next then me. We were all stuffed. Then we watched a movie. Then is what I'm doing now a blog.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Right now Steve is on a plane heading to Ethiopia. I will keep everyone updated on how he is doing when I hear from him. So blogging may be a little slow this week. He also took the camera so I have no way to take any pictures. But he'll come back with tons of them. Just an update on Jaron. We got to talk to him Monday morning for almost 2 hours. He is exactly 12 hours behind us. He is doing great except he says everything is really expensive. He gets along great with his companion. He said his companion is really funny. He loves being on kauai but he knows he'll probably be transfered next week. He and his companion either ride bikes, ride the bus or car. But he did say one thing he misses more than anything (except family and friends) is homemade chocolate chip cookies. I told him that I would send him a box as soon as we got home. If there are any volunteers who want to send him some..... GO FOR IT!!! Thanks.

Monday, May 12, 2008

A Fairy Tale

Once upon a time, there lived a queen, a prince and a princess. They were very happy and loved nothing more than going for long walks in their palace garden. They were as happy as people can be. But they could not have guessed that there was a wicked wizard in the land that was jealous of their happiness. One day he looked down upon their palace and decided that he would take it for himself and he conspired to own the Schloss Schonbrunn and all the beautiful city that was ruled by the her Majesty Queen Lori the Brave.

This was her holdings:

One day the Queen, Princess Emily the beautiful, and Prince Nathan the mighty decided to go on a journey. So they left their beautiful home.

They came to the entrance of a dark and dangerous forest. Little did they know that the wizard had set a trap for them. But the Princess was unafraid.

They rested by a fountain. And made a wish. The Prince wished that he might find a princess worthy of his Noble baring.

But the wizard had built a maze, that would take courage, beauty, and nobility to get through. He thought no one would be able to find their way out. Sometimes the princess was not sure they would ever escape.

But Queen Lori was brave, the princess beautiful, and Prince Nathan noble of heart and they pressed on.

All seemed lost. The wizard had thwarted all their efforts to escape. But they met a frog on the way who offered to help them if they could choose the true the drink of the Gods. Queen Lori had prepared her whole life to make the choice and she did not hesitate.

The challenges of the forest continued and the Princess had to dance a magic dance to move forward.

And raise the fountain of life from the magic device of Herodotus.

Prince Nathan faced the finger maze of death and were it not for his courage and prowess they would have failed in their quest to escape the magic forest.

They met an old hermit who helped them and told them how to escape from the forest.

Then the Prince saw her! The girl of his dreams across the magic pool. He knew he would never rest until he made her his wife. He vowed to return to and find her.

At last the quest was over and they escaped the forest! It had been an exhausting journey but they had succeeded. Prince Nathan vanquished the Wizard. Then they rested from their journey.

But they had done it and the kingdom was saved.

The Queen sat by the magic pool and dreamed.

But her thoughts are her own and no one can know the dreams of a queen.

And so the lands, the palace all returned to the rightful heirs to the throne. And they lived happily ever after.