Sunday, March 22, 2009

PC Repair, Jungle Style

GodCares, the organization that invited me on this trip to rural Africa, has two volunteers/members in Rwanda, Prosper and Isaac. Between them they have had one notebok computer to use for typing reports and keeping track of things like our micro-financing program. That is until, in Prosper's (translated) words, the notebook was "possessed by the devil". Prosper joined us for a day in Cyangugu yesterday and I asked him to bring the possessed machine so I can work on it.

So last night he arrived at dinner and after dinner while the others met I went to work. It was somewhat urgent because there had been photos on the machine of our projects in Kaliba, and if they were sufficient then we wouldn't have had to try and sneak two of us (Wolfgang and myself) back into Congo today to get new ones.

The notebook itself is a 2004 HP with a Pentium M processor, and when I plugged it in and turned it on the power light and fans would run for about 20 seconds and then go off. No other lights, no video, no audio. This isn't good- I'm guessing it's a faulty mainboard at this point but with no replacement parts within a few hundred miles (at least). At this point I'm kicking myself for not packing my USB-to-harddrive universal converter (which I did seriously consider packing) so I could connect the HP's drive to my MacBook Pro (which Prosper also brought for me, courtesy of my friend Jean). But it's not here so to start I have an all-but-dead machine and no idea if the hard drive is still intact or if it has the photos we need.

I decide I may as well try some things. Reseat hard drive. No change. Reseat memory. No change. Remove memory. No change- and that tells me the mainboard isn't responding correctly because I should have had audio and/or visual error signals when booting with no memory. Not good. I figure there's maybe a 5% chance I can do anything with this here- especially considering I'm in a Catholic Guest House (hostel) without much light and with no equipment to speak of. But 5% is still something, so I decided to disassemble the machine to see if I could find anything fixable.

I'll spare you the details, but it took about an hour to reduce the machine down to component parts. The rest of our team kept circulating by and taking pictures- I always forget that most people, unlike me, probably don't disassemble their own computers just for fun like I do.

When fully disassembled (just a mainboard +cpu left) I plugged it back in and tried again. This time- something different! (When diagnosing different is always good because it let's you triangulate which pieces are having problems). Without a screen there was obviously no video, and there was still no audio, BUT this time the three keyboard lights flashed, then began a slow blink, and this time the power and fans stayed on! (This is normal behavior for a mainboard- the keyboard light flash is an error message that would tell me more if I had enough internet access to look it up). But I felt like a doctor who thought his patient was dead but sudenly has a pulse! Something at least is still working here.

Leaving the computer disassembled I managed to reconnect video and reinstall the memory. Success! We have video! I powered off and added the hard drive. Not good- it went back to just a power light and fans, no video and no flashing lights. Removed the hard drive, still the same.

Long story short I was able to get the notebook working again, but with a weird caveat. The first time you turn it on you usually get the "dead condition" - power light and fan, nothing else, and it powers off after 20 seconds. But if you TAP ON THE CPU before pressing power, it works fine nearly 100% of the time. (Yes, I've removed and reseated the cpu and it's heat pipe several times).

I've had to leave some pieces out (internal braces and the top piece of the keyboard) so that the cpu is easily (?) accessible for "tapping".

My best guess is that there is either a short or electrical problem in the vicinity of the cpu, and that the "tapping" is fixing it enough for the computer to start- for now. I have no doubt that this won't last for long. But for now we were able to recover all the files and reports to a thumbdrive and make our plans for today.

So I've had lots of "firsts" on this trip. First time in Congo, first time kicked out of a country, first time having to use my high school french to get around. And now I can add "my first 3rd world notebook repair". :)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Africa So Far

OK, I've not been able to update my blog as often as I expected to. I thought I had everything planned - I knew I would have wifi for my first two days in Nairobi, and then either i would buy a USB 3G modem in Rwanda or I would use my blackberry.

The Nairobi part worked, but only barely. Kenya's problem at the moment is that they have no high speed internet connections out of the country except for satellite, which is slow and expensive compared to cables. The good news is that Kenya is getting two fiber-optic backbones into the country this summer, which should make their technology market explode. But for now guys like me have to do what we can on a slow connection, which for me meant staying caught up on emails but no time for blogging.

In Rwanda all I've had is my semi-trusty Blackberry 8830. It's working great, the problem is me: I was so smart, I knew we would be spending days in areas with no electricity so I brought only my USB cable (figuring i could charge up from my notebook when we had power) and my car charger (knowing we'd mostly be in vehicles), plus I bought a fancy solar charger too. Of course the solar charger is sitting on my desk at home, so that's no help. And I didn't want to risk bringing my notebook on the 2 weeks in Congo, so I left it at a friend's house. That leaves the car charger, and there are two problems with it. First, many of the cars here are so old and heavily used that either they long ago used the fuse for the car's cigarette lighter for something else, or they have been rewired so many times that whatever voltage is coming from the car is too bizarre or weak to charge the phone.

The second problem is that our plans have gone awry. The short summary is, the Congo threw us out. Literally! A squad of police "escorted" our luggage onto the border crossing bridge over the Rusizi river. We don't know why, but there qre many theories. We thought for a while that a friend of mine had betrayed us, but today I think this is less likely. But since 95% of our work was in Congo, and the rest is a full days drive away, we're hesitant to drive away while we're still appealing to the UN and DRC gov't to help us find out why we were kicked out and to get us back in.

So for now I beg the nuns at our Catholic guest house to plug my phone into their computer, and they always happily oblige, but then they bring it back a few minutes later thinking it's done. The bottom line is, the blackberry is working fine but I haven't had the battery charged over 5% in at least a week.

Otherwise things are good. The team, who I met for the first time here are truly wonderful people and we get along great. Languages are a challenge- of the 9 of us two speak only German, four speak German and some english (two of those also know a little french and swahili), one speaks only kiswahili, kinyarwandan, kifree, and some french, I speak only english with a little french, and Nelson speaks everything but German. It can be frustrating when we have team discussions and you want to ask a question but you have to wait through two translations, then ask the question and have it translated twice. It takes a while! But it can also be funny, when Nelson (who has great talents for language otherwise) gets confused and translates English to English (e.g. "Ask Isaac what he thinks about that idea", "OK, he wants to know what you think of that idea.", "Nelson that was English", "oh, sorry, kwa m'tana....."

But for now we mostly sit and fill our time with planning and meetings.

I'll update more when I can, and when I can find an english keyboard. Right now I'm at an internet café in Kamembe after ,aking photocopies of the letter we're sending to the UN plus six Congolese government agencies asking for help. I was proud that I managed to tell the taxi driver to bring me here so I can work and pleqse come back for me in two hours, in french. At least I think that's what I said. I guess the proof will be 1 hour and 20 minutes from now!

Also I have hundreds of photos and videos so far, but no way to upload them. I am updating my Facebook status with news as I can, because I can do that quickly and then turn the phone off to save the battery.

So: things are good, albeit frustrating, and everyone is fine. More to come later.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Fundraising so far

So my least favorite activity of this trip so far has been fundraising - I *loathe* asking for money. But I did ask, and received generous donations from my church family, from Computer Troubleshooters, from friends, and from my business partners at MerryMeeting. One thing I did want to make sure of though is that all the monies donated are spent with total transparency and accountability. So here's where we are so far:

Before I left we had collected $1658.33, which I brought with me in cash (there are no ATM's and almost no places here take credit cards). So far I've spent:

$613.98 on two Garmin GPSMap 60CSx handheld GPS units from These will be used by ARDR - I found out they had been having to rent these from other companies at a cost of $70USD per day in order to complete some projects. Now not only will they save that money for use in their Rwandan rural projects bu they can be a source of income by renting these to other companies.

$249 plus tax on an Asus EEE netbook. Not sure if this will be for ARDR or GodCares yet, it depends in part on where we allocate the other computers - both organizations have requested computers to help with their projects in Rwanda and Congo.

$200 to provide support for Ivette, the 15 year old girl from Congo currently living as a refugee in Kenya (see my photos on Facebook for more information)

And today I'll be venturing into Nairobi's computer supplier market to purchase $800 in used notebooks and possibly $250 in a used desktop, these also to be allocated between ARDR and GodCares based on need. I expect to pay $100 in freight to get them to Kigali too.

So the total spent so far is $1063, plus the $800 to $1050 I expect to spend today, which will already take us past the $1658 received so far. I'm happy to help from my own funds of course, but I'm also paying all my own travel expenses, which will run around $3000, so I could use more help.

My big concern so far is there's no money raised for the village roofs in Kalingi village. These are people who currently live in mud huts with grass roofs but are making mud bricks to build new, better homes for themselves. We had hoped to raise $700 per house to buy sheets of tin for their roofing so they won't have to use grass thatch again (which provides little protection from rain and wind), and there are 55 homes in the village, for a total cost of around $40,000. It's a huge number, and maybe we can't reach it - but I'm hoping we can try.

If you're able to help us help these folks, please visit my fundraising page at for more information about the projects and how you can make a donation. Thanks!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Business in Africa - the bright spot

Here's something that I'll bet a lot of folks don't know about Africa: taken as a whole it's one of the fastest growing (and still growing) economies in the world. Up until recently economic growth in sub-saharan Africa (including the three countries I'll be visiting on my trip) was expected to grow by between 6% and 7% in 2009 (compared to economic shrinkage in most western countries, including the US). And even though those estimates recently got revised downwards, growth still continues despite historically low prices for many of Africa's mineral and petroleum exports.

The problem with business in Africa has essentially boiled down to three things: Culture, Violence, and Infrastructure.

While each African country is unique and stereotyping is very unfair, generally speaking Africa is still a land of hunters, gatherers, and farmers. There is a lot of history here - Ethiopia has some of the oldest churches in the world, Egypt is considered the birthplace of civilisation, and Morocco has Casablanca, my favorite old movie - but by and large almost all African villages and most of the population is agriculturally based. Business, in the modern sense of commerce, is a relatively new thing, but is really booming in many ways.

Violence is still an unfortunate part of life in too much of Africa. Last year's violence in Kenya, which was (and still is) considered a highly progressive and strong African country, showed just how deep tribal conflicts can go. There are numerous signs of ongoing problems - the arrest warrant for the President of Sudan, the suspicion of foul play in the wreck that took the life of Kenya's prime minister's wife, and the coup in Madagascar (all of which happened just this weekend). But one thing that can really help reduce violence is commerce: as people's standard of living improves they either care less about the divisions of the past or find new ways to deal with them. Plus they don't support things that can reduce that newly found standard of living - which often means their support of any causes that may lead to violence is greatly reduced. We're seeing this in Kenya and Rwanda today, where the tensions between groups of people is still present, but all sides realize that if they don't find a peaceful way to resolve their differences it can cause long-term harm to the standard of living for everyone. This is part of why Kenyans hope their truce-government holds together, and much of why DR Congo allowed Rwandan and Ugandan troops into their country to help extinguish some of the militias that have plagued eastern Congo and hampered their ability to benefit from their rich mineral reserves for decades.

Infrastructure in some countries is advancing rapidly. Here in Kenya the big news is that their first major internet backbone, between Nairobi and Dubai, will be completed this year. Right now almost all internet traffic in the country is handled via satellite connection, which is slow and expensive. Right now I'm downloading a 60MB file. Back home it would take a couple of minutes, tops. Here it's about an hour, and sometimes just stops for no reason. And it's costing me $20/day for that. And only a few hotels even offer internet. Starting this June that should all change - as Kenyan internet gets exponentially faster and exponentially cheaper, we should see an explosion in IT services (and Computer Troubleshooters will be ready!), which should lead to even more business opportunities. Rwanda and Kenya are two countries that have realized the importance of IT infrastructure, and are investing heavily in it.

So despite the economic downturn you can expect business development in certain African countries to grow much faster than the rest of the world for years to come. And I'm happy to say that Computer Troubleshooters is here riding that wave, thanks to some smart Master Franchises in South Africa, Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, Botswana, and Cote d'Ivoire. And interest is increasing - we expect to open in Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Zambia, Morocco, Uganda, and Tanzania over the next few years.

Today I had dinner at Galito's, a popular chicken franchise. Two interesting things about Galito's - it's not US-based like so many other food franchises, it's a South African company. And it's biggest competitor is Nando's, another South African franchise. While the KFC's Colonel has nothing to be worried about anytime soon, if they're smart they'll do what a lot of smart businesses are doing today - invest in Africa.

First stop - Nairobi

Hello from Nairobi!

One of the hardest parts about traveling to somewhere like Rwanda or Congo is that it takes forever to get there. There are few if any direct flights to this part of the world, and even when they are they are very expensive. Here are some well known but worth-repeating tips for folks considering similar journeys:
  • Use This site is your best friend in booking cheap travel, because it scans most of the common airline and travel sites looking for flights that meet your criteria.
  • Book your "from US" travel using a major international airport - usually JFK, LAX, or IAD will get you the best flights to/from Asia, Africa, and Europe, and Atlanta, Miami, and Houston have the best flights to South and Central America. For example if I try to find flights from Atlanta to Kigali, I'll find nothing. But searching JFK to Kigali finds some flights using British Airways, and searching IAD to Kigali finds the best deal on Ethiopian Airways.
  • Try to find which airlines serve the airport you're going to, and check their websites to find their flight schedules to the airport. For example Kenya Air flies daily from Nairobi to Kigali, but Ethiopian Air (which has the best rates from the US) only flies to Kigali 3 days a week. So if you use and look for a round-trip flight from IAD (Washington-Dulles), if you pick departure OR arrival dates that don't match with one of those 3 Ethiopian air flights your best rate will be $3000+. If you take the time to match your dates to those 3 daily flights you'll get a rate of under $1500, which is a great deal.
  • Layovers are unpredictable. On my trip I was able to include a 2+ day stopover in Nairobi for less than $300 extra, which was useful for me to check on Computer Troubleshooters Kenya and meet with my friend's sister. But a stopover in Ghana, which would have also been helpful, was $1400 - almost as much as the ticket from the US! Airline pricing is magical, and has nothing to do with actual costs and everything to do with the perceived value of the ticket.
  • Travel Agents are your friends. For a small fee they can do alot of the searching for you, although I find it still helps to do your own search first so you can know if what they find is really a good deal or not. And often, especially with African airlines, you'll find you cannot pay them except through a travel agent. Major African airlines - Ethiopian, Kenya Air, South African Airways, Egypt Air - do try to take credit cards via their websites, but it's not uncommon for it not to work. For my trip I did manage to successfully pay Ethiopian through their website (first time that's worked for me, out of 4 attempts) but I could not pay Kenya Air - they kept insisting my credit cards were declined, even though all 5 of the ones I tried insisted there was no problem on their side. I had to call in my friendly neighborhood travel broker to pay them through the Sabre system, and I paid them via credit card plus a $35 fee.
  • Speaking of money, examine your money before you come. US dollars printed prior to 2004 may not be accepted, nor will torn bills. I ran into this trying to buy my visa for Kenya - one of the $20's I handed the immigration official was torn, and she refused to take it. Fraud is a big problem here, so they're hyper-vigilant about some details.
  • On the bright side, most places will take US dollars, although local stores and restaurants may prefer (or in some cases require) local currency. Many places may take Euros and South African Rand as well, but your safest bet is to carry local currency and USD. Keep in mind that panhandling is very common here so keep some small bills or coins ready, and also theft is common so keep your wallet, purse, or whatever close to you. I keep my wallet in my front pants pocket here, because back pockets are too easy to "pick".
  • Go with the flow. Airports and airlines are mostly designed to be easy for novice travellers to navigate, so just follow the signs (which are almost universally in english plus the local language, or sometimes in french + local). Be friendly, follow instructions, read signs, and everything will go smoothly.
My main flight was an interesting group of people. Lots of missionaries, including a college-age group and several individuals (I think my mother, who worries about ME traveling alone, would be surprised by how many young women are on these flights by themselves, but it's really very safe). Also a singing group who were booked for a lounge show in Ethiopia, plus the usual tourists and returning residents. Ethiopian is an OK airline - I think it will improve drastically once they start getting the new 787 Dreamliners next year. Right now they fly older 767's with limited entertainment options, but the service is good and their safety record is decent.

So after 20+ hours of travel, which included a 8.5 hour flight to Rome where we refuled then continued for 5.5 hours to Addis Ababa (Ethiopian's hub, naturally) and a 2 hour connection flight to Nairobi, I finally arrived. I was very fortunate in that Vincent Njoroge, owner of Computer Troubleshooters Kenya, offerred to pick me up at the airport and take me to the hotel. All I wanted to do was sleep and take medicine (I've had a cold for about a week, which makes air travel even less fun).

I did wake up in time to take a stroll to see some local sights last night. Nairobi is a big city by African standards but would be considered a "town" back home. My hotel is right downtown, surrounded by office buildings and a sea of people (especially on a Saturday night, which is clearly "date night" here too). Adjacent to the hotel is a square where the matutus (local minibuses) all gather to get passengers. It's hard to describe the scene, but imagine 30 or 40 15-passenger minibuses all crowded onto the same street with both a driver and a hawker shouting out their destinations and trying to woo local business. Meanwhile thousands of people walk through the buses looking for one going to their destination, and dozens of street vendors walk around selling cigarettes, flowers, fruit, etc. Diesel exhaust is everywhere, and the art of walking between moving buses and traffic takes some getting used to, but the easy way is just to find someone walking in the general direction you want to go and follow them -closely!

Kenyans are friendly folks, and several tried to strike up conversations with me as I walked around. Since it was 7pm locally I was trying to find a local Nando's which was supposed to be close by for dinner (Nando's is a South African fast food franchise). No luck. But as I walked along a man named John struck up a conversation, about where I'm from, how long am I in Kenya, what do I think of Nairobi, etc. He also helped me to fend off a panhandler on one street, though I did give the guy 500 shillings (about $4), much to John's disappointment. (He said it was for crippled children, not sure if that's true or not but it's hard to pass up.) John asked where I was going, and I told him I was looking for somewhere for dinner. "Are you vegetarian?" he asked, which I thought was strange. "Because if you are not vegetarian, there is a place down there which is good local food." I asked him if he would join me, and he agreed so we headed towards the place he recommended, which turned out to be this little hole-in-the-wall joint. I like local hole-in-the-wall joints, so it looked good.

Kenya is an easy place for Americans to visit because, as a fellow former British colony, English is widely spoken and almost all written materials are in English, which included the menu in this restaurant. Still I only recognized a couple of things which were clearly Indian (Chicken Tika and Chicken Curry), but I chose something called "Beef Fry". It was served almost immediately, and turned out to be some sort of beef-bits in a gravy, with something like spinach, and a large slab of something starchy like polenta or dry grits. It wasn't bad, and I washed it down with some sort of tangerine-soda. (By the way, Coca-Cola, who distributes most soda in Africa including the tangerine thing I had, still uses original Coke formula in glass bottles here - wonderful!).

During dinner I got to know John a little - he has a wife and 3 kids, ages 22, 15, and 11. The 22 year old is a step-son. He does temporary jobs for an Indian contractor in Nairobi, but work has been slow lately. He is often surprised that I know things about Kenya. He expected me to know that Obama's family is from Kenya (and, btw, Obama signs, stickers, and books for sale are very prominent in Nairobi). He was somewhat surprised that I had heard about the violence and problems Kenya had last year. He was completely floored when I said "You mean the violence between Kikuyu and Lua?". I explained that I have many friends who are in Kenya or who have been to Kenya. He found out I was Christian and he asked me about my church, and my mission trip to Congo next week, and told me about his "born again" experience.

He also asked me about America. Does America have panhandlers like we have here? Yes, maybe not so many but we do have them. Do Americans have problems finding jobs like we do? Again yes, but maybe not as bad. Why would America elect a black president from Kenya? Because we felt he was the best choice for the job. Are black people equal to white people in America? Legally, yes, but in reality the situation is more complicated. Do Americans have malaria? No, not like Africa. Do Americans have HIV/AIDS? Yes, but not like Africa.

And then, "Do Americans realize how fortunate they are?". No, I conceded, most probably don't.

After dinner we exchanged email addresses, and parted company. John headed to find a matutu, I walked back to the Hilton. I gave him a few dollars to help with his son's school bills, and he said he would pray for me next week. All in all, it was a great way to start my month-long Africa journey.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The journey begins?

Yesterday I took some friends to lunch at the SunDial restaurant in Atlanta. The goal was to find an interesting place where my friend Paul could get pictures taken of him, his wife, and their kids that he could show to his family back in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Now any trip to the SunDial is always interesting - for those who don't know the SunDial is the restaurant on top of the tallest hotel in the western hemisphere. It's a rotating restaurant on the 73rd through 75th floors of the Westin Peachtree Plaza hotel in downtown Atlanta, and normally offers gorgeous views of the entire metro Atlanta area over the course of a meal. But Sunday was different. Sunday was snowing. Hard. And since the SunDial's glass elevators are still blacked in after last year's tornado damage, you really couldn't tell we were 73 stories up. All you could tell was we were in a big restaurant with giant windows and a big swirling mass of clouds and snow outside. The SunDial's best asset - it's view - was totally useless.

In a way though that's a good place to start the story of my trip. Becuase the pictures Paul was taking, and is still taking in fact, are for me to bring to his family when I visit them in Kenya, Rwanda, and DRC this month. I'm spending most of March on a mostly personal trip into rural Africa, partly to help an old friend and partly becuase a new friend invited me. Mostly because I feel called to go, and I can't really explain why becuase you'll think I'm crazy. But I do know that what I usually think of as my best assets - my tech skills, and my business skills - are going to be as useless as the SunDial's view when I'm walking through a region with no electricity, no phones, and no businesses.

People ask me why I'm going, and when they do I've noticed there are two very distinct types of question. One is the question asked with a look that clearly indicates the questioner is trying to determine exactly how crazy I am and how much longer they can politely talk to me before they step back into somewhere or some topic that's more comfortable. It's the same way I treated the homeless woman shuffling through a Denver burger shop last month, who included each table in turn in her one-side conversation about how her kids had never been on welfare in Kentucky. "That's good." I told her, as I focused my attention on my french fries. "That's interesting" is the response I get from my uncomfortable friends as they too find something more comfortable to munch on.

The other people ask me why I'm going with a sense of envy and excitement and anticipation. These are the people who I think will seriously consider joining me on this trip next year, and hopefully some can make it work. It's not an easy thing to get away from work and civilization for a month, and I don't know that I'll be able to do it again either. But these are the friends who either understand the need of the people I'll be visiting, or the understand the need to see what life is like for a completely different culture than mine, and they share my excitement and my nervousness and my sense of responsibility, and I appreciate that.

So this Thursday the journey begins. I'll leave Thursday for DC, leave DC Friday morning for Kenya (28 hours from first takeoff to final touchdown, yikes!), and after a couple of days working with Computer Troubleshooters Kenya and buying some supplies I'll head to Rwanda where the real heart of the trip begins. The first week and last week of my 4 week trip will be spent in Rwanda, with my friend Jean's organization ARDR, helping them in their mission to imrove the quality of life for people in rural Rwanda, especially widows and orphans of the 1994 genocide. I was there last year and saw some of the work they do, and it's overwhelming in every sense of the word how much need there is in that part of the world. I met a woman in Rwanda last year who lost her family in the genocide, but still has a banana field. Once a month she cuts down a bunch of bananas, takes them to the market, and sells them for $20, and that's how she lives. Her dream in life is to one day be able to buy a wheelbarrow so she doesn't have to carry the bananas on her head.

The other two weeks of my trip are the ones I'm more concerned about, because we'll be going into areas where the woman with bananas would be considered well off. South Kivu is a province in DRC which has seen more than it's share of war over the last decade. It's relatively peaceful now (unlike North Kivu) but there are no guarantees it will stay that way. I know people from South Kivu, refugees I've met over the last two years who live near me and who sometimes go to my church. The stories they tell are often horrifying to American senses, and I won't repeat them here but suffice it to say that massacres, killing, raping, and starvation are a sadly normal part of their life. Their government is poor, far away, and really unable to care for them. The local armies only care about what they can use from them. The international community is rarely even aware of them. So into this world where injustice and poverty are the norm, a Christian group from Germany is going to show them that even when no one else cares, God cares for them. Thus the name of the group: GodCares. It's one of GodCares principals who invited me, a man named Nelson Mukiza who grew up in this area and is now a Canadian citizen. Nelson invited me, and I realize this is not an invitation that comes along every day, so I am going. I don't know what I'm going to do when I get there - my vision on that is just like yesterday's view from the SunDial, nothing but haze and fog and swirling shapes. But I know that I'm invited, and even if they don't have electricity or businesses to run I know I'll find some way to be helpful.

If you're following my blog, I would appreciate your prayers and support too. I will do my best to keep this space updated while I'm over there, and I've included some photos and other information on my other website, If all goes well I'll be back in the US on April 4th, no doubt exhausted and thinner and with many more interesting stories to tell.