Posted by: jmoler | June 16, 2010

Meru packing list

Mt. Meru: 14,980 feet. Taller than any mountain in the Rockies. We ascend from about 1,400, which is Arusha’s altitude. It’ll be the tallest mountain I’ve ever climbed, beating Mt. Elgon handily.

That's where I'll be Friday-Sunday!

The tour company booked us huts, so we won’t have to tent it.  The touring company is also providing everything but snacks to eat along the way, so if you’re worried that I seem to be hiking without food, that’s why.

  • -Rain jacket
  • -Fleece
  • -Zip-off hiking pants
  • -2 or 3 T-shirts
  • -1 or 2 long sleeve shirts
  • -2 pairs shorts
  • -2 pairs socks w/ liners
  • -fleece pants
  • -warm hat
  • -fleece gloves
  • -hiking shoes
  • -headlamp
  • -sun screen
  • -bug spray
  • -pocket knife
  • -deck o’ cards
  • -rudimentary first aid
  • -sunglasses
  • -sleeping bag
  • -water bottle
  • -timepiece
  • -camp sandals
  • -water treatment
  • -anti malarials
  • -hat
  • -TP
  • -toiletries
  • -snacks
  • -book, just in case I don’t want to chat with 10 other clowns I’m hiking with
  • -ipod, just in case I don’t want to listen to the 10 other clowns I’m hiking with

If you can’t tell, I’m super excited about the hike. If I forgot anything let me know.  You know, so that I don’t die on a mountain or anything.


Posted by: jmoler | June 16, 2010

African Creations: Pork and Pineapple Curry

So, some of you may not care about the work I’m doing or crazy adventures I’m having. BUT I’m sure you’re all super excited to hear what I’ve been eating! I’ve been cooking a lot, from curries to marinara sauce to fajitas.  Yesterday I made something particularly tasty, however: Pineapple Curry.


3 cloves garlic (minced)

1 piece ginger (minced)




curry powder


cayenne pepper/chili powder

1 red pepper

1 green pepper

3 bananas (sliced)

3 carrots

2 medium onions (sliced, diced, whatever)

1 pound sliced pork

1 medium pineapple (cubed)

coconut milk


Step 1

Put the oil, garlic, ginger, onions, black pepper, curry powder, and salt in a large pot and simmer for a few minutes, allowing the spices to mellow and the onions and garlic to cook.

Step 2

Add in the pork and red and green peppers.  Cook in the oil until the pork is browned on the outside.

Step 3

Add in pineapple, carrots, bananas and some water, but not enough to entirely cover all the ingredients; they’ll cook down quite a bit. Bring it to a boil and let it simmer.  Once it boils check it out to see if the seasoning is ok.  This is where I added a bit of cinnamon, some more curry, and some more salt and black pepper to even out the taste. As it cooks down it’ll get sweeter, so continue to monitor it.

Step 4

Once it has cooked down, the pineapple should be fairly mushy and the bananas should have pretty much dissolved. It should have a nice sweet flavor.  This is the point where I turned off the burner and mellowed out the curry a bit by stirring in some coconut milk. Serve over white rice.

Step 5


Posted by: jmoler | June 15, 2010

Meru and More

So. Work finally started to pick up, although not without its kinks and hiccups, which, of course, were tied to the ICTR computer people actually getting us set up. But I should really not bitch about that too much.  UN bureaucracy sucks. I need to deal with it. What has really been distracting business on the Tribunal is an incident between the Rwandan government and an attorney named Peter Erlinder. Basically a defence counsel at the ICTR went to Rwanda on non-ICTR business (he was defending an opposition leader who was recently arrested and charged with genocide denial.  The opposition leader was calling for Tutsis responsible for killings of Hutus to be charged with war crimes while visiting Tutsi genocide memorials).  Coincidentally the defence attorney, Erlinder, had filed a lawsuit against Kagame in the United States on the grounds of wrongful death for the assassination of the former presidents of Rwanda and Burundi (they were both killed in a plane crash in 1994, which was the spark for the genocide.  There’s debate as to which side shot the plane down; some blame the former government, while some blame Kagame’s RPF). Its a sticky situation and is big news at the Tribunal. Some of you might have heard about it because he teaches at William Mitchell, but I’m not sure how widely its been reported on. The fact that he has represented the accused on the tribunal has some of the defence counsel here rattled.

In terms of my own work, I finally have a pretty good handle on what I’m actually supposed to be doing at the Tribunal this summer.  Basically, the Karemera team of interns are going to be organizing all of the witness statements into a format that will be easier for the judges to issue their judgement when the time comes.  We’ll basically be gleaning the important facts from their testimony as well as analyzing witness impeachment issues.  We will also be doing some work on decisions in regards to motions filed by the different parties. Obviously I can’t talk about specific details, but I’m very excited about the work.  I’m currently working on drafting a decision to a motion, and once I have preliminary memo done I’ll present it to the legal officer and one of the Judges.  Pretty cool stuff.

Other than that, my spare time is generally been taken up by cooking, running, reading, and being social.  The marathon training is going ok, although there have been a couple kinks, mostly tied to being unable to run the day after my birthday and then missing a long run because I was feeling sort of faint. In general the training has been very solid, though, especially since the rainy season has ended. The only thing is that running during the week has been sort of inconvenient; we only have so much daylight, and not a lot after work, so if I do run, I basically have to do it before work, which means waking up around 6 AM.  I have less than two hours of decent daylight once I’m off work, and it probably wouldn’t be smart to run at night.  It’s working out fine with my training so far, but it will be trickier as my weekday runs get longer. In general I’ve been pretty good about keeping to my schedule, although my body has been a little slow to adjust for some reason.  My legs still feel a bit more sluggish than normal. Maybe it’s because I’m still trying to find some good routes and familiarize myself with the area.  Most of the paved roads are so congested that they’re extremely unpleasant and unsafe to run on, so I try to stick to the dirt roads which are too bumpy to take a lot of cars.  The downside to those is that I almost trip and kill myself at least once per run.  I’m  a very graceful human being, after all.

The other big news is that this weekend I’ll be hiking Mt. Meru, which is one of the tallest mountains in East Africa, at just under 15,000 feet. I’ll be leaving friday morning, getting back sunday night, and hopefully having some absolutely kick ass photos to post once I’m back. The nice thing is that the company we’re doing the hike through is providing most of the meals and lodging and transportation.  Basically the only thing we have to worry about is snacks. It’ll be the tallest mountain I’ve climbed, and I’m sure once I’m out hiking for a few days I’ll have a really strong urge to get back on the Appalachian Trail.  Still need to finish that sucker. Our group is 11, so it’ll be like the Traveling Circus all over again. The guys I’m hiking with all decided that we should grow out mountain beards for Meru, so I’ll have at least a weeks worth by summit day. It’s not going to be pretty.

The other big news is that the World Cup has started.  It’s been incredible to be in Africa for it.  The excitement is huge, even bigger than for the one in 2006.  The highlight so far was the England-US game.  The bar was about one third American, one third Tanzanian, and one third English/Canadian/Australian (they all cheered for the Brits). There was a whole lot of back and forth, but it was totally good-natured and a lot of fun. The Ghana game was absolutely amazing too.  Everybody was behind Ghana and everybody was going wild when they scored that goal. Good times all around.  It’s too bad I’ll miss the next game hiking.

Anyway, that’s all for now! Hope everybody is good!

Posted by: jmoler | May 27, 2010

Settling In

The summer in Arusha began in typical East African fashion; the ICTR forgot to pick us up from the airport. On the bright side, all of my bags made it to Tanzania, which was something I was really afraid wouldn’t happen. I didn’t do such a good job of spreading things out among bags, so I would have been pretty much without clothes if my luggage had been lost. From the airport we went to Ujamaa Hostel, a great little place that encourages long stays and volunteering.

The plan was simple; stay at Ujamaa in their dorm rooms for a couple days while we figured out housing for the summer. It sounded great in theory, but I wasn’t sure how it would work out in practice. I never had to deal with housing issues in the Peace Corps; it was one of those things that we could (usually) take for granted.

Ujamaa turned out to be a great choice for the first few nights in Tanzania. Between some friendly Americans and Aussies and the dedicated Tanzanian staff, we had more than enough people to show us the ropes. The first morning in Arusha one of the staff, Ommy, gave us a mini-guided tour of the area around the hostel, including some good places to jump on the internet and get some food. On top of that, some of the volunteers knew good places to get a cheap bite of local food and a good pharmacy (I decided to wait until getting to Tanzania to pick up my anti-malarials, so this was one of the first orders of business). The biggest things for me were to figure out how much things were supposed to cost and what things were called, since Tanzania uses Swahili. Matatus, for instance, are dolla-dollas. I’ve already picked up on some greetings as well, and hopefully I can pick up some Swahili this summer. In terms of prices, the main difference is that the ICTR and the proximity to tourist attractions makes Arusha a bit spendier than Uganda was.

Figuring out housing ended up taking about four days, just in time for us to avoid getting kicked out of the hostel because it was all booked up for Sunday night. Luckily, my supervisor at the ICTR emailed all of the interns on my case, the Karamera case, some housing information. The first real estate person I called ended up being immensely helpful and drove us around town to see five different prospective apartments. We settled on one that was nice, relatively cheap ($700 per month for a 3 bedroom apartment), and extremely close to town.

The most difficult aspect of adjusting to Arusha and Tanzania for me is definitely going to be the difference in safety. I’ve been urged by many, many people to be extremely careful and never walk around at night. I took the first few warnings with a grain of salt; we were given similar warnings during Peace Corps training back in Uganda, but I was rarely worried about walking around after dark, whether it be in Mbarara, Luwero, Ibanda, Kazo, or Kampala. Once in Tanzania, however, while volunteer and intern opinions differed on whether climbing Kilimanjaro was worthwhile, whether local food is any good, whether bargaining was worth the trouble (it is), the constant was that walking around in Arusha after dark is not safe. Tanzania is similar to Uganda in so many ways that it is difficult to believe that there’s such a difference in safety.

Things I missed from Uganda that I’ll get this summer:

*Krest and Stoney Tangawizi

* Chili Sauce

*500 ml beers

*Extremely friendly and helpful people

*East African and Indian Food (no really, I really missed East African food!)

*The pace of life. Its going to take a while for having free time and not a lot of stress to get old

Things I don’t miss:

* The word “muzungu”

* Getting hassled

Posted by: jmoler | May 17, 2010

Twenty twenty twenty four hours to go…

24 hours.  1,440 minutes. That’s the amount of time I have left before I board a plane for Detroit, and then Amsterdam, and then Nairobi, and finally Kilimanjaro. My pre-trip checklist has a refreshing number of lines drawn through it, and it seems like it won’t be a last minute packing job, for once.

The excitement that comes before embarking on something new is mingling with the joy at finishing another year of law school to form a surprisingly bittersweet feeling.  Its beautiful outside, and the sense  of relief is tangible. Many of my friends are operating without stress for the first time in nine months, and some of them are like different people, actually allowed to enjoy life for a change.  Its unfortunate that I’m leaving without really being able to appreciate people functioning at a much more fundamental level.  Then again, I leave Minnesota with my last mental snapshot being sunny 80-degree weather and most of my friends exuberant.  It’s not a bad way to go out (except for I did end up at Mondale during my last full day in the States… just can’t get away from that place).

Now, for packing.  I think I’ve got things figured out for the most part.  There’s not much on my list that wasn’t there when I went to Uganda in 2006, but there is a notable amount of stuff that’s absent, like spare batteries and way too many toiletries (with my current wisdom, I’m aware that you can buy things like batteries and toilet paper in Africa.  They even have deodorant!). One item on my packing list that I never expected to be bringing to Africa: my Bluebook. No summer in Tanzania is complete without it!

Posted by: jmoler | May 16, 2010

Pre-Tanzania Chatter

So, admittedly its been awhile.  The reason I’m even trying to post more frequently on this thing is because I’m probably going to be out of reliable internet contact for the next three months. For those of you who don’t know, I’ll be working in Arusha, Tanzania on the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda for the summer as an intern in the Judge’s Chambers.  Pretty cool gig, and it gets me back to Africa sooner than I expected.

For anybody who hasn’t been in touch and somehow found their way to this page, I just completed my second year of law school.  It’s gone pretty well so far, but ask me again in a year when I’m looking for a job and gearing up to spend a couple brutal months studying for the Bar exam.

As the time approaches for me to fly to Tanzania, I’ve been getting more and more nervous.  I’m not really nervous about the cultural stuff that was so difficult to navigate the first time I was in Africa, or for the lack of amenities (by all accounts Arusha is fairly modern).  What will be a little more interesting is that this summer I won’t have the safety net that I could rely on in Uganda.  There is no Peace Corps for me to call if I’m sick or in trouble, or just want to quit.  It’s exciting, but its daunting in a way that Peace Corps never was.

That being said, I’m really looking forward to the experience.  I’ll be meeting a lot of professionals and soon-to-be professionals who are actually functioning in the area of law (human rights prosecution) that I’ve gravitated to since starting law school.  Even more importantly, I’m going to see how that whole world actually functions; hopefully it will be a great experience that will reaffirm that I’ve chosen the right path for myself.

I’ll be flying out Tuesday afternoon and arriving in Arusha on Wednesday, so I’ll try to keep the updates coming!

Posted by: jmoler | October 5, 2008

It’s gonna be an ugly month…

So breaking away from the biographical posts, which will continue to come every once in a while, I’m baffled by the way the presidential campaign is going.  Why would McCain a) make a big deal about pulling out of Michigan, like it’s a good thing and b) announce to everybody that he’s about to go uber-negative on Obama for the last month.  It’s one thing to do these things, it’s something else entirely to announce to the entire country that you’re going to do it.  Neither of these strike me as announcements that will help his campaign.  Last time I checked people were upset by the way campaigns were being run.  Is McCain going to bash Obama and then have his “Change is Coming” banner to end the ads?  I just don’t get it.  It seems like from the debates and the campaign so far that going negative hasn’t been a winning strategy.  Maybe it isn’t the negativity that has been turning voters off, its that McCain hasn’t being going negative enough.

Posted by: jmoler | October 5, 2008

Meandering to the Present, Part II

The thing that surpised me the most about living in Uganda for two years was that once the initial shock and the initial adjustment period wore off, life went on pretty much as usual.  Yes, there is poverty, and occasionally it can be staggering.  There are many more “have nots” than “haves.” But pretty soon you realize that you can get by with what you have and not really miss the things that are gone.  No computer or television?  Read a book.  No electricity?  Use a lantern.  No McDonalds or KFC?  Matooke, matooke, matooke, every single day!  (Matooke is steamed, mashed, plantains.) Initially I missed checking my email every 10 minutes and being able to retrieve any information I wanted to with the click of a mouse.  I found ways to get news, however.  I grew to love my little hand-crank radio and to this day I miss my lazy afternoons with a book and my BBC News.

Life could be stressful and difficult, but it was also sometimes beautifully simple.  I had to be self sufficient and I had to learn to do things that I’d never done before.  I took bucket baths.  I washed my clothes by hand.  I would haul 20 liter jerrycans of water to and from the well or the rainwater tank.  I cooked and did my dishes, same as always except for a keen new appreciation for conserving water.  No running water and sporadic electricity sounds difficult, but it was by far the easiest stuff to get used to.

My House in Ibanda

My House in Ibanda

What was difficult was the culture; the sense of otherness.  With some people I overcame it, and with many others I knew I was always the muzungu (white person).  It was difficult to see myself as part of the community at times.  Some of my cultural values were starkly different and when things became difficult it could be easy to place myself outside of the community.  For the first year it was always in the back of my mind that if I really wanted to I could be on a plane back to the United States in a week.

Things really started to change for me once I moved sites from a trading center called Kazo to a small town called Ibanda.  My assignment in Uganda was to work as a teacher trainer.  Uganda is trying to establish public schools, and there is a dearth of qualified teachers.  The Peace Corps’ education program is trying to help with this problem.  Volunteers like me are posted to teacher colleges.  The colleges then assign us to work at the primary school level at a “Model School.”  We worked in concert with headteachers (principals) and Coordinating Center Tutors (CCT) to work the with teachers in the surrounding schools.  Kazo, my first site, was not a good situation.  I suspected my headteacher of being corrupt and it became apparent that my CCT was not doing his job.  The headteacher was only interested in grants, and whenever he would come up with a budget it would ALWAYS come out to be the maximum allowable budget under a particular grant.  He offered no support for programs to improve the teaching methods of the area teachers, which is the whole goal of the education program.  In addition, my community was slow to accept me because their previous volunteer had been kicked out for bad behavior.  I was not getting any work done and becoming increasingly frustrated.  Five months into my service I decided to get my site changed.  If it didn’t work, I was going to quit.

I got in touch with the Principal of St. George’s Teacher College, the college I was posted to.  Initially when I arrived at site he had expressed interest in working closely with me and Stoops, the other volunteer who had been posted to St. George’s.  At the time we were teaching at the college two days per week.  I told him about my lack of work at site and that I was interested in working more closely with the college.  He wanted me to help the college start an ICT program and agreed to write the Peace Corps to request that I move closer to the college.  I talked to my supervisor at the Peace Corps, and he agreed that it would be best for me to move to where I had more work.  The only problem was I didn’t know where I was going to live or when I would move.  So for the time being, I waited.

Posted by: jmoler | September 27, 2008

Meandering to the Present, Part I

This is my first stab at a blog in quite a while.  My time in Uganda made doing a blog unrealistic; I had internet access maybe two or three times a month until I had about 3 months left.  It just didn’t leave me the time to do a decent job.  This will basically be my musings on law school, life, and politics. For those of you reading (it may be presumptuous, but I’m going to assume some people bother to read) I’ll give you a brief rundown of how exactly I ended up where I am: in law school at the University of Minnesota.

At one point in time I was a biology major at Carleton.  I fully expected to go and get a PhD.  Toward the end of my time at Carleton, however, I realized that I didn’t actually enjoy spending time in the lab.  It was tedious and repetitive.  I loved learning the stuff, but it just didn’t excite me all that much to think of myself doing lab research for the forseeable future.  So instead of applying to grad school I sent in an application to the Peace Corps and jumped on the Appalachian Trail with Brendan, a friend of mine from high school.  The trail was a great experience.  It got me into great shape and I felt good about being me.  Walking every day gives you a lot of time to think.  By September of 2005 I realized that I was using up what little money I had way too fast every time I made it to a town.  I also realized that I wanted to get out of the woods and get my life started.  So I got off the trail.  It still eats at me a bit that I got off the trail before I absolutely had to.  I hate not finishing things.  I’ll go back and finish it eventually.

The Mahoosuc Notch, Maine

The Mahoosuc Notch, Maine

Brendan, My Hiking Partner

Brendan, My Hiking Partner

My life didn’t “get started” quite as fast as I’d hoped.  I heard from the Peace Corps soon after I returned to Ann Arbor.  I was going to teach science in Burkina Faso.  As you can imagine, I was excited to live in a place where people were cool enough to name their capital “Ouagadougou.” There was a catch, however.  Once I received my assignment I heard absolutely NOTHING from the Peace Corps about what was going on.  Sometime in November I called the Washington office to see if they still remembered who I was.  It was then that I found out, “Ooops, your program was delayed until June, but we forgot to tell you.  So sorry!”  Me being the go getter that I am, I asked them if they could move me to a different program. Begrudgingly, agreed to put me in the Uganda Teacher Trainer program.  I wasn’t so sure about the whole teacher training thing since my teaching experience included one semester of being a lab TA at Carleton and four months of substitute teaching.  “What the hell,” I figured, “I’ll give it a try.”

In March of 2006 I boarded a plane for Boston.  After three days of preparation in Boston 37 of us set off on a very long trip to Uganda.

Posted by: jmoler | September 27, 2008

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