Saturday, October 6, 2007

40 degrees C, A new friend, and Loss of appetite

Vendredi 5 Octobre 2007 (Friday October 5, 2007) So, I set my computer clock to French. One small step in the right direction if you ask me. Two days have past since I last wrote, so I will start with yesterday. I went to work and was desperately trying to fall asleep all morning. Around 10:30 Ouaga time, 5:30AM Chicago time, my brother signed on to Skype. We had arranged to talk the day before. It was great. The connection was great and it was the first time I had gotten to talk to my family I got here. Skype is free which makes this the preferred method of communication. In the middle of the call as I was gripping about not being able to get off the Institute campus, Drew called me. I met drew the day before. He is an American also interested in hydrology, groundwater to be more specific, and he is working with the IRD in Ouagadougou. He was also here two years ago for the peace corps so he is pretty familiar with everything. He wanted to know if I had been to the US Embassy yet. Of course I hadn’t so he offered that we could go there and have lunch at the American Rec Center. It was pretty cool. He had a moto bike, so I rode on the back. It was kind of surreal at first. Motoring along down the main streets of this third world country, I think I was on sensory overload. I went into town on Monday with Ali in a car to get my essentials, but they didn’t explain much and we drove too quickly for me to really get a good idea of what was there. The American Rec center was cool. I think I would like to join either that one or the one at the ISO, International School Ouagadougou. It costs like $20/month for membership or $2/visit. Anyway, at the restaurant I got a chicken salad sandwich and a milkshake which was very good. Jordan and Ryan, you guys would really like them. Very sweet and creamy. After lunch we rode around to buy a map of the city for me so I could better understand where I was and know how to go somewhere if I wanted to. The problem is that pretty much everything closes down here between 12-3. It is crazy! I mean it is pretty nice when you are working and then realize you have a 3 hour break in the middle of your day. The work doesn’t even seem that long which is good. Side bar: The bank we rode past after lunch said it was 40degrees C outside which is roughly 104F. When I said hot, I wasn’t lying…

Drew dropped me back off at 2iE so I would there in time to take a call from Professor Soboyejo at Princeton we had scheduled the day before. Turns out though, that he had a scheduling conflict and we had to move the time. No problems Prof. Maiga and I at 2iE called him later that afternoon. The call was to discuss how I would help connect the work at Princeton on clay filters with the work here on gravel pre-filters. Basically, now I have to come up with a document describing the area where there is a material science component that Princeton can coordinate with us on. That is what I will start on Monday (Lundi).

After work I decided it had been too long since I last worked out and decided to try out the workout DVD Ryan had so kindly created for me. It was great. Oh, sidebar, it rained in the afternoon here. It was bizarre. I look outside and all of the sudden it is really really windy and then snap it started down pouring. The rain lasted less than 10 minutes and then it was over. BUT it effects lasted a while. It was SO humid. Like Alabama humid. Like ehh, nasty humid. But regardless of this fact I decided I needed to sweat a little bit. So I set my computer on top of the mini fridge in my completely vacant living room and started dancing around. My workout of choice is Buns of Steel 2000 “Platiun Edition”. It is quite choice. A little aerobics a little toning. Anyway, I finished dripping with sweat and decided that instead of taking a shower right away like a normal person would, I am still avoiding the shower, I would unpack my stuff into the room. I put my clothes in the closet, shoes under the bed and arranged my desk. Man, I wish I had internet in my room. I also wish I had brought some DVDs for entertainment. I might try and remedy that in the near future. Once I felt adequately moved in I took a shower. And wouldn’t you know they got me shower curtain. Hallelujah! It was way nicer showering now. I went to through more French lessons and then crawled into my mosquito net bed and went to sleep. I read for quite some time before I turned off my headlamp. Major props to Caroline who decided a headlamp would be more useful to me than a Joy of Cooking book as a graduation present. Right now I am reading “Cadillac Desert” a book about the American west and water. It is well written and I am really enjoying it :)

So onto today. I woke up with a major weird feeling my stomach. I should mention that last night after working out, organizing, and showering I ate dinner in my room which consisted of a bowl of Red Berry Special K with skim milk and bread. Yum… Anyway, I work feeling not so great. After headed to the restroom I took 2 Imodium AD and went back to sleep after I texted the office that I wasn’t feeling good and would be in late. No problems on that end of things so I slept another and got up feeling better, but still a bit blah… I couldn’t eat breakfast as the thought of food made me queasy. By lunch time though I was feeling better and got lunch at the restaurant. It was a yam stew. I had about a third of what they gave me and didn’t touch the fish, which is still not looking very appetizing. I sat with some new people at lunch which was nice. I tried out a little French and did ok. After lunch though I went back to my room and took a hour nap before heading back to office to do some personal online stuff before 3:00. Not that anyone seems to care what I am doing all day long. I do feel like for the most part when I am there I should be working on my research stuff. And then, surprise an email from Drew about the housing question I had and the motorbike rental/purchase I am thinking about making. Drew likes to run and I mentioned in my return email that I would like to run sometime and practice a little French with someone who is a little more patient than the students at the cafeteria. Drew is going to Togo this weekend to visit his fiancée who is the peace corp there so he suggested we go tonight at 6:00pm. I wrote back that sounded good. Then I remembered my weak stomach and well it gets dark here around 6:15 and I hadn’t been outside of the campus at night. But I figured I could gut out the run and I would appreciate getting to see Ouaga at night. It was cool. The roads we took were not as nice as the ones the day before and let me tell you holding on on a motorbike as it goes over potholes is not easy. So we were going to go to a forest preserve type forest, but we figured it would be closed since it was night time. So instead we kept going and drove to a barrage (or a reservoir) that is lighted. It was pretty cool. We parked the motorbike at what Drew described as probably the nicest hotel in Ouaga, and made one loop around the reservoir. I did fine. But as I was running I realized I hadn’t put on any bug spray there were a ton of bugs. I hope everything turns out okay with that… One loop was all I was up for so we headed back to 2iE. On the way back we took a detour to see where the ISO school was located. It is not far from me at all. There are also a ton of people out at night. I don’t think I would like to go out alone, but it wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be. They only really bad thing was that there was a ton of smoke in the air that smelled terrible. I guess they burn a lot of plastic here and man can you tell. Phew, it smelled terrible. The little huts are all open at night, which is good to know. Once I got back I determined to eat something. Still not feeling great I realized I really just lost my appetite. I sat at my desk, all alone, staring at my cup of yogurt. I forced myself to eat it and wasn’t any worse off. I also managed to down two digestive crackers, which if you heard anything about my London experience it probably included how much I love these little biscuits. They are so tasty. A bit like a butter cookie, but not as sweet and bigger. I also broke into one of my power bars and had a bit. That proved a little too sweet for my stomach so one bite was all I took. I will put in the refrigerator for later. So tomorrow I have a 2iE group meeting from 9-11 that occurs every week and the researchers go over their work that week. I think I am just observing this week. My work so far has included reading books and articles and webpages online to learn about pre-filter gravel beds, flocculation and slow sand filtration. As I am reading these things I get some pretty new ideas of ways to clean water, like a vortex thing, or maybe using solar heat to boil water and collect the steam on a clean surface.

So the water situation scene here is pretty bad. I didn’t realize it since I am at the institute and have a pretty western style room, ect. But when Drew and I were riding around downtown Ouaga it was pretty astonishing. We were on this dirt road near some new construction and I saw a cart on the side of the road with full of water bottles. Like they were for sale or something. That is all well and good, but the water in the bottles was brown like brown, brown, like you can’t see through it brown. Wow. That is pretty gross. But poor people here don’t have any other option I guess… Drew mentioned that Ouagadougou is one of the nicer African cities he has seen. Ouaga has an up and coming feel to it, like you see new building going up and there are cars and nicer things some places. I guess the other cities a much more stagnant feel. If this is good, then I can’t imagine the water situation else where. Since turbidity, or clarity, of the water is the main inhibitor to using effective slow sand filtration, I am going to work on using chemical techniques as the institute is proposing, but I am also thinking I would like to experiment with wholly new ways to remove the suspended sediments. I am going for outside the box here… Bottom line is that it is pretty sobering to see the state of water here. And it is SO hot. Without good water, what can you do?!

Closing observations:

1. I really feel like I am getting a much clearer view of what living without clean water in a developing country really looks like.

2. The reservoir was pretty amazing. Also, the water along the edges was very turbid from the recent rain which carries sediment to the waters.

3. The door to the communal kitchen is across from mine, and I frequently think that my door is opening when it is really the door across the way. Freaky. But the nice thing is my door gets stuck as you open it so you have to push really hard to open and close it which is annoying, but also a nice safeguard.

4. I emailed the people at the Christian Missionary Alliance in Ouagadougou to see about getting connected with them. My church in Princeton was and Alliance church and I am hoping to make some friends how have experienced the transition I making that can help me get acclimated. I will let you when I hear back from them :)

5. There are housekeepers that wash my floors everyday and today they gave me fresh sheets. Nice.

Bon nuit! (Goodnight)