Thursday, December 13, 2007

Buckle your seatbelts, this one is super long...

Writing my last mass update has taken up the time I has normally used to write this update, that is why is coming so late. Since there is much to go over I am sure I will have to do this into three parts. So here is what I am thinking for the divisions.

1. Bianca’s Village Trip
2. Weekend
3. Work Week

So, here goes:

1. The trip to visit Bianca was altogether awesome. There were many challenges we faced along the way, but we maintained a good attitude toward things and instead of making the trip the miserable they made the trip memorable.

Before leaving on Wednesday, the rest of my day on Tuesday was crazy. I was thankfully able to submit my Columbia application without a problem after I got the corrections back from my Mom. However, my Stanford application which I turned in on Sunday was posing a bit more of a problem. 48 hours after submitting the actual application I had to access my account again and upload a plain text version of my essay and a copy of my transcript. Because of the large volume of applications, mine hadn’t been processed yet, so I couldn’t add the information. BUT knowing I was leaving the next day I wasn’t sure what to do because I would definitely miss the deadline if I didn’t do it before I left. I emailed the program coordinator and left the office not sure what would happen, but sure I would be going back to my office later that night to finish it up.

Dinner Tuesday night ended up being really fun. Since it was Marcia’s last night in Burkina, Marcia, Susan and I all went to Gondwana’s for dinner. I got the mustard steak which was very very good. Oh, quick aside. I was planning on just eating dinner at the café, but I went and they were out of food! One of the students I am friends with was there as well and so he offered that we could walk to go buy some bread. I was like, okay sounds good. Just bread for dinner is a bit odd, but ok. I am still not quite sure how this all came about really, but we walked to this little kiosk at the main university. I bought half a loaf of bread, plain, and I was waiting for him to buy something. Then he tells me that wants head out to some other restaurant. I was not up for eating out with him, so I went back to 2iE and he continued on. It was bizarre, lack of communication for sure. But at least I had some bread for breakfast the next morning.

Back to Gondwana’s. After the meal we walked back which was not my preferred mode of transportation, but it got us back. After returning to 2iE I went to my office to once and for all finish the Stanford essay. But no luck. I waited until 10:30 for an email allowing me to access my account and it didn’t come and I did not want to keep waiting my office that late at night. So I did a little math in my head and realized if I got up at 5:30 the next morning it would still be before midnight in California. I would have to be at the bus station by 6:30 anyway so it wasn’t too much earlier. So I left my office and went back and packed for my trip. I was really easy to pack since Bianca has all the everyday type things I would need… like food, soap, a mosquito net, ect :)

I hit the hay at midnight-ish, and let me tell you 5:30 came really quickly. I got up alright but what I hadn’t anticipated was it still being dark outside. Creepy. But I went to my office and everything worked out swimmingly. I got to the bus station on time and found Bianca without a problem.

The bus station was a small lot packed with 8 buses. We bought our tickets and then joined the huddle of people around the bus. Bianca made sure my bike got packed in the bus storage. They just smash stuff in, more stuff than you would ever imagine. And my favorite part was the guy who came around with masking tape numbering the items. Like that is going to stop someone from taking my bike…

The bus left pretty much on time and drove through Ouaga to second station to pick up more passengers. No problems here. We also had to watch that my bike stayed on the bus because they have been known to trade out items if you aren’t watching. Leaving Ouaga it seemed like it would be fun and fancy free, yet very full bus ride to Bapla, Bianca’s village. Boy were we wrong. After passing the toll booth to leave Ouaga the bus stopped. At first we though there was an accident because there were a lot of vehicles stopped. BUT no. It was a papers control. Essentially the government shut down the roads to all commercial vehicles who did not have the right papers. Some bus companies had the papers, ours did not. You would think it wouldn’t take too long for someone from TSR, our company to bring us the papers, it didn’t take us too long to get here… so, what’s the problem right? The problem is this is Africa. We waited 5 hours at the papers control. It was insane, but I was in surprisingly good spirits. Aside from arriving at night and missing the market day it wasn’t that bad. But considering I only had 3 days with Bianca and we lost one on transport, I was a bit sad.

One cool thing about the trip was at the bus stops people come up to bus and try to sell things. This might sound annoying at first, but it was really pretty cool. Like a Burkina style drive through. You could buy water, coke, sprite, apples, bread, peanuts, ect…

When we got off the bus at Bianca’s village it was SO dark. Well naturally because there are no lights. Standing by the bus waiting for them to get our stuff out these kids came up and wanted to help me with my bike and bags. Bianca was around the other side and I was like, uh what do I do? BUT turns out those were her courtyard kids, or her family here essentially. phew. Entering Bianca’s courtyard I met her family which was fun. She has her own little hut within the compound area. She also has her own latrine. These are Peace Corps regulations. The inside of her house is painted blue and there is a kitchen/living room and then a second room for her bed. She has a very nice set up considering there is no electricity and no running water. I really liked roughing it. I felt like I was really in Africa :) We made a quick pasta side dish that her parents had sent in a care package for dinner and then went out and sat with the dad of the household and drank some dolo. Dolo is the local brew made out of various different grains. It’s like their beer. I have decided it is an acquired taste that I haven’t quite acquired yet. I should also explain that the family is polygamous. Which is pretty weird, and not really something I agree with. But, it was interesting to learn from Bianca how it all works. So the first marriage was arranged and that is the first wife who is the boss. The second marriage was not arranged and the man of house and the second wife have stayed together. So it’s not like a simultaneous marriage. It is almost like he divorced the first wife for the second wife but keeps her around to run the household.

How the kids are raised is also kind of interesting. Even though there are multiple adults around, mothers, aunts, fathers, uncles, ect. the kids don’t differentiate. The kids call all the women Mom and all the men Dad. Some of the kids in the courtyard are the grandkids of the first wife. Their parents have gone to city to work and left the kids to be raised in the village. Don’t ask me. I don’t get it either. All I know is I now understand the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.”

I slept soundly the first night. It was nice to go to bed so early. Without lights to trick your body into staying awake you get tired very early. We got up and made oatmeal for breakfast. Bianca gave me a tour of her courtyard in the daylight and we walked to the reservoir and through the mango grove her papa owns. After this exploration we got our bikes and rode about 30 minutes down the road to where a women’s group Bianca has been working with was supposed to be meeting. Surprise. No one was there. So instead we rode pretty far off the main road into the bush to find one of Bianca’s friend’s house. She wasn’t home either. Sad. On the way back we stopped by this little shack that was advertising Coca-cola, but it was closed too! This is Africa. I would also like to mention that on the bus trip to Bianca’s the bus company really smashed my bike in tight and bent the back wheel. We stopped at bike repair corner and the guy worked on it, but it still isn’t fixed. I was planning on getting it looked at back in Ouaga, but haven’t had the chance.

For lunch we made another instant side, some garlic pasta stuff which was kind of runny. We also mixed some tuna with mayonnaise, which they don’t refrigerate here…, and seasoned salt. We put this on some very stale bread we had, which when sliced and topped with tuna actually tasted like a great cracker. It was the closest to gourmet cooking we were going to get. In the afternoon we took a nap and then watched Luci do Io’s hair. Io is a local girl who the family pays to help work at the house. Adolf was kicking around a bunch of plastic bags made into a ball with another kid. After they were done we invited the kids that live in Bianca’s courtyard to help decorate for Christmas. There are three young kids, Adolf 6, Luci 9, and Remi 13. Bianca has a mini tree and a bunch of ornaments, a crèche, and other nick-nacks. The kids had a blast :) And afterwards Adolf got to color. Bianca also got this card sent to her that plays music. It plays the Chris Tomlin Indescribable song and the kids call it the radio and will play it over and over and over. The cutest thing is Adolf likes to try to sing the song too, and he actually gets pretty close!

For dinner we had “to” to eat pronounced toe like the little things on your feet. It is a very tasteless dish, basically grain that is mixed with water to make a think paste they let sit to congeal. The “to” however takes on the favor of the sauce that goes with it. Lucky for us the sauce was good. We ate with our hands as is the custom. I didn’t mind except the sauce was really hot and my fingers kept getting burned. Normally everyone eats out of the same bowl, but for sanitary reasons only Bianca and I ate out of our own bowl. I luckily avoided having anymore dolo that night and Bianca and I watched Hook on her computer. Sitting in the dark room watching the glow of the computer made it seem like we could have been anywhere, like in my house in Crete.

The next morning, Saturday, we got up and made pancakes for breakfast. Yummy. We also made syrup from boiling sugar and water with some apples into. It made a great topping. After breakfast we rode down the road to visit Bianca’s friend Beldine. Seeing her courtyard, it was clear that Bianca’s family, while her papa is not the chief of the village, is still very well off comparatively. After meeting Beldine we all traveled to another women’s house named Jean. I offered to take their pictures and they were so funny. They went and changed clothes and found matching pagnas, or skirts. You’ll have to see it in the pictures. Jean also gave me a bag of peanuts as a present. Not sure what the heck I would do with them I was like, uh ok thanks! We rode back to Beldine’s and I took pictures of her and her mother. She was very regal looking. They added to the peanuts Jean had given me so now I had many many peanuts. One other thing. At Jean’s house there were some children around, as usual. But one little girl had what looked like a softball in her little pink full body sleeper thing kids used to wear all the time in the states. You know the full body jumper things with the zippers from the toe to the neck. Anyway, turns out was belly button problem. I looked it up when I got back and essentially what happens is there is a weakness in the muscle wall near where the belly button is and it herniates allowing some of the intestines to push through. It likely won’t kill you, and most cases heal during childhood, but others don’t heal and can cause problems later in life. When we asked the women about it they said was where the “to” went when she ate it and laughed. I was like, HUH? Are you kidding. They just don’t have any conception of medicine and ailments needing attention.

Getting back to Bianca’s we quickly packed up and left for Diebougou to catch the bus. We got there early to go to the post office, visit the forest for all of 5 minutes, get lunch and visit the market. Bianca got three letters in the mail which I thought was impressive. The forest was cool, literally in the shade. Lunch was nice. We went to this place that is supposedly a hotel, but we didn’t see any rooms anywhere. I ate couscous. After lunch we scoped out the market. I was looking for a pagna. They are cheaper to buy in the village. I found one I liked and paid 1500CFA for it with the help of a little bargaining. The pagnas can be used as towels as well which is why I wanted one. That is what I used when I showered at Bianca’s. Which I should note, the showers at Bianca’s house were none existent because there was no running water. So I had to “bucket bath” where you have a bucket of water and a smaller cup and scoop up the water and then pour it over yourself to wash. At first I was a little skeptical, but after trying it it was super fun. Way more fun than a regular shower. This actually makes you feel like you have accomplished something when you are done.

Back to Diebougou. From the market we rode to the bus station, bought our tickets and waited. The bus was supposed to come at 3:00, but it came at 4:30 instead. Nice. The bus was packed as usual and Bianca had to sit next to this women who was eating nasty dried fish out of a bucket. You had to laugh to stop yourself from getting mad or sick from the smell. As we went along, instead of people getting off at each stop like on the way to the village, people kept getting on! There were at least 7 people standing in the aisle for a like 4 hour bus ride. Can you imagine? We were also stopped twice for paper controls on the way back, but they were quick stops since this time our driver had the papers. We didn’t get back to Ouaga until 9:45. At this point, Bianca was headed to the Peace Corps hostel and I was going back to 2iE. Bianca didn’t have her bike with her, but it wasn’t far to walk. I walked with her part of the way and then we split and I rode like the wind back to 2iE. I went along the main rode. There plenty of people out and I was fine, but I don’t like to out at night by myself. I was riding SO FAST. It is amazing how you don’t feel tired when you have a ton of adrenaline pumping. I got back fine, I showered to get all the grime off and fell sound asleep.

The last thing I want to write about the village trip is a reflection on my work in Africa. Living in a village, while even only for 3 days, really opened my eyes to how much the problems of drinking water and sanitation are deeply rooted into the culture. The people don’t use pit latrines. They go pee on concrete slabs where the pee drains out a little hole on side just onto the ground. If they need to go number two they go out to the woods and go. Just a question, where do they think all that is going to go when it rains. Well I’ll tell you. Right into the supply of water stored in the barrage that they for many things. They don’t get that the stuff that comes out of your body is what makes you sick with diarrhea. It’s all linked. Even if they have clean water, if their hands are dirty when they are drinking it what’s the point. There needs to be a change in mind set, an understanding of how hygiene is important.

Other random village stuff:
The family has a white dog they called, la blanche, or the white. When Bianca first moved in she thought they were calling her all the time, instead of the dog.

There are chickens everywhere and they many look cool, but in the morning the roosters are annoying and they poop all over the place. Not cool.

At night we went up on a roof to look at the stars. They were SO pretty.

The bike trip to Deibougou was like 40 minutes. This is what Bianca has to do everytime she wants to use the internet or charge her phone or computer. Crazy.

2. My weekend after the village trip was awesome. Truly awesome. I went to the holiday fair at the ISO school. It started at 8:00. I got there about 8:30 and found Bianca. She had a meeting in the morning so wanted to do her shopping before she had to go to that. It was like an American style craft fair, but with all African handicrafts. They booths were setup under tents. I made a list before I came so I knew what I was looking for. I was able to get everything on my list and a few other things as well. I spent what felt like a lot of money, but was really only like $45, and I bought some things I saw at the village artisinal that I had eventually wanted to buy. You know before I left, and I figured why wait until I’m about to leave if, I buy it now I will enjoy it longer. I got a really neat ring, a stone crèche, candle holders and these really neat shish-cabob sticks with these gold African figurines on the back. I figure they will make a great conversation piece at future dinner parties I am already planning for when I get home :)

After Bianca left I ran into my friend Maggie and went around with her to all different tables. Then Leanna had a break from working at the snow cone station she was helping run to raise money for the prom, so I walked with her as well. I was out of money having only brought a few thousand CFA with me. So I rode to the bank at 11:45 thinking it would close at noon. Wrong. It closed at 11:00. BUT I’m standing there writing down the hours so I know in the future when to come and a guy opens the doors and asks me what I want. I tell him I want to make a withdrawl and he lets me in. I get my money and wouldn’t you know they ask me for my phone number. I tell them I don’t have a cell phone, silently praying for the phone in my bag not to ring at this exact moment and tell them instead to give me there number. This works fine and I promptly deposit in the number in my waste basket the place where the many numbers I have gotten here have ended up. I mean really. Do they think I am going to call them?

After the bank incident I head back to ISO to pick up one last thing and run into Maryellen. It was so nice to see her and so of course I went around to the tables again this time with her. By now I was an expert and finding things and knowing prices. We also stopped and got some lunch which consisted of spring rolls basically, and two snowcones. Can you blame me? It was hot outside and they had raspberry lemonade flavoring!

I finally left at 2:00pm. I went back to my house and admired all my purchases :) I then packed up my bag and headed out to Orca. Orca is the closest thing to a Walmart here. It was first time at Orca and I wanted to check out the prices of hairdryers. I have been wearing my hair in a pony tail for 2 months straight and it is driving me crazy. I like my hair, and want to wear it down. I saw one at Marina Market for like 7500CFA but wanted to check Orca before I bought anything. The ones at Orca started at 12500CFA, so I crossed my fingers and headed to Marina hoping they still had some left. Who was I kidding of course they had some left. Who buys a hair dryer in West Africa where is it super humid? While I didn’t buy anything at Orca I was glad I went to get an idea of what they have and the prices. At Marina I picked up a couple other items including Christmas window stickies. I used them to decorate my front door which is half window and my mirrors. Nice little Christmas touches.

After Marina I headed to the rec center and ran 6 miles. I felt awesome. I was also super excited and looking forward to blow drying my hair after I showered. All together an awesome workout. I rushed home and showered because Leanna was coming to get me to hang out and decorate her place for Christmas. I did, however, stop to buy some fruit which was great; 2 bananas, a papaya and an orange. Leanna came to get me a little early so she waited while I dried my hair with my new dryer. This was fine except I was super disappointed because my hairdryer wasn’t working very well at all. It was pretty weak and not very hot and then it started smelling like it was burning. I was so MAD. There are no return policies here so I figured I was out $15. I learned never to buy electronics without first testing them out. At Leanna’s, Ben, Will, Tyler, Maggie, Bianca, Leanna and I turned the house into a Christmas wonderland. She has a full size tree with tons of ornaments, all sorts of garland and wall hangings for the house it is pretty darn incredible. We also had pizza for dinner yum! And then we watched a movie. We watched Ratatoulli which I really enjoy, but I could tell not everyone liked it. Oh well. I laughed a lot. But in retrospect I can see why the whole rat thing can be kind of gross after a while. ALSO, it was my Dad’s Birthday so I called him on the computer to wish him a Happy Birthday and tell him I ran the 6 miles that day in his honor. It was a perfect day, minus the hairdryer let down. Perfect, EXCEPT I realized at like 11pm that night that I left my ipod shuffle in the cup holder of the treadmill, just like I did my phone, but I didn’t realize it in time to get it back.

Sunday I got up very early to go to the rec center to look for my ipod, but no luck. I made up a sign to post asking for who ever took it to please return it. I went to church at the International Church Ouagadougou. The service was in English which was a nice change in pace. It went very long though. I did get back in time for lunch at the cafeteria. I spent the afternoon talking with my parents and writing my December update. At 5:00 Drew came over to use my oven to bake a cake for his fiancé whose Birthday it was on Monday. The oven in his house doesn’t work, so I offered mine. I was glad to see it put to good use. He made a carrot cake which only cooked for like 30 minutes before it was convincingly done. I was surprised since carrot cakes usually cook for a long time, but this one was thinner so I am guessing that is why it cooked faster. I left with Susan at 6:30 and we rode our bikes to the Embassy for a short concert of gospel music. It was excellent. Funny enough I had met some of the singers in church that morning! It is a small world in Burkina Faso. After the concert Susan came with me to the rec center to help me put up my poster. We talked to the workers and were able to recover the head phones, but not the device itself. It’s a start. I keep hoping it will show up. I plan to offer a reward, but every time I have gone to the center the manager is gone and I want to talk to him before I do anything about it.

3. My work week was, in one word, exhausting. I don’t want to go through each day in detail, but I will do a quick summary. This week started my actual lab work. Finally! I get mad if I think about the fact it 2 months for them to get this far. On Monday, I worked on making up a sampling schedule which was a good exercise, but frustrating because after I made it Konate tells me all this stuff about the experiments which I wish I had known when I was coming up with the schedule because the schedule I made up is virtually impossible. My French lesson on Monday went well. We are doing more reading which is really helping me. I am glad I talked to my teacher about changing the style of the lessons. Monday during lunch I saw Pascal who had sent me two slightly worrisome text messages saying he missed me while I was gone. I didn’t reply to them and when he asked about them I said I was very busy. I haven’t heard from since so I think he got the message. It is sad because I want to be his friend, but here sometimes you can’t even be friends because they just don’t get that concept.

So Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday night of this week I watched Grey’s Anatomy. On Monday night I also cutout snowflakes and cut papers for Christmas cards. I wanted to buy African Christmas cards, but hadn’t been able to find them. A girl named Colleen, also in the Peace Corps, who Bianca and I ran into on the bus to Bapla is going home for Christmas and offered to bring my cards for me and send them in the states when she gets back. So that is my plan.

Tuesday during the day I decorated my office with fabric, snowflakes and other things on the bulletin boards. I finally got a bunch of office supplies from the supply guy. Tuesday was great in that I stopped waiting for other people and starting doing things myself. Tuesday I met Maryellen for lunch. Yeah! She really enjoyed eating at the cafeteria and I liked having her there. It took the attention off of me for once. I wish she could move into my house. She really wants to so I need to find out who to talk to about this. It would be nice to have a roommate. I tend to make more positive life choices with other people around. Like this past week on Thursday I stayed up until 2am finishing Season 2 of Grey’s Anatomy. I also ate a ton a ton of peanut butter. This was not my finest moment. But there is nobody here for me to be considerate of so I just do whatever. I really miss Marcia and having someone else to keep me company in this big house.

Wednesday, I took some water samples by myself and even ran some microbiology tests on the samples. Testing for Fecal Coliform, E.Coli, ect. It was a good exercise. I also set up a meeting with Nicolas from Helvetas for December 17. I am looking forward to this meeting and I am excited because his office is very close to 2iE so collaboration will be easy.

Thursday I learned how to do a chlorine demand test. I was also, however, getting very very aggravated with Konate because he kept on not telling me everything. He thinks he is being a good teacher, showing me things and having me find out that way and then going from there. But to me it’s a waste of time. I’m not stupid. I’m actually quite far from stupid, and want to know exactly what I am doing and why. We had a little chat about this. I don’t know if will make a difference, but it was nice to let him know how I feel. I was also very sick of listening to him speak English. He speaks ok. His English is admittedly better than my French, but my French is coming along very very well and I will soon pass him by. And he has been studying English for several years, me with French = less than 2 months. He also sometimes does this thing where he makes other people feel stupid by saying “We speak English here” making them feel like they all need to know English too, and it makes me mad. He did this to the secretary once and I was about to go off. But I held it in and am planning to sit down and talk to him. In the lab on Friday, he was saying as he always does that when I leave he will know English better and if he is bad at English he will say it was because I didn’t correct him. I promptly told him in French, that teaching him English was NOT my job here. So clearly we need to discuss this more because if that is what he thinks I am supposed to be doing he is dead wrong.

Short digression: The box of instant oatmeal I have came with 12 packets. Each has a trivia question. You would think they could find twelve different quiz questions to put on them, but NO. I just pulled out two with the same question. I am disappointed about this lack of trivia integrity. If you are going to do something a little extra, do it well.

Thursday evening before my marathon of Grey’s, I helped at youth group. I was really fun. I taught a lesson on how using the gifts God has given us is a way to bring him honor. The scripture was Mathew 25:14-30, the parable of the talents. I also tied into Christmas. We had a reenactment of the parable in modern times, read the story in groups and had a fun discussion to end. I think they got something out it :)

I also need to let you in on some not such great news. Actually, the news is quite terrible really. Shelly, a short term missionary who had arrived in Ouaga about a month ago, very suddenly died Wednesday morning. I didn’t know Shelly that well, but she was at Thanksgiving with us and it is just weird to think someone I was talking to about her Apple computer is no longer with us. She had severe chest pains the night before, woke in the morning unable to breathe and died. She was only 35. Your prayers for her family, friends and the missionary community in Ouagadougou would be greatly appreciated. Just makes me thankful for everyday I have and makes me miss my family. The one thing we do have to be thankful for is the fact that she is with Jesus now. She was confident in her faith and while we are sad to not her anymore I am sure she is enjoying her new and eternal life with Christ.

In spite of such bad news, I did have a wonderful day on Friday. I left work at 10:30 to go fabric shopping with Maryellen. I had talked to Natalie and found out the best fabric market was the Marche St. Camille. I rode my bike to Maryellen’s house and we took a taxi from there since we weren’t sure about how to get there. It is a well known market so the taxi driver knew where to go. At the market I found the perfect fabric for a dress I had been envisioning. It is a black and olive green color which looks great with my skin tone. I also found a very sheer fabric I want to make a layered top out of, and neat green embroidered material to make a skirt out of. I knew what I was looking for going into it and knew what I wanted to spend so I had a great and very successful day. After the market we went for lunch at a restaurant called Paradiso’s. They have great pizza, or so we had heard. I didn’t have much time because of my French lesson, but I texted Moumini and told him I would be late. We asked the waiter how quickly we could get the pizza and he said 20 minutes would be told problem as I explained my need to leave for my French lesson. After 25 minutes I began kicking myself thinking why, oh why did I believe him. This is Africa of course it is going to take forever and of course they will tell you 10 minutes… BUT the next minute the pizza was there. It was great! We ordered the veggie pizza and each ate half. The meal cost $3 each. Small price to pay for sure!

My French lesson went great and in the afternoon having a break from Konate and work in general I was able to get to things and make some solutions to use for the test we running on Monday. Alright! I left work at 6:15 and headed to the US Embassy for the Peace Corps Volunteer swearing in ceremony. It was really cool. Maryellen invited me, she was invited by someone else as well. I’m sure I was even supposed to be there, but I don’t think anyone cared. I was debating whether or not to go knowing I would have a very busy weekend. But I really wanted to meet the ambassador and I knew she would be there. I met her and she is really nice. AND dig this. She had heard about me. How cool is that. She had a meeting with the director of the school and apparently I came up in the conversation. Anyway, it was a cool moment. After the ceremony they had a time for socializing as well as drinks, food catered by Paradiso’s and cake. I guess Paradiso’s twice in one day is hard to beat :) I met a few new volunteers who all seemed really nice. It is funny because they all came here about when I did, so it is interesting to see how there experience has differed from mine here. Drew was also there, so I said chatted with him a bit. I walked back to 2iE with Susan, who happened to be there as well. I had been meaning to ask her all day if she was going but got too busy.

Yesterday was a lovely Saturday. I went to Toastmasters in the morning and then had lunch at the Burgs with the whole Burg family, Leanna, and the two Neilsen girls. Amy and Keri Nielsen are staying with Leanna for the week while their parents are at a conference in Dakar, Senegal. I was actually supposed to stay with the Burg girls at their house while their parents went to the conference, but because of the recent death they decided not to go anymore. They still want me to come over and spend some time with their family. After lunch when I said I was going back to get some stuff done Mrs. Burg (Nancy) seemed genuinely sad I wasn’t going to stay. It is nice to feel wanted :) I plan to spend Monday and Tuesday night at their house to get off campus for a bit. Tuesday is the Burkina equivalent of the 4th of July and there will be a big parade and other festivities. I prefer to be with an American family while all that is going down. After lunch which consisted of tuna casserole, salad, watermelon and apple crisp, I worked on helping Jordan edit his essays for college.

That is partly why this update is a day later than planned. I used my time to help him instead of write this. I think it was a noble cause. I had originally planned on going to Leanna’s for popcorn stringing and movie night, but she canceled which was fine with me. I was looking forward to a quite evening. However, when Susan invited me over for a movie at her place I couldn’t resist. It was really fun. We watched Failure to Launch and had popcorn, yum. I was ready to go to bed after that but it was only 9:30 so we started watching Spanglish. Susan fell asleep part way through, but I finished the movie. Susan has a projector she bought to use for her lessons, but since it is her own equipment she uses to watch movies as well. It also just so happens that the walls here are all white so it works out perfect. It is also really nice hanging out at Susan’s because she is right next door so getting home takes like 10 seconds :) Today I also cleaned up my stuff which I had been leaving in the living room and also rearranged the furniture in my bedroom. I like this set-up better. It just makes more sense.

Sunday today, what a day. I got up to go biking with Eugene from the US Embassy. I met Eugene through Maryellen. He wants to start a bike club and on Friday at the Peace Corps ceremony we said Sunday morning at 7:30am. I figured this way I would still have time for church. I didn’t get his contact info to confirm, but showed up anyway. He, however, did not. After waiting for 20 minutes, I went to the rec center and ran 5 miles instead. It was a nice feeling. I like working out in the mornings. I got back, showered and took a nice 2 hour nap. For lunch I went to the cafeteria because I am really really out of food. I need to go shopping, but haven’t wanted to. I also haven’t wanted to do the dishes, so I haven’t.

After lunch I debated and debated and decided to go back to the rec center to 1 see if Alfred the manager was back to hang up my reward poster for my ipod and 2 watch the afternoon movie which was supposed to be the Nanny Diaries. Well, Alfred wasn’t there, and at 2:00 I asked the guy at the door about the movie, and he hands me a tape and it is Home Alone 2! I am like, this isn’t the movie. And he says it is what they gave him. He was acting like a real jerk, like kind of mad I woke him up or something. Well, buddy its your job! So anyway, I left kinda of mad. On the ride back I calmed myself down and used the afternoon to write this 11 page update. At 5:00 Leanna picked me up for the Edge Christmas Service. I didn’t go to church this morning because of the service this evening. I guess Tyler went to the International Church this week, where I would have gone, and it went really long. I’m glad I didn’t go! The Edge service was interesting it almost seemed like more of a Christmas talent show with various people playing songs and singing. I would have liked a little more of a church feel, but the Christmas Carols were really nice. The best part was afterwards there was a huge spread of food. Like real food (pizza, quiche, chips) and then desserts. Yum! I hadn’t had dinner, mainly because as I said I am out of food, so I was pleased to be fed. That’s all I’ve got right now.

Oh I keep on remembering things I forgot to mention so instead of going back and inserting them into the update I am going to but all of them together right here.

1. I have a pretty white lab coat I wear in the lab. It is funny but it makes me feel like super women, like I am special and can do whatever I need to do.

2. On Thursday I went to the bank because I knew I wanted to go shopping with Maryellen on Friday. I left work at 4:30 to go. The bank had this system where you take a number like at a deli and it is ridiculous I waited 30 minutes to be helped. My plan was to then workout. Well, I get to the rec center and guess what I forgot to bring with me. SHOES! so no treadmill for me. Luckily I brought my swim suit to take a dip after my workout, so instead I just did a pool workout. Surprisingly, that night I was wiped out. I guess it was a good workout.

3. So the hair dryer fiasco. I had accepted that I was ripped off and had decided to buy a converter so I could use the one I brought instead of buying a new one that would be probably be bad as well. Well, on Friday I was ironing my skirt and I start smelling the same thing like I did before with the hair dryer. My first thought is: These stupid third world electronics, none of them work! But then on Saturday as I was rearranging my room I plugged in the refrigerator in my room for the first time. Funny enough after a few minutes I start smelling the same thing. Then it hits me, its not the electronics, it is the voltage regulator that’s bad! So I remove the regulator, plug in my hair dryer and yeah! Wouldn’t you know it works GREAT!. Praise the Lord. I am so happy to 1. have a hair dryer and 2. not have lost my money on a crummy hair dryer. AWESOME. So you can imagine I have be enjoying my hair again.

4. This week since I was running out of food, I had to be very creative. So I took a whole onion, cut it up and browned it in a frying pan. I took some tuna cut up some olives, added just a touch of olive oil and a bit of salt mixed them up in a bowl then put the hot onions on top. It was excellent. I used only half the can of tuna so I repeated the meal again two days later :) I was very proud of my cooking from nothing skills…

5. I submitted my Duke application for graduate school. I only have MIT to go. I want to finish that one by Thursday of this week. I hope that’s possible?!

6. I feel like I constantly have this very comical commentary running through my head. I wish I could write it all down and share it all with you so you can laugh as at my everyday mishaps, revelations, and just plain bizarre moments. Even though I write a ton in this blog it is only half of what is going through my mind on a daily basis.

7. Things I am looking forward to this week. Going with Bianca to try and find a mini Christmas tree tomorrow. Bianca is back in Ouaga for the week for her mid-service medical exam. Tuesday no work! Thursday teaching junior high at Wired again. Tonight Lizbet asked if I was teaching again. When I said yes, she was so exited! Friday there is a Christmas party that the Ambassador is hosting. Saturday night is the Wired Christmas Banquet at the Chinese Restaurant. I have more of a social life here than I did in the States!

And all God’s people said, AMEN.