Sunday, December 30, 2007

The days are just packed!

I have a Calvin and Hobbes book titled “The Days are Just Packed”, which I think is the best way to describe my life as of late. Packed with what you may ask. You name it! Everything. I am so busy getting errands done, trying to figure out times to get to the gym and still being at work during the scheduled hours… blah! I am so keen on do, do, do sometimes I think I just need to say not now, maybe later, orso what if it doesn’t happen. Upon reflection I think my biggest problem is being able to accept that having good intentions is sometimes sufficient. I can’t do it all! But boy do I try…

So I have had a problem with my blog not letting me post things which has been as frustrating for you as for me, I’m sure. You can’t imagine what it’s like having written something and then to not have the computer work.

Random tibit to start out this entry… I ride the same route going into to town and I finally read the small plaque on the side of a very large house that looks very official. Well, guess what. It is the Cuban embassy in Burkina Faso. It seems not every country is opposed to fraternizing with our communist neighbors to the south…

Sunday night after I put up the post I got to talk to my family on the phone for quite a while which was awesome. I opted not to go to football that night and instead spent the evening listening to a sermon from HTB, cleaned up my room and had way too much Chinese food for dinner :) I really needed to be preparing for a meeting I was having on Monday, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Luckily I had time in the morning on Monday to throw something together.

Monday after the Chinese food brunch on Sunday was really quite excellent indeed. I had a meeting with Nicolas at Helvetas, the NGO that is interested in the water filters in Ouagadougou. It was a really productive, yet brief meeting. I came away feeling like, yes! Maybe something good can actually come from my time here. The meeting was at 10:30, and afterwards I went to the Peace Corps hostel to find Bianca to get lunch with her. Before lunch we stopped at Magdalena’s (Maggie) place to drop off my passport so we could get our visas for Mali. From there Bianca and I went to this store called Decorama which just opened up. It’s really pretty lame. They have a bunch of really poor quality, yet overpriced furniture and other household stuff. Bianca started to feel sick, she had picked up an amoeba somewhere and it was doing a number on her stomach! So she decided we should postpone lunch. I had Chinese food, surprise. The afternoon at work was good, except that my French teacher canceled on me for my lesson… I was pretty disappointed. I worked on following up on what happened at the meeting with Nicolas that morning. That evening Bianca was feeling better so she came over for dinner and we had, you guessed it, Chinese food! I sent the rest of what was left home with Bianca to give to the people at the Peace Corps hostel. I had finished up my Christmas cards and got Bianca to have Cory bring them back to the states and mail them so that people would get them by Christmas. It worked! After dinner Susan was a sweetheart and let Bianca watch the season final of season 3 of Lost on her big screen. Susan is a big Lost fan and so when Bianca said it was only one she hadn’t seen I was happy to arrange for a way to make that happen. It also seemed like Bianca has been a bit down lately and so I thought it would cheer her up a bit.

Tuesday was to my surprise, what they call a journee continue, or continuous day, so instead of working 7-12 and then 3-6, you work 7-2 and then you’re done! I was pretty stoked about this fact and was really productive all day. I tried to reschedule Monday’s French lesson for Tuesday, but after waiting 45 minutes past our scheduled time I got a call saying Moumini wasn’t coming. So we set on Thursday for the next lesson since Wednesday was Tabaski. More on that later… There was a Christmas party bible study scheduled for Tuesday afternoon and I thought I wouldn’t be able to go because of work, but because of the continuous day, I could! How awesome is God? (rhetorical question here). The party was a blast. There was an ornament exchange and I luckily had two I bought at the ISO fair and was able to use one of those. There were SO many goodies and treats to eat. The ornament I got in the exchange was really pretty glass and shiny. Before we got to pick a gift we had to share a special Christmas memory and mine was about Christmas Eve and how we each got new pajamas and hung our stockings. I also shared about our annual parading down the stairs. It was fun to hear everybody’s traditions. There were a lot of people who talked about how the really appreciated the significance of celebrating advent which isn’t something I have ever emphasized much. Maybe next Christmas I will do that. After the ornament exchange we watched the DVD of Beth Moore’s lesson. We finished up singing some Christmas carols accapella. It actually sounded surprisingly good! After the study was done Karen Grey brought to her house to pick up the Christmas tree she had promised to give me. We loaded my bike and the tree in her car and she drove me home. The tree is only 3 feet tall, but it is nice looking and it’s mine :) From there I went to the rec center to work out. I ran 6 miles! It was an awesome workout. While I was running I texted Leanna about hanging out. Since Wednesday was a holiday, I figured she would be free and might want to do something Sure enough after I got back from the gym she came over and we made dinner. A pasta dish with some browned onions, a tomato, salt, butter, and basil. It was surprisingly good! After dinner, Ben came over too and we all watched Million Dollar Baby while Leanna and I strung popcorn for my Christmas tree! Yeah.

Wednesday was great. Really great: No work. I slept in and then finished reading Silent Spring. It was about time really… The last couple chapters of that book really seemed to stall out on me. I went in and used the internet to try and catch my parents to talk to them, but no such luck. After finishing that I packed up my bag and went to rec center and did a work out in the pool, then sat by the edge and had lunch of leftovers from the night before. Upon returning home I showered and got ready to go to Konate’s for the Tabaksi celebration. I talk about my amazing adventures getting there in the previous post, so I won’t repeat it. But I will mention Tabaski is a big Muslim holiday in commemorating the story of Abraham and his obedience to God in his willingness to offer his son as a sacrifice. But the Muslim’s believe the son was Ishmael not Isaac as the Christian’s believe. This is the point in the biblical history where the two nations split. Anyway, on Tabaski the tradition is to kill a lamb and then serve a big meal for all your friends. Unlike Thanksgiving in the US where one person cooks and people figure out where they will eat, ect… Here, most people cook a meal and then expect family and friends to just stop by and eat something. They might stay for 30 minutes of many hours. The weird thing is since everybody is doing this you can show up at someone’s house and they are gone, out visiting someone else. It seems rather unorganized… kind of like everything else here in Africa! After stopping Konate’s and eating the few bits of lamb I could eat and having rice, friend plantains and chips we continued on to Professor Maiga’s house. Conveniently enough Maiga lives near ISO. When we got there though, he wasn’t there. So we waited 20 minutes and he came back. So it goes. I had more lamb, and then chicken which was actually very good! From there I had Konate drop me off at Leanna’s to have dinner with Bianca’s parents. Bianca’s parents have traveled to Burkina all the way from the states to visit Bianca! What a wonderful Christmas blessing for her. I was pretty full by that time, but did manage to eat 2 pieces of pizza, go figure. After dinner Leanna had to run out for a prayer meeting so the remaining 4 of us stayed and chatted a bit. With Leanna gone and not having ridden my bike there I was at a loss for what to do when Bianca and her parents cut out. So I stayed at Leanna’s until 9:00pm when she got back. Phew. She was happy I was still there because she had brought a bunch of food stuff for me and was able to give me some lights, ornaments and ribbon to decorate my tree. From there, Lorinda drove me home since Leanna’s car is on the fritz a bit. Even though it was like 9:30 when I got back I couldn’t go to bed. I had to decorate my tree. I was so excited! It took me two hours to get it just right and then when I went to bed it took me forever to fall asleep because I was hyped up about my tree :)

I spent most of Thursday reading a master’s thesis on the ceramic filters. I had a French lesson with Moumini and then met up with Maggie and Georgie to discuss final preparations for Mali. After work I had dinner at the cafeteria and then rode my bike to Wired. At wired I was kind of out of it, but enjoyed watching the second half of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. Cheesy, but entertaining and a classic. Thursday night I decided to heck with going to bed early. If I can’t fall asleep anyway why bother with climbing into bed early. So I made a resolution to instead create a proposal for the water filter project and experiment I want to do. I was hoping to pick up the filters from Nicolas the next day, Friday and needed to have this prepared ahead of time. So I did what I do best and hauled through creating a 8 page Project Proposal and Experiment Design Plan. I was finally proud of the work I had done.

Finishing at 4:00am (approximately) I went to bed for 4 hours and then went to work. Man was I tired. BUT the work paid off, and Friday I went to get the filters from Nicolas. This was no small task. I had to get Konate to reserve a car so we could go get them. The paper pushing and complicated procedures of how this place functions is liable to give even the most patient and competent person a run for their money. When I finally had the filters in my possession it was like the heavens parted and angels started singing. I was so happy! I was also really happy because I had been looking to get a cook book called, “Wild Boar on the Kitchen Floor” for Leanna for Christmas. But the book is out of print, but I managed to track it down and get an electronic copy. Now I just had to figure out where to get a 106 page document. It is at times like this I miss the free printing at Princeton. Luckily, my friend Pascal has a small printing business so I determined I would have him print it and have it bound for me. I also had a make up French lesson that day. Two days in a row, phew! It went well even though I was pooped… sometimes I speak better French when I am tired and don’t annunciate as well ;)

In the afternoon after work I had planned to cut out early. I actually thought it was a continuous day, but was disappointed to learn it wasn’t. Leaving early I ran into the tailor in the parking area near my house and Susan’s house. I had plans to have a pancake dinner at Susan’s that night. Maryellen and a few of her friends were coming too and the tailor was going to come and get orders from all of us at once. So Susan told him 6:30. It was 5:45 when I left work, just enough time to run to Marina market to get the supplies to make dunkers and the once-a-year breakfast. I wanted to bring the dunkers to a the CMA Christmas party which was to be Saturday night and since they have to refrigerate overnight I really needed to make up the dough on Friday. So at 5:$5 as I am leaving I run into the tailor. He thought they had said 5:00. opps. So anyway, I call Susan and then cut out to run my errands. OH MY GOODNESS! was that place packed! Marina was a zoo a veritable zoo! Friday night, after work, weekend before Christmas what was I thinking. Anyway, I couldn’t find what I was looking for. It was dark out and so I rode back as fast as I could discouraged and frustrated up the wazzu. I wasn’t all that late getting back though only like 7 minutes which is pretty darn good considering the tailor encounter caused me to leave at 6! Actually, the Marina market experience was so stressful, even as I write this several days later I still feel my blood pressure rising. Since I couldn’t find the stuff at Marina I wanted to go to Scrimas, but because of the tailor thing I didn’t have time! As you can see I found a way to shift all the blame on the tailor in my head, this made dealing with him that night difficult. But I let everyone go first in describing their designs and what they wanted him to make while I chilled out. phew. I was able to regroup and ordered a really cool dress out of the super nice Ghana fabric I had bought. I drew a really cool picture and hope he does the dress well. I won’t know until I get back from Mali in January, so you will just have to wait. The pancake dinner was success. Susan has a really good recipe and had frozen strawberries we thawed for on top. Maryellen and her two friends who came couldn’t stay for a movie, but I wanted to so Susan and I started Hidalgo. We got all of 30 minutes into the movie when we both decided it was time to cal it a night. I was glad of that since I was planning on getting up early the next morning to beat the crowd at the grocery stores.

So Saturday, what a day. I am tired just thinking about it. It could also be that I am writing this post at 1:37am after having been up really late for past like 10 days and going non-stop getting ready for Christmas. AND the best part is I have to get up at 6:00am tomorrow to get a bus to start my Mali adventure. BUT I know if I don’t do this now all this will be lost and I can’t have that happen. I hope I sleep on the bus and we really just chill out these first few days and get to bed early tomorrow.

The night before I made up a whole schedule because if I hadn’t I would have never gotten everything done. So I got up at 7:30 left my house at 7:45 to be to the bank before it opened at 8:00, because of my trip I needed to get some money out… that and I was almost out. So, when I pulled up on my bike I was shocked to see a crowd of people waiting for the bank to open. It didn’t help that I had gotten there early as I still ended up waiting 30 minutes for my turn to complete my transaction. From there I went to Scrimas where I found everything I needed for the cookies and the breakfast. I raced home 7 minutes behind schedule at this point. I hadn’t planned on 30 minutes at the bank… Anyway, I whipped up the dunkers and headed to my toastmaters meeting at 9:37. Seven minutes late. Can you believe it… Anyway, I had a terrible time concentrating I was so tired and anxious. Also, Tyler had texted me about going to the pool that afternoon and I was up for that for sure. I had scheduled in some time to chill out that afternoon, and I thought the pool what a good a place as any to relax. After Toastmasters I got lunch at the cafeteria and felt way better after having eaten. I gave Pascal the file to print and detailed directions. I was still skeptical about things being done exactly how I wanted. Lunch finished up and I met up with Tyler to head to the Hotel Silmande. It is one of the nicest hotels in Ouagadougou and is really pretty close to 2iE. It costs like $6 to use the pool, but it was worth it. Relaxing, reading swimming was just what I needed. After the pool adventure, Tyler came back to my place for a snack, and to try the dunkers which I needed to start baking by 4:00, so they would be ready to go when Lorinda came to pick me up at ten to six. At this point I can honestly say the schedule was a bit OCD. Okay, very OCD. But it worked. I got it all done, but really it was a bit too much to do… I couldn’t cook up the whole batch of dunker so I just cooked enough for the party. I showered and got ready to go. I had to wrap my present for the gift exchange too! SO much going on… I would forget my head if it wasn’t attached. Pascal also dropped off the book I had him print. It was exactly how I had wanted it, he charged me like $12 to print and bind it which is actually a lot of money here. But I couldn’t complain because I was so happy to have a hard copy and not have to worry about Leanna’s present anymore.

The CMA Christmas party that night was fun. Different, because Leanna wasn’t there. She went on a short trip north for the camel riding adventure everyone in Ouagadougou has to do at least once while they are here… There were many families out of town, but it was still a nice group. It was a legitimate Christmas ham dinner. Very tasty and a very unexpected blessing being able to have such an American holiday experience. We played a scategories type game and musical chairs. I am dead serious. Musical chairs. It was hilarious and really quite vicious at times. The winners got prizes. I was unfortunately not a winner, but I would have gotten an A for effort. The dunkers were a hit, even though they were a bit flatter than usual. I used baking powder instead of baking soda because I didn’t have any baking soda and didn’t know I had to add a more if I was using powder instead of soda. It is life’s subtle lesson’s that I learning so well here. Also, I would like to point out that the brown sugar here, is just like the white sugar only tinted brown, so the cookies were pretty hard… but that is why you dunk them.

Sunday I went to the International Church again. It was an okay service. I don’t like the preaching and don’t think I will keep going. The nice thing is it is close, and in English, but the preacher just never makes a point. One second he’s talking about Moses, then we’re onto Isaiah and next in the stable with baby Jesus. I try to follow, but frankly its not possible. I left early for church to run to Orca early looking for pool goggles and some Christmas presents. BUT they opened at 10:00 and it was only 9:00, so instead I went and walked around in the open air market. An interesting experience by yourself, but good none the less. I just had to ignore all the people calling to me. I did pass through the middle area trying to turn around only to realize that the ridiculous number of flies in the area was because I had chosen to cut through right where they were butchering animals. I couldn’t look. As I first turned that way out of the corner of my right eye I saw some red and white bone and heard this loud chopping and knew what I had done. So looked at the ground and got to the other side as fast as possible.
Back to church though… so since the Orca run was unsuccessful before church I decided to go again after church. Tyler was there and so he joined me for the adventure. It was nice to have an accomplice. To my dismay they had no goggles at Orca, so I going to have my Mom send me some. I did however get a measuring cup, Tyler’s Christmas present and a present for Lorinda. After Orca Tyler and I tried out a restaurant called the 4 saisons, or the 4 seasons for lunch. I got a wrap panini thing which was excellent. I didn’t really know what it was when I ordered it, but whatever. All’s well that ends well.

After lunch I went to my office and waited like forever online hoping to talk to my parents, but to no avail. I also tried to fix my blog and again no luck. I was striking out big time! After getting amply frustrated I left my office to get some dinner and bake my cookies. I also listened to an HTB sermon because I still felt like I needed to hear God’s word that Sunday since church was so confusing. The sermon was like music to my ears and just what I needed to hear. I baked up the rest of the dunkers and had pasta for dinner again. It was like 8:30 and I went back to my office. It had been like 5 days since I had talked to my family and I was going a bit crazy. I also knew with Monday as Christmas Eve and knowing what I had going on that day that it would be hard to connect. Thankfully, they were there and available. I talked until 10:00pm. It was just the right medicine for me. I Love my family :) I miss them very much especially right now at the holidays. I think that is why I have kept myself so busy otherwise I would get sad. That night I should have gone back and went to bed, but I couldn’t. I felt like I needed to clean something. So I cleaned my room and washed my floors. I think it was a form of release to do this. Anyway, this is just to point out that I am continuing to add to my sleep deficit, not good.

Monday was an exciting day. Since I Leanna wasn’t planning on being back yet and since I didn’t want to be alone on Christmas Eve, I invited my friends Drew and Emily and Tyler over for dinner. This meant, however, I would have to cook something. Both an exciting yet formidable task if you ask me… Using the new awesome cook book I had decided to serve sesame chicken, rice, and green beans. Perfect. However, this menu meant I needed to go to the store though… and get chicken. Monday morning I had my final French lesson for 2007, and asked my French teacher about buying chickens. He tells me about a market and how much to pay, ect. Then he asks me who is going to kill it for me. I’m like WHAT?! Yeah, apparently at the market you buy live chickens, um okay no. I was not going to do that. At least not right now. Instead I went to Marina and got some already dead and plucked chickens. Before I tell you about the shopping and cooking and merrymaking, let me finish with my work day. So, after my early morning French lesson, I start the first test of the ceramic filters a non-saturated flow rate test. I could have probably waited and done this after break, but I couldn’t wait… it’s the overachiever in me. This is why I need my friends from Princeton to talk to because I would have run this whole plan past them and they would have advised me to wait and not take on as much. But as such advice was lacking I forged ahead. The test went fine. It took 4.5 hours, not of continuous work, but of letting the filters run. I started it a little later than expected and had to stay later too. Turns out Monday was a continuous work day too! Grrr… why do I never know these things ahead of time! Anyway, I finished the test wrote a bunch of emails and made sure I was cleared to take off Wednesday and Thursday from work. Can you believe I am supposed to work the 26th and 27th. I was like yeah right! So I am taking two vacation days so I can make my trip to Mali. Just an FYI the visa stuff turned out fine. I have my passport and visa and am psyched to go!

Okay, experiment is done. It is 3:15. I have people coming at 6:45 for dinner. I need to pick up wrapping paper from Lorinda and buy the food. I went to Lorinda’s first thinking I could get the chickens at a little place called La Surface… No. Not the case. And Lorinda lives on the opposite side of town. It took 25 minutes to get to Marina from there, and my legs were so tired! But I did it. I first went Scimas hoping to repeat the luck I had with getting the dunkers supplies there. Well, no such luck. I left there with still a long list. I went to the street market alongside the store to get the fruit and vegetables I needed. I was hounded mercilessly by people trying to get me to buy there stuff it was ridiculous! Then I went to Marina. I am looking at the meat counter and can’t find the chickens. Oh, they were there, they were just so small and scrawny I thought they were like guinea fowl or something. The gentlemen at the counter was so nice to me. I was definitely a novice at this meat counter! I bought 3 chickens hoping to get enough meat to feed 5 people. If you saw them you would see why I bought 3. Finally, after getting the rest of the stuff on my list I checked out and peddled back home. At this point I really wanted to shower and rest. But it was 5:45. I had an hour to make the food, clean up, set the table, and I wanted to catch my parents online. So I stopped first at my office instead of going straight to my house. No luck with the parents, so I left a message and left. I raced around my house. Still hoping I would have time to shower. Well, I started cutting up the chicken and boy was that a job. It took me 45 minutes to get the meat off, and the amount of meat was barely enough to cover the frying pan.

Well, Tyler and Leanna arrived at 6:45. Turns out Leanna got back earlier than expected so she was able to come. I am so glad she did to, because I really needed some extra hands in the kitchen. Drew and Emily arrived and had brought rolls and wine to contribute to the meal. Leanna and I finished up preparing the food and were thankfully able to sit and talk for a few minutes while everything finished cooking. It was such a festive night! My house looked great. The company was wonderful, and the food turned out very well indeed. Not bad for my first Christmas Eve dinner party in Africa, if I do say so myself… which I will :) After dinner we all sat down and watched The Holiday. Tyler gave my Christmas present early which was a set of cables to hook my computer up to the TV. Even though my parents are sending me these as well, I was happy to have a set to use immediately. Not having to wait for something is so nice even though learning to wait is a skill that I definitely developed having lived here. The movie was over and Drew and Emily left around midnight. Leanna and Tyler stayed and helped do the dishes. Turns out my sink has a clog so doing the dishes was a challenge, but somehow Leanna did it. She never ceases to amaze me ;) It was so nice to have everyone over. It made me feel grown up and very Martha Stewart-ish. I don’t think Drew and Emily had had any other plans either so it was nice to be able to include them and share some Christmas cheer with them. At dinner I found out Drew leaves on January 1st which means that was the last time to hang out. I am kind of sad to be losing my running buddy. Hopefully something else will come up in that arena. Anyway, I do hope to visit Emily in Togo before my time here is up… I don’t think that should be too hard to arrange. After everyone left I wrapped my presents for Christmas to bring to Lorinda’s house and then crashed into bed. Wiped out!

TODAY! Yeah Christmas! Merry Christmas! I will start at the very beginning because as they say in the Sound of Music that “that is the very best place to start”… Upon waking up I thought to myself wouldn’t it be magical if there were presents under my tree. I knew this wouldn’t happen, but I was still going to hope :) As I walked into the living room something caught my eye on the door. There was, wouldn’t you believe it, a stocking hanging on my front door with a card with my name written on it. I about jumped up and down. In fact, I may have jumped around a bit :) Susan had made me a stocking! She sewed it by hand out of African print fabric and it was beautiful. Such a warm gesture it really just made my heart sing, as my Mom would say… I opened the stocking and immediately ate the apple as is the usual way to begin Christmas. At home we always get fruit in our stockings, so it was quite amazing that Susan did the same thing! I got up at 8:00am because I had to make the once-a-year breakfast to take to Lorinda’s. This was to be my contribution to the Christmas brunch. So this egg dish ended up costing about $30 to make because the cheese, good eggs, good bread, and bacon are so expensive. But I decided to spare no expense. This is Christmas and its just not Christmas without the once-a-year breakfast. It turned out wonderful and only took me an hour to make, an hour may sound like a lot, but in Burkina everything in the kitchen takes twice as long to do! After I finished I listened to the HTB Christmas sermon while did some stretching. I hadn’t been able to work out in a while and it was killing me. Especially since I leave tomorrow and will be gone for a while, not able to legitimately work out. I also wrapped up Susan’s present of earrings and cookies and dropped them by her door. I like having her as a neighbor :)

Leanna came to get me at 10:10 and we headed to Lorinda’s house. Tyler unfortunately had to miss out on the brunch. Apparently, one of the Burkinabe guys he works with, that guy’s Dad died in a motorcycle accident the night before and they had the funeral that morning. Poor Tyler spending Christmas morning in a grave yard… He came later though and we heated up some food for him. Then we all exchanged presents! It was so much fun! Leanna really liked her book and dipping dishes, Lorinda liked the candles Tyler and I bought her, and Tyler liked the mug and coffee cream steamer I got him. I also got some awesome presents. I got a get tote bag from Leanna, a bulletin board and basket from Lorinda and some random oven mit and snowman decoration from Leanna too! It felt just like Christmas… oh,wait. It was Christmas! After that we sat in Lorinda’s living room which was being air conditioned to the max and watched a movie called Elizabethtown. It was really good. I put on my sweatshirt and the four of us snuggled under blankets in the cold room. We had hot cider and cookies too! It was quite ideal really. For dinner we had a roast chicken, sweet potato soufflé, green bean casserole and stuffing. It was an incredible meal that Lorinda had put together. I did the dishes while Leanna skyped with her Dad and Lorinda relaxed a little bit. I was lucky to catch my family and talk to them before they left for Pittsburgh. I knew if I didn’t catch them in the morning I wouldn’t talk to them until January 6th! Yikes! So it was nice to wish them a Merry Christmas and share some Christmas love. It did make me sad not be with them and heading to my grandparent’s house. I have gone to Grandmom and Grandad Sappie’s house for 21 years. This is the first Christmas I am missing and it is hard. I am thankful, however, that God has provided me with amazing friends and people to rejoice with this holiday season. It is truly a blessing! I couldn’t have asked for a better Christmas in Burkina.

It is now 3:05am. I have to get up in 3 hours to leave to go to Mali… please pray I can get some sleep soon. This can’t be healthy.