Sunday, December 16, 2007

House Tour, Caroling, and an Awesome Saturday!

Christmas is only 10 days away! OH my oh my! I am so excited :) I am not quite sure how it will feel to spend Christmas here, but I guess I will find out.

Before I get into my update here is a slideshow of my house! I know I have been promising this for a while, but it is finally here. So I hope you enjoy your visit and come back again soon.

This work week in general went by really fast, but I am not all that sure as to what I really did! There was a lot of walking back and forth between the filter station and the laboratory and office areas.

Monday I saw professor Maiga which lasted all of 30 seconds as we scheduled a longer meeting for Wednesday… Monday mornings all always slow trying to get back into the swing of things. When I finally got through my emails and did my French homework, I went and took two water samples. I planned to work with Konate to do a test for organic matter in the afternoon. I was hoping to leave early and see Bianca to go to buy a mini Christmas tree, but it turns out the experiment went too long. This is actually because it took us 3 tries to get experiment to work. We had mixed up two different batches of potassium permanganate and one batch was bad  Not good… My French lesson went well this Monday, more reading out loud which is very helpful. One thing that bothered me about Monday was that I talked to Konate about shifting my 3 hour break time, and he indicated that was not okay. I was under the understanding from Maiga that my hours were flexible in that as long as I was there for 8 it didn’t matter what time. I think I’m right and if I’m not then they to make that more clear next time. The flexibility is especially important for me since I can’t really do my errands after work because I don’t want to be out late at night. Additionally, the stores close for the break in the middle of the day so how am I supposed to go to the bank and buy food, ect. I pointed this out and I think he understood, but anyway I should talk to Maiga about this to clear it up. Monday night after work I worked out in my room for about 30 minutes packed my bag and headed for the Burgs. I spent Monday and Tuesday night at the Burgs. It was nice to get off campus for a bit and hang out with a family :) One of the daughters was at a sleepover so I got her bed…

Tuesday was a HOLIDAY! NO WORK! Yeah! I Got up and watched the parade on TV. It was not like American parades. There was no candy being handed out and no fun floats. It was literally 2 hours worth of marching. All sorts of military branches, all the different government ministries, from health care, to education, to sports were represented. Can you imagine watching a bunch of people in lab coats, or with insecticide sprayers, or people in blue and green jumpsuits who clean the streets marching in the parade. Well that is what it was. In hindsight I think it was a good thing for the people, kind of showed them all the things they have to be proud of. Like a spirit booster of sorts! The President of Burkina was there and as all the marchers passed his stand they would turn just their heads and look at them. I also helped edit an essay Adam wrote about bilingual education. I wish I had had longer to help him with it, it is a really fascinating subject. Living in Burkina where there are all sorts of languages spoken it is easy to see the benefit of having a single language for everybody. BUT then again, being able to speak Spanish myself and now learning French I see how awesome and how much more your world opens up when you can communicate in different languages. Anyway, it is a huge debate and really very important in America right now. Lunch was pizza at the Burgs, and then later I went to Leanna’s and wrote some Christmas cards and edited my MIT essay. I ended up staying at Leanna’s until 8:30ish before heading back to the Burgs. We had pasts for dinner. Bianca came early and then went out on a mission to buy bread and oil for dipping spices, but it turned into this crazy adventure and we had to start eating before she got back… Magdalena, Ben, and Will also came. Afterwards we strung popcorn and watched Charlie Brown’s Christmas. But really they strung popcorn while I chatted online with people. Yep, that is how it happened. I rode my bike back to Burgs and found that Jessie (another short term missionary) was there and would staying the night. He was staying with Tyler while the Neilsen’s were in Dakar, but Tyler was out in the village and Jessie wasn’t feeling great so they brought him over. So I ended up sleeping in the TV room on the floor which was fine with me :) I had to get up early the next morning to get to work! I wish the vacation could have continued…

Wednesday when I got back to work at 7:00am, yes I was on time, I submitted MIT application. I had a meeting with Maiga which was actually awesome in that instead of having me measure like 15 parameters all the time we narrowed it down to 3. Yes, 3. This is what I had been saying all along, like why an I looking at all of these things. One it’s impossible to do and second too much data is as bad as not enough. We also went to look at the station. I feel like it was his first time there all year! He ordered that a plumber come and fix the problems and redo the faucets the way I suggested to help make the velocity measurements easier. Oye. I can’t believe how long it is taking to get this thing up and running! Now wonder this country is light years behind. If people worked at the normal pace of business in other countries I don’t know if they would be have problems at all. Maybe that’s a bit harsh, but I can see the problem isn’t that they are simply innocent bystanders to their fate, indeed they help create the poverty.

My French lesson was especially good after having had lunch at the Café and talking to the students. I also helped polish a trip summary for Konate and Weithe. He basically used a online translator with the French to English so it was really bad! BUT the awesome part of the evening was Susan inviting me for dinner at her house. Pancakes :) YUM! That night I went to bed early and actually felt pretty good in the morning.

Thursday I was determined to do something so in the morning I went out and took four samples. In the morning I ran the microbiology test, organic materials test (OM), and the suspended solids test (MES). All in the morning. Very impressive. Except I didn’t have the aluminum paper for the MES test and the filters stuck to the over SO Konate and I did it again in the afternoon and it thankfully worked. At lunch time, I went to the Shopette, the mini grocery store to buy food. BTW I was still without food in my house at this point. I had some oatmeal packets, with bad trivia questions and some parmesan cheese. It was first time running errands in the repos time. Monday, Konate told me not everything closed, and while I didn’t really believe him at first, I was happy to find he was right. So maybe I won’t have to argue about my hours if I can get my essentials during the break time… I also bought some fruit and veggies. I bought more veggies than I needed because the ladies kept confusing me, and all the sudden I had zucchini, tomatoes, and lettuce. The lettuce has since gone bad since I have eaten out almost every meal since I went shopping. This is why I don’t buy food, because something always comes up and I find a meal!

Thursday night as always was Wired. I was supposed to teach, but Leanna sent me a message saying we were going to watch, the best Christmas Pageant Ever instead, which was just fine with me :) Each week they have snacks and this week Roger brought them and he brought sour cream coffee cake that he made himself. It reminded a lot of Ryan because this kid is in high school and loves to bake. He had a sweet chef’s hat, with his name embroidered on it. I think I will have to get Ryan one…

Friday was the day I had been looking forward to all week. It meant the start of a killer weekend! The work day was fine. Nothing too exciting. I sat in at a department meeting which I didn’t really understand. While I can get most French this was heated debate and a little fast talking for me to catch. Maiga came to the plant again to meet the plumber and the bottom line is it is going to take awhile yet. But he was like, Oh a few more dyas isn’t terrible. I’m like sure ok. Sounds good, but if you can take your precious time I don’t want any hassles when I want to take my vacation. I don’t want them complaining that I won’t be there to take the data, because I will say look at how long I had to wait! It can go a few days with out me…For my French lesson we ended with this dictation exercise where my teacher read my a passage and I had to write the French as he read it. It was 14 lines long and I only made 26 mistakes. He acted like that was a lot, but I was very very happy with my performance. I think he was too. I also got very good news that Professor van der Vink finally submitted the letters of recommendation I had requested. Yeah! This means I am totally done with applications. Expect if I have to the FASA form at some point. BUT, all I know is that right now all I have to do is wait.

By the way, on Monday Ryan sent me my GRE scores which came in the mail. Talk about awesome news. I did much much better than I had the other time. Each section is out of 800 points and let’s just say my score went up 150 points. I am sure it was computer based format of the first test that was bad for me, and the whole not being able to find the center and freaking out right before taking it. Anyway, I was worried I had wasted $200 taking it a second time, but I am SO glad I did!

After work, I worked out for like 30 minutes again, very fast, and then headed off to a Caroling and Cookies event the Ambassador was hosting. It was lovely. From 6:30 to 7:00 there were drinks and socializing then at 7:00 everyone sat down and sang Christmas Carols. I had emailed Drew to see if was going. Apparently he hadn’t heard about it, but Emily was in town and was so excited to go. It was fun to hang out with the two of them! I also met several other people there and Mary Ellen was there as well. The Ambassador plays the piano so she was the musician of the evening. She was so good with all the kids that were there too! She was almost more like a teacher than a diplomat. Her manner kind of reminds me of the Mom of one of my friends. After Carols there were refreshments and cookies. We also got to upstairs to the terrace of the Ambassadors house and look around inside at the 12 different nativity scenes she has collected from all over the world. It is an awesome collection. I would love to start something like that.

As if that wasn’t fun enough when I came back I stopped by Susan’s house. She was hosting a movie night for the Toastmaster’s club. I was torn between going to that and gong to the Embassy thing but I am glad I decided on the Embassy, mainly because I was still able to catch the end of the movie. They watched Last Holiday which is really quite entertaining! I should mention that at this point in the evening there is a very large, very loud party going on outside my house. It was the GTZ and DED (German and Dutch development organizations) end of the year party. Well NOBODY told me this was going to happen or ask if it was okay to have the buffet line literally blocking my walkway entrance, and the speakers up so loud and so close to my room the party may as well have been in my house! I might sound mad, but I really didn’t care. I came home, locked my door, heaven knows I didn’t want and drunk people looking to use my bathroom or accidentally finding their way into my house, and watched the newest episode of Grey’s Anatomy. It wasn’t a super happy one; on the contrary, it was a pretty sad. It’s not as dramatic as in the past, and the plot seems to be setting things up for multiple huge let downs… I was pretty tired after this but the music was still pounding. I was surprisingly able to sleep just fine though! I did, however, wake up at 2:00, just as the music stopped for good.

Saturday was freaking amazing! I had such an awesome day :) I had planned to get up and go shopping for shoes, envelopes and a few food stuffs. Can you believe I bought popcorn and forgot to get oil to pop it?! Well, I got up at 8:30 planning to leave at 9:00 for my adventure. Wouldn’t you know at 8:45 Bianca texts me to find out what I’m doing for the day. I told her my plans and she was totally game for coming along for the fun which was sure to ensue… We went to Burkina Pas Cher, which means literally Burkina Not Expensive. It was a bit like a dollar store. They had a bunch of Christmas decorations, and it would be a good place to go to find random stuff, but there wasn’t anything there I really needed. And the tackiness of the fake flowers, the light up aqua blue fake fish tanks, the fiberoptic who knows what and every color housewares section was enough to make me a bit disoriented. I like nice things. I have very strong opinions on what is tacky and what is not and that store about killed me, I felt my blood pressure rising as I passed from aisle to aisle. I admit I am being a bit more dramatic than necessary, but the lack of color coordination of ANYTHING, is really beginning to bother me. And everything is also like half finished here. Thankfully, thankfully, my house is furnished very nicely and I can enjoy this little haven I have of non-tackiness.

Okay, now that that is out of my system. I can explain to you why we went to this particular area, well I was looking for envelops and Ali at work told me Diafa’s would be my best bet. Well, since there are no street names giving directions is very hard, so usually people draw maps, well, Ali’s map stunk so we are walking around looking for this place for a while. In the mean time I am checking out different vendors looking for shoes to wear to the special dinner going on that night. Each year the youth group has a special Christmas dinner where they all dress up and exchange presents, ect. Anyway, sine I help out I was going to go, of course! I have the very pretty red, white, and black dress with me from graduation. The only fancy one I brought. While I brought the dress I didn’t bring any shoes to wear with it, so I was on a mission to find shoes to match that dress. AND I found them, white with silver polka dots. Very Sara-ish. The guy first told me 12500. I was like, In your dreams. Do I look like a sucker to you? Really? Because I think I look pretty intelligent… Anyway, I paid 4000. A small price to pay for the perfect shoes, even if I only wear them once!

After buying my shoes I look up and what do you know we were right outside of Diafa’s! I got my envelopes and we were off to the grocery store as our last stop. We went to Scimas which is a new one for me since I usually go to Marina. I think each has its strong points and weak areas of selection. I will have to be strategic in what I buy where as to maximize my food shopping experience. I would also like to mention I have started to keep a budget. Not that I am spending too much, but its almost like I never let myself spend money because I am afraid I won’t have enough and frankly that’s no way to live. So I have made myself a budget and am tracking my daily expenditures at least for the first couple of months. It is going well so far and it is nice to see where my money is going. Here, it seems like it goes really fast… I am guessing it is the same in the states. I was thinking about this the other day. Normally you graduate, get a job and learn how to handle your finances, ect. Well, I graduated, got a job in freaking Africa, and still have to learn the whole handle your finances stuff, but in a foreign currency, using foreign banks, and trying maintain a level comfort for myself that is reasonable among super high levels of poverty and suffering. This is really hard!

While I am also on the topic of things I have been thinking about. I also realized how incredibly lucky and blessed I am to have been placed in Ouaga in the exact place I am. Ouaga is a HUGE HUGE city and to somehow have the Institute where I work within biking/walking distance of the US Embassy and a community of American families. This is no coincidence. I have trusted this whole time that God is directing my steps here, and this last revelation is probably the strongest evidence I have to seen to who his awesome plan is working itself out. This institute could have literally been anywhere, but it is smack dab in the middle of the best place possible for me. How cool is that!

To continue with my Saturday… After shopping I went and worked out at the rec club. I joined again for December and finally was able to talk to the manager and put up my lost ipod signs. After that I raced home showered and left for Magdalena’s. She invited me for lunch so we can plan our trip to Mali. FYI, I am planning a trip to Mali for after Christmas. It is going to be great. We are going to trek through Dogon Country which is on the list of the top 10 places to see before you die. We were also considering making the trek up Timbuktu from there, which is only another 8 hours. BUT, really there is nothing there, and yeah it would be cool to say I’ve been there, but it would mean rushing the trip and I would much rather enjoy a few more days in other places… For Lunch Magdalena made this really good Tuna quiche thing, followed later by fruit salad. Yum! We ate with another girl Georgi, who will be going to Mali with us. She is from New Zealand. The final lunch guest was Hannah who is from Australia who really wants to go, but can’t because of there are only limited flights back to Australia and she would miss hers if she went.

From there I stopped by Bianca’s to drop off some peanut butter the Burg’s gave me. I would like you to notice I did not keep it this time. This is avoid the problems I had last time when I had peanut butter, i.e. eating it out of the jar with a spoon! Not good for your health. Anyway, I raced back rewet my hair and blew it dry with my awesome hairdryer which now works and packed my bag for Leanna’s. Leanna came to get me about 4:00ish and she, Bianca and I hung out at her house for a while before getting ready for the dinner. It was like a reenactment of high school…fun times, getting ready for the big dance, ect. Except this time I was the chaperone. NICE! Here’s a few pictures we took at Leanna’s house before leaving and one of the dinner scene.

The event was fun. It felt like we were in America, but oddly enough at a Chinese restaruant. The food was okay, we brought home a ton of it as leftovers! The kids seemed to have a great time. Ben, one of the sponsors, dressed up in a Santa suit he had made and I took pictures of the kids sitting on his lap. It was quite fantastic really. After dinner the “adults” went out for ice cream. We knew there was a group of like 6 high schoolers going for ice cream as like a triple date thing, so we were trying to avoid going to the same place they would be. Problem is there are only 3 places in all of Ouaga with ice cream. SO… the first one we tried we almost walked in and spotted them in the back. In probably one of our finest moments we turned about and ran back to the car and drove to the place down the street… good times! After such a great day I got home, looked through the pictures, and hit the hay.

Oh, how could I forget… on the way to the banquet we got a flat tire. We left early so it wasn’t a huge problem, but talk about funny. Huge intersection, pulled over on the side of the road you see three very nicely dressed white ladies, two guys in nice outfits, and guy in a santa suit fixing tire. This is stuff good stories are made of. The guys changed the tire in record time really… As we just finishing up though, a whole caravan of the youth group kids drove by and stopped, of course, to find out if we were alright. Classic and priceless all at the same time!

Sunday, today, I got up an went with Bianca to the Bonbonniere Patisserie. Basically, a pastry shop. I got hot chocolate and dipped my pastry. My pastry was the kind shaped like a heart, flakey, thin, and a bit crispy actually… After breakfast we went to church at the International Church. It was a perfect Sunday morning really. We invited Ben and Magdalena (Maggie) for lunch, Chinese leftovers. It was nice to have people over here. Maggie is really kind and fun. I am glad I am having a chance to get to know her better! The last tid-bit of info for today is that as they arrived, Ben’s moto got a flat tire. So after lunch I went with him to find a mechanic. Both of the mechanics by 2iE were gone today, it is Sunday after all, so we had to walk out to Charles de Gaulle and find the guy across the street on the corner who fixes bikes. He has no booth to indicate he is a repair, the only thing that tipped me off was the bike tires hanging from the tree. With surprisingly few tools, he took the tube out, tested it, found the hole and patched it. Ben went on his way and I came back to write this update. I like writing, I just don’t have any time for it anymore.

One last thing. I think I likes Saturday’s so much because I don’t have to go to work. I was so productive too. Shopping, workout, lunch, chill time, dinner, ice cream! But during the week I have to be at work most of the day. What fun, may I ask you is that? None at all. I think I will have to have some sort of job where I make my own hours. I am one, much more productive, and two so much happier. Any ideas for me?

Alright, well I off to post this and hopefully talk to my family online.

Happy Sunday!

Wishing you a fabulously wonderful week to come,