Saturday, October 13, 2007

And the internet is woking again.

The biggest thing at the moment is that I get kind of lonely at night. Things are pretty good during work hours, and I have been able to connect with the Wolters several days in a row now which is really nice. However, at night when it is just me alone in my room I sometimes get kinda sad. I just want to call home, but it is so expensive. I am a people person. I need to talk to people and keep myself sane. I am working on arranging a better housing situation where I am living with other people. Anyway, you can feel sorry for me, but really don’t. I will be fine. I always seem to make it through and who knows maybe I will learn something new about myself from this whole experience. It has been approximately 10 days since the day I first arrived. It seems both like yesterday and a year ago. Its hard to describe. Last night after work I didn’t want to start on my GRE right away so I decided to do something fun. I often find myself wanting to watch a movie, but I repeat again… I didn’t bring any of those so I am left to my own devices. I did bring my sketch book and decided to draw. But what? I decided to draw a glass. Very challenging a task I warn you, but it turned out pretty good. I took a picture so you could see it. :)

Maybe I will develop my drawing skills while I am here. In exciting news I had my first French lesson today. My teacher’s name is Moumini and he is a very good teacher. It is awesome. He comes to the office since I don’t have any transport yet. The lessons last an hour and the best part is they cost 3000CFA or about $6. C’est trĂ©s bien.

I also had my clothes washed this week which was essential as I was pretty much running out. It cost me 2000CFA or $4 to have my clothes washed and ironed. Sounds good to me :) The funny thing about the French lesson today was I wasn’t expecting it. Moumini was supposed to call me last night, but never did so I figured eh whatever. But then I get this text message at like 1:00 saying he was at the school waiting for me. Okay. Whatever works I guess. Anyway, we setup a schedule which will be lundi, mecredi et viendri (Monday, Wednesday, Friday). I think I will learn very quickly. In one hour we went through what was like 3 lessons. My independent studying is really helping out. I am very happy with the help I getting with pronunciations. Today I finally got myself to write my personal statement for the NSF fellowship and tonight I am working on the research proposal. It is going well. In general, I feel a bit stressed, but am trying to be patient. I have numerous deadlines at the end of the month for grad school, fellowships, and the GRE. At the same time I am trying to learn about the research I am supposed to be helping with here. Oh, and adjusting to a new culture kind of on my own and learning a new language. Wanna trade places with me? One day?

In other news, on Wednesday I went with the Wolters, and a few other missionaries to look at motorbikes. I am thinking about buying one, but I am not sure yet. I need to wait a little while because right now I wouldn’t go anywhere by myself anyway so what’s the point. Also, the Wolters have an old 10-speed bike they don’t use and are going to let me borrow for a bit, so I think I’m set.

Today I went to the consulate to register that I am in the country. The Wolters took me and then we went to the grocery store because they had to get some stuff and it was really helpful because I needed to get some items as well. I tried to get money from an ATM but realized I had a Mastercard debit and not a Visa. I do have a Visa card, but I have to call and register that is going to be used overseas. I sent Susan Strand the other American coming to 2iE at the end of the month an email to ask her about housing references. She also got me in touch with Joann at the US Embassy. It was pretty cool, because I got an invite to a ladies night Bunco night at her house this Friday. I am so excited to have something to do tomorrow :) Also, Drew is around again so we might go running tomorrow or Saturday. It is nice to have little things to look forward to, it makes life on a day to day basis much more manageable. Okay, that is all for now. Miss you all! Today’s verse from Katha’s Calendar is: The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you. 2 Peter 3:9. I am also reading 1 Samuel right now, the story of David more specifically. Talk about amazing. God is really faithful and present in his life.

p.s. The internet at 2iE was not working today so I couldn’t talk to my family which was very frustrating. And I couldn’t get in touch with them to tell them why I was MIA from our scheduled talk.

Also for a little comparison, the first one is me my first night in Burkina, the second one was taken 10 days later :) Gotta love the timer setting... Like my mosquito net? Room pictures, next post I promise.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

I have officially been here 1 week.

Ah a new post. How lucky you are!

A few random thoughts: I bought a bowl at the supermarket. It is very uselful, but also very big so it makes me feel like my normal serving of cereal is like nothing. Sad. And at $7.00 a box I am not about to be filling it up all the way. I guess I will have to look at it half full instead of half empty.

I worked out and showered and left to go to dinner. When I was in viewing range of the cafeteria I noticed it was closed. Sad. I don’t know why. I went there at that time before so I will have to find out what the deal is. So I have to settle for cereal in my room. It’s Ok because I am really not all that hungry.

I am out of yogurt which means tomorrow I am going to brave one of the two snack counters at the school to try and buy something… wish me luck.

They don’t have napkins at the cafeteria. This is posing some problems as I have a problem keeping the red sauce they put on everything on my food and not my shirt. I might have to carry one with me.

The silverware at the cafeteria is also very thin. It is metal but very flimsy. Thankfully most of the tongs on the fork are straight, but sometimes when I am cutting the meat the fork starts bending. Oops.

I am going to visit the language institute tomorrow to arrange for a schedule of French lessons. Thank you Karen!

Susan is coming back at the end of October. I am looking forward to meeting her.

I met another PhD student here who Susan got me in touch with who speaks great English. She is really nice. Her name is Mariam.

I am staying up way too late. I don’t even have TV to watch. I lay in bed reading and then realize, shoot, its half past midnight and I am getting up at 7:00. Not good.

Today I went out on the back terrace area of my apartment and found out the rumbling sound that sounds like there is 4x4 parked idling outside my room is the air conditioning unit for the room next to mine. I wonder if mine is that loud?!

I need to do laundry. Apparently, you pay people to do your laundry here so I have to figure out how that works. Like yesterday, as I have one clean skirt left and I have worn my other clothes quite a bit already. Not good. I surprisingly have plenty of underwear.

I need to find out when I get my first pay check. I am kind of waiting until I get paid to go have clothes made. Apparently instead of buying clothes here, you buy fabric you like and take it tailor with a drawing of what you want and they make it. Funny thing is that you can do the same thing at FAO Schwartz in NY except it costs like $1,500. Interesting.

I have decided to tackle the grad school application process one school at a time. It makes things more manageable.

The Geckos that are all over make a really funny. It is like the clicking sound of someone typing. And then there is some other animal noise I hear that sounds like a chicken or some other bird is being spun in a salad spinner and yelping every turn.

I got new furniture today. Problem is there are no cushions, just wooden frames. I hope they come tomorrow. Not that I need them because there is no A/C in that room, and I tried to do my workout today in the room and it is way cramped now.

My book Cadillac Desert is really good. You might not like it, but I do. I would like to point out that WWII was probably won because of domestic hydroelectric projects. According to the book we didn’t out win, or out strategize the enemies we simply out produced them. At the beginning of the war we had a measly national military. During the war we produced 60,000 fighter planes, built with power generated by large dams of the west. AND the atomic bomb which ends the war. You guessed it. Its development was not possible without the incredible amount of power that could only be supplied by the Grand Coulee Dam. The US had the largest energy capacity in the world. I would now like to point out that China is now building the world’s largest dam on Yangtze River. Hum…

Summary of Activities
Saturday: I had a meeting with the research group at 2iE. They hold these all the time and this time they held it in English so I could understand. It took them about twice as long to get through everything. But it was nice to understand what was going on so I’m not going to complain. I worked on my computer the rest of the morning. And then. Then the best thing ever happened. I got a phone call from Karen, one of the CMA missionaries here in Ouaga. She had received my email and was calling to get in touch. We talked for about 20 minutes and then she said she would call back. Well, wouldn’t you know she called back and in 5 minutes she had driven over the 2iE picked me up and showed me all around my area. It was great. She showed me where there are doctors, tailors, restaurants, markets, nice streets, the ISO school. It was great! She brought me over to her house at the CMA mission and we talked for a bit. It was about dinner time by this time so we went to dinner. But the best part was we went to this awesome place called the Gandwana. Karen described it like the it’s a small world ride at Disney World, only with Africa. They have different rooms for different regions of the continent. It was so cool! The walls were clay and the roofs made of timber and goat skins. It was pretty posh and the floors were made of the really beautiful clean white sand. The tables were low and very European. If you come visit I promise I will take you there and we can sit there and pretend we are some celebrities on safari :) After that Karen drove me back to 2iE and, surprise I found a note on the floor of my room from Pascal saying he had gone out of town but was back and was reminding me about going to church the next day. Well, the only problem was I had agreed to go to church with Kokou, the researcher whose office is next to mine. He and his wife were already planning to come get me at 7:30 the next morning. I know church is early here, but more on that under Sunday. So I called the cell phone Pascal left and I couldn’t really get my point across. He was at the airport picking up his brother and said he would come by when he got back. I was ok, fine. It was about an hour later and I got a text message saying he was outside by the guest house with the guard. So I went out and explained to him I was going to a different church tomorrow and that I would go to his church the next Sunday. It was fine and I really appreciated the guard making sure it was ok for him to talk to me.

Wow, 7:30 is really early to be up and ready for church. Kokou and his wife were there about 10 minutes late which I was kind of resenting since I probably could have slept those ten more minutes. Anyway, it was a small home church service. Everything was in French so I was clueless. Well not clueless. I was actually surprised by how much I gleaned from what the leader was saying. So there was about 45 minutes of worship and prayer. Then the leader got up to give the message. The first 5 minutes were tough and I was like, oh man, how am I going to manage listening this the whole time. And wouldn’t you know it ended in a brief 20 minutes and everything was fan-tastic. NOT. He talked for an hour and thirty-five minutes. Yes, 95 minutes. I was about dying. Trying not to yawn, keep my eyes open and all my legs wanted to do was stand up. OH well I made it through. Every once and a while Kokou would translate something for me and that was helpful. Once they were done with that they prayed really enthusiastically. They had quite a range of volume in both the message and the prayer. Oh, and the best part was when Kokou asked me stand up and present myself. I was thinking. ARE YOU KIDDING!!! But I got up and said thank you for having me here and I really like the service. I didn’t know if they wanted my life story or to know why I was there or why I was a Christian so I told Kokou I didn’t know what else to say and sat down… After the church leaders had a short meeting and I waited outside with the Kokou’s wife and some of the other ladies. There were the most adorable little boys running around. After the service I found out the house we were at was actually Kokou’s house and the little boys were his children. His youngest is 3 years old and was wearing this awesome orange and blue African outfit. very cool. I got back to 2iE at 11:20. Phew! Long morning and just in time. Karen was picking me up at 11:30 to go to the US Embassy Rec Center. I guess all the missionary families go there on Sundays. So I got to meet a bunch of other couple here serving with CMA. I met the field directors as well and made plans to help at the youth group they run on Thursday and attend the ladies bible study they have every other Tuesday. It will start not this week, but the next. Sounds like fun. I also have a lead on a place to stay. There is a new Belgium doctor here who is a Christian. His practice and house are right by the university and Alice one of the other missionaries thinks she is positive they are looking for someone to stay in a guest room/house thing. Reasonably priced and they have wireless. Can we say AMEN! Karen also knows a French teacher who she is going to get in touch with for me. And finally if that was enough… they are also putting in an order for 3 moto’s and offered to let me in on the reduced price they are trying to get by buying in bulk. Awesome. It was really really awesome. Really an answer to my prayers. I feel so much better about being here knowing I getting help with these major things. God is good. I am learning when you listen to him when he calls you to go somewhere he is faithful in taking care of you. Sunday after eating at the rec center I went back and worked on my computer I was so excited to talk to my family about my awesome news, but alas after being there for 4 hours no one was home! I was so sad L, I couldn’t understand where they all were. It was long enough after church that they should have been home. I found today Jordan and Ryan were at the Chicago Marathon all day and my parents ran some errands after church. Still, I went back to room super depressed. BUT after laying on my bed unhappy for all of 3 minutes I decided to listen to some music on my ipod. Great idea. The first couple of songs were pretty melancholy and I wrote in my journal a bit, but then oh yes the wicked song Popular came on. Did that ever do the trick. My spirits went right up and I was dancing around my room, singing Popular, you’re gonna be pop-u-who-lar… I decided I didn’t really want dinner and instead just had some crackers and apple juice. And wouldn’t you know I wasn’t hungry all night! I am thinking a big lunch and smaller evening meal might be a better way to fuel yourself in general. Anyway, later that night I mustered the initiative to start working on the Oxford application. I was great. I started thinking critically and really going to town with free writing ideas and whatnot.

Trying a new style for today’s activities…Let me know what you think.

Monday I:
Got up and went to work.
Briefly talked to my family on the phone.
Read a bunch of stuff.
Found that since I am connecting to the internet from Burkina Faso I have free access to all the PDF files and other books online and the Natinal Associated Press website.
Downloaded like 5 books. Great now I just have to read them.
Went to lunch.
Emailed a bunch of messages.
Got a text message from Pascal that his brother was in an accident and he had to leave campus to go to the hospital and be with him. Goodness. I hope his brother is ok!
Helped Kokou get S-Plus on his computer then realized he wasn’t going to be able to learn it easily and instead got the data file from him and worked on graphing Ecoli versus Energy data to find the nonlinear regression coefficients
Worked on more filtration stuff
Met Mariam a PhD student who speaks great English.
Got an email from Susan and emailed two women at the Embassy on her recommendation
Converted by resume to a CV by making it a bit longer
Wrote to a professor at Oxford, hence needing to make the CV
Talked to my Mom
Went back to my place
Worked out
Missed a call from Karen. Called her back and set up to meet the French teacher tomorrow at 2:15. Boy am I happy about that!
Left for dinner
Discovered the cafeteria was closed
Ate a bowl of Special K
Spent an hour writing this post.

I promise as I get busier these posts won’t be as painfully long. But hey right now whatever.

Things I miss from home in order:
My family and friends
Hannah Montana (Practically family)
Being able to talk to random people because we speak the same language
Movies [Silly Sara didn’t bring any movies with her to Burkina Faso. What was she thinking? Oh yes, that she would read and enrich her life in other ways than watching movies. Lofty goal, but really I just want to watch a movie. Lucky thing the rec center has a video rental room :) I am planning on renting on the next time I am there.]

IN OTHER NEWS: I think I want to do an independent project while I am here as well as the filtration stuff. In September there was terrible flooding here. Like USAID is giving the country $50,000 in relief aid. I would like to find out and write about the impacts of this flooding. I am going to talk to some people about formulating a project. The red cross and red crescent headquarters are nearby and I would be interested to find out from them about the problems caused by the flooding. One thing I know is that like 6,000 people were displaced and many schools were used to house them so now the start of school is being pushed back. These heavy rains have also affected other West African countries such as Ghana and Mali. Check out the reports at IRIN:

I can’t believe I am getting paid to learn new things. This is really amazing. I can read the newspapers and other articles at work. Why, because that is what I do. It’s not for everyone and I might get sick of it in a month, but I am really liking it right now.

*I just found that Ryan put some Hannah Montana song my computer. Wow this has really just made my night.