Saturday, October 27, 2007

GRE=Done :) and Sara's first cooking experience in BF

I finished my GREs! Yippee! I will tell you there is nothing about that exam I even remotely enjoy. Before I tell fill you on Friday’s events I will tell you about how the exam went. It was pretty killer. I mean the writing part was tough, I think I liked the computer based writing better because I can type faster than I can write and you can more easily rearrange your thoughts using a computer. Anyway, I think I may have done better with the writing the first time around. Oh well. I was happy with that score anyway. I was under the impression the written version was exactly like the computer test just one paper. Nope. Not the case. The computer one has 30 verbal questions in 30 minutes. This one had 38 questions in 30 minutes. Also, the computer math one had 28 math problems in 45 minutes and this one had 30 problems in 30 minutes. You tell me… And, not only that you had to do two separate verbal and two separate math sections. I think I did okay though, even without knowing what I was up against ahead of time. I was able to skip the hard questions and go back later. I had enough time to finish everything which was awesome. The only complaint I have is that it was FREEZING in the room. Not only was it cold, but I was at a desk that directly in the line of air flow from the air conditioner. I asked several times for them to adjust the temperature, but it was no use. Anyway, I suffered through it and if anything it kept me more alert even if I was uncomfortable. The Wolters drove me to the test and picked me up which was very nice of them to do. After the test I went to Alice’s and lunch with Leanna and Tyler. It was fun very impromptu and a much appreciated celebration of my test being over. Now I am back at my office. I have a French lesson in 15 minutes and then I am going to the Edge service with Leanna. Excellent things to look forward too…

So to fill you on Friday… I really wanted to go back to the conference, but Konate was acting like we weren’t going to go because Professor Maiga had just gotten back and might need up for something. I was pretty bummed. BUT then we went over to look at the gravel filters and realized they have a rain water collecting system at 2iE. Well, someone that inspired Konate so I went and took some pictures and we headed off to the meeting. He wanted to show the people what 2iE was working on. I didn’t care why we were going I was just happy to get to go. Well, it turned out to be an all day thing. It was great. I got to listen to French spoken all day and to tell you the truth by the end I was getting about 80% of what was being said. I also was able to talk to Nicolas, the clay filter guy, a bit more and get his contact info. Two funny observations about the day: 1. during the breakout session group discussion people were like yelling at each other. I was informed that that is how they do things here. When people discuss things they become very animated. Which I think is good really. I would rather people get it all out and deal with issues than not say anything or sugar coat it. 2. Lunch was provided and it was a beef with cream sauce and rice. I really liked it. It reminded me of beef stroganoff. The Africans however thought it was too bland… kind of amusing. Friday night I got back after declining an invite to watch a movie at Leanna’s. I talked to Pascal about church on Sunday and confirmed plans for the Wolters for today’s exam. Since I was gone all day I had to reschedule my French lesson which was a pain in the butt. However, after all that mess I did get to talk to my Mom for like 45 minutes which was fantastic. We hadn’t talked in a really long time! I got off the phone to run and get dinner, but the place was closed L. With my test the next day I was somewhat distraught. But I remembered I had some noodles and sauce and determined I would cook dinner for myself. Excellent, except I don’t know how to get the key to unlock the communal kitchen. So I prepared a sentence for the security guard and found som courage and asked him about the key. His response, “I don’t understand you (In French of course…)”. I was so defeated. After spending all day listening to French I was still incomprehensible. Oh well. I got my point across by walking him over to the kitchen and motioning that I needed a key. He knocked on my next door neighbor’s door. Apparently he has a key. Nice. Why don’t I get a key? I will be asking that question on Monday thank you. Anyway, the gas stove without electric ignition was fun to learn to use. But all said and done it was a good dinner and I got a lot of satisfaction out of figuring out how to get the key and cooking for myself. I watched an episode of Grey’s and then studied a bit and went to bed. I finished reading the latest book I started, “Slaughterhouse-Five”. It was really good. I liked it a lot, but I don’t think it is for everyone. The plot is super trippy and hard to follow at times, but I think it is a genius piece of work…

One last thing I would like to add is that last night I kept hearing some very discomforting noises of like someone inciting a crowd. It could have been anything, and I haven't heard anything today to indicate I should be concerned. It could have been a soccer match or a church service for all I know. But I had been sitting in my living room which has slatted doors so you can hear outside noises very well. After a while I couldn't take it and went into my bedroom and turned on the A/C. Yes, I was denying that there may be a problem. Can you blame me though? I had my test the next day and the last thing I wanted to think about was a riot, which was and is highly unlikely. Anyway. Have a good day. I am.

James Bond bank account and Funny French Teacher

These last three days have been absolutely crazy! I wouldn’t normally be taking time to write about it quite yet, but I have my GRE exam tomorrow and right now procrastination in the form of writing this blog is much more appealing than studying and dealing with my slight apprehensions about tomorrow. At least I can admit when I am avoiding something…

Anyway, Wednesday started with my going with Konate to the Bank of Africa to open a bank account. Everything was cool except I needed two passport size pictures and didn’t have them. So after filling out the paper work we went down the street to a photo place and I had my picture taken. It cost all of 2 dollars and it was really quite amusing. There are these guys sitting around outside (as there are everywhere it seems) and as soon as we pull up they all start with a flurry of activity. They have me sit in a chair in the entry way of the shop, so the lighting is good, and there is cameraman in front of me. Then instead of having a permanent backdrop, there is another guy whose job it is to hold up a blue sheet behind me. They snapped the picture and we were out of there in less than 5 minutes. The pictures wouldn’t be ready until later that day and Konate said he would come and get them later. We would return the bank on Thursday to finish opening the account.

After returning to work, I got ready to go again since Drew and I had made plans to go to the Red Cross to see about finding some Cholera epidemic information. No luck at the Red Cross. They said they didn’t have any documentation, which I find hard to believe. So, with that unfruitful attempt complete we decided to try the World Health Organization. Problem was we didn’t know where it was… We knew they had an office here, but didn’t know where. Before we headed off on the next leg of our quest we stopped at the Peace Corps office. It was cool to see where the Peace Corps is located and what sort of resources the volunteers have access to when they are there.

On the way back to 2iE we stopped at the Jirma store so I could buy some bottled water. I had just run out! I also picked up 7,500 credits for my phone since I was running low… After dropping off the water to my room and successfully locating directions to WHO from the very helpful security guard we were off again.

The WHO headquarters are just down the street from 2iE which was awesome! Except that, after we got there, talked to the guards and were ready to search the archives we learned that just two months ago the WHO moved their document center to their other office 20 minutes away. Just our luck…

So we decided to do what anyone on a mission is apt to do. We drove the 20 minutes to the other center. It was cool I had never been to that end of town before. Ouaga is a big city, so I am learning. Long story short, we get to the center and it is closed. There is some sort of convention in Ouaga 2000 and all the document center employees are there and won’t be back until Friday! So we will just have to come back later. We sped back to 2iE making a stop at some artisan shop. Drew knew the owner from his time in Peace Corps. We made it back to 2iE in just enough time for me to grab lunch and go to my French lesson.

My French teacher Moumini is pretty funny. Or least he thinks I am pretty funny and exasperating apparently. After the last two lessons as he is walking out down the hall to leave I have heard him let out this sigh of like “gosh that was painful” or “glad that is over”… You know the sigh. Anyway, I could care less and think its kind of funny. What I don’t think is funny is that I clearly have a problem being understood when I speak French. I know what I am trying to say, why can’t anybody else!? Wednesday evening was uneventful as I studied for the GRE and French. I am also making myself go to bed by 10:00 which is a great idea because them I read for half an hour and fall asleep. This allows me to wake up at 6:30 and be at work at 7:00 which is when I am supposed to be there and since I now have a contract I figured I should probably get there on time, and my GRE is the morning and I wanted to be used to being up and moving early.

Thursday I finalized the opening of my Bank of Africa account. I have a sweet ID card and will be getting an ATM card in the mail soon. I have to say I feel pretty James Bond-ish having bank accounts on two continents. Except that as Tyler pointed out to me later that night that the account is in one of the poorest countries in the world. Minor, minor detail. I still think it’s cool. This activity took all morning. When Konate and I got back I asked if I could go with him to the Water Aid meetings he had been going to all week. He agreed to take me with him. However, he couldn’t understand why I wanted to go because the meeting was in French and he didn’t think I would be able to understand anything. Well, that was precisely why I wanted to go. I wanted to listen, observe, learn, and network. Bottomline it was awesome. I made a connection with someone working on clay filters exactly like the ones Professor Soboyejo and the Princeton group are working with. This is a huge breakthrough as I actually see something good coming out of all this work I trying to do. Thursday night I went to WIRED, the youth group, to help out. It was great. I like having things to do and people to see :) I helped with the junior high lesson which entailed figuring out how to act out 1 John 2:3 which is not a very verse to act out... The group I worked with consisted of 4 junior high boys, which of course reminded me of how much I miss my brothers. But, I guess I will just have to console myself with the thought that absence makes the heart grow fonder, (if it doesn't forget about you thatis...).

This is where I will end this post and pick back up tomorrow after my exam.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


Here is a picture of the awesomely posh restaurant I have been to twice now...

I copied the picture from their website which is at there are a bunch more photos on their site.

2 Thoughts. Not of any great importance really...

1. I have quite possibly the world’s fastest growing fingernails. For some people this would be awesome. But coming from the girl who doesn’t like to take time for the little tasks of life, constantly having to trim my fingernails is truly a thorn in my side.

2. When I smile, my smile is a bit lopsided. This is a somewhat recent development in my life. I started noticing it a few years ago, but never had an issue with it growing up. Then it hit me, I decided that at some point in my life I had to have had a minor stroke somewhat reducing the effectiveness of certain facial muscles. Sounds unlikely and even impossible you say. Well, I admit I very quickly came to the same conclusion and dismissed the mystery stroke theory with the same swiftness as the idea’s conception. However, I would like to announce that I had a breakthrough this evening while contemplating my lopsided smile in front the mirror, it is amazing what I have time for these days… The side of my mouth that is a little weak in smiling is also the side for which my tooth extraction of several years ago experienced some complications. I was having two teeth pulled and hooks attached to the adult teeth to pull them down into place. (Sounds pretty medieval right… yeah, well it was.) The left side procedure went fine. However, the on the right side they couldn’t get to the tooth from the outside like the other, so after pulverizing the outer part of my gum they went for the inside portion. It is my theory that this oral surgery weakened and impaired key facial muscles resulting in my lopsided smile. My very crude and unscientific analysis shows that it is only in the vicinity of the tooth and surgery that there is a weakness in my upper lip. Coincidence? I think not!?! (collective gasp…)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


I recently discovered that the café here is very similar to the dining halls at any large institution. i.e. even if the café is open until 7:30, if you wait until 7:18 to go get food, you probably won’t get a stellar meal… just an FYI. Learning life a lesson through experience once, painful. Learning life lessons through experience twice, doubly painful and unnecessary.

Also, this afternoon upon emerging from my room I saw that there were actually clouds in the sky something I haven't seen in a while...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

I know you have been in suspense, but wait no longer...

Sorry, sorry, sorry for not writing sooner. I have been swamped with things to do and really wanted to finish my book, so at night I would choose to read instead of write a post. Can you blame me? I’ll update this is reverse order…

Thursday: After drawing my sweet set of keys and working feverishly on an essay that afternoon I went back to my room and worked out for like 25 minutes and then headed off to the youth group Leanna had invited me to help out at. It wasn’t far from the University, but I couldn’t get a ride which meant I had to ride my bike. After talking to Leanna, I was reassured everything would be fine. It would be like 6:45pm at which point it would be dark, but still early. Fine. I drummed up some courage strapped the leadlamp Caroline gave me as a graduation present to the front of my bike, took a deep breathe and went for it. Of course, as I was walking out Pascal showed up to see if I wanted to head to dinner. I had to decline, but proposed Friday instead. The thought of having someone to eat with was quite appealing. The ride to the Harrison’s, where the youth group was held, as only slightly eventful as only one person decided it was necessary to slow down their moto to my pace and talk to me. I try to ignore him, which was successful after a while. The problem is you don’t want to be too mean because you don’t want to provoke anything, but then again I really just didn’t want to deal with anyone. The youth group meeting was fun. There were about 32 people there. We played a relay game, they celebrated three birthdays and Tyler talked about God’s love for each of us. It was pretty impressive how they celebrate birthdays. The birthday kid sits in a chair and they hoist them up and down while singing Happy Birthday. Ingenious! I would like to bring one back to the states. One of the birthdays was Leanna’s, so afterwards Leanna, Tyler, Bianca (Leanna’s friend in the peace corps.) and I went to Gondwana’s for some ice cream. Nice. Afterwards since it was quite late, Leanna and Bianca rode with me back to campus so I wouldn’t have to ride alone. That was one stipulation agreed upon before I said I would go to the youth group meeting in the first place.

Work as usual. I don’t remember anything out of the ordinary. I don’t remember much about the work day at all actually. Later that evening I took Pascal up on his offer for dinner and we rode our bikes to a restaurant on the Babanguida. One of the bigger roads near the school. It was pretty fun although we didn’t leave until like 8:45 because there was a bible study going on earlier in the evening. Right before I left I began to regret agreeing to go and kinda just wanted to stay in for the night. But, alas, it was a fun time. I got to try Cote I’voirian food. I liked the fried plantains, but the leaf sauce was a little salty. Yes, they eat leaves. Actual leaves. Kinda crazy! I also found out growing up in the villages it is very common to eat hedgehogs and squirrel if they can find them… nothing is off limits. These types of meat are thankfully not all that common in larger cities like Ouaga. I also got to practice my French which was much appreciated.

I finally got to sleep in a bit. I slept in until 10:30…. voila! I felt very refreshed. In other news, I really really needed to finish my Oxford Application. I had been putting of writing the one-page personal statement and I resolved that today I would write it. So I went into the office and instead of writing it watched and episode of Grey’s Anatomy. Not part of the plan… After that indulgence I guilt-tripped myself into writing my essay ;) I finished the paper and sent it to my Mom to read over. I knew that they had the regional CC meet and so I was thinking about them all morning. I had lunch as usual in the café, and then later when I was back in my office fiddling with my work I got a call from Leanna. She invited me to her apartment to cook dinner. We decided to make chicken pot pie, and invited Tyler and a bunch of other people over as well. Only Tyler and the history teacher at ISO, Tobin, were able to make it. So there were four of us, a nice number :) Leanna is a great cook and it was fun to cook with her since she knows a lot of tricks about cooking in Ouaga. Like how to make sour cream out of cream and vinegar. It was so funny because we needed carrots, but sometimes you just can’t buy things in Ouaga and that day we could not find any carrots… We made do with the two she had and then some canned ones. I had never made chicken pot pie before, so it was quite an adventure. Leanna and I both like the crust the best so instead of just putting a crust on the top, we doubled the recipe and made a crust for the top and bottom. Great thinking! I would like to add though that the temperature in her house with the oven on was, according to her thermometer, 91.2 F Hot hot hot… But like I have mentioned before it doesn’t seem to bother me. Dinner was pre-gamed with some bread and fancy dipping sauces that Leanna had never used before. You know the kind that you find at the kitchen stores that you simply put in a little dish of oil and voila you have authentic Italian bread dipping oils. Anyway, A+ in my book on that appetizer, which by the way Tyler ran out the store to get bread for since we were fresh out. After dinner we watched V for Vendetta. Why haven’t I seen that movie before? It was freaking awesome! I mean really friends, how was this skipped in the recommendations up until now… It is very twisty-turny, and kind of out there, but good. At first I thought I would have nightmares from the Guy Fox mask, but the it just becomes part of the character, part of the movie. I think it has the same kind of suspense as The Interpreter. Another movie I really like. Anyway, Leanna drove me home afterwards since she has a vehicle again. She didn’t have one on Thursday or else she would have given me a ride to and from the youth group…

Overall I give this Sunday a D-minus. I wanted to try this new church called the International Church. Tyler gave me directions, but I couldn’t for the life of me find it. It was pretty sad. I had packed my bag with my workout gear and books to read. I was going to go to church and then to rec center for a workout and to swim. Well after riding around for like 45 minutes and not finding the church, stopping to ask for directions once and being directed to a different church, not the one I was looking for, I decided to throw in the towel and go to the rec center. I sat down and read for a while and met another missionary there. Not all that interesting. I decided to go swimming and saw Alice and her two children. It was nice to see familiar faces. I should mention that Larry Wolters is sick in the clinic and they aren’t sure what he has. Not good. Add him to your prayers if you can. Needless to say they were not at the rec center for lunch this Sunday. I had resolved to workout first, then swim, then eat. I go to the gym and there is no power. Of course I don’t know this and the worker that tells me this speaks only French so I don’t really know what he told me! I finally go out by the pool and talk to Alice who went in and asked them if the power would be back on anytime soon. They said later that afternoon. It’s 11:30 now, do them near 1:00 or 5:00? I don’t know… so I said heck with the workout I’ll go swimming so I jumped in and played with Charity and Sammy, Alice’s two kids. It was fun, but after a while I kind of wanted to swim laps since I couldn’t workout, but that was not going to happen since it seemed like I was committed to playing pool games of imaginary culinary school and toss the ball. C’est la vie. I was finally starving so I ended my swim and went into the restaurant after changing of course. It was at this point I noticed my hair felt pretty nasty. Like sticky and dry at the same time. Not good. Anyway, there was nothing I could at that point so I ordered a Taco Salad and read some more of my book during lunch. The Taco Salad was ok, but will not be repeated. After lunch I glumly took my sorry self back to my room. Thus far I had missed church, not been able to work out, my hair felt super nasty, and my lunch was mediocre. Poor Sara. I went to the office to see if my family was around to talk to me. They were and we talked for a few minutes, but I was pretty out of it and my lack of an ability to communicate anything substantial was actually even more depressing. The only good news was that Illiana had done really well at the regional meet taking first place and going 1,2,3,4. Nice JOB! After the unsuccessful phone conversation, I went back to my room and did the only thing I could think of that would cheer me up, watch the other episode of Grey’s that I had. After that I felt marginally better and thought the next course of action since I missed church would be to listen to a sermon from Holy Trinity Brompton (HTB). I went to HTB when I lived in London in 2006. Awesome place. Anyway, I kind of fell asleep while listening to it and surrendered to the tiredness of sadness and went to sleep for real. So I slept and slept and then got up and went to dinner. Then I read and went to sleep after a very long prayer time in which I very candidly expressed my dislike for my current state of being. After that I seemed to feel much better. Isn’t it amazing what God will do when you let him. By the way, I would just like to note at this point I have like no clean clothes left. NONE. I am just waiting for Monday when I can get Naromo (the guy to takes care of my place) to wash them. AND after showering after the swimming I realized that there is a definite issue with my hair. I don’t know what is up with the chemicals in that pool, but I shampooed twice and used globs of leave in conditioner to no avail it seems. I won’t be swimming again anytime soon. Or at least not without a swimming cap!

First off things started off way better on Monday than Sunday. I talked to Namoro and my clothing situation is on the upswing. I also went with Konate over to the pilot plant to talk to Omar about getting things set up. The water is running now, but has to run for two days to clear out the system. I missed talking to my family since I was out of the office, but did get to talk Adam for a bit which was nice since I hadn’t talked to him in a while. Oh yes, on Friday I got to talk to Ryan for quite some time. We also discovered googletalk and have since been using it instead of Skype. It is great, and I have found the connection to be way better! Lunch was fun, Pascal was there and so I got to practice more French which was good because I had my French lesson directly following that. I need to ask my French teacher to talk in French more. Like I get it, he doesn’t have to explain everything in English to me… In the afternoon I worked on the Flood and Epidemic research I’m doing and later around 5:30ish Drew came over and we worked for like 2 and half hours on the stuff. It is pretty interesting. On Wednesday we are going to go to the Red Cross to talk to some people about what sort of medical records are available. Last night I took a practice GRE exam and studied more French. I have decided to really spend a good amount of time improving my French each night. There is no reason why it should be taking me this long to learn. I taught myself Algebra II I can teach myself French, right? Anyway, that is my new resolve I will let you know how it goes. Oh, Sunday I finished my book Cadillac Desert. Yeah! 500 pages, eat my dust… I have since started Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five. About half the length and I am already on page 50. The pages are smaller and the font is bigger. Oh and its fiction instead of non-fiction, what a relief!

Ah today. Konate came in and told me he was leaving for an all day meeting. And I was like ok, whatever. What am I supposed to say? Later I had another visitor. Kokou brought one of secretaries to talk to me. She had a contract for me. Like a work contract, which I suppose is a good thing, but wouldn’t you know, it was in French. So I spent a good portion of my morning translating the contract to make sure I am not signing up for something I shouldn’t be. Not that I’m not already here or anything. Anyway, one surprise was that the contract said I had 45 paid vacation days. Are they serious? I am here for like 9 months and they are giving me 6 weeks of paid vacation. I am not complaining. Anyone want to rendezvous in Paris? Je parle Fracias… donc je en trein du apprendre Fracias. Well, I guess that’s that. I thought it would be a good idea to talk to Prof. Maiga about the contract so I went to his office and asked his secretary if I could speak with him. I asked this is French and she understood me! The problem was when she responded I don’t know what she said… I think she said she would call later today and tell me when I could see him. At least that is what I hope she said. Lunch today was so-so, but I did get to chat with Claire this morning which brightened my day. Also, I now read the news stories like everyday and it is amazing what you come across. For example, Philadelphia in general has the least attractive people of all of the top 25 US cities. I couldn’t help but email that little tid-bit of info to Caroline. I am also updating my gmail address book in preparation for sending out a mass-email update. That is a challenge. Break is over so I am back to work. This afternoon I am going to read a book about gravel bed pre-filtration. I finally located an electronic version in English. Excellent!

Last note: Today when I talked to Ryan he said he really liked my blog and couldn’t believe how much I wrote. He said he couldn’t imagine having that much to say about what he does everyday. Well, Ryan, I don’t think I have much interesting to say either, but somehow I keep filling up the pages.