Sunday, January 20, 2008

Fondou, filters and fresh strawberries :)

Saturday after getting back from Ghana was an awesome day. I am so glad we decided to come back on Friday so we could have the weekend to prepare for going back to work. Friday night I am not sure when I went to bed nor did I set my alarm. I simply slept until I felt rested enough to get up. Lucky for me that was still in time to get to the bank before they close, which is 11:00 on Saturdays. I stopped by my office to quickly check my email messages before heading to the bank, but to my surprise over break maintenance had come in and worked on the network connection. Unfortunately for me, they had only half finished the job. Africa, not surprising. I made my withdrawal from the bank and went to SIM to pay Georgie and Maggie the money I had owed them from the trip. I wanted to get things squared away before we forgot who owed who what. We also made plans for a Mexican dinner at my place on Monday night to exchange pictures. Yeah.

Since I had no internet at work I did what any other person in my place is likely to do, I went to Leanna’s house and used her connection :) The cool thing was Bianca was there. Her parents, who came to visit her over Christmas, had just left Friday night to head back to the States. Bianca was debating whether to go back to village that afternoon or wait until the morning. After much discussion the decision was that she would stay and the three of us would have a girl’s day and then a sleepover. Ooooo, exciting! So we watched Casino Royale and then made Lasagna for dinner for later. Then we watched Take the Lead followed by eating the delicious lasagna. The last movie of the night was The Prince & Me. Do you see the progression of like action, to drama, to major chick flick. That’s right. That’s how it goes. Also, while watching The Prince & Me we had chocolate fondue with pineapple and bananas. It was awesome.

Sunday Bianca was supposed to get up get the early bus. Wouldn’t you know it was sold out? So she bought a ticket for the afternoon bus and came to church with Leanna, Lorinda and I. After church we stopped by Marina Market to do some grocery shopping. I got some good stuff :) But I knew I would have to go back to the store on Monday to get the rest of the food to make the tacos. Sunday afternoon I wrote the December update letter, chilled out and generally just lamented the fact that work was starting again. I had made plans to talk to my family hoping the internet would be back up. It wasn’t, so I biked it over to Leanna’s… again. So much biking! I talked to my parents for a while and it was great :) I had missed talking to them while I was in Mali.

Monday was a fun day. Everyone was in such high spirits after the holidays. I wanted to get right down to work, which I did, but it was a challenge. Every time you saw someone they wanted to do the four cheek French style greeting while uttering stuff about how they wish you good health, fun times, ect. in the new year. It was very culturally normal, but seemed pretty silly to me. I like the Happy New Year, how were your holidays? type of greeting much better. I got my filters soaking and fired off a bunch of emails I had been saving. I had my French lesson and then talked to Moumini about changing the time we meet to Tuesdays and Fridays from 5:00-6:00. We’ll see how it works for this month and then just go from there. During the repos on Monday I took at taxi to and from Marina Market. Usually I bike, but having had the marathon weekend of biking back and forth to Leanna’s I needed a break and I knew I would buy more groceries that I could carry. At the store I bought fresh strawberries. It is just the beginning of strawberry season and I am so pumped. I LOVE strawberries. They aren’t super cheap compared to the pint prices in the states, but they are still reasonable. Anyway, I got everything to make the tacos :) Georgie and Maggie came over after work was done and we whipped up an awesome meal! After dinner we loaded all the pictures on my computer and then burned CDs of the files for Georgie and Maggie. The whole operation went off without a hitch which was great.

Tuesday at work was again pretty hectic. People still cheek greeting, still annoying. I complete the saturated flow rate test on my filters and moved them to the their housing in near the filter station. I also spent a whole heck of a lot of time getting a virus off my computer and installing and updating more antivirus software. Things are running smoothly again which is good. I am glad that as of now I have been able to avoid having to reformat my computer… In the afternoon at work I got this little slip of paper indicating I had a package waiting for me at the post office. I was pretty psyched. After asking Konate how the heck to go about getting my package, i.e. where and when… I left work early and got to the post office at 5:05. Just my luck they closed at 5:00. Can you believe it! I pleaded to be able to get my package, but it was to no avail. From there I went to work out. Again, another road block in that someone was on the treadmill. However, I did get to use the elliptical machine and was able to sign up for tennis, extend my membership to compensate for the 10 days I was in Mali, and renewed for another month. I don’t think he wanted to give me the 10 day extension, BUT I was renewing for month after that and buying tennis lessons so he didn’t argue which was exactly part of my plan ;) The other fun thing is that Tuesday night Leanna was going to watch a replay of the LSU OSU football game so after working out I sat and watched the game with Leanna, Tyler and Tyler. I left at 7:15, the night was still young so started writing my Mali blog. I only got up to the second day in Timbuktu before I decided it was time for bed.

Wednesday I got up early to be at the post office when it opened at 7:00. Well, just as it closed early, it also opens late. GRRR… I didn’t get my package until 7:24, and people wonder why these countries aren’t developed. It’s responsibility and accountability people! Anyway, from there I hit the gym for a thirty minute run. When I first arrived there was NO ONE in the gym. I went and changed and came back out and bam! There are like 8 guys in there working out. Luckily when I said I wanted to use the treadmill the guy on it kindly got off. Thank you! While I was expecting that after working out in the morning I would be raring to go for the day I was so tired. Not part of the plan. I started with my original filter plan which worked out well. I also met with a guy in the GIS department to look at a project he is working on and offer my opinion. The cool thing he is also going to be able to help me as well by getting me maps of Ouagadougou I need for defining what areas the market study should focus on. Wednesday was Ben’s Birthday and also Georgie’s last night with us in Ouagadougou before heading off to Cairo for a three week trip (sounds like fun, eh?)! To celebrate we went to the Gondwana, the resident place to go for a nice dinner. I split the Taxi Burger with Tyler. What is the Taxi Burger you are asking? Well, you know how they load up the bush taxis with tons and tons of stuff, that is what the burger is named for. It’s not even on the menu. It is 4 count them, 4 patties and buns, lettuce, tomate, onions and this amazing sauce in between each one. Definitely something that has to be split between two people. For dinner it was Ben, Will, Tyler, Maggie, Georgie and I. Afterwards we went to Leanna’s for cake. Yum. After such a fun night I was not looking forward to work the next day. Ben picked me up and gave me a ride to the restaurant on his moto, so Leanna drove me home. I arranged this instead of just riding my bike because Tyler B got a guitar for me from ISO. It was in Leanna’s car and needed to get to my house, so voila she drove me home. What a nice friend :)

Work on Thursday was the opposite of good. I was frustrated, kind of depressed for reasons I can’t but my finger on, and generally just didn’t want to talk to anybody. I couldn’t get into the filter building because Omar with the keys was MIA. I put in a request for keys to the labs and rooms I need access to before Christmas. Come on people, it is not that hard to have keys made! I was also planning on having a tennis lesson but had to reschedule because things were kind of not going so well at work. I did, however, still make it over to the rec center and ran a vigorous 5 miles, just to get out all my frustrations. I think I was also a bit stressed out because I supposed to be teaching the Junior High kids at WIRED and hadn’t come up with a plan. After the repos I used my time at work to get started. I had to stop though because there was a school wide administrative meeting held by the director to talk about the New Year. It was held in the auditorium which was cool since I had never been in there before. I was also pleased by how much I understood :) The best part was that it was followed by a reception with food and drinks. First time I had seen a Princeton style event (i.e. providing food for everyone). I had originally wanted to do some microbiology tests that afternoon, but gave up on that idea when I saw that the reception was not something I could skip out on. And it was nice to get an early dinner too. No complaints here. I did have to cut my mingling short though and finish planning my lesson.

6:45 came way too fast, but luckily I was ready. The lesson turned out really well and I even played in the game with the kids. They have really really fun games at WIRED. I need to start writing them down so I have a repertoire of games ready, who knows when I will need one. The worship was also awesome. It was just three songs and nothing out of the ordinary, but it has been so long since I had a chance to sing in English with other Americans. I felt very uplifited at that moment indeed. The main point of my lesson was to look for the blessing that come out of every circumstance, even circumstances that don’t seem like blessings. I also let the kids share about how they spent their holidays and used a baseball for the kids to toss to each when it was their turn to talk. I really enjoyed the lesson and felt the kids really understood the message. It was nice to get to forget about everything else for a while and enjoy the fun fellowship!

Friday I was bit down still, but tried to suck it up and get through the day. In the morning I was able to get the maps from the guy I met with on Tuesday and then during the repos I had my first tennis lesson. IT WAS AWESOME! I am SO PUMPED about learning to play tennis for real. My teacher is also very good. I was skeptical thinking, humm… will these be African quality lessons or American quality. Well, I guess I can’t really know for sure since I never took lessons in the States, but I think my teacher Emile is great. And really you can’t beat the price of about $4.50 for a 45 minute one-on-one lesson. Yeah! In the afternoon I did my microbiology test. There were some problems, but it is the first time doing them for real. Of course it will take a few tries to get things just right. The important thing is that I have started and am moving forward. It is funny because I am really working independently on this project and not having to wait for other people its actually going somewhere! Look at that! I had my French lesson at 5:00 which went well. I need to make more time to practice and study outside of the lesson times. I feel like I have reached a plateau and need to start climbing again. I went to dinner at the cafeteria which I hadn’t been to in a while. After having started to cook for myself the cafeteria is looking less and less appealing even though it is cheaper. I think I will be healthier have a variety of foods instead of just rice, couscous, or pasta.

I made plans to talk to my Mom online that night so I anxiously went back to my office to wait for her get home. Then to my disappointment I get an email from her saying she won’t be home for another hour or so. SO, instead of throwing in the towel for the night I decided figure out how to add songs to my new mp3 player and seriously start planning my speech for toastmasters, which was the next morning by the way. I always say, “Oh I am going to prepare early this time” and it never seems to happen. Anyway, I developed an outline an introduction and conclusion which was pretty good for having only an hour and no real assignment on the topic. You could talk about anything and deciding what to write your speech about I think is half the battle. I decided to speak on the benefits of volunteering. This was a topic I felt was relevant in motivating people to volunteer in the New Year and a prepared speech that might be good to have in my back pocket for the future.

It was nice talking to my Mom, but my overall mood was still a bit low which I could tell was a bit of a problem at least on my enc as far as facilitating good conversation. While we chatted I also dusted my office and cleaned up a little which made a huge difference in the feel of things. Everything gets so dusty here, so fast too! It’s incredible… Anyway, we talked until like 9:00pm my time at which point I headed home and forced myself to write my speech. My reward for getting my speech done would be popcorn and watching Pride and Prejudice (or at least part of it…). By the time I finished writing my speech and going through it a few times it was already 10:30. My speech needed more work it was about 30 seconds too short, but I needed a break so I started the movie. Any girl knows that once you start Pride and Prejudice there is just no stopping until the end… I finally crawled into bed around 1:20am after having spent another 45 minutes or so figuring out how to lengthening my speech.

My alarm at 7:15 this morning came way to quickly for my liking. So I snoozed it twice… But I still had to transfer my speech to note cards and meet Professor Maiga at 8:00 to go look at the filters, eat breakfast and be ready for toastmasters at 9:30. The meeting with Maiga went well. I am somewhat frustrated because one of the faucets has a leak that I can’t figure out how to stop. There a problem with the gasket I think. I will have to contact Nicolas about it on Monday. The toastmasters club meeting went well. I was the listening evaluator as well as gave my second speech. Susan complimented me very nicely when I was done. It was also interesting to hear the African response. My speech evaluator talked about how nice it is to now understand why people come from rich nations to live in Ouagadougou to help others. BUT the funny thing is I really meant it as an encouragement for the Africans to start volunteering in their community. However, now that I think about it I haven’t seen anything advertising opportunities to volunteer. What a concept? Instead of aid agency coming and doing all the work, why don’t they facilitate volunteer programs where it the Africans making the positive change in the community. People work all the time here without pay, but as far as organized volunteering there is little offered.

I invited Susan for lunch at my place. I had wanted to make a tuna wrap for lunch all week, but was waiting because I didn’t want to make the meal for one since a can a tuna is more than I should eat at once. And really, who wants a tuna wrap to meals in a row? After lunch I cavalierly tried to wash my clothes. Hand wash, mind you. It didn’t go so great. I used my bathtub to soak the clothes in. End of story, my clothes are hanging up outside drying as I write this. I didn’t finish early enough for them to dry before it got dark so I wait for them to dry in the morning… I did, however, buckle down this afternoon and finished my Mali update which is quite long as you have seen. I also worked out for 30 minutes and then went over to Susan’s to meet the tailor. He brought the dress I had ordered and I really liked it except it is really short! So I can’t really wear it as a dress. It looks really nice though over a pair of black pants. It’s kind of a mod style, very funky and color looks great on my skin. I think it is actually something I will wear back in the States :) I also gave him more fabric to make a cool pair of billowy pants and a skirt. Mary Ellen and her two friends were there as well. It was nice to catch up a little bit and we agreed to practice tennis with each other and be swim partners too. It will be nice to have someone to workout with. If my day wasn’t packed enough I went with Leanna and Lorinda to watch some of the Packers Seahawks game. It was just the right way to finish off the week.

Oh, one thing I forgot to mention is that on Thursday I saw the Wolters family and was able to get all my stuff that my parents and family sent for me. Thursday after WIRED was like my Christmas. I got a new mp3 player, hard drive, two very cool new t-shirts from Old Navy and lots of Propel water packets. Yeah! AND last thing on Sunday I got a new housemate. Mari from France. She is really nice and we get along fine. It’s not like having Marcia here though… Mari will stay for 2 weeks. She is teaching a course on management at for the Master Level 1 students so she is busy with her own things. I have also been crazy busy this week as well, but hope to have more opportunities to get to know her this coming week.

Things I am looking forward to this week. Playing my guitar. Tennis Lesssons. Friday dinner at Mary Ellen’s friends’ house. More filter experiments (hopefully successful). Less hectic days!

Catch you on the flip side…