Sunday, January 20, 2008

Missing home, loving packages, and wishing you were here to share in all the little things which make life amazing!

Well, well, well it is Sunday again. I feel like Sunday is my benchmark day. I know the weeks and days are just flying by when it seems like Sundays are back to back! This week was much better than last week for sure. I calmed down a little and gave myself some slack. I am admittedly my own fiercest critic… Sunday of last week was very very relaxed. I slept in. I listened to a sermon I had on my computer instead of going to church. I think this was a good option for me this week. I read a lot of the book I was reading called, “The Devil in the White City”. More on that to come. I also finished my washing, ironing and had a nice tennis lesson. I really like my tennis lessons :) Watch out Venus Williams! (Just kidding… it might take a while for that…) I talked to my parents which was also nice and much appreciated.

Monday started off well. I was able to do take my water samples and run the microbiology tests. I am still getting the procedures down. It is hard to remember all the details, but you have to because if you don’t you can contaminate the test and you have a false result which is not good in the least. Monday afternoon I went to the shoppette which I think I will make a weekly occurrence. You know, to get food for the week ;) Before I used to eat at the cafeteria all the time, but now that I am getting better at cooking and used to the system of things, even though it is a bit more pricey I feel like I am eating better for my system not having rice and pasta, ALL the time… That afternoon I made spaghetti sauce. It was SO good. I wonder why I ever bought sauce, even in the states. I hope I can continue to make this good food when I get back to America. Anyway, that night I invited Marie and Susan to join me for dinner since I had just made the spaghetti sauce and had enough to last a while… They both agreed and we had a nice dinner. All the conversation was in French which was awesome. I enjoy my lessons, but feel I have gotten to complacent with my French level, which is not all that advanced, so I really do need to continue to work on it. Just getting by isn’t good enough. Monday night I finally broke out the guitar and played for a long time. It was SO therapeutic…

One more quick little story from Monday was that I bought ground beef the last Monday and had the intention of cooking up the leftover for later. Well I kept putting it off and putting it off, but I wanted to use it in my sauce, but it was at this point 7 days old. It didn’t look that bad and only had a slight odor so I cut off a 1 inch layer all the way around the meat so only the red still okay looking stuff was left I fried it up good, but still could not bring myself to add it to the sauce… So I didn’t, but I had nothing else to eat for lunch so I made a random ground beef, tomato sandwich. This was a bad idea. I had really really cooked the heck out of the beef so I figured I would be okay, but then after lunch I went to my office to learn about cooking ground beef (admittedly something I should have done BEFORE this little episode of bad choices). I was horrified and then terrified I would get sick. Luckily, I made it through the next couple of days without a problem and so I think I am home free. BUT NEVER AGAIN I tell you! If in doubt, throw it out. I knew this. I genuinely knew this already, but I was dragging my feet because it is such a hassle to go to the store, ect. Anyway, I learned my lesson. The fear of getting sick I had was enough to make someone sick… Since that day I have been very very cautious about meat and other food items, hopefully a habit that keep with me for life.

Tuesday I was kind of feeling a bit out of it. Somewhat frustrated with work, again… So during my break time I went and ran like 6 miles. It felt amazing! I was on fire. That afternoon my spirits were way lifted and I even found time before my French lesson, which was just so-so, to submit my request to join the Young Water Professionals Sustainability Initiative. IWA is continuing to develop the toolbox I created by making a task group of young water professionals to work on it together. Since I helped create it I thought it appropriate that I stay with it. I look forward to helping make the resource even better than before. Also, that same afternoon Keith from IWA forwarded a paper to me that came across his desk. It is all about the ceramic water filters I am working on! Awesome!

That night I had resolved to prepare my lesson for WIRED on Thursday as well as make some pitas. I had a recipe I wanted to try and Marcia had left what I thought was yeast in the refrigerator. Well, turns out it wasn’t yeast. It was more like a baking soda thing. I couldn’t tell because of the French label…but my dough wouldn’t rise. So instead I rolled into tortilla shapes and cooked them on a skillet. Not all was lost. But just wait, as I was washing dishes I heard a crash. The cutting board on the stove holding the pitas had fallen! Luckily the pitas were stacked so I only lost about half of them. Not all was lost… but most were ;) Anyway, I also cooked up the rest of the peanuts from Bianca. This time I had a recipe and it went way better. They tasted really quite excellent. I bet you have never roasted your peanuts have you?! So after the cooking quasi fiasco I settled in and wrote my lesson. The catchy point was that “If God demands he will plan”. We looked at the story of Abraham and Isaac and Jesus feeding the 5000. It is really neat to see throughout the bible how whenever God demands something of you he has a plan and provides you with what you need to do it!

Wednesday I was feeling really pretty homesick. It had to be pretty bad if I am willing to admit it. Ali stopped by my office to give me another package notice slip… I tried very hard NOT to get my hopes up that it would be something cool. I was planning on swimming as my workout that day so I left work early to go to the post office before my workout and lunch. Well, I was so excited to see that it was a package from my roommate Cassy! I love Cassy! She sent me a lovely card and a Max Lucado daily calendar. I have one in my office, and now I love having one in my room at home as well as at work :) Swimming was fun. I used the goggles my parents sent me which are really really nice. I need to keep practicing with the whole swimming thing. It is harder than it looks! Anyway, the swimming and Cassy’s package really brightened up my day. That afternoon after getting back and showering I attempted to make hummus. It was an okay first attempt, but needs to be improved if I ever hope to serve it someone other than myself ;) First off I don’t have a masher so I was using a fork, secondly I didn’t have lemon juice so I used citrus juice (not the same thing, FYI) and I added too much garlic. BUT whatever. I did eat it on some of the pitas I made the night before so that was fun I also spread some of my good pasta sauce on one like a mini pizza minus the cheese….
Also, I should mention Wednesday morning I also was informed of several things. 1. I did not get into the IPER program at Stanford, this isn’t a huge shock, but I thought I would try. It is really a doctoral program and they were looking for people with a Master’s Degree and already work experience… So. 2. I was invited to visit Duke. They offered to pay, but I have to email them because I really don’t think they mean from Africa… But, who knows, if they want to pay for me to come out and visit them, I might be willing to make the effort, which it would be a huge effort both physically and emotionally. 3. I got the editorial responses back from the paper I submitted on my thesis topic. NOT GOOD. Boy is it humbling to have candid unveiled evaluations of your work from experts in the field. I knew there were some weaknesses, but to have them pointed out and really reprimanded for what I wrote is hard to take. SO this took some major prayer and Sara time to digest. All is not lost with the attempt I can re-write the paper as a case study which I think would be a better idea anyway. Also, I think it is incredibly helpful to have that kind of scrutiny early on in my career. If I can learn how to write a legitimate journal paper this early on I will be way ahead of the curve. So I struck out my first time. Big deal. I can give up and get discouraged or realize that I do have something interesting to say and that I just didn’t say it quite right the first time. Practice makes perfect. One of the rules of now President Klawe (She used to be the Dean of the Engineering School at Princeton and is not the President of Harvey Mudd College) is to fail openly and often. This is a tough one for me because, by God’s grace, I have been very successful in my endeavors. BUT as I keep moving out and into more challenging arenas I know I will fail at times. It is part of the deal. Regardless, Wednesday was a loaded day for me.

That night I made tomato soup. I love tomato soup especially the kind Colonial makes. But I’m not at Colonial anymore so I made my own. It was exceptional! After my tomato soup dinner I went back to the office to hopefully talk to my parents who had not responded to my earlier emails which was disappointing to say the least. To my dismay my Mom hadn’t come home and so I couldn’t talk to her. Instead I IMed with my friend Claire and wished her a Happy Birthday. I also played my guitar and read a lot that night. I needed it.

Thursday was ridiculous. I had a meeting the next day with Nicolas I needed to prepare for, but in the morning there was supposedly a tour group coming through and Kokou asked me to explain my project. They were supposed to come between 10:30 and 11:00. No problem, since my tennis lesson wasn’t until 12:00/20ish. Wouldn’t you know they didn’t come by until 11:30. And then after following them around I never even got the chance to demonstrate or talk about what I was doing. Frustrating! Whatever, I still made it tennis in time. Again, it was a very fun lesson. I can see I am making progress each time which is great! After coming home I had planned to make tuna salad for lunch. No problem. But, I get out my can of tuna only to discover to my horror that I bought tuna in oil and not in water and it has peppers in it as well. Oh, no. But I use it anyway. Not to be repeated for sure. The peppers added a little too much spice for my liking, but it was still good. In the afternoon I returned to work and completed the second set of microbiology tests. These went even better than the first. I am improving. I am glad I have these ceramic filters to work on since the others ones are still not working!

In the evening, I taught my lesson at WIRED. It went well. The kids were really hyper which make it more difficult. I was in a funny mood though. I hadn’t talked to anybody all week and had brought myself through a lot by myself and was just so happy to relax and be excited about something and tell someone about my failed hummus attempts and great news from Duke…

I also want to mention that on Tuesday or Wednesday I got a .pdf file from someone associated with Potters for Peace all about marketing Point of Use water treatment systems, i.e. the ceramic filters. Since my computer isn’t hooked up to a printer I had to have Konate print it. It reminded me of why I like to work independently. his computer wouldn’t send it right, and so I had to walk back and forth several times across the building to pick of the various pages. And I didn’t even get all of the pages until the next morning because the secretary left and locked the door. Oye.

Friday, was definitely a TGIF day! In the morning I worked on trying to get my AcrGIS to work, but it was to no avail! I wanted to have a map to show Nicolas, but that wasn’t going to happen. I did, however, read the whole marketing document which was incredibly informative. Also, the test results from Thursday’s microbiology labs were reasonable and good :) Nicolas came to visit in the afternoon which was a good visit. We started planning the Terms of Reference for the market study, but he really needs to read the paper from the Potters for Peace people. Tuesday we will go to CREPA to talk to the people there. I am looking forward to this “field trip”. Our work was, however, cut short at 5:00, by my French lesson. The lesson was incredibly irritating this week. He had me write as he read a passage and it was absurd because I hadn’t heard half of the words and just grump. It was not fun. I hope next week goes better. Then I was supposed to talk to my Mom, finally. But when I got on the phone with her I just didn’t really feel like talking at all. So we ended the conversation and I left my office. Thank God! I do not want to go back until Monday…

That night I went to dinner at Abigail and Marta’s house with Susan and Mary Ellen. It was great fun indeed! We had bruschetta as an appetizer, then leek soup and a carrot avocado salad. Fantastic dinner, capped off with ice cream and cookies. We sat around and talked for a while and them Susan I rode our bikes back. Fun night!

Saturday I made plans with Marie to go to the village artisanal. She hadn’t been and was leaving that night to go back to France. I thought it would be a fun thing to do. Susan came with us. It was really nice because Marie had access to a car a driver so we didn’t have to pay for a taxi. It was a sweet deal indeed! I was able to buy the belt I was looking for to go with my new top and Susan bought some very cool African instruments for her son Ross. I was looking for a nice silver necklace but couldn’t find one I liked… After coming back I headed to the rec club to work out since I had taken Friday off and was feeling sluggish. To my disappointment there were already two women there and one was on the treadmill. Even though I went at 12:30 when there is usually no one there! (and on a Saturday, come on people) and not to complain too much but if you are going to use the treadmill, use the treadmill for crying out loud. RUN. don’t walk. You can walk outside. Run. So I used the elliptical and then lifted some weights. Finally, the other ladies left and I was able to go use the treadmill. I ran 3 miles with some speed which felt good.

I got back in time to have a quick lunch and then Leanna came to pick me up at 2:30. We hadn’t hung out in a while. I brought my laundry and used her washer. Yeah. I love my friends. They are so good to me ;) We also washed and froze about 3 kilos of strawberries and then just talked for a while. It was a good conversation and I was happy to be there to listen. We made a very nice pasta with alfredo sauce and broccoli for dinner and followed that up with a nice thirty minute stroll through her neighborhood. I don’t think I have ever just gone and walked around since I have been. One because I had no one to walk with and two I had no where to walk. It was SO nice and refreshing!

Later we went to the American church service that happens every other Saturday evening. It was nice to worship with familiar songs. This was the first Edge service of the 2008. Fun! Afterwards, Leanna and I went back to her place and watched Pride and Prejudice something we had been meaning to do for a while, but never got a chance to because we were always hanging out with our guys friends who do not want to endure 2 hours of Jane Austen. Leanna drove me home around 11:00 and I read a little, but then hit the hay and feel asleep rather quickly.

Sunday, today, started off well. I had a tennis lesson, but it was weird because Mary Ellen showed up too so we had a like a double lesson. It was not a problem and I really enjoyed playing with someone. I think next time though it isn’t necessary to have the teacher there if we are going to volley back and forth. After the tennis time we went to a little restaurant around the corner and each got an omlette. They were fantastic! I am so glad she showed me this place. They also have wireless you can use for 500CFA an hour. I think I am going to try it out this afternoon to see if I can post to my blog (i.e. find out if the problem is my computer of the proxy at the 2iE) and talk to my parents NOT at my office.

Hmm, anything I missed or left out… Marie and I had this system going where one day we spoke French and the next day we spoke English. It was fun! She was a fine houseguest. Oh, also on Sunday an Italian woman, a professor, stayed in the house. She was only here for 2 nights, but it was a funny feeling having a full house like that!

To end the things I am looking forward to this week are… Tuesday’s visit to CREPA, Thursday’s Tennis Lesson, Wednesday I am starting a girl’s bible study, I am not teaching at WIRED on Thursday, phew… nice break and on Saturday I am going to the toastmaster at the Toastmaster’s Meeting. Wish me luck!