Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Council Dinner, Crepes, and an 8ft Diving Platform...

This week was so packed and this weekend so fun and exhausting I feel like I need to take a break from life! Everyday was just scheduled full and not all with work stuff. Each day I had something outside of work going on distracting me and generally making the week seem like it just flew by. Upon reflection I realized that you can have too much fun. You can be so busy having fun and being social, you don’t realize and relish what you are doing but just go from one activity to the next. I turned down two different invitations to hang out with friends this evening. Why? Because I haven’t had ten minutes of down time since I can’t even remember when. So, I am slowing down tonight, writing this post, and going to bed by 10pm. That is the goal.

Starting from the beginning, which is always a good place to start in my book, Monday was in one word, nice. In the morning I worked on some my work stuff; checking the filters, revising proposals, ect. My ankle was still a bit weak from the soccer game on Saturday and with a tennis lesson scheduled for Tuesday I decided to swim as my workout. I worked until 1pm and then headed over to the pool. It was so nice and refreshing! For lunch I went to Alice’s house and had lovely potato soup with her and Leanna. I actually joined them for a short prayer time after lunch. The other good thing was that I was able to get a few books to use as bible study guides for the junior high bible study I am leading. We are going to start a new series and I was looking for a leader’s guide so I didn’t have to come up with the lessons like last time which is actually quite time consuming. I went back to work after the very enjoyable lunch break and took some samples to analyze. I had a quick chat with my Mom and then my French teacher showed up! Um, yeah. I don’t have French on Monday, I have it on Tuesday. He was mixed up. I felt bad telling him to come back tomorrow, but I didn’t really have another option since I had other stuff I had to do.

I ran the microbiology tests in the lab and headed home. I quickly changed and got ready to go to the Scientific Council Meeting Dinner. Since I didn’t know where the Director lived and didn’t really want to roll up on my bike, I was able to arrange for the school driver to take me when he left to go pick up the other guests at their hotels. So even though the dinner wasn’t until 8:00, I had to leave at 7:15 and drive all over Ouagadougou picking up the other guests. I can’t complain though. I got there alright and when the dinner was over one the 2iE professors drove me back so I didn’t have to go back around to all the different hotels again. Funny story: in setting up the ride to the Director’s house I had to talk to the driver on the phone in French. A little miscommunication ended up in my thinking he was coming at 7:30 and him really coming at 7:15. Lucky for me, I was sitting reading waiting for him starting at 7:00, so it was really no problem just a surprise.

The Council Dinner was fantastic. The Director’s house is beautiful. They had all the tables set up outside around his pool. The food was catered, there was a drink bar and for dessert they served strawberries. What is not to love. At first I was afraid I wouldn’t have anyone to talk to there. One being about half the average age of the party goers, and two being the only female who wasn’t married to the director or a professor (there were only three women there in total) I wasn’t sure how my being there would go over. However, I am happy to report I had a lovely time. Being an English speaker I was able to entertain some of the North American guests. I found I was never without someone asking me questions and talking to me. At dinner, I sat next to a Professor from Alabama who was one of Professor Soboyejo’s friends. It was very nice to talk to him about my work. He seemed genuinely interested and I think I am just now realizing how important it is to 2iE that I am here this year. It is really important to them in building up the bilingual and international reputation of the institute. I’m glad I can be of help. I would also like to note I picked out the perfect outfit to wear to the dinner. I didn’t know what to expect and didn’t want to be too dressy or too casual, but I hit it right on the money with my red African print skirt with my black scoop neck top and artisanal necklace. If you ask me it was the perfect blend of Western and African styles. I came home from the dinner like a million bucks :)

Tuesday was a crazy day! I went to work early and then headed out for a tennis lesson about 9:15ish. The lesson started off pretty bad, but got better and I finished feeling pretty good, but tired. After the lesson I biked up to the Air Moroc office to inquire about flight prices to head back to the states to visit graduate schools. It took 40 minutes to get a quote, of which about 30 was spent waiting for my turn to talk to one of the two agents they had working… So the price is about 800,000CFA or 1800USD. I would fly into Boston visit MIT, then hit up Stanford and finish with Duke. The 1800USD doesn’t include the domestic fares either. I have been offered some money to cover travel expenses, but I don’t think it is enough and I don’t know if I really want to go through the stress of traveling and leaving for 10 days and then coming back to Burkina. I am afraid of what the adjusting will be like… I haven’t made a decision yet, but am in general pretty stressed about how I am going to make a decision without visiting the campuses.

Anyway, after Air Moroc I rode to Marina Market. I only had about 15 minutes to get what I need because I have to be back to 2iE to check on my filters! I luckily had a list which made things easier. The shopping was a 100% success and I made it back just in time. I also then started cooking lunch. I had invited Maggie and Leanna over for lunch and wanted to make baked ziti. So first I had to make the sauce, then put it all together with the pasta and bake it… I also tried to make roasted garlic to spread on the bread. It turned out alright, but I think the garlic was a little old, too dried out. The sauce turned out okay, but lacked a little kick. The baked ziti was good, but I didn’t buy parmesan cheese, I bought like swiss cheese which still tasted excellent, but just not quite the same.

I would also like to briefly relate a rather upsetting encounter with my housemates. I was in the kitchen cooking. I mention that I am having 2 friends over for lunch and they go, oh so are we. In my head I was like YOU ARE KIDDING! But no, they weren’t. Luckily they ate outside and we ate inside. This was doubly annoying because this morning I found the guys who they had been hanging out with the night before had crashed for the night on the couches in the living room. I am NOT down with that. And surprise surprise it was same two guys who came for lunch. Also, to add insult to injury they mentioned they went to look at their house again and it still isn’t ready and probably won’t be ready for a long time. I said something along the lines of having to be persistent and one of the girls retorted “Well, it really isn’t in our control…” with a tone that hid a message like “I don’t really care if you want us out of here…” That was not good. Finally, while we were still finishing up the girls came an introduced themselves to my friends and Leanna being super sweet asks them about their house and they indicate they have no real incentive to move because this place is so nice! AHHHH!!!! My heart about sank. I think it was grad school confusion, decisions about going back to the US for a visit, not really enjoying them at all, them having people over the same it all kind of just piled up.

But, all the nonsense aside, lunch with Leanna and Maggie was lovely. We talked to Maggie about what she liked about Burkina and generally just got to make her feel special and enjoy one last meal with this exceptional girl.

After lunch I headed back to work, finished up with what I had been doing and had my French lesson. It went well. I was surprisingly able to focus. After the lesson, I connected with my Mom to talk online. She was still sick and not doing well with that. I was a mess with the housemates and grad school stuff so the conversation lasted about an hour and a half. I am happy to report though after the ninety minutes was over, I felt way better. That’s what happens when you can talk out your problems… I also went home that night and made a list of things I need to talk to my housemates about. I am getting myself ready to talk to them about what needs to change around the house.

So I get home from talking to my Mom and go right to my room. I smell a burning smell, which isn’t unusual here because they burn trash outside all the time. However, this smell I realize is coming from my kitchen. I walk in cautiously and see that my housemate has left beans to burn on the stove. As I am there taking in the scene, deciding what to do, she walks in… She fell asleep on the couch! What I don’t get is why the flame was up as high it was. First you never cook anything with a flame that high and secondly you don’t walk away, AND fall asleep! Can you imagine! Needless to say I was happy to close the book on Tuesday and start over on Wednesday. But before I could tuck in the covers I had to prepare for a conference call that would take place at 5:00am the next morning. This meant getting up at 4:30. Wow. That is early friends.

Tuesday night, however, brought a lovely surprise. Leanna had mentioned the Mango Rains at lunch noting we hadn’t had any yet this year. Well, speak of the devil, it rained on Tuesday night! and it rained hard. I woke up to the sound of pelting rain and rushing wind. Disorienting sounds if you haven’t had any precipitation for 6 months… So I wake up to this rain at 3:00am and my first thought is what am I going to do if it is still going at 4:30am when I have to go take my call? But lucky for me I just went back to sleep hoping it would stop by then, and it did :) Oh, but the smell of the wet earth and cool feeling the rains left was absolutely enchanting. Walking to my office in the early hours of the dawn basking in the freshness after the rain I forgot about all the housemate issues and other challenges of life in Africa and was for those few moments incredibly happy in every way.

The conference call went well. I am on the steering committee for the IWA sustainability toolbox initiative and this was a call concerning the next steps we are taking. It was very productive and I am looking forward to what this resource can turn into. After getting up so early I went back to bed for an hour… But work was calling so at 7:30 I pulled myself out of bed ready to take on the day.

Wednesday’s highlight was definitely fabric shopping with Susan and Mary Ellen. We went to the Marche St. Camille. I bought a great print I am going to have a dress made out of. Susan also bought a very beautiful blue fabric. The three of us rode our bikes there together and it was funny to think about how our little caravan of white women must have looked to the African passers-by.

This visit to the market was not as pleasant as other trips I have made. The vendors were more aggressive and one wouldn’t leave me alone about some shoes he wanted to sell me, grrr…. I liked the shoes, but didn’t have any need for them. And they felt like they would fall apart in a second. On the way home from the market, I stopped at the Shopette and picked up some dried mango pieces to give to Maggie as her going away present. Together on our Mali trip we had discovered that they make excellent travel food :) I also got candied peanuts and strawberries to have with the ice cream at bible study.

After getting home from the market, I washed and chopped the strawberries. I also was adventurous and tried to make crepes. I used the recipe on the corn starch box and man were they great crepes. Like the consistency of the kind from a restaurant. The problem was I spent so much time putting the meal together I only had about 10 minutes to eat it, during which time I also had to plan for bible study. Upon reflection, I see that I was trying to do many things at once ;)

Anyway, bible study went well. We reviewed James and then had ice cream. I had ordered the ice cream the day before from an ISO student who makes and sells it. They were supposed to deliver it to Rosie and Anna’s apartment in the morning, but I was so afraid they would forget. But I texted the girls and they said the ice cream had arrived and everything was set. Thank the Lord for that! I stuck around after study and chatted with Maggie one last time. When I left we said goodbye. It wasn’t so sad because I really think I will see Maggie again sometime in the future. I will miss her, but I am also so glad she gets to go home and was so blessed to have her here for the time she was here.

Going back to work was not high on my list of things I wanted to do, but it was high on the list of things I needed to do. I worked on some MES measurements. They didn’t go as well as planned. period. Anyway, on Wednesday night I tried to make hummus again. I wasn’t sure if that was a good plan or not, but it turned out great! I made it in the chopper attachment to my blender. Perfectly smooth hummus spread :) I was two for two with the crepes and hummus on Wednesday. Go me!

Thursday was a tough day. I was tired from my week. Gosh, I wonder why… I did, however, finish reading my book omnivores dilemma which was a huge accomplishment. That book was good, but took me twice as long as I had hoped to finish it. For lunch on Thursday I invited Susan over to help me finish the leftovers from Tuesday with Leanna and Maggie. She happily accepted. I was planning on finishing off the crepe batter with Susan after lunch so I made up some more banana syrup to put on them, but we were too full after lunch so we decided against the crepes. Shame, because the banana syrup is to die for :) Mary Ellen was also supposed to come to, but I guess she lost her phone and was crazy busy, ect. Anyway, she called and said she doesn’t think can go to Bobo and Banfora anymore next weekend. Talk about a bummer! So now I am stuck looking for other travel mates. Not the boat I was hoping to be in. In the afternoon, I took samples again and ran the lab tests. I finished at 3:30 in time to see part of Kokou’s presentation on his work. I only stayed for part of it because I went with Susan over to an art gallery place only a short walk from 2iE. The owners of that sweet Gondwana’s restaurant have a showroom of African masks, tables, rugs, dolls, sculptures, ect. It was so cool! I felt like I had walked into a Pier 1 Imports store, except nothing was imported… I didn’t buy anything, but Susan did. She is heading back to the States and was looking for some gifts for people.

When I got back to my office around 4:45, I talked to my briefly online with my Mom and then I looked into my Columbia application situation since I haven’t heard anything from them which is odd. Turns out I may have checked the wrong box on the application. Not good. I don’t think my application was reviewed! So I sent the office an email on Thursday about it. I haven’t gotten a response yet, but when I do I will let you know. Thursday evening at 5:30 I had a visitor coming. Who it was, however, I wasn’t 100% sure. I knew it was someone from toastmasters. I had gotten a call from a woman on Monday and set up a meeting with her for Thursday, the only slight issue was I didn’t recognize her name. Luckily for me, I did recognize her face when she walked in. I helped her come up with her role descriptions for the next two meetings. It was a short meeting which was nice because I had to get to WIRED at 7:00. I usually love coming to youth group, but this week I was pretty much going because I felt I had to be there. Commitment means going even when you would rather not. So I went.

After WIRED, I made myself a crepe dessert; one with a mango, yum and the other with the banana syrup. I liked the banana syrup one the best. Oh and while I was making the crepes I practiced flipping them in the air without a food turner. It was pretty sweet. I am going to have to keep practicing, but that is definitely a skill I want to master and it seems surprisingly easy once you get the hang of it. Following my awesome dessert, I sat down to write my speech for the toastmasters meeting on Saturday. I had been putting it off and putting it off… I could kick myself sometimes for doing stuff like that! Anyway, I sit down and I just can’t write it. Nothing is coming to me. So instead, I write about one-hundred and fifty different childhood memories…much more fun. However, I still don’t have anything ready for Saturday and that is a problem. But I said whatever and went to bed. I started reading another book I picked up from Alice called The Friendships of Women by Dee Brestin, all about how women interact with their friends and why women needs friends, ect. It was a very fast read; in fact, I finished it on Saturday.

By friday I was ready for the week to be over. In the morning I ran MES tests again and read from my book. That was nice. Also, Friday morning I got a confirmation that Mary Ellen could not come to Bobo/Banfora as she had suspected so instead I emailed Pam a woman at the embassy who had expressed interest in going. She responded right away with a positive answer. The only glitch is we have to leave Friday instead of Thursday, but I think we can make it work and Pam has her own car which will make the travel much nicer in general as well. We are waiting to hear if another girl, Emilie, can make the trip with us. I hope she can!

In contrast to that good news, I still hadn’t planned my speech and now things were looking bleak. I also started feeling myself slipping into one of those depressed type attitudes that I have been trying to fight off. Recognizing the situation I went to the gym to workout. I ran 5 miles, and the change in pace and physical exertion seemed to help pull me out of any negative attitude. I ran hard and fast it felt nice.

After running I went home and showered. I went to the lab to read the test results from Thursdays work and prepared for my French lesson. I was not at all in the mood for French, so when my teacher came 15 minutes late, I told him we would do only a half lesson today and make it up on Tuesday, hoping Tuesday I would be back to my happy self. This was an excellent choice. It allowed me to work on my speech starting at 6:00pm. I finally had incentive to write it as Bianca invited me to dinner with her and her friend Heather at Verdoyant. Le Verdoyant is a very popular restaurant, but to my disappointment I hadn’t eaten there yet! So I worked feverishly on my speech so that I could go. I was about ¾ of the way done and had to stop to go to dinner. I figured I could finish the rest when I got home. I was so happy I didn’t decline the dinner invite on account of my unfinished speech because during dinner I get a call from Susan that the meeting for tomorrow is cancelled on account of the planned demonstrations. Yeah, maybe I should mention that about 3,000 people planned to march in Ouagadougou in protest of rising food costs. Hum… I did feel a little bad going to dinner because I told Leanna I couldn’t help at a Youth Group event they were holding that night called, “Underground Church”. But I got over it.

I would like to note I took a taxi by myself to the restaurant to meet Bianca and Heather. I was very please with my ability to communicate and get around. When we were done with dinner we all headed back to the Peace Corp hostel. I picked up a French book Bianca had gotten for me and then together we walked over to Leanna’s place. It is all of a ¼ walk… When we got there Ben, Will and Tyler were waiting. They had helped with the “Underground Church” and Leanna had promised them smoothies as their reward. The problem was, Leanna got stuck driving some kid home, so while she was gone I stepped in and helped make the smoothies. I think they turned out ok. When Leanna got back we all just chatted for a while and then Bianca headed home. She had been up really late the two nights prior and just seemed a bit out of it. Since Toastmasters was cancelled I was up for something, and Leanna was just starting Spring Break… So Leanna drove me back to my place to pick up my stuff and then I went back to her house for a sleepover! Fun.

We watched a movie, which Ben stuck around for. The movie of choice was Ernest goes to jail. It is just as funny as I remember it :) Adam and I used to watch it all the time and loved it! Remember the scene where Ernest dresses up as the old woman trying to get out of jail, or at the beginning where he is using the floor polisher and it goes crazy and drags him up the wall! Oh, what fun.

Anyway, when the movie was over I went to bed, reading for a while first. Oh, yes and the other reason for agreeing to spend the night was that with the prospect of protests in the morning I thought it better to be with Leanna at her place and not at the University. However, Saturday morning came and went and we heard no signs of protest. Later I would learn that there was a very large demonstration, but it was centered downtown and remained peaceful.

In the morning we made pancakes. I insisted that they be silver dollar sized. Trust it just makes them much more fun to eat. We hung out and practiced some worship songs. Leanna and I are going to perform a song for the prelude at one of the EDGE worship services. Should be fun. So we picked out a song for that. We also started watching Sweet Home Alabama and made lunch. We had sausages which reminded me of being in London. I’m not sure why, but whatever. After lunch we finished the movie. I have decided is a not a movie one can watch over and over again. The major logical flaws in the movie start to stick out and the characters become rather pathetic and less endearing. After the movie it was time for me to go home. So Leanna drove me back.

I just felt like I needed to be home. Having the spent the night without planning that ahead threw me for a loop, as far as doing the other things I wanted to do this weekend… yeah, like relax. Definitely did not happen. Anyway, I went to my office and talked with my family for a few minutes. They told me they received the package I sent them :) I was happy to hear that. I worked so hard not to tell them it was coming; I wanted it be a genuine surprise. It was, and I love to imagine the expression on my Mom’s face when she read the package return address and realized what she had in her hands was from me. While that was exciting news from home, I had no good emails waiting for me which was certainly disappointing. I was hoping to hear back from Columbia in regards to the email I sent them. But no. I did, however, get a text from Susan about going to her friend Keith’s birthday party. Keith and Cheryl are two of Susan’s friends from the embassy. Against the urge I felt to stay home, I went. I think it was a good choice. I met several very interesting people and it was nice to see some other familiar faces I hadn’t seen in a while. We got there at about 7:30. I would say by about 9:00 there were 20 people there. However, most everybody cleared out by 11:30. I say most because several of us hung around and danced until like 1:30 in the morning. It was crazy… all these older people, and I say older as a compliment, dancing like they were 20! I just had to smile and join in :)

Susan and I got a ride home and I wish I could say that as a responsible person I went to bed. However, that would be a lie. Instead, I outlined this post and then watched Save the Last Dance. Yeah, you tell me. Why I couldn’t wait until the next day is beyond me… So I go to sleep at the ripe hour of 3am only to wake up at 9:30 to start my filters for the day. That, my friend, took dedication. But I had to get the timing just right. So you do what you have to. I also made some banana bread. This turned out smelling and looking great. It tasted great too, but I regret to inform you that as I was making it one of the eggs I put in had just a tinge of a funny smell to it. But alas, I had already put it in, so what is one to do except hope it bakes okay and that the smell was only in my imagination. Anyway, on Monday I had some stomach issues and have since suspended the banana bread eating to see if that is what it was… I may just throw it out, which kills me... but I learned my lesson with the ground beef. I hope I don’t have to remind you of that lovely episode.

So Saturday night at the party I met Paulina, a Columbian woman whose husband is French. They own a great place called Hotel Ricardo by the barrage in Ouagadougou. Susan used be good friends with her, but they hadn’t connected in a while. Anyway, after the dance party the night before, Paulina invited us both over for lunch on Sunday. Susan and I rode our bikes there :) It was great fun, hot, but nice. I want to ride back the same way sometime because there were some great clothing vendors I would like to investigate. So lunch, lunch was amazing! They served paella which is a Spanish dish. It was amazing. The hotel cooked everything. Delicious salads to begin with, the paella main dish and then pineapple-strawberry skewers for dessert accompanied by homemade strawberry ice cream. I can’t believe this woman eats like this all the time.

Paulina was such a funny lady! She was quite petite and spoke English with a Spanish and French accent if that is even possible… She loves animals. She has 10 dogs. Not kidding. Anyway, after lunch Susan and I went for a swim in the awesome pool at the hotel. A guy named Dane who was also at the party the night before and staying at the Hotel Ricardo joined us. Important to note that the pool had a 8ft diving platform… So, of course I had to jump off of it! I was going to dive, but the first time I got up there I was too scared so I just jumped in feet first, which is still quite a drop. However, I had to conquer my fear so I climbed up again and this time dove in! I was so happy. Since I did it, I challenged Susan and Dane to jump too… to my delight they both took my challenge so we all took the giant leap. I think we started a trend because when we left there were some younger French boys jumping off too. It was quite the charmed existence that afternoon. Lunch at the hotel, swimming in the pool in March! I had a momentary thought of, Wow I love Africa, how am I going to leave? But don’t worry it only lasted a brief second. I still am looking forward to heading home in June.

I had a tennis lesson scheduled for 3:00 and I needed to be back by 2:50 to check on my filters. BUT we got of the pool and I was pretty dismayed to see it was 2:45! Susan and I changed and headed out quickly, but not before I made plans with Dane to play tennis before he left. We didn’t get back to 2iE until 3:15. This was not good for my filters and worse for my tennis stuff. I showed up 30 minutes late for my lesson :( I didn’t really have a lesson and the guy who did play with me for like 20 minutes was more frustrating than anything else. The only upside was I would get another chance to play on Monday with Dane. You’ll have to wait until the next post to hear how that went.

So I get back from the tennis lesson and feel pretty wiped out and disoriented. I hadn’t had more than 3 minutes of down time. I was going from one thing to the other and it didn’t feel very good. To add to my consternation Keith and Cheryl were having a Palm Sunday movie marathon with Passion of the Christ and Jesus Christ Superstar. Did I mention that Keith and Cheryl have an amazing DVD collection, because yeah, they have an amazing DVD collection... Some are still in the shrink wrap! And they told me I could borrow some whenever I wanted to. A-mazing. On top of the movie marathon option, Leanna and Bianca were also having dinner and watching LOST; a lovely evening they wanted to include me in. BUT I was so wiped, so unable to function I just laid down in bed. I listened to some Christian music and dozed off from 5 until 7ish… I did get up again to go talk to my parents online, but that only lasted a little while and I came back and worked on this post. Dinner consisted of a big bowl of popcorn and a smoothie. Just the way I like to end my weekends ;) So bottom line, what I learned is that you can have a fun filled schedule everyday, but in less you have some down time to bask in the goodness and memories of those activities you might as well not do them at all. Reflection on life’s blessings are almost as important as the blessings themselves!

Sorry this is late in being posted. It’s because I couldn’t finish it all on Sunday and I vowed I would go to bed at 9:30, read for 30 minutes and then fall asleep.

Even though I was asleep by 10pm on Sunday I could not get up on Monday. More on that in the next post, I don’t want to start mixing weeks. Not this late in the game.

Just a funny note… there is a gecko in my office that has no tail. I have seen it several times now and I know it’s the same one, well because it has no tail. Today it was really having issues. Running in circles and not being able to stick on the wall. I feel bad for the little guy. Also, another day I saw a gecko missing a hand… talk about a bummer.