Monday, March 10, 2008

Presentations, Grad School news and Soccer!

This first week of March was crazy. It started out really stressful and then the stress miraculously turned into immeasurable joy and excitement with the reception of great news and success on many fronts.

The trip to Nazinga was definitely a blessing, but I had planned on spending the weekend catching up with work and planning for the presentation I was to give at the first 2iE Scientific Forum to be held this Thursday. Needless to say none of that planning got done. So I started out the week working like mad to gather resources and read up on the subject of point-of-use water treatments so I could write my talk. I was able to get my computer hooked up to a printer, and Monday and Tuesday I was printing articles, getting sources together and taking time to actually read them! I stuck with my 30 minutes of French each morning this whole week which extends my streak to 2 weeks. Pretty good.... One more week and I think it becomes a habit.

Monday I worked with the librarian again trying to get access to JSTOR. Turns out we had another set of forms to fill out! So we couldn’t finish the process on Monday. I did, however, go and talk to the secretary and computer people to get the relevant information we needed to complete the forms. Also, I was able to email the JSTOR people and learned on Tuesday that we don’t have to fill out the complicated licensing form. Phew. Monday I took a flow rate measurement, but realized that the second filter had grown some major algae. When I moved the table to get Filter 1 out of the sun, it put Filter 2 in the sun in the early morning hours. This would have to be remedied.

Around lunch time as I was trying to pull something together to eat. I think I made chicken salad… yes I did :) my housemates came in and said they had gone to see their new place this past weekend. Oh I was so so excited to hear that. I just want my house back to myself. This has really been a trying time for me. I was so excited about getting my new cooking things, but my housemates are always around making it hard for me to cook. So when they leave I will be much happier. I think, subconsciously, I am waiting to go grocery shopping until after they leave… They said sometime in the next week they would be leaving. I am counting down the days. Monday night I worked out at home doing my workout video. My housemates were around though and couldn’t figure out how to use the back door to get outside and had to disrupt me by walking through the room, twice…which was annoying. But I didn’t let it stop me.

Tuesday morning I cleaned the filters before lunch which took more time than anticipated… as usual. I should just anticipate it taking longer! I also moved the filters into the back room which is better shaded, hoping to avoid further algae growth. Around lunch time I went to the rec center to run on the treadmill and what do you know… One of my housemates was there running on it! Talk about a frustration. I guess it just serves me right for being nice. Next time if I don’t want to share something, like my gym equipment, I should just learn to be heartless and not try make friends with people because now they are inconveniencing me. Some lessons you have to learn the hard way. I was able to lift a little and swam in the pool, something my housemate also did after her workout which again annoyed me. After my swim I stuck around the pool and relaxed a little, or at least as much as I could after my gym fiasco. I ordered Shwarmas for lunch, a Lebanese wrap type dish, very tasty.

In the afternoon the power went out. At first it was fine; actually good because it encouraged me to read the articles and not be distracted by my computer. However, that night I had planned to pretty much write my talk and without my computer that would be tough. I had my French lesson as planned since that doesn’t depend on the power being on, and I am happy to report it went well again. This whole studying thing is paying off! Later that night, while I was waiting for the power to come back on I planned for bible study the next day. Always a good thing to do. We are going to finish up James this week. Yeah!

The power came back on around 7:30 so I quickly finished the bible study lesson then went to my office ready to get to work. However, just as I am ready to go the power goes off again…. sigh* By this time I was getting pretty nervous I wasn’t going to be ready for Thursday, and this whole power thing was not helping the situation. Anyway, I went back home made some popcorn thinking that would make me feel better. It did at first, until I found bugs in the popcorn requiring me to throw it out… However, in the depths of my popcorn dismay, the power came back on! Excellent. So I camped out at the table spread out all my articles and got to work…starting about 9:30. I knew it would be a late night. At about 11:30 my housemates came home with two guys. Thankfully, they went out the patio out back and left me alone. It was still annoying though because I could hear them talking. I did my best to ignore them, which I was miraculously able to do. The guys left about 12:30 and the girls went to bed. I stayed up another hour or so finishing up my plans. After spending 4 hours on my talk I was confident in what I would do. It still needed some work, but I had all Wednesday and Thursday in the morning to work on it.

Wednesday I got up and headed to work. I found it very hard to get myself on task, but finally did get to work. I think the fact I was up so late the night before with it that made me not want to work… I made up a one page executive summary to hand out with my talk so the professors would have something to walk away with and be able to reference if they didn’t understand everything I had said. At the same time as I was trying to prepare all these materials, I was also pretty distraught about my filter stuff. The flow rate in the large filters was slowing down again, and I hadn’t refilled the ceramic ones because I wanted to test them for ways to improve flow rate and was too busy with my talk to think straight. I determined in a moment of clarity to put my monitoring things on hold until after my talk on Thursday. This was a good plan. Right around ten o’clock Pascal, the woman I went to Nazinga with, stopped by my office to see if I wanted to grab a soda with her as a nice little break. What a pleasant idea! We chatted a little bit and it was nice to have an excuse to get out of the office. Additionally, I should mention that Susan’s power was acting really odd on Tuesday and it fried the charger for her computer. Since we both have Toshibas I have been charging hers for her. She goes home on March 22nd and will bring a new back with her then, but until then I think I will be helping out with keeping her computer going. I don’t mind. I know I would want the same thing if I was in her boat.

Wednesday I went over to Rosie and Anna’s for lunch before bible study. They are they new short term missionary girls from England who have offered to help with bible study since Maggie is leaving on March 12th. Sad. I will miss her a lot. Lunch was lovely and bible study discussion was good considering the circumstances. The power went out again just as we were starting and with no fan the room got pretty hot. After bible study, I wasn’t looking forward to going back to 2iE because I wouldn’t be able to continue my work without power. However, when I did finally bring myself back I was pleasantly surprised to find that there was power! Fantastic! So I made up the PowerPoint presentation to go along with talk, and printed out the first draft of the handout. I worked until 6:30-ish and then went home firstly because the tailor was at Susan’s house and I needed to try on the dress so he could make alterations have it ready for Saturday, and secondly to make dinner. I tried to make rice which turned out terribly. Sticky and gooey on the outside, and yet crunchy on the inside, blah. But with nothing else to eat I made it work… I would later learn the trick to cooking rice was putting a lid on the pot. Good to know.

I went back into the office after my sub-par dinner and worked until 9:30ish. When I left I was very happy with my plans for Thursday’s forum. I stayed up later than I had planned that night working on getting the Nazinga pictures ready to give to Pascal and Christian and to post online. This actually takes a while, b/c like I have mentioned before, I want to pass out good photos and you would be surprised how hard it is to narrow down 250 photos to 115-ish.

I slept in a little on Thursday not going in to work until 7:45. I made some finishing touches to the handout, printed it up and went to the copy room to have copies made. I also went to see the librarian and we filled out, what I hope is the last set of forms for Jstor access. I had lunch with my student friend Pascal, not the Nazinga lady… It was nice and I got to practice my French more. Pascal will be going to Bobo to complete his thesis work, which they call here a “Memoir”. Whatever. After lunch I took a short cat nap and then did my abs of steel toning workout just to get me energized for my talk. I went back to my office around 2:45 ran through my presentation one more time and then headed off to the room to set up.

The Forum was to start at 3:30 and at 3:40 Susan and I were still trying to get the computer projector to work. Talk about frustrating. But it was actually okay because just about everyone was late and if I had started right at 3:30 a lot of people would have missed my talk. Professor Maiga and many of the GVEA faculty showed up which was great. I really wanted these people to see my presentation. It went great. In fact, I would wager to say I nailed it :) I had their attention the whole time. And at the end many people had questions and comments which I take as a great sign of people paying attention and being interested in the topic. I answered questions as best as I could. It was the first forum like that I had ever participated in and what great practice it was! Following my presentation, the power went out! Talk about bad luck for the next presenter. He did a good job adapting and using the chalkboard. The power did come back on for his last two slides. The final presenter also did a nice job, but it was a presentation similar to one he gave at the conference in November that Marcia had helped put together. In general, the first Scientific Forum was a great success. There is another one in the works for April. I worked so hard on my presentation it was nice to see the hard work pay off. I knew this was my one shot to share this important information with my colleagues. It was also my one chance to show my boss what I have been up to and what I am capable of. I think he was impressed :)

After the Forum I starting soaking Filter 2 in a basin to backwash it. I brought in the filter as a visual aid in my presentation and took advantage of having it with me to start the experimentation with ways of improving flow rate. I figured if water flowed through one way it should be able to flow the other way thus dislodging the built up particles. I would know the next morning when I went to check back. Once the filter was set up I went to work editing the scholarship application I submitted on Monday. It was due Thursday night by midnight and I thought I was all set since I sent it in on Monday and hadn’t heard anything negative. Except on Thursday afternoon, right before I gave my talk actually, I learned I would have to reformulate the answers because they were a line too long and they were very strict about length limits. The time crunch for completing it didn’t help, but I was luckily able to put it out of my mind until after I gave my presentation. So anyway, I sat down and wordsmith-ed my answers. Once I was satisfied with the results I resubmitted it. This thankfully didn’t take too long and I still had time to quickly look up some information on prayer for the lesson I was teaching with Ben at WIRED that night. Leanna picked me up at 6:30 and the only downside of the night was my lack of time to get something to eat, so resorted to dried coconut. I bought a bunch of it with Susan two Saturdays ago and have since discovered it makes a great snack and/or dessert. It is good! Just not so good for you I would later learn…

The lesson at WIRED went really well. The kids were attentive and engaged. Two words I didn’t think I would use to describe junior highers… We were also at a different house that night. Since the Harrison’s didn’t have power, we went to the Higby’s house because they have a generator. Nice. After WIRED I came home and watched Anchor Man. It was awesome. I just needed a nice release from the stress this presentation had put me under. Wow, having gotten done with that I felt like I could take on anything!

Friday morning was really quite a good morning. I arrived at work and found an email in my inbox informing me I was accepted to Stanford. Can you believe it?! Oh, I was so HAPPY! It really helped set the mood for the rest of my day indeed. In the morning I followed up on the suggestions I had made at the Scientific Forum; mainly, for 2iE to join the World Health Organization’s International Network on Household Water Treatments and Safe Storage. In the morning I also found Pascal, the Nazinga lady, and got her the pictures from our trip. She was so happy to get them. We also exchanged contact information. It is great all the neat people I am meeting here… I left work to go to my tennis lesson at 9:30. The lesson went well. I hadn’t played tennis in almost two weeks, owning mainly to the fact that the last lesson was so unpleasant being sick and all. After the lesson I went to the market and picked up some fabric I needed to cover the large filter to prevent leaves from getting in as well as some lemons I planned to juice and use on Filter 1. The idea was to have the citric acid open up the pores by eating away at the calcium carbonate deposits which can form. Anyway, I also picked up two pastries and a piece of piece of pizza from a very nice looking bakery to have for lunch. On the ride back, I couldn’t resist buying some mangos and other fruit from a lady on the side of the road. All is well that ends well. I got back to work to find Omar working on unclogging the big filters. Yes! Finally. I worked on juicing my lemons and supervised what he was doing with the cleaning process. Later Pierre helped me install the fabric I had purchased. Everything was set with the big filters! Great. I finished with the lemon juice and applied it to Filter 1. I am not sure how this will turn out. I am pretty skeptical at the moment. Anyway, when I checked Filter 2, the backwashed one I was pleasantly surprised to find my idea had worked and by comparing the turbidity of water inside and outside of the filter I was able to confirm some of the clogging particles were dislodged. Just to make sure everything was removed I setup the backwashing again. This time the turbidity test showed no difference, so I could assume all the removable clogging material had been removed.

After having completed the lemon juice application I filled up both filters and took flow rate measures that afternoon. I did get to connect with my parents before they went to work to share the great Stanford news! I am still elated :) I took a nice repos on Friday, taking time to read and enjoy my pizza, mango and pain au raisin for lunch. The pain au raisin was actually not that great. Maybe it would have been better warm. I will probably never know… Anyway, in the afternoon I went back to the office and found myself reading a blog called “Things White People Like” my brother Adam had forwarded the link to me. Hil-lar-ious. Susan stopped by that afternoon and I was able to share my good news with her :) She also gave me a copy of the video recording she took during the forum. What a great resource to have to learn from and to use to show people my presenting style, ect… As I was killing time browsing Facebook, the mail guy came by and handed me a letter. It was not an international letter, so I opened it with a bit of skepticism over what it could be. Boy was I delighted to read I had been invited to a dinner of the Scientific Council to be held at the Director’s residence on Monday evening. I don’t know how my name got on the list, but I am not complaining. Sounds like a great networking opportunity. I really wish I had that awesome book, How to Work a Room with me here. I need to buy a copy of that when I get back to the states. It really is like gold.

I usually have French on Friday which is why I was sticking around my office, but I got a message from my teacher 15 minutes before my lesson time telling me he wasn’t coming. Nice. I can’t be too mad though, he said he was sick and frankly I would rather him stay home than get me sick too! So instead I went home read a little, and attempted to make rice again. This time, however, I read up online on the proper way to make rice and this time I came out with rice that was not sticky, yet cooked all the way through. Success! Now the trick will be if I can repeat this amazing feet again… I also sautéed up some onions and tomatoes and made a nice little dinner. I say little because I was planning to go out with some other ladies to a wine restaurant. I knew I wouldn’t get a normal meal there and I didn’t want to have wine on am empty stomach so that is why I ate before going to the restaurant. While Susan and I were waiting for our ride, the tailor came by and dropped off our dresses for the next day. Since we were waiting outside, we couldn’t try them on and the tailor charged us way more than usual which was not okay.

Our ride finally came and we made it to the restaurant in fine time. The wine we ended up choosing was in my opinion only so-so. It was white though so I couldn’t complain too much. There were 6 of us in all and the occasion was a pre-celebration of International Women’s Day which was on Saturday. The conversation was fun and Susan’s friend Sandra came. Sandra is from Italy and has a great British accent when she speaks English. She is a really interesting lady and I was glad to be able to talk to her little bit that night. She gave Susan and I ride to and from the restaurant. After the wine evening Susan I watched Miss Potter. Susan lasted about 30 minutes into the movie before falling asleep, but I watched the whole thing. Oh, how I do like that movie!

It was late when I went to bed and I knew I would be getting up early the next day, but oh well. I had just completed a killer week at work AND I got into Stanford! I was entitled to a little celebration. Saturday I got up about 8:30 and headed over to the ampitheater about 9:00 for the Women’s Day Celebration they were having. Since there was no one there yet, I went to my office to check my email. Just when I thought things were about as good they get, I received an email notifying me that I had been admitted to MIT. Yes, the MIT; The leading engineering school in the nation. Can you imagine? If I get a PhD from MIT that about writes my ticket to where ever I want to go later in life. Yahoo! I found Susan and told her the good news. She was so happy she almost started crying for me… Yeah, the whole morning I felt like I had rays of sunshine happiness falling down around me. After three hours of speeches, a role playing exercise and gifts presentations we all went outside and the women took a group picture in our coordinating outfits. It was so cute.

After the picture taking there was lunch where I sat with the lady who ran the role playing exercise. She was quite fascinating. She was from the Netherlands and had lived in Burkina Faso for 28 years! That, my friends, is a long time to live in Burkina Faso. She had interesting things to say about how they celebrated Women’s Day when the past president was still around. I guess the men had to go to the market that day… a revolutionary idea for this place.

Lunch finished up and I started more flow rate measurements, read some more of my book I am trying desperately to finish, and got ready for the soccer game. At 4:00pm the women students in Ouaga were facing off against the women students from Kamboise, the other campus. I would play for the Ouaga team. What fun! Of course the game didn’t start until like 4:30, but hey I was happy it started at all. There were times when I wasn’t sure if it was going to organized enough to play at all. Anyway, I had a great time. My soccer skills from years ago came back, even on the all dust no grass terrain. At the end of the first half I missed a penalty kick which was really quite disappointing. I had, however, played well. I have to say though after the first couple of minutes my throat burned so badly. I wasn’t sure I could keep playing. The dust, the heat, ect. But I made it through. In the second half my team scored and we went on to win the game! I hurt my ankle a little bit and will definitely have a bruise on my leg, but it was worth it. I gained a lot of respect on the field and impressed quite a few people who I am sure were skeptical of the white girls soccer skills… Afterwards, I got to relish in the victory celebrations. It was nice to connect with the other women students on campus. I had seen them around a lot, but hadn’t really had much interaction with them. I think playing this game with them was a huge step in the right direction in trying to build relationships with the other female students here.

The day’s festivities would last well into the night, but I was about done celebrating La Journee de la Femme. So I talked with my parents online for a like 20 minutes, just enough time to share with them the awesome news of getting accepted to MIT. My Mom is sick right now though so she didn’t have quite the reaction I was hoping for. Talking to her felt a lot like talking to my Dad when he is half asleep after dinner. Leanna came to get me about 6:30 for the Edge church service and I was able to share both the Stanford and MIT news with her. It was nice because she came to get me first, so I was able to tell her one-on-one my good news! While I am excited, I don’t want the whole world to know… at least not yet.

The Edge service was lovely. It was nice to be able to worship in English with songs I am used to. I had Leanna bring me home afterwards since I really needed to just go to sleep. I was exhausted. One from the week in general, two from the late night before, and three from the grueling soccer match I played! I went sleep about 10:30pm and got up at 10:00am. Nice.

Sunday I worked furiously finishing up my post from two weeks ago I put on the back burner in light of my presentation preparations. I also got my pictures ready to post on my blog and wrote up the February update I send out to the select people in my life luckily enough to be on that list ;) This whole writing operation takes much longer than you would imagine at least three hours a week. The thing is though I have actually come to enjoy it! I listened to a sermon at noon time and around 4:00 I went in to the office to post and mail what I had been working on. I also made some mashed potatoes from the potatoes I had cooked up on Friday but hadn’t had a chance to mash. They were quite yummy. I played my guitar until 6:40 when I headed over to Gondwana’s for Maggie’s send off dinner. It was nice to get the group together, but the table was so long I didn’t even get a real chance to talk to Maggie. The great thing was Leanna sat by me and we were able to talk. We sat across from Ben and Tyler B. The conversations that followed between the four of us were quite entertaining. Not wanting to order a full meal Leanna and I ordered some Tapas to share. The Tapas were not so great and that idea will not be repeated. The company was good though and I got home but 9:45. Before spending a chunk of time finishing this post I read some essays I wrote back in high school and the beginning of college. It is so great to be able to look back and see where I was at different points in my life and how I have changed. It is now past midnight and I am calling it a night. I did, however, want to finish this post tonight so I would be all caught up with communicating my life to those parties interested enough to read about it.

All my Love,