Sunday, March 9, 2008

Spinach Soup, Tiebele, and Nazinga :)

So the big news is that I figured out that my internet connection at work allows me to update my blog again. This is huge because now I don’t have to go to the café all the time. While much more convenient, I will miss the lunch hours in the cute café. Wait… who says they have to stop, maybe now instead of bringing my computer I can bring a book and order some tea. Sounds delightful doesn’t it?

Wednesday was a crazy day! But good crazy. I was working on my experiments in the morning, and tried to finish last weeks blog post. It was to no avail and I ended up spending about another hour at the café trying to get in everything I had to say… I left work at 11:30 and went to the gym. I was going to run and then swim a little. Go to the café for lunch then head to bible study. Everything was going great. I got to the gym and there was no one there. I started running on the treadmill and I was just cruising. Really enjoying the run, working on getting faster, ect. Then with about a mile left the treadmill just shuts off! Like someone pulled the plug… At first I thought the power went out which is not at all unusual, but the machine next to me still had power. I checked the converter and it looks suspect, but I couldn’t seem to see what’s wrong and the machine would not turn back on. So alas I had to abandon my running and instead lifted a few weights before hopping in the pool to finish things off.

From the gym I headed to the café where I again order the excellent cheese and ham panini. However, this time to my disappointment the cheese was not quite melted enough for my liking. Unfortunately, I don’t know the French for “Can you please cook my cheese more?” so I ate it as it was. I was supposed to leave at 2:30 to get to bible study on time, but 2:30 turned into 2:45 and then I realized I left my lesson papers at home and would have to make a slight detour! I rode really fast and was only 5 minutes late and Maggie was there and everything, but I really just hate being late. Bible study was great. We went through the topics of wisdom, humbling yourselves before God and boasting about tomorrow. We have one more chapter to go which we will tackle next week. The following week will be Maggie’s last week before she goes home to Germany so we will be doing a quick review of James and then a fun ice cream party!

I had to get back to work to check my microbiology tests, even though I had about a million and one errands I wanted to run… After successfully counting my coliform colonies I worked on some of my personal stuff and then met up with Mary Ellen. She came over for dinner which we made together. We made Cream of Spinach soup which was really quite terrible… We put in too much spinach, which was canned spinach to begin with so you know already that it has some obstacles to overcome. Susan came over to partake as well and the tailor made an appearance to pick up some fabric Susan had to make us both dresses for the “International Women’s Day” which is March 8th. Susan had been in Fada for Monday and Tuesday and it was funny how much I missed having her around. It will sad when she goes to the states for two weeks at the end of March! She did bring me back some excellent skin blam which was super nice of her to do… After dinner we looked at some awesome fabric pieces that Mary Ellen has been collecting to make a hoopa for her Jewish friend who is getting married. She had about one hundred 1ft by 1ft scraps of fabric. Pretty impressive. I made us up smoothies for dessert which were thankfully more appetizing that the failed soup. When all else fails put some fruit in your blender and you will please a multitude!

When Mary Ellen left I had a strange desire to talk to my family so at 9:30 I headed to my office, but to my dismay no one was online. Sad. So I wrote an email and then headed back home to go to bed. It was nice getting to bed early.

Thursday was an awesome day. I feel like I had so much going on… it was non-stop. I didn’t take a repos and ended up working in the evening as well. In the morning I took the time to type up my results from the last week and a half or so for the ceramic filters and started a data file for the slow sand filter information I am collecting. Moving right along! In the afternoon I really wanted to rerun the tests from Tuesday, but I didn’t have the Petri dishes made up or the time to run them and I was confused on what to do with taking samples the next day and I didn’t have anyone to go to for advice…sigh… I felt like I was caught up in a whirlwind of having a million things to do and not being able to finish anything because it was all tied together and there was always something missing! Anyway, I pushed on and made up some Petri dishes and finished just in time to go to the lecture of the professor visiting from Duke University. His talk was interesting. Thankfully it was in English. This guy has a theory called Constructal theory about how every system evolves to provide easier access to the flow of energy or something like that… It was a little hard to follow at times, but interesting none the less.

After the lecture I was planning to go get some work done and then I found out there was a 2iE personnel meeting to meet the new 2iE Foundation president. La-dee-da. So I sat through that, yawn. Oh, I should mention that Thursday was the 28th of February, the day that was supposed to be some sort of call to action against rising food prices, ect. Well, there were no disturbances near me which was good. There were some demonstrations and tire burnings in a few of the neighborhoods, but in general is wasn’t too bad. We got emails from the embassy saying not to go out if possible. I stayed at 2iE and was fine. Still pretty funny though. The ISO students got a half day. In the states kids get half days for unexpected snow storms. In Africa you get half days for civil unrest. What are you gonna do?

So by now it is about 5:30 and I get a text from Leanna that WIRED is cancelled. Hallelujah! I just needed a week off of youth group. Instead I stayed at work and got done the experiments I had been needing to do. I wanted to finish things up so I could start again with a clean slate on Friday. I worked until like 8:00pm. It was exhausting and I hadn’t had dinner. BUT I wanted to talk to my Mom who had just gotten home from school, so I stayed in my office and talked with her. This was all for the best though, because at 8:45 I would have had to come back to weight some filters anyway. So I avoided a trip home AND got to talk to my Mom. Yeah. It was so nice to just catch up and talk. When I got home I made some popcorn and watched the first half of the excellent comedy Starsky and Hutch ;)

Friday I was able to get up and go to work excited to get back to what I had been working on. I like when I like what I am doing. I worked straight through from 7:00 until 2:30 taking a short break for lunch. I made myself some of the left over soup from Wednesday which was FYI just as bad if not worse the second time around… I couldn’t finish my bowl of it and ended up throwing away what was left in the pot. Such is life. I did, however, enjoy reading all the star gossip in the US Weekly magazine Claire and Carolyn sent me. It’s nice to get to just shut off your brain for a while… At about 3:00 I headed over to Leanna’s house and helped her decorate some cakes for the Sadie Hawkins Dance at ISO that night. It was pretty awesome. Leanna worked in a bake shop for a summer so she learned this trick of dipping the icing knife in water for the last pass over the cake to make it really smooth. It was incredible! The cake designs turned out great if I do say so myself. The other reason I wanted to get to Leanna’s was that she had the stuff my family sent me. The latest mission team had arrived and brought it with them. So I got my new ipod shuffle which I love! Miss Potter the movie, measuring spoons and cups, and power bars. What more is there to want in life?

From Leanna’s I went back to work just in time to get there before Moumini came for my French lesson. Oh-la-la… I had forgotten to do the homework he gave me. Well, whatever. I have been doing at least a half hour of French study every morning, just not the stuff he gave. In general, though, that has to count for something.

Friday night I was planning to have dinner with some 2iE personnel and the visiting professor and his son. Susan and I were supposed to be getting picked up for the dinner at 7:15. So I finish with French and rush home to try and get in an abs of steel session before leaving. I’m in the middle of doing like a million situps and I get a text from Susan asking where I am. I all of sudden freak out that they really meant 6:15 and not 7:15 and they are waiting for me. So I anxiously called Susan and she just wanted to talk to me about something… but it could wait. Phew! Finishing my workout I showered and got ready to go. The guy coming to get us was about a half hour late. I mean really. If you mean to come at 7:45, just tell us 7:45… Don’t say 7:15 and then show up later, because when you do that you may have been able to get something else done in the mean time but I on the other hand wasted my time waiting for you. If you value me, you will value my time and not make me wait, or at least let me know when you intend to come if you are running late so I can plan accordingly. Alright, I am stepping down off my soapbox now…

When we did finally get to the dinner it was lovely. Professor Coulibaly hosted us all at his house and his wife cooked. It was well done indeed. The funniest part of the evening though was that the son of the professor, who was not 21 but this is Africa so drinking laws don’t apply, drank like three bottles of beer and was very talkative. He studied several years of French and it started flowing much more freely and loudly as the bottles were emptied. Remind me never to let that happen to me. It’s just not classy. The best part of the evening was getting a chance to talk to the professor about my choices for grad school for next year. He was very helpful in that he teaches at Duke, went to MIT and now has a daughter at Oxford in their graduate program. At the top of the list was MIT, Oxford and Stanford which was kind of how I had the top three in my head, but I can’t really say because I have only heard that I got into Oxford I don’t know about any other schools yet, so I am not arranging eggs I don’t have yet.

Oh yes, I forgot to tell you what Susan wanted to talk to me about. She had met a visiting Swiss professor going to Nazinga from Saturday to Sunday who had an extra seat in the car if I wanted to come along. YES! Can you imagine my joy?! Nazinga is the animal reserve I have been wanting to go to… There was talk about bringing the visiting professor’s son there, but that fell through so I had pretty much resigned that I would have to wait until the next missions team came that wanted to go and hope that they would have an extra seat for me. But God is pretty darn amazing if you ask me. He takes away one opportunity and it looks like things are bleak, but then he opens another door that was even better than what the other one held. God’s blessings are undeserved, unexpected, but surely appreciated when accepted! So at 8:00am Saturday morning I was to off to Nazinga! Now just to pack and get everything ready…

Friday night I didn’t sleep so well. I was anxious about leaving the next morning and my roommate was being quite loud in the room next door… I really would like if they moved out, like yesterday!

Anyway, Saturday I start the day with a refreshing bowl of oatmeal which is not the instant kind and so I never make it quite right. I finished up my packing and headed over to my office to send my brother an email. I was supposed to Skype with him in the morning his time, but obviously wouldn’t be able to make it as I was heading out of Ouagadougou. Wouldn’t you know, to my great frustration, the internet was down! I felt terrible… I knew Jordan would understand but I hate to not show up for something like that it just makes the other person feel not so great . But there was nothing I could do. I stopped by my house to pick up my belongings. I also went by Susan’s place to get her video camera to take some video footage of the elephants I was hoping to see. I walked out to the Charles de Gaulle and hailed a green taxi. Lovely. I needed to get to the Hotel Centrale, which not surprisingly is in the center of the town. I made it there a little before 8:00am. Early. That’s the way I like to roll…

I waited in the lobby for the professor to come. His name is Christian and he is an older guy teaching a 3week course on construction engineering. In addition, another woman named Pascal joined us. She is also teaching a 3week course at 2iE. She is Swiss, and incidentally about 5-6 months pregnant. Quite the adventurous one indeed! We headed south from Ouagadougou towards a town called “Po”. It is about 2 hours from Ouaga and all paved very nice roadways. I slept most of the way. I was exhausted! We had a nice 4x4 vehicle that I would later end up paying about $40 towards… which is actually kind of annoying because the guy was going anyway and dude I am pretty poor right now. So anyway, instead of heading straight to Nazinga we went West instead of East and stopped by the town of Teibele. This little village is just about like every other village you will see except that they paint weird designs on their houses and the people have an elaborate King and Royal court social system. You pay a tourist fee to visit Tiebele which gets you a guided tour of the Royal Court. All I can say is if that is the way the royal family lives, I would hate to see how rest of the people make do with what they have…

There are three things I would like to tell you about:

1. When we first pulled up in the 4x4 and we all got out I saw this girl walking past holding another little girl’s hand. This is a common enough sight, but it still made me smile… what’s more as they pass us I see the older girl is pulling a cardboard box on a string. How cute, I wonder what is in the box…? I look inside as it slides past kicking up dust and you know what I saw… a cucumber! Of all things! Just plain bizarre. I can’t begin to come up with a reason why this girl was walking her pet cucumber in a box. Talk about other-worldly. She did really make me smile though :) What a sight!

2. From the car we walk to this tourist encampment. The other two order some soda’s and I just kind of chill there trying to catch the French conversation that is going about a mile a minute between the group of guys who are sitting around under the restaurant cabana and the two Swiss folks. Anyway, the one guy who turns out to be our guide tells us that there are 400 people in his family, extended family included… But still that is a heck of a lot! Okay, the point, right. One of the guys lazing around has this very stylish looking shirt on that says in English, “Allow me to introduce myself, my name is SPEED from THAILAND.” Yeah, do you get it, because I sure as heck don’t. The T-shirt sayings you see around here are great. Really funny sometimes because they have no idea what their shirt says. It is kind of like when we used to wear shirts with the Chinese symbols on them we thought were so cool… Who even knows what those said!

3. After lunch we are all just sitting around waiting until about 2:30ish before hitting the road again. The A/C in the car doesn’t work so going when it is super hot is not the best idea. It sounds horrible, but with the windows down it’s not bad. I also have a ridiculous capacity to tolerate heat. Surprisingly so did Pascal. She never once complained of it being too hot! I was impressed… Anyway, we’re sitting around and I want to go get my book from the car, but I don’t know where the driver is. Christian finds him and I go out to get my book. While I am there the little boy who wanted to sell me a maraca for 1000CFA offers it to me for 500CFA. I was actually planning to go buy it for 1000CFA before we left, but hey, whatever, you want to take 500 that works for me :) So I pay the kid 2000CFA and am waiting for my change. It is taking longer than usual and I beginning to think the little rascal ran off with my three dollars… The other kids keep assuring me that he is coming back. As I’m standing there the wind whips up right behind the car in what looks like a tornado! It was crazy cool! I was a bit nervous, because it was pretty big and impressive looking… I don’t know what I would have done if it hadn’t died down as fast as it came up. Talk about getting your blood pumping. “Girl caught up in freak tornado, luckily deposited at the top of a mango tree!” I could just see the headlines ;)

From Tiebele we start off for Nazinga. It is about an hour and half drive from one to the other. It was no big deal except that most of roads were not paved. However, after experiencing Mali I have to say these roads where in pretty nice shape. On the way to Nazinga we came across a group of people getting their cotton ready to ship off to Sofitex (the cotton company in Burkina). We pulled over because Pascal wanted to go talk to them. I guess she studied cotton production before and just wanted to chat. It was actually really cool and I got take some pictures which I otherwise would not have been able to do.

We finally arrived at the entrance to the wild animal reserve park. Little did we know that the encampment where we would stay the night was like smack dab in the middle of the park which was another 35km on unpaved roads away. The only benefit of this next leg of the journey was that the whole time we were on the look out for animals! On the way we saw a baboon as well as a bunch of elephants grazing. It was neat. Like a real African safari! Oh wait, it WAS a real African safari :)

When we got to the camp we found our rooms which were really nice actually. Working shower, toilette, electricity from 6pm to 10pm… It is amazing how my standards have changed ;) For dinner we ate at the restaurant. We had to order like two hours in advance or else we would have waited a long time. It is the only place to get food and there are quite a few people who stay here. In fact, when we arrived at the entrance to the park we saw a vehicle waiting because they hadn’t made reservations and couldn’t get a place. Boy was I glad we had called ahead! I slept well. The temperature became quite comfortable at night. The only issue was Pascal woke up part way through the night saying she heard a mouse by her head. That freaked me out. We looked for a little and then decided to just try and go back to sleep. Well, that wasn’t too easy and just as I am about to drift off, I hear the mouse noises. Scratching and little scampering. Not good. So Pascal and I both get up. We move all our stuff onto the beds and move them away from the wall. Making a quite a racket in the process. Finally, the mouse scurries out and that was a bit disconcerting to say the least. We open the door thinking it might run out, but it didn’t. Instead it ran by our beds again, this time we couldn’t see it and didn’t know where it went. After waiting quite some time and not seeing or finding our mouse friend we decided to try and sleep. This time we switched the which way our heads were facing. Luckily, I slept fine and was able to get up at 5:45 as planned to watch the sun rise over the lake. It was beautiful and I took some nice pictures. The only downside was I wasn’t the only person with the idea and I had to share the look out point with some other tourists…. grump.

At 6:30am we pilled in the 4x4 to go drive around looking for animals. We saw some deer looking creatures with an African twist to them, but that was about it. No elephants. I was sitting up front and kept falling asleep. The rocking of the car, the unchanging landscape and lack of animals made it hard to stay awake. The cool thing was when we got back all the elephants were headed to the water hole adjacent to the encampment. I guess they come every morning to bathe and drink their fill of water. Why we drove around for an hour and a half when we could wait to have them come to us is a question that will remain unanswered. I took a ton of photos of the elephants at the watering hole. It felt every Lion King-ish just with elephants instead of large dangerous cats.

We stuck around for the morning and had breakfast and lunch at the same restaurant. Since it was Sunday I listened to a sermon and took a nice nap. I also drew a picture of the lake in the down time before lunch. Talk about relaxing! We left about 2:00-ish and headed back to Ouaga. I got dropped off at 2iE which was much appreciated. I showered quickly, went to my office to chat with my family for a few minutes and then rode over to Leanna’s to watch a movie with her and Tyler. It was nice and low key. I also brought my dirty laundry with me and used Leanna’s washer to do a load of clothes. When I got home, I hit the hay exhausted, yet so happy with my weekend and the chance to go to Nazinga.

Sorry this is so late in coming. The next post which should be up by Tuesday will explain why. I had a very busy week this last week!