Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Tennis games, courageous conversation, and market thrifting.

It’s 10:42pm and I am just starting this post. Why? Because I have been able to come up with about a million and one reasons to put off writing it. The thing is I really like writing once I get myself down to doing it, it’s just getting myself to start. So I have exhausted all million and one reasons and thought it easier to start writing than search for a million and two reason.

The highlight of Monday was my tennis game with Dane. It was the first time I had played with anyone other than my tennis teacher, so naturally I was a bit nervous. I shouldn’t have been though, my tennis skills are, as I have discovered, a-oh-kay. The only court time available was 11:00am so we took it. Problem was, one it was hot, two I am technically supposed to work until 12, three when I tried to get up on Monday I was so tired I couldn’t get out of bed… so naturally I changed my alarm and slept in. I got into work later than I hoped and found myself unable to do anything productive, save for searching my friends facebook profiles. I have to admit this may be a sign I have not quite found the right job yet… Since I woke up late I couldn’t start my tests as usual since I had to leave for tennis. I did start them at like 9:50 though so as to fall right in line with when I would leave for tennis.

Next topic, about 8:00/9:00ish my boss comes by with Nigerian Minister of Water to introduce me to him. It was a short hi and hello, and I made plans to meet with Professor Maiga the next day at 7:15 in the morning. He originally suggested 4:00 that afternoon, but honestly I had hoped to meet up with Bianca and Leanna, and I needed time to prepare so Tuesday morning it would have to be. The reason why I add all of this is simply to set up the next encounter which was less than a brilliant move, but I am quite indifferent to it at the point. Anyway, at 10:50 I am all set to go to tennis and I take my bike over to check my filters on the way out. Sure enough I pass Professor Maiga and the Nigerian Minister of water on my way out, tennis racquet not at all inconspicuously sticking out of my backpack. Nice. I figure if there is a problem he will tell me in our meeting tomorrow morning. Sure enough when I ask if there is anything I need to work on or things I need to change, he says everything is fine. I did go back to the office at 2:00, making up the one hour of work I missed…so its back to a zero sum game. I was just afraid it wouldn’t look so good to have one of your research assistants heading out on her bike to play tennis as the Minister of Water is getting his tour of 2iE. Whatever. C’est la vie!

So yeah tennis. At first it took me a while to find my confidence, but by the end we were playing a legitimate game. I lost pretty badly, and I am quite sure most of the points I got and the 3 games I won were on account of Dane’s going easy on me… On my way out I decided to hit the treadmill and run 2 miles. It felt nice. Tennis only lasted 45 minutes and I wanted a little more cardio. When I finally go to leave I saw Susan sitting at a table by the pool and went over and chatted for a bit. She was reading applications for Fulbright applicants. Pretty cool, eh?

From there I headed home, had lunch, finished last weeks post and went into work by 2:00 thank you very much. I worked like crazy and finished up my microbiology tests by 4:30. From there I left work a little early like 4:45ish to meet Leanna and Bianca. We were all going to go shopping at the marche but that didn’t happen. Instead we sat and watched Miss Potter. It was pretty relaxing actually and afterwards Bianca went for dinner with some of her Peace Corps buddies and I went with Leanna to Paradisios for dinner. I think we redefined a long dinner on Monday night. We were there for over two hours talking. There was a lot on Leanna’s heart and mine as well. It was great to have someone to share with. After dinner Leanna drove me home and I made a quick list of stuff for my meeting the next morning. Monday night I went to bed so thankful that God provided me such an awesome friend here in Burkina. Although even with all the people I know here, I have to admit sometimes I find it hard coming home to no one. At Princeton, Cassy or Ruby were always around always interested in my day and I in theirs. It’s just not the same anymore.

Tuesday’s meeting in the morning went very well. I was again encouraged by Professor Maiga’s confidence in my work, but still skeptical as to what I can come up with in the end… The day on Tuesday was filled with more experiments which would prove to be the pattern for this week. Tuesday I worked the normal hours and worked out in the lunch break time. My French lesson went well. I was a bit disinterested, as is the theme of my life at the moment… but I was miraculously able to focus for the full hour and half since we had to make up for last Friday’s short lesson. After work I had a great talk with my Mom. She is doing better, but still isn’t 100% healthy. We finish up our hour long conversation and I have resolved to finally talk to my housemates. I vowed to myself that if the opportunity presented itself I would make the first move and ask to set up a time to talk. The whole walk back I was praying for God’s strength and his wisdom. I was hoping for the perfect opportunity but also dreading it… I walk in, the girls are in the kitchen. This is it, now or never. No use in waiting. Just do it, SARA! This is what is pounding through my head. So I open my mouth and just when I think I can’t do it. God gives me the strength I need and I ask them if we can sit down and talk about some house stuff together either tonight or tomorrow.

They seem a bit surprised but very willing. As I walk away my heart is pounding, I have that wooshing feeling in my ears and I feel a bit weak. Shoot, I think. I didn’t actually set up a time. Great. I just left it at “let’s talk”. I lay on my bed trying to read hoping to distract myself from the stress of the pending confrontation. I hear the girls talking to each other then one comes to my door and says if I am free we can all talk now. Thank God. Seriously. I was so happy to be getting done with this dreaded thing. So I go into the living room and we talk. I express my remorse for acting coldly towards them. I assure them I am not upset with them but have simply been dealing with a lot personally with my job and decisions with next year, which is entirely true. Sometime I don’t even recognize who I am right now. Not that I was ever mean I just plainly ignored them for all intensive purposes. It was my way of coping. But I did just want to clear the air with them. I want to be able to communicate with the people I am sharing a house with and that wasn’t happening. We discuss kitchen usage, and I explain my harboring my own kitchen tools. I don’t think the talk fixed everything, but it was certainly a step in the right direction. I am not one to sit back and suffer, and I felt like I was suffering. But I will tell you, there is nothing like the fear and uncertainty that comes along with standing up for yourself. I have learned over and over the power in and need for being your own advocate. It is hard, but it is worth it or else you will live unhappy and unable to do anything about it. I did something, and I thank God for the courage to confront my problems. I think my housemates really respect my coming and talking with them, initiating the conversation, ect. At the end of the conversation they apologized and said they understood how it would be hard for me having two new people come and stay, especially two people who are already good friends. That was nice to hear… so they aren’t oblivious to my feelings after all. Whether they are more encouraged to leave or not, I don’t know. At least I feel like I don’t have to explain myself anymore.

After the housemates talk I went to dinner at Susan’s with Becky. It was great! Susan made Quiche and I contributed smoothies for dessert. LOVE THE BLENDER! It was a late dinner to begin with and it ended late, so afterwards I basically called it a night.

I had heard rumors that Thursday would be a day off. Gotta appreciate the Muslim calendars. Instead of being able to plan ahead for holidays you get to be surprised by them. Nice. Anyway, Susan and I were going to try to go horse back riding. Fun. So I decide to do my microbiology very early so I can read the tests early the next day as well.
Perfect, and done. I finish with the tests and head off to play another game of tennis with Dane. This time my serves actually stay in and don’t hit the net so it is much more fun to play. I still lose pretty bad, but this time think I actually earned some of the points I won and I think Dane had to play harder than last time. This time I also brought my swimsuit and swam some laps in the pool after the game to cool off. This time I was much more tired after tennis. I played a lot harder than on Monday.

There is no bible study this week on account of it being Spring Break for ISO. So I get back after tennis and go to work right away. I had all these plans for more experiments, but it seems that everything is really deserted. And I all the sudden lost all motivation to work and was getting thrown into that tailspin of not knowing what to do next with myself. This is a very frequent occurrence these days. I blame grad school. I am going to keep using that excuse for all my failings and misgivings as of late. I feel like a cat on a hot tin roof every time I think about next year. Obviously not a good thing… I have the best of all worst situations. Choosing amongst my top choices, oh the agony!

I had my French lesson on Wednesday at 2:00 instead of Friday as normally scheduled because of my plans to go out of town for the weekend and didn’t want to miss another lesson. I have not been super impressed with the homework my teacher has given as of late and I talk with him about it. This sort of confrontation is easy. I think the housemate thing was hard because it conjures up so many unpleasant memories and feelings from Freshman year roommates at Princeton. Anyway, after the lesson, the labs are locked I can’t find the keys and I am pretty unable to function. So I sit down and try to pull myself together. I finally make a list. Yes, the blessed item which helps me sleep soundly at night and put my mind at ease. I decide not to try and do any more experiments that day. I was burned out from the week.

I finally leave the office and stop by Susan’s house to drop off my computer cord so she can charge her computer. I end up staying and having salad for dinner with Susan and Becky with is just as well since I didn’t have anything planned and ddin’t have much to choose from at that. You may notice that I haven’t talked much about my cooking and food adventures this week… it’s because I can’t remember them right now… It has been too long. I will try and do better this coming week. I do remember on Tuesday I made more oatmeal crackers which are amazingly good :) Anyway, back to Susan’s… we end up watching BarberShop and I actually feel less intelligent after watching that movie. I would not under any circumstances recommend it. Oh, and at dinner I found out from Susan that Wednesday was declared a half day at work, but nobody told me. Hence, the extra deserted feel of the place. Anyway, after working the full day when I didn’t have to I feel absolutely vindicated for missing work for my workouts.

Thursday I woke up very early and had a tennis lesson. It was fantastic. We actually played a real game. My teacher was going easy, but not that easy. His serves were definitely hard to return, but it was great to get a chance to work on it. My tennis trainer was late in getting there in the morning. We had said 7:00 and I was there on time, but he didn’t show up until 7:30. But alls well that ends well and while I was waiting I got out the basket of tennis balls and practiced serving again, and again, and again…

After tennis I stopped by my office to read the tests from Wednesday. I fought the urge to crawl into my bed and instead packed for my trip to Bobo and Banfora I am leaving for on Friday. I planned what I am going to wear and handwashed what wasn’t clean. I killed a little time by reading; waiting until I hear from Susan about the horseback riding. When Susan finally calls, at first I am disappointed because she says she is too wiped to go riding. However, she is up for going shopping at some of the thrift stalls in the market. I need some new shirts and was looking forward to spending a fun day thrifting and enjoying Burkina culture.

Susan and I have a blast. I bought four shirts, they are really nice actually… we went to the Zogona market and another one a past where Leanna lives over by SIL. This is the market Susan used to go to all the time when she used to live in other housing provided by 2iE. After being thoroughly tired from riding our bikes, walking the markets, looking at fabrics and greeting people left and right we finally strike out in search of some lunch. En route we find more shops and of course I make us stop. I don’t find anything, but it is fun to be able to just stop and go as we please not worrying about getting back to work, ect. We end up getting lunch at a little hole in the wall place called the Blue Marlin which I guess is popular with the Peace Corps Volunteers. Susan got an awesome looking omelet which was actually a sandwich! I ordered rice with peanut sauce and I am sorry to report the peanut sauce was anything but stellar. I was not convinced of this places good reputation. To add insult to injury, when we first got there Susan ordered a Fanta. I ordered a Sprite but was told they don’t have any. In reluctance I order a Fanta like Susan. However, the guy brings over the yellow Fanta Cocktail, not the good orange Fanta that we all know and love. He says this is all they have left… well this does it. We decide to go somewhere else… funny thing though is that as we are unlocking our bikes the guy comes out and says they found two more orange Fantas. How convenient. Why did it take us having to leave for them to look in the other fridge and drum up some orange Fantas. This is Africa. Case in Point. You can’t explain it, because its not logical.

After the mediocre lunch we head back. I go to my office and take care of some emails. Checking a few things off of my list. At about 5:00, I head back out on my bike to get some money for my trip from the ATM. On the way back I wanted to stop at one more clothing vendor off of Charles de Gaulle that we hadn’t looked at earlier. On the way, I stop by some guys who are selling camping chairs. I have been looking for a nice lounge chair and they have a pretty sweet one. Problem is the guy wants 35,000CFA for it. I had to try hard not to laugh and explained to him these don’t cost that much new in the states. He came down a little in price, but we were no where near reaching an agreement so I wrapped up the conversation and continued on. I general I was feeling pretty good. It is amazing how positive everyday encounters in a foreign country makes you feel like you have achieved something. I finally make my way to the last vendor. As I am looking at the clothes that are hanging both from a little wooden booth and hung from hangers in the trees, blowing freely in the wind, my reverie is rudely interrupted by a noise that is impossible to mistake. As my gaze jerks from the clothes to the street my worst fear is realized. There was moto accident right there on the road. It was between a moto and a donkey cart. Sounds pretty funny, but the clashing of metal and stamping of hooves was anything but humorous. Luckily both men got up and seemed fine. The bike was not in good shape, but that was the least of my worries. Many people stopped to help and I stayed out of it. I guiltily continue checking out the clothing, trying on a skirt over my pants and deciding to buy it… done and done. Talk about an eventful outing. At least the bank part was predictable and uneventful.

Back at my office I disciplined myself to study French for 30 minutes and then talked to my Mom when she got home from work. This was important since I wasn’t sure if I would have internet over the weekend when I was away. When I finish talking with my Mom I am naturally in a good mood :) Then conveniently enough, Susan calls and tells me the tailor is at her house. I head over to her place and ordered two new items. A dress and a skirt. I am looking forward to what he brings back next Saturday. While I’m at Susan’s I pick up a books from her and say good bye. She will be gone when I get back from my trip and won’t be back until early April. I will miss her!

I should go to bed, but I can’t. Instead I decide to make some popcorn for dinner, pack and start watching the movie Transformers. Since it was already pretty late I thought I would only watch part of it, but if you have seen this movie you know you can’t just watch part of it… So I stayed up and watched the whole stinkin’ movie. I’m telling you, my judgment is seriously impaired. Either that or I am finally starting to have a healthier, more laid back approach to life. I’ll say it’s the later… I fall asleep by like 1:30ish and get up at 6:15 to be at the U.S. Embassy by 7:00am to leave on time.

Instead of waking up at 6:15 I hit the snooze meaning I lost 8 minutes. I was tired give me a break. However, this snooze had a snowball effect. I was supposed to leave at 6:30 to walk there, but I leave at 6:35 because I couldn’t not eat breakfast! As I approached Charles de Gaulle, I reluctantly admitted to myself I couldn’t make it on time if I continued to walk. Instead I hailed a taxi and paid my 200 CFA for a ride. I pulled up right at 7:00am and was waiting just as Pam got there. Talk about good timing!

You’ll have to wait until the next post, hopefully coming tomorrow to find out about how the trip went and see the beautiful pictures or the Sindou Peaks and Cascades! For now, I’m calling it a night.