Monday, January 28, 2008

At the time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping... into the future...

I figured out what my problem has been for the last couple of weeks. I had stopped living with the expectation that God was going do something amazing things each day. I was going through each day just plodding along. Trying to enjoy life, but failing and feeling a bit depressed because of it. I had stopped reading my bible in the mornings, stopped surrendering what I had planned for that day to be used by God. I had stopped looking for the everyday miracles. Don’t get me wrong, they were there. The blessings God gives us each morning are always there, but if you don’t see them, don’t appreciate them how can they bring you joy! It’s like being given a present and not opening it, or opening it and not using it… seems absurd, but I do it all the time. I also realized I had been consumed with this feeling or need to do something important something significant. I hadn’t been able to put my finger on the feeling until I read a passage from the calendar Cassy sent me. Then it hit me. It was a story about a journalist during WWII who was incredibly discouraged by the fighting all around him all the time. However, he was inspired to keep going by five simple words from famous hymn, “Just one step is enough”. We don’t know what God has planned for us. He doesn’t reveal the big picture so we might as well stop trying to figure it out. Don’t get me wrong we should still dream and have aspirations, but should take the attitude each morning that “Just one step is enough” and who knows at the end where you will end up. However, if you leave it up to God which direction you head, it is sure to be a good place. I can make the parallel with all the poverty around be. It can be terribly discouraging. There are so many needs, so much inequality I wonder if my efforts will help at all! But then I remember those five words as well, “Just one step is enough”. God will use my everyday steps to make a difference and if learning to listen to his call is all I learn well that will be enough. So that is what I have started doing, and it is so nice. Talk about a relief. If anyone can and should be in charge of things in my life, it should be God. He is most experienced person I know for the job!

Okay, so that was my little of sharing what has been on my heart lately. Now into the weekly update you have become so used to reading from me. Before I start I want to apologize for the mistakes in last week’s post. I usually proofread them, because sometimes my fingers move faster than my brain or vice versa, but I didn’t have time last week. So anyway, I made some changes and reposted it. Not major changes, but just when the sentences didn’t make much sense… sorry about that!

So the great news is I figured out that the problem with my blog was the proxy at work. The bad news is I still haven’t had a chance to fix it. I did, however, have a great conversation with my parents and family last week! The not such good thing is I haven’t been able to talk to them much during the week since I go to workout during my lunch time now. I think we will try to set up Wednesday night as a time to talk mid-week, because 7 days is just too long to wait!

Sunday night I went and watched the Patroits and San Diego game which was closer than most people thought it would be. I am not super excited about the Pats vs. Giants match-up in the Super Bowl, but whatever I’m sure we will have a fun time watching it anyway. I hope Lorinda makes her awesome cheese dip ;)

Honestly, I don’t remember much of Monday morning. I do remember waking up more sore than I have been in a long time… It was the tennis the day before. If ever I was skeptical before, believe me tennis is a great workout! I was doing something in my office all morning, answering emails reading papers, ect. That day for the repos I went back to my house and chilled out a bit, read, ect. I went back to work early so I could start the bacteria tests early… I finished the tests and was able to leave work early and go to the bank. I still don’t have the ATM card. I got a bit firmer with the lady thinking I was getting the short end of the stick, but she assured me that no one for the past 4 months have gotten their cards. I’m not sure I believe her, but there isn’t much I can do. Anyway, for the first time I walked right up to the window without having to wait 30 minutes! After going to the bank I went to Marina Market. I had a very long store list and wanted to stock up on things I had been putting off buying. I spent like 3 times more than usual. Still not a ton, but a lot for me considering I don’t make much… The funny part was I realized I had to carry everything home on my bike. My bag was SO heavy! Kind of ridiculous, but I got a lot of stuff I had been meaning to get so it was good. A funny story though is the debate I had with myself in front of the Ketchup selection. The Heinz ketchup was twice as much as the other brands, but I couldn’t buy imitation so I went for the bottle with the famous 57 on it, and boy was that a good choice… I also bought ground beef for myself and Susan. This time I cooked it that day and froze 3 hamburger patties. See I can learn from my mistakes… For dinner I had Susan and another women Becky over for potato pancakes. I had planned to make them anyway and when Susan said Becky was visiting I figured the more the merrier. Becky is a new Peace Corps volunteer in Burkina. She got here about the same time I did. It is interesting to see how she has adjusted, ect. The potato pancakes turned out great. The only thing I would do differently is to make them thinner… It was a nice social dinner and after they left I read and played my guitar :) Just plain nice.

Tuesday I usually have my French lesson at 5:00. BUT I arranged to go to CREPA with Nicolas. CREPA is another research type group that Nicolas has looking at ways to adapt the filter to the big clay pots the people use to store water here. To prepare I read another paper on commercial viability of the filters. Interestingly enough, the paper was written as a Master’s Dissertation for the Oxford program I was accepted to. hum… I do like England. Anyway, I changed my French lesson to be from 11:30 to 12:30. It went well and I had Mary Ellen come at the end to set up a time when she could have lessons with Moumini as well. I was glad to be helpful to her like others helped me when I was looking for lessons. The visit to CREPA went well. However, the idea they came up with pretty lame. It took me all of 10 seconds to look at the canari and have an idea of how to adapt it, so I think I will start working on that too. I also read the test results from the day before. These were very disturbing indeed. They showed a lot of contamination. I determined there had to be some problem with outside contamination. On Monday, I sterilized the equipment and then went and took the samples. So the equipment sat for a bit in between and I think something happened in that time that caused the problem… I also set out the dishes in the morning as Kokou had indicated and I think that might have been a problem as well. Anyway, I decided to rerun the samples the next day and try some tests with sterilized water which should show zero contamination. It is a way to test the procedure. Tuesday evening I did my abs of steel video. The aerobics moves in this video are way more complicated. It will take a while for me to get used to them. I played my guitar and planned bible study for the next day. As a reward for getting that done I made some popcorn and read my next book, Candide by Voltaire, before heading to bed.

Wednesday I started off by redoing the Monday lab work and testing the sterilized water. I was extra careful and took my time. I also didn’t set out the dishes super early. The results on Thursday turned out good. The sterilized water was clear and the filter water was also what was expected. I can safely say the other tests were contaminated. I went to workout at lunch time and Marta and Abigail were already there using the cardio machines. So I used the second elliptical machine not what I was hoping for but I didn’t have a ton of time. I was going to Maggie’s for lunch and to have the 1st junior high girls bible study. The bible study went well. I need to find a better leaders guide, but the girls are so talkative and happy to be there it is exciting! Maggie made a really good rice and veggie dish with fresh peas; fresh, like just from the beans... YUM! She also made tapioca pudding a very good treat with some guava jam mixed in. That afternoon I went back to work and met with Lydie about getting some health data for Ouagadougou. Lydie is really nice. We also set up next Friday night as the evening when Lydie and Natalie will join Susan and I for dinner and to watch the movie Miss Congeniality 2. After work I went home and watched a soccer game. Right now the Africa Cup of Nations is going on so there are soccer games on TV all the time. For dinner I finally made the French Onion soup I have been dying to have. It took a while to steam the onions and then the soup had to cook for an hour so I didn’t end up eating until like 9:00, but whatever… the soup was heavenly. Probably the best thing I have cooked here. After the finish of the game between South Africa and Angola I worked on my Toastmasters assignment. I ended up spending 2 hours on it. But I was feeling pretty good about the quality of the work and looking forward to Saturday’s meeting.

Thursday I had a great reason to get up… I had a tennis lesson. Definitely a highlight of my week. I usually do my lab work in the afternoon on Thursdays, but after the Monday and Wednesday experiences I decided I think I like working in the morning better. So that is what I did. After that my tennis lesson at lunchtime went great. It was fifth lesson and I think things are really clicking. I my teacher has me playing with another woman on Sunday. Oh exciting I know… But it is exciting. That afternoon I didn’t get much done. I was a bit exhausted and just not feeling like working. I went to dinner at the cafeteria, but unfortunately I didn’t see any of the students I know so I didn’t get to talk to anyone. Sad. But they had pasta so it wasn’t all bad. Tyler taught the junior high lesson at WIRED this week. It was good, he did a nice job talking to them about respect and having better behavior towards each other during the lesson time. He also talked about changing our perspectives and had a very animated description of the Elijah calling down fire from heaven story… Leanna had picked me up so she drove me home as well. It was nice to get a quick chance to chat.

Friday. I love Fridays. WHY? Isn’t it obvious… it is the start of the weekend. Friday morning I got up and heated up some water to have as a warm morning drink. I need to get some tea… It actually is cold here in the morning and so I needed something to keep me warm and stop me from crawling back into bed like I wanted to! The lab results from Thursday were good. I think this whole morning thing is a better plan. I think I am more patient in the morning. There was supposed to be another tour group coming through on Friday at 10:30. Kokou wanted me to bring my filters back from the site to the lab and I was like, um no. They don’t move. So I took my computer to the lab and planned to just show some pictures of what the filters were. However, it turned to 11:00 then 11:30 and when I left my office at 12:20, they still weren’t there. However, when I rode my bike out of the gate to go workout, I did see a group of white people walking across the campus. Must have been them. I don’t feel the least bit bad though. You can’t say 10:30 and not show up until 12:30… At least if you don’t expect me to still be there waiting. Africa is Africa, but I don’t think it is good not to hold people to high standards.

At the rec center I ran 5 miles in 44 minutes which is good since the last time I ran was a week ago. Not that I hadn’t worked out. I had, but it is different to elliptical or swim instead of running. Anyway, I rushed home made a hamburger for lunch, yum! Then I went over to the Burgs to see their new puppies and to talk to Lindsey about the trip she will taking to London in June. I gave her some ideas of things to see and places to go. Another awesome thing that happened on Friday was that I got an email from Tim Albright. He and his family are missionaries here with CAMA. CAMA is the relief arm of the CMA missions. Anyway, he had mentioned earlier there was a training at the end of January on some Biosand filters. I hadn’t heard anything more, but on Friday he gave me details and invited me to come along for the training session. The training will be in Bobo-Dioulasso (about 6 hours south west for Ouaga) I would have to miss work from Tuesday afternoon to Friday afternoon. At first I didn’t think I could go because of my filter tests. But then I was like, duh! You only get chances like this once in a while, so you take them when they come. So I went in and talked to my boss and told him about the training and he gave me permission to go! And because it is to with my work I don’t have to take vacation days. I just have to write up a quick formal request to respect the conventions of the school. Also, the secretary for my boss is warming up to me :) She smiles now when I come in instead of scowling like before… So bottom line is I am going to Bobo next week for a few days! I have to work out who can take care of putting water in my filters for me, but it shouldn’t be a huge deal.

So Friday, I come back from work excited to get ready to go out with Leanna, Tyler and Tyler… But, when I get back to my house there are two other girls there. Namuro mentioned two other women were coming and I heard them arrive the night before at like 1:30am, but hadn’t met them yet. Anyway, I met them. They seem nice enough. Both young, both friends, both from France. They speak very good English and don’t seem interested in speaking French with me. Then, as I am walking out, I pass the first bedroom and they are smoking! IN MY HOUSE! ahhh… Not good. I was blown away. I even have a no smoking sign up when you first walk in. She can obviously read… and chose to ignore it. French. ugh. Anyway, I was leaving and didn’t want to deal with it at the moment. But it was a funny smoke smell. I don’t think it was marijuana because it wasn’t super sweet smelling. I made Leanna come in and smell it and she thought maybe it was rolled cigarettes. Whatever it was I was not happy. Thankfully, though when I got back around 9:00pm I couldn’t smell anything and they were out. They had been invited to welcome drinks with their organization here. Anyway, they rolled in the next morning at 4:45am. Wow. I hope they kind of just keep to themselves and I glad I am leaving next week. One of the girls just kind of reminds me of my very difficult Freshmen year roommate. She hasn’t done anything in particular to merit that label, but you know you just get instant feelings about people and the sense I got was not super friendly. Actually she seemed a little edgy… But I am sure I will be able to handle it. I usually do. And if they keep going out, all the better for me then I don’t have to deal with them. What happened to getting middle aged respectful women as housemates? I like them better I think… I am definitely getting older.

Anyway, now that the new housemate situation has been explained I can get move on to the much more pleasant topic of my fun time on Friday evening. Leanna, Tyler and Tyler picked me up at 6:30 and we went to Chez Simon for dinner. We all got Chawarmas. It is a Lebanese dish. Like a taco, but middle eastern instead of Mexican flavorings. It was good. This particular restaurant serves them in a very fajita like manor where you assemble your own from a plate of fixings that they bring. Dinner was a blast. The weather was perfect. Cool, but not cold. The conversation was great. I laughed so hard that night! The restaurant is off of one of the more developed roads in the city with street lights and lots of retail places and neon lights. Sitting there I kind of forgot I was in Burkina. Nice feeling every once in a while. (No donkey carts in sight. However, there was Turag there trying to sell this enormous sword like 4 feet long. Who really needs a 4ft sword!) After dinner… brace yourself… We went bowling! That was really the whole point of the evening. I had wanted to go bowling for sometime and so we finally went. Surprisingly, it was just like an American bowling alley with a computer score board. Impressively enough I bowled 101. Yeah, quite possibly the first time I have ever broken 100. Tyler Croyle on the other hand bowled 154 with 4 strikes in a row. He got his name up on the leader board. Awesome for him! Since we started early, the evening ended early at my request so I could be ready for Saturday morning’s Toastmaster meeting. When I got home from bowling, I watched the end of the Nigeria vs. Mali soccer game then rehearsed for my role as Toastmaster.

Saturday was great. One of the best days I have had here. I think it has to do with what I talked about at the beginning of this post. Really seeing the blessings and living for the excitement of everyday for God. Anyway, I wanted to have a good breakfast so I made French Toast. I had wanted to do this for sometime. I was saving the bread left over from the Christmas dish for this specific purpose. It turned out great. BUT even more impressive was what I made to go on top of the French Toast because you can’t eat it plain and I sure as heck don’t have syrup. BUT I looked in my trusty Africa cookbook and made some syrup. And while I didn’t have maple flavoring I decided to mash up a bit of banana I had left and WOW. It was SO GOOD! Banana syrup. I think it could be a dessert. I actually think it be very similar to Banana Flambay (spelling?) Anyway, huge success and I was ready to go to toastmasters. I also put some guava jam in some hot milk which was also tasty.

The Toastmaster meeting went great. I really rocked it as the toastmaster. The toastmaster basically runs the meeting. They introduce and thank each speaker and generally move the meeting along in a pleasant manner. I was pleased that my preparations have paid off and I am getting way more confident in my speaking and feeling comfortable in front of people again which is what I was hoping to gain from doing toastmasters this year. After Toastmasters I wanted to run some errands which were also successful. I got containers to store flour and sugar in because right now I have it in plastic bags… I also picked up some random stuff at the shoppette and then got some bread from the bakery. I tried to buy a ton to freeze, but I ate a bunch of it already! With the success of my shopping trip I treated myself to a relaxing lunch and started reading the next book “All Things Fall Apart”. I am going through the novels SO fast. It is kind of fun! I might have to start borrowing books from people. Reading is enjoyable. I kind of forgot about this during college when it was always required reading! At 3:00ish I went swimming to workout, the opposite of Friday’s high impact 5 miler. But the unfortunate thing was that there were a bunch of people outside by the pool eating lunch or socializing (not swimming). And since I waited until 3:00 to go, the pool was shaded and there was a strong breeze. Bottom line it was chilly. And I don’t especially like an audience when I’m swimming. But I handled the situation with great composure going about my business and workout without paying attention to the other people by the pool.

After my workout I went to the office to talk to my family online. My Mom and Dad were there and we talked for a while. It was so nice! I love my family and miss them. It is such a hard feeling to be so happy where you are at, yet want to so much to be somewhere else too! Following the phone conversation I went home and heated up the leftover French Onion Soup and headed over to Susan’s to share my dinner with her. We then made popcorn and finished watching the movie Hidalgo, the one we had gotten a 25 minutes into several weeks ago and decided to turn it off and turn in for the night since we were both falling asleep. Susan had also made brownies which were to die for! It was a really fun night. It is nice to hang out at Susan’s since I can walk home in 10 seconds.

Well, today is Sunday. The last day in this very detailed long description of my week! Last night I was in bed early and slept in until 9:15ish had my leftover French Toast and banana syrup then went to “my” church (i.e. listened to HTB sermon and played my guitar for worship). God is good. The sermon’s from this church seem like they are crafted just for me… I have a tennis lesson at 4:00pm and am hoping to hang out with Leanna and Maggie tonight since there is no football this Sunday. I guess that is what happens as football season finishes up... That is all. Miss you.