31 January 2006

a tuesday

I've thought of approximately 7 clarifications I could have made on my last post. But why bother? It's my blog. I can say what I like.

I wanted to throw the $10 alarm clock out the window when it went off at 6:30 this morning. (Is that a TIME?) I was late for my 8 am occupational therapy appointment and the therapist introduced some exercises today so it look longer than usual and I was late leaving and late getting to babysitting and I had to clean frantically for a play date and then I had to run off to try to change my gym class (yoga KILLED my poor golf elbows) and work the barbri table (I've sold my soul to them in exchange for a free bar review class and, yes, a free sweatshirt! and occasional free pizza and drinks) and then babysit again, so today is crazy and I'm getting stressed by all that I have to do this semester, but then I looked up from sending some emails to see a little red-head sitting at the table putting a Goddard figure (from the Jimmy Neutron movies) into a piece of a spaceship lego-like thing and singing to himself, "Happy Ber-tay to you!" and I forgave the alarm clock and called the day worthwhile.

30 January 2006

some random things

This morning I woke up burning burning burning hot. This was, naturally, because I had closed the window and then it got warmer outside and in. So I opened the window from the bottom, which I don't normally do because the window is harder to open that way and as I was walking to school I realized that I had left it open and the mind of a girl who grew up in Liberia thought, "What if someone comes and takes something from the windowsill?" Then I realized that the only things on the windowsill are candles and a $10 alarm clock and if someone is willing to climb 6 floors up the fire escape and cut through the screen for a $10 alarm clock, I want them to have it. No really. Take it. Please.

My blue KLM flight attendant coat carried the day. Everyone I see loves it. I have gotten at LEAST 8 compliments today MINIMUM (note: redundancy intentional). The color is great on me. (My modesty prevails yet again - but hey, there's a reason why the Dutch love that kind of blue. We just look good in it.) Last night, in the bodega, the guy looked at me for a while while he was ringing up my organic milk, ringing it up in an inordinately slow manner, and then said, "You look beautiful tonight." Which brings me to another point. Why are non-American men so much more flattering to be around than American men? My European and African friends, even those who are in long-term committed relationships and have no designs on me whatsoever, are so much more complimentary. Not to insult American men, but if you are one, answer this question truthfully: when was the last time you told a female friend genuinely and without any skankiness that she looked beautiful? And this question: when have you ever called a female friend "Beautiful" as an endearment, not a description, without any skankiness? Oh, wait, you haven't! Ever! Because it comes out skanky. It always comes out skanky in this country. We are socializing boys incorrectly, somehow. My friend Tomaso (from the Italian part of Switzerland) can say, "Ciao, bella!" to every girl-who-is-a-friend and it never sounds skanky. (Which is not to say that there are no skanky men in Italy. There are, I hear, although I didn't encounter any when I was there, I don't think.)

Okay, that's all for today. Off to yoga.

P.S. I have re-enabled anonymous comments on here - you just have to type in a funny code word that it will show you, to prove that you are real and not a bot. Missy, that one's for you, darling. xx

29 January 2006

my new look

I got a new coat, which I ordered online. It came and it's cute. In it, I look as I've always hoped to look: exactly like a KLM flight attendant!!!

Okay, I never actually HOPED to look like a KLM flight attendant, but if I'd ever thought about it, I would have. They are so hearty and healthy and smiley and they bring you blankets and Dove ice cream bars. Who wouldn't want to look like them?

28 January 2006

it's winter, huh?

I don't like winters. I never NEVER regretted not having a single cold day or a single snowflake for two years in Rwanda. In fact, I was disappointed when it got to be beautiful weather in Michigan because then my mom would send me email saying, "It's such nice weather here!" and I would think, "I am supposed to have a monopoly on perfect weather here in the most beautiful place in the world! Michigan is supposed to be WINTER." (Yes, I freely admit the irrationality.)

I loved living in Kibuye and walking out into the sunshine on my stone patio nearly every morning and watching the rain clouds build over the Hotel Golf Eden Roc and then pass over the water and my house and on to Congo. I loved the fact that in rainy season it usually only rained for a few hours and after the rain passed I could climb up the hill and the clouds would clear and I could see Nyiragongo spewing out smoke against the grey-violet sky. One night I walked down the peninsula behind Bethanie as a storm was just passing, with Kivu, who was Maureen's dog at the time, back when Kivu was still allowed out (before she bit people) and walked off to the side through a field and sat at the edge of the water where the waves (there aren't usually many waves, it's a lake. but this day there were waves) were crashing onto the rocks and I sat there on the top of the rocks reveling in the wildness of nature and the dog's snuffling around and the water that splashed up onto me.

Anyway, it's sunny a lot more often in New York than in Michigan, which is not surprising because Michigan is one of the least sunny places on earth. Seriously. It can go for two months at a time without so much as a sliver of sunlight. It did this while I was in high school. And for the forty-five days preceeding January 7 (note that this is when I was in West Michigan), I heard that West Michigan was the cloudiest place on earth. So it's sunnier in New York. But sometimes I look out the window and forget that it's cold out there. The smog rests over the skyline like the dust in Rwanda in dry season. I'm filled with longing and I wonder if maybe I could just go back to Rwanda this summer and live in Kibuye in my old house.

I won't. I will do something else and travel to new places. But I think it will be a long time before I stop missing my old house in Kibuye, for the lake with its clear water and the hammock between two trees in the front and the way the sunlight was sifted through the trees and the sound of the rain at night when I thought the hill might crash down on me and the friends who came to watch movies on my computer and cook on the two-burner hotplate and swim across to the biopreserve.

26 January 2006


Two years! I lived for two years in Rwanda and a summer in Tanzania and I never got sick. Okay, not true. I had a cold that turned into a sinus infection. And strep throat. But that's not SICK, that's just a sinus infection. And strep throat. I get those all the time. But I never got sick from the food or the water or the bugs. No amoebas, no worms, no malaria. And I wasn't being careful. I ate the salads, even at sketchy restaurants. I ate cut-up fruit. I drank juice made with who-knows-what water. I once swigged from a water bottle before noticing that it tasted strange and looking down to see that it had green stuff growing in it. I let my guards use their machetes to cut me some sugar cane. I didn't use a mosquito net. I didn't take anti-malarials. I swam in lakes. I rafted in rivers. I walked around barefoot. I was as uncautious as I could practically be. I mean, I didn't lick the ground or anything. But I ignored all the standard precautions and I never got sick. I didn't throw up once.

In fact, I have a pretty tough stomach. A stomach of steel, said the interns last summer. I don't throw up very often. Or ever, really, unless I take tylenol or ibuprofen on an empty stomach. The last time I threw up other than from pain relievers on an empty stomach (tylenol with a sip of coke, anyone?) was when I last had malaria in Liberia in, I don't know, 1989?

Until yesterday. Oh, yesterday. I'm choosing to blame the milk, which I think was bad (I threw it away today), and which I had for breakfast and lunch yesterday. But regardless, I spent my corporations class sitting there trying not to hurl and the rest of the afternoon curled up in bed trying not to hurl and eventually couldn't not hurl anymore so... well, you know.

Today I ate a bit. Mostly white foods (cornflakes were the most colorful). They stayed down. And tonight I was excited when a handful of caramel pirate's booty tasted good. Until it got to my stomach, when it didn't so much feel good anymore.

What use to me are all those months and years in Africa trying to build up my stomach's ability to withstand anything I put in it, any varmits I send its way, if it is going to fail me for NO REASON AT ALL? IN THE U.S. That's what gets to me. It's like passing drivers training only to forget how to shift as soon as you leave the parking lot with the license. Not ironic, but maddening. MADDENING.

22 January 2006


Friend who has lived in various post-conflict parts of Africa: "They are so nice. And they keep slaughtering each other. It's so annoying!"

Me: "That's going on my blog. I'm going to have to put that on my blog."

21 January 2006

guess what I chose?

You know how sometimes you reach a point at which you have to make a decision and the options are:

1. do laundry
2. buy more clothes?

I reached that point a day or two ago.

I went out and bought nine new pairs of socks. Now I'm good for a while.

17 January 2006

I sound like a bragging parent and I don't even have kids

from Africa adventures to gratuitous kid stories. Oh, well. The kids are more interesting than the classes right now. Although I am reading about Hamdan v. Rumsfeld. Oh, Rummy. Whatever shall we do with you? You really have to stop authorizing torture. It just isn't cool. We the People are not cool with it.

Reason #436 that babysitting is the perfect day job:

the little guy is so cute that I got my coconut steamer FREE (yes, FREE, all capitals) today at a non-corporate coffee shop even though he was asleep and only sat slumped in the stroller looking adorable. I only had to pay for the ginger snap cookie. And both of them were amazing. There is nothing like a coconut steamer. Right now, I think it beats out even an almond steamer. Every sip was delectable.

And then I had to wake the little guy up for his speech therapy (which I don't think he needs - I think he's perfectly normal in his talking, but apparently he had a difficult birth and they just want to be sure. And it's free, thank you New York State) and he was so very sweepy that he just lay snuggled on my shoulder while the therapist read him a book. The cuteness kills me.

16 January 2006

[Credit] 3 Doors Down

"One more kiss could be the best thing
one more lie could be the worst..."

new obsession: COCONUT

Coconut. Yes, I know, how did this happen? One early memory I have is of drinking coconut milk out of a coconut on Silver Beach in Buchanan, so it goes back a long time, but this is the first time I've ever been actively seeking out coconut in the course of normal life. Every possible coconut tea, ice cream or steamer. Not the nasty sweetened stuff - the Mounds bar edition. Just real coconut flavor. Yum.

11 January 2006


There is a scene in Sex and the City where Miranda gets into a cab and says, "Brooklyn, please" and the cabbie says, "I don't do boroughs" and Miranda gets out and stands on the Manhattan street and says, "You know what? Neither do I."

For me, it's not that I don't do boroughs so much as that I just never have reason to go to them. I mean, I do them. I like Brooklyn. I like the trees and neighborhoods. It's just that I never quite get there. It's so far away. And Queens, too. So far away. It's too much work. Today, though, I had to go to Queens because I left my cell phone in a cab on the way to the airport in December and the cabbie (lovely, lovely man, I tipped him ridiculously even before I knew that I'd left my phone in his cab and he deserved every penny and more) called my parents (conveniently listed as "Mom and Dad" in the phone, making it pretty easy to figure out) and the phone has been awaiting me in Queens ever since.

So I subwayed it over there and got off on the Broadway stop of the N/W in Astoria, Queens. The guy at the taxi depot, whatever you call it, had given me directions and I was 20 streets away from where I had to be, according to the street numbers, so I set off walking and then got a cab because time was a tad short and the cab took me only two clicks of the meter. That's two fifths of a mile. Could have walked that one. Time wasn't that short. Apparently the numbers mean something different in Queens. In Manhattan 20 numbers is a mile.

I got my phone and all was well and I was happy and I walked back to the subway station, but on the way I started across an intersection and suddenly heard a sound as if there were huge drops of rain beginning to fall all around me and it turned out to be... well, I want this to be a G-to-PG-rated blog, so I will call it poo. A huge flock of pigeons was wheeling above me, dropping poo all over. I was in the middle of a poo storm, poo falling about me like rain, landing in huge white poo drops all over the sidewalk and the road. I could go nowhere. You can't run from that. I stood motionless until they settled on a building across the intersection and then walked calmly across the street and then tried to be casual about running a hand across my hair to see if one had gotten me. Which it hadn't, fortunately.

The day was pretty much uphill from there.

10 January 2006

oh, the humiliation which I have wrought upon myself

I have to preface this story by saying that I do drink coffee from the big evil corporation strbcks, whose name I am abbreviating so that hopefully if someone googles that big evil corporation, this site will not come up. Anyway, I drink coffee there because, hey, sometimes you need a mint mocha, although admittedly no mint mocha will ever compare with the original (Missy will testify to that), and anyway big evil corporation stores are on every street corner. And if they have increased the total number of coffee shops available, I would almost thank them. If I didn't hate them so much except when I like them. I do, however, strive to buy my beverages at smaller places and I spend most of my frivolous income for beverages at a small cafe which shall remain nameless because, hey, I'm there all the time and in paranoia (there are scary people out there, people), I don't want the internet to know about it. At this small cafe, I know the workers by name and they watch my computer when I need to run out and buy something from a bodega and I always ask them if they want anything while I'm running out. And the $3.52 that I pay for my drink is completely worthwhile to support a small business and rent my study table for a few hours. And the bathroom is way cleaner than any big evil corporation bathroom in New York (yick).

So. Story. I was babysitting, and admittedly we looked a bit designer baby with the double stroller and the little wool coats and the cup holders. But we were at this corner and two women looked down at the stroller and one said, "Oh, how cute!" half to me about the kids, who are very cute, and the other one said, to her friend, NOT to me, "They even have little strbcks cups." in a sort of shocked and not-so-pleased way.


But let me explain! Please!

Earlier in the day, the lil' one and I stopped at big evil corporation to get a drink because it was the only thing around. Really! And I wanted a mint mocha and he wanted chocolate milk, which they usually have in little cartons. They didn't have chocolate milk, though, so he ended up with vanilla milk, which is sweet but not the same to a chocolate milk obsessed child. But the vanilla milk was in the stroller when we went to pick up the big bro from school and when he saw it he wanted something to drink too, and it was either that or another chain which sells orange scones which the kids love too much and I would have had to buy those, too, so we went to big evil corporation and got a kid-sized hot chocolate with two cups which turns out to be the way to go because it only costs $1.52 and it is not that much smaller than the next size up which is about $3 and because I knew that lil' one really wanted chocolate milk I mixed the rest of the vanilla milk with the hot chocolate and put half in each cup and this really extraordinarily HOT man noticed the process and we had a short flirtatious conversation regarding how it was quite a process and I left big evil corporation smiling and then this mean woman looked at me as if I were CORPORATIZING SMALL CHILDREN.

Oh, the shame.

08 January 2006

lovely little day

The sun persists in shining here in New York. I woke up this morning and it seemed cloudy but then I woke up again a bit later and I couldn't find a cloud 'though I tried. Sunshine! I didn't even know how I missed it until my plane took off in MI and we broke through the clouds and the sun was shining full in my face and I put my face against the window and closed my eyes and soaked it in.

I have read my assignments for tomorrow, which I consider a grand achievement seldom accomplished.

These two couples were sitting near me in the cafe and I could not but listen to them because they were talking SO LOUDLY and by the time they finished and left I wanted to scream or say something bitter to them, for several reasons.

First, one of the guys was born in South Africa and the girl from the other couple kept asking him about it but he never got to answer because his wife answered. EVERY TIME. Even though she admitted that she's never been there.

Second, the girl asking all the questions followed them up with a description of how her friend or cousin or someone went to Africa and PETTED BABY TIGERS. Why did this irritate me so much? Because there are no tigers in Africa. They live in India. Not Africa. A whole different continent.

Third, the same girl insulted Liberia, saying that her uncle used to work there (mining diamonds - had to have been illegal because obviously during the war from context) and it is "the most pathetic place on earth" according to her.

Fourth, they got into an argument about whether or not a hospital will let you die if you are an organ donor. What emergency room doctor is looking at incoming patients thinking, "Maybe my buddy Joe in surgery needs a liver from someone with this blood type?" I love conspiracy theories, but really. It's just not logical. Doctors do not work in emergency rooms to strategically let people die unless they are secretly involved in a black market something and then they will let you die even if you aren't officially an organ donor. So get over it and donate your organs.

But in other news, I went for a lovely walk in the park in the sunlight. And I'm wearing my mzungu shirt that I bought at a stall at the Equator in Uganda. So I'm happy.

Here's a photo of me and my friend Sara at the Equator in Uganda:


07 January 2006

Upon returning

I'm back in the bitty little apartment. And I've got to say, not so excited about it. I kind of feel like I would have been better off not getting out of bed this morning (even though my faithful old bed in my parents' house is now harmful to my poor golf elbows, I think). Then again, slip-sliding up the highway with the spun-off cars was buckets o' fun.

Somewhere over Pennsylvania or upstate New York, the clouds below the plane just suddenly ended and when I got to LGA the sky was clear and blue with jet trails across it. So beautiful. Such a contrast with the morning gloom in Michigan.

I'm not QUITE sure I can face this semester, yet.