28 January 2010


I have three egg cartons sitting next to me. I have had all three cartons in the fridge for considerably longer than one should have any egg cartons, but on Saturday, when I came back from the store and put the fourth egg carton in the fridge, I realized things had gone too far. I emptied all the eggs out of these three into the trash on Sunday, but I kept the cartons so that I could take note of the expiration dates.

Jan 5
Oct 18
Jul 23

I don't actually know if that first one was this Jan 5 or last Jan 5. I think, I hope, it was the Jan 5 we just had.

I don't eat eggs alone very often. I bake things with them, which is how I ended up with three cartons of expired eggs in my fridge. Most things I bake only need an egg or two, but once a carton is a month or so expired, I usually give up on it. I would be more casual about using expired eggs except that I had some bad experiences with old eggs the last time I was in Liberia.

Apparently there were worries about avian flu or something not long before I went to Liberia in 2006, so they killed all the chickens. I am basing this completely on rumor that I heard four years ago, so it's very likely that I have it all wrong. And surely I would remember if Liberia were chickenless? I didn't spend that much time on farms while I was there, but a Liberian farm inherently has chickens. So I don't actually know. All I know is that the eggs that were sold in Monrovia tasted weird.

When I asked, someone told me that the eggs were imported from India or Indonesia, I forget which one. (Yes, I know that they are very different and very far from one another. I just remember that it was a country that started with an Ind.) It must have taken a very long time for them to reach Liberia, because again, weird.

To me, the eggs tasted like metal. I could not stomach an omelet made with those eggs (omelets are usually my backup plan in countries/restaurants where it is hard to find vegetarian food; lots of salt makes almost any omelet palatable). I could not even eat the cake we made with those eggs. I could taste the metallic taste through the chocolate (no one else could taste it, though, oddly).

The result is that, while I will merrily throw moldy yogurt or curdled milk into my baked goods, I will not do the same with expired eggs. I know, in my head, that eggs are still good after the date on the carton, but when I think of it, I think of that metallic taste in the ancient eggs in Liberia, and I buy a new carton. And then I add it to the collection of half-empty cartons in my fridge, apparently.

27 January 2010





Yeah, my life is about like that right now.

This is how fascinating my life is right now:

I spent far too large a percentage of last weekend looking up recipes for things to bake on my new favorite baking blog. I ended up baking coconut bread and coconut scones. I really never do get sick of coconut.

Yesterday I looked up the sunrise and sunset times for the next six months, hoping desperately that the days would get longer faster if I did. Needless to say, they won't. We did have two minutes more of sunlight today than yesterday, though.

Pretty much every day I have to explain the blue light that suffices for my own personal sunlight to one or more people. The general reaction is, "Does that really work?" YES, it does. I promise. This light is the reason I am not routinely enraged by people.

I'm still fighting the loan people about my law school loans. STILL. I have been out of law school for nearly three years. I pay the loans every month. And still.

Today I bought the biggest bottle of ibuprofen that W@lgreens sells. 1000 tabs. I pretty much think ibuprofen solves everything.

I need to go to bed.


Somehow, I got off the blogging bandwagon between the trip to Vietnam and the brokenness of computer, and it is proving incredibly hard to clamber back on the moving wagon.

22 January 2010

i am here

I am here.

When I moved to Gone West two years ago, I had a networking meeting at which the networkee asked me how long I planned to live here. I (mentally) took a deep breath. I had been on the move since college, since I figured out that I could go back to the tropics in general and Africa more specifically and Liberia even more specifically. I was either going or wishing to go.

"Five years, at least," I said. "I have a five year plan here. After that, we'll see how it's going."

I had never committed to five years anywhere. When I moved to Rwanda in 2002, I was overwhelmed by the year for which I had signed up, and then by the second year when I signed that contract. When I left Rwanda in 2004, the thought of three years in law school, even with summers in Africa, terrified me. Saying that I planned to live in Gone West for five years - which was, frankly, a number that I pulled out of the recesses of my brain without really thinking about it - was positively immobilizing.

This is, after all, a city to which I moved on a whim. One day in law school, when yet another person asked me what I was going to do when I graduated, I didn't say, "I'm going to get a job in international law," as I had always done before. Instead, I said, "I'm either going to get a job in international law or I'm going to move to Gone West, Northwest." I didn't have a reason for saying it. I had never been to Gone West. I liked the sound of it, or I'd read an article about it recently in the New York Times, or it was completely different than anything I had done before.

I had never been here before Boxing Day, 2007, when I got on a 6 a.m. flight and flew across the country. It was raining and cold, and as we drove through town, I looked out at the low clouds and the gloom, and I wondered if this had been an even bigger mistake than law school or those three months in Southern Sudan.

When I moved here, I'm not sure that I knew that I had a choice. It felt like the only thing I could do. I could no longer live with comings and goings that were required in my previous life and so, almost against my will, I moved to Gone West. It seemed like the only place where I could have stability of home and friends.

I know now that I have a choice, and I choose to be here. I am happy here. More than five years, I can imagine a lifetime here. Every once in a while, someone sends me an email that says, "I keep expecting to hear that you have moved somewhere exciting," and I am relieved to remember that I am here, and I don't have to go anywhere.

I am here.

20 January 2010

this week

On Monday, my friend D. and I climbed a little mountain. "I've done this hike before," I said, "in the winter last year."

Hiking through the trees near the bottom of the mountain, I suddenly said, "In fact, I think I climbed this mountain on this exact day last year." I checked when I got home, and yes, I had.

It was colder and windier this time. Several times we had to stop and brace ourselves against the wind. A few times we even fell against the cables that some kind person had installed at just the exact points where the wind hits hardest. We clung to them and turned our backs to the wind and laughed.

We didn't plan to make it to the top. The car had been virtually oil-free when we got to the parking lot, which we discovered quite by accident. We managed to refill it with oil from a random guy who had extra oil in his truck (love guys, they are so prepared and useful), but we were planning to head back early to deal with the possible engine damage situation. Every few minutes, particularly when the wind caught us, we would say, "What do you think?" and debate turning back, but then suddenly the top was in view, and it seemed silly to stop.

It was too cold on the top to eat, too cloudy to take pictures. We stood for a few minutes looking out at the water and the mountains, and then we turned around and went down. We raced faster and faster, trying to stave off the cold that hit us on the easy downhill.


I slammed my knee against my desk this morning. Someone said, "Don't you sit there every day? You'd think you would know better by now."

Hopping on one leg, clutching my knee, I gasped, "Ow. Drawer. Accidentally left partway open. Owwww."

My knee was bruised by the time I pulled my trouser leg up to investigate the damage.


At the doctor's office, the nurse told me to sit in the waiting room for 15 minutes after my H1N1 vaccine.

"Why?" I asked.

"In case you have a reaction."

"Um," I said, "Is that completely necessary?"

"Well, I am required to tell you that," she said, "but we can't make you."

"Good," I said, "because I've never had a reaction to any vaccine."

On the train on the way back to work, I kept wondering, Am I short of breath now? Am I going to pass out? Is a severe reaction going to be payback for my flouting of medical advice?

I was fine.

16 January 2010


I have been trying hard to spend as little money as possible this month. I have a once-a-year bill coming up, and I really want to go to Honduras this spring, because my sister will be studying there with the same program I studied with a decade ago. I wandered into a clothing store on my lunch break a few days ago and found the perfect spring-weight coat on clearance, in a tall. I was horribly tempted (the soft shell that makes me a (wannabe) Pacific Northwesterner is not exactly professional gear), but instead I sent a message to my sister that said, "I wanted to buy this coat, but I want to visit you in Honduras more."

This week, though, has been hard on the bank account. First there was the earthquake in Haiti and I'm sorry, how hardhearted do you have to be exactly to see the photos of that earthquake and not reach instantaneously for your checkbook if you are 1. human and 2. live in the richest country in the world, even if you are yourself nearly always broke? (Exceptions made for actually broke people, of course. I am just nearly always broke but only verging on broke at the moment.) Fortunately, I have worked for two international organizations whose work I admire and who both have expertise in relief projects and who are both doing relief projects through local partners with whom they have long-term relationships in Haiti, so I didn't have to worry and wonder about how my check would be used.

Then I went out with friends last night. I haven't actually gone out to a place where you pay money for food and drinks in a while, other than a grocery store. It ended up being kinda-sorta expensive, especially when we found out at 11 pm that the next bus to my part of town left at 5 am and I was forced to call a cab, the driver of which turned out to be significantly strange and we spent much of the drive home joking (?) about where he would hide my body after he killed me if he had to kill me if I was a witness to him accidentally killing those pedestrians who stepped out in front of him. (He missed the pedestrians, by the way, so I was safe.) But it was worth it. I had forgotten how nice it is to sit in a restaurant with dim lights and interesting people and delicious food and exchange stories about Africa.

Now I'm going out to dinner again tonight, which will cost money again. Admittedly less than last night, and I cannot possibly say no because the plans tonight call for Ethiopian! food! and I haven't had that since my birthday because I fell out of friendship with the friend who used to consistently pay for my all of my Ethiopian food. (Sigh. It's a long story. Life is like that sometimes.)

I don't have a point, really, save to say that life is expensive and it requires priorities, and sometimes it's really hard to prioritize even the excitement of a trip to Honduras over those incredibly comfortable, cute shoes that would actually keep the rain off my feet. Details. Having cold wet feet for an entire evening is normal, right?

14 January 2010

life is really dull right now, in a good way

Normally I'm all, "Get vaccines! Get every vaccine they will give you!" but when it came to H1N1 I started thinking maybe I should just hold off and get sick and develop some antibodies. Then I got a cold in Cambodia and another cold in Ye Little Town in the Middle of Nowhere, Northwest, and I changed my mind. What was I thinking? I may have 80 hours of sick leave saved up, but I have no desire to actually be, you know, sick in order to use them. Those suckers can happily go to waste. I had enough of that feeling crappy nonsense this week. And isn't the point of vaccines to force your body to make antibodies? I will have the antibodies either way. So I called and my doctor's office is deigning to give them out to grownups who are not immuno-compromised or (how to say this in a nice way...) old, and so I'm going to get one.

A few months ago, right about the time when the entire world was all aflutter about this H1N1 thing, I had the misfortune of being forced to listen to someone tell me all about how the US government was using the vaccine as an opportunity to poison all of us so they could decimate the population of the country and start over. I am not one to argue with the conspiracy theorists. I don't really do anything about it, either, though. It doesn't much matter to me if they are true. After all, short of taking over the world myself, what can I really do? (Although in this case, I can't see the point of the conspiracy. I mean, why? What sense does it make? I much prefer the conspiracy theories that explain something.)

It is now 9:18 pm. This week, that makes it bedtime. I have not managed to stay up past ten at all this week. Blessed, blessed sleep.

13 January 2010

i am writing about nothing to get myself writing

I have the oddest cold. I picked it up from the kiddos over New Year's weekend. Little S. spent all of Saturday lying in a stupor on her grandma's lap, and full-grown S. and I both started whining about our versions of it the Sunday next. I am strangely surprised by its trajectory. I was only really sick for two days (Monday and Tuesday), and each day has been measurably different in severity, first worse and then better, than the last. I could chart this cold on a calendar. Don't most colds do more lingering than this? (Just watch, now this level of cold at which I am currently will linger for weeks. I have probably spoken too soon.)


I made sushi for the first time last Saturday. It was surprisingly easy, although I was not the one responsible for the additions one makes to the rice, which looked complicated. If I had been, it might have turned out just about as well as the sweet potato fries I tried to make: disastrously. (I just googled sweet potato fries and realized I did not have the oven on hot enough. Oops.) I ate far too much of the rice plain. Hm, delicious white carbs with rice vinegar. We made vegetarian sushi, full of carrots and cucumber and diacon and sweet potato. I looked around at the table, at sushi and sweet potato fries and red wine, and realized that five years ago I did not like one of those things, and now I love (sushi, sweet potato fries) or at least tolerate (red wine) all of them. Isn't it odd how your taste buds change?

I remember the first time I ate sushi, and how much I hated it. It was at an event at the sports club of the family with whom I lived when I was studying French in Montreal. I felt very sophisticated, standing at the reception, taking a few pieces of sushi, but I hated the taste of the seaweed. I didn't try it again until the end of the summer of 2006, when I came back to New York and my friends R. and P. took me out to dinner. Then, I was cautious. Now I gobble it.

"Eat through the pain," I said when we had all stuffed ourselves on Saturday night, mimicking my roommate S. from the New York days. "Eat through the pain."

12 January 2010

I am thinking about entering a contest for number of times one can blow one's (raw, bleeding) nose in a single day. I am pretty sure I would win, chunky green snot and all.

Re: visual image: you are welcome.

06 January 2010


I think I said sometime last winter that I am only capable of doing one thing per evening. I can go to the store or I can work out or I can blog or I can clean or I can go out and do something with friends. I don't know why it's so impossible for me to do multiple things in an evening, but it is. It cuts into my time for slacking, I think. It's important to have time for slacking, even when you don't really have anything to slack from.

Lately, I've been going to the gym. The gym, as we all know, is in my building. If it were somewhere else, I would never go. Never, never, never. My feeling about the gym is that one can only go after dinner and at a reasonable time before bed, and there should be no going out into the dark and cold in order to get there. I do try to go to the gym, though, for several reasons. One is that I can't afford to keep buying new clothes, so I have had to institute a healthy eating + exercise plan for the next few months. I am really trying not to make this about being fat or skinny, but seriously, people, I cannot afford to outgrow my clothes. I am too broke for that. Also, if left to my own devices, I will eat every bit of refined sugar in sight. Not so healthy.

The thing is, though, that when I do drag my little self down to the gym, I feel so much better about my body. It isn't that I think that going to the gym makes me a better person or that it changes my body that fast. It's just so nice to feel like these legs and arms of mine are useful. I like them better when they do something for me. I feel like looking down and patting my arm or leg and saying, "GOOD little limb. Good job."

But I don't. Because that would be weird.

03 January 2010


Eight days later, I was back in Ye Little Town in the Middle of Nowhere, Northwest. Willingly, this time. S. and N. were going, and there is nothing more boring than a long weekend with my second family out of town, so I crashed the party. I crashed S. and N.'s crashing of their second family's party.

When we arrived, J2 told me, "This is a grabbing house. If you want something, grab it; otherwise you'll go hungry." There were twelve adults and four kids in a ranch house and a camper. We made full pots of coffee over and over. Entire bags of chips disappeared immediately after they were opened. We ate meals around two tables with three highchairs. When we stood around them to hold hands and pray before we ate, the kids started laughing hysterically, every single time. There was no moment of silence between the kids getting up at 6 am and the last of us trickling off to bed after midnight. Only S. and N. and I got to sleep in - we were lucky enough to be sent off to sleep in the camper.

We played MarioKart on the Wii in shifts, with N. and A. consistently at the top of the rankings and the rest of us vacillating wildly between last and third. One round, N. and A. in 1st and 2nd place and little I. and I in 11th and 12th, little I. sent his car flying off into the water. "SHIT!" he said, and we all stared and fought our bursts of laughter. "Did his mom hear that?" J4 asked. "Where did he learn that? I., you can't say that. Say, 'shoot' instead. But you did use it in exactly the right place."

On Saturday morning, we got up early and scrounged up goggles and snowpants and sandwiches and drove up into the mountains. I finally understand why people mock the tiny hills we use for skiing in Michigan. I haven't been skiing in 6 years, but it came back, mostly. I only once had to bail because I was skittering straight toward a slope with a name that ended in CLIFF. I slid off the edge onto the cliff-slope, landing a few feet down with my head right about even with the top of the cliff. A ski patrol guy happened by and asked if I was okay, which I was, but he had to ski below me, take off my skis, and push me up from below in order to get me back on manageable snow.

"What kind of idiot would ski down that?" S. asked, as we rode the chairlift up the last few hundred feet, above a nearly vertical rocky slope, not marked as a trail, that was carved with a few ski marks. "Only crazy people."

A ride or two later, I looked down and said, "Oh, look. There are N. and J3 going straight down that scary part."

It became our repeated joke. It was funny every single time we rode the chairlift. "What kind of idiot would ski down that?" S. would ask. "Only crazy people."

"Oh," I would say, "I don't know. Possibly people we know. Maybe YOUR BROTHER."

Another time, we noticed N. off-roading through the woods... just in time to watch him somersault, skis whirling, head over heels. When he bounced back up, we yelled and cheered from above.

Back at the house, we were exhausted and happy. We talked late into the night about health care reform and national debt and international work. M., who I have met only once before but who works internationally and so is automatically a sister, sat on my feet on the couch, keeping them warm. In the morning, Little A., the same age as my nephew, came and brought me a baby doll and a blue train tender car and a shiny quarter in a doll stroller, handing me one at a time, taking them back, and handing them to me again.

"I like the B.s," I said in the car on the way home, ruffling S. and N.'s hair, "almost as much as I like the K.s."

"They are basically the same." S. said, since the six kids all grew up together.

We sang along to Garth Brooks while driving through the high desert, a thousand stark, beautiful shades of white and gray.

"Give me some of that juice," I called up to the front seat.

"It's an energy drink," N. said. "If you call it juice again, you aren't getting any more."

I turned the can around and said, "Ingredients: mango puree, orange juice. I can call this juice."

"Only kids call it juice," he said, "If you want more, you have to call it by the right name."