Friday, December 28, 2007

3 things

i am not ready to leave. and that is all i have to say about that.

also not thrilled with the preliminary results of the kenyan presidential election. and that is all i will say about that.

i am disgusted with the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and i am afraid for pakistan.

Monday, December 24, 2007

happy birthday jesus!

at this time last year, i was sitting on a beach in mombasa, enjoying the sun and the company, but feeling rather lonely as christmas just doesn't match with the indian ocean, spf 15, or margaritas for me.

in the last few weeks, i have been exceptionally busy and today i have no plans. (apart from that red cup date i just made, which is less like plans and more like a calm visit) between trips to kananaskis, fernie, the saddledome, dinner parties, heritage park, the mall, the other mall, the other big box store, and seasonal parties, i am pooped. showing someone around your home is so much fun but exhasuting. and having a sinus cold is not really helping my stamina or ability to go through any one event without consuming something that makes me a bit loopy and/or drowsy and stopping the fun to constantly blow my nose and sneeze.

but i am ready for christmas simply because i don't want to have to do anything for an entire day except eat, play games, open gifts, eat some more, and relax (and it helps that i have been done my shopping for a few days). but i would still rather be here, pooped and sneezing, than in a tropical destination. and for that, i am happy.

merry christmas!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

conscious stream

i have been sneezing pretty much constantly since i arrived in yyc. not sure if it is allergies or a cold, but either way it is gross.

i have watched some hockey, i have eaten some beef, and i have christmas shopped in the past week. the usual. it has been packed and busy, but great. my sleeping schedule is still a bit whacky and i cannot seem to stay up past 10 or sleep past 9, but i suppose there is really nothing wrong with that as i am on vacation.

i am off to a cabin where i intend on visiting, drinking wine, hot springing, dining, lake skating, and observing ice fishing in action. i am looking forward to it all.

on the other hand, i am also a little bit worried that time is passing so quickly and that soon i will have to get back on a plane. i wish this visit could be stretched out this time. i feel at home and that this is where i need to be at the moment.

seems to be one of the few things i am sure of lately.

Monday, December 17, 2007

7 things you might not have known about me

Here are the The Rules:
Each player starts with 7 random facts/habits about themselves. People who are tagged need to then report this on their own blog with their 7 things as well as these rules. They then need to tag others and list their names on their blog. They are also asked to leave a comment for each of the tagged, to let them know that they have been tagged and to read the blog.

1. I love Q Tips and no other brand will suffice

2. I am really quite shy

3. I am now the shortest of my 3 (all younger) siblings in the fam

4. I have a one-eyed dog

5. I contemplate doing a phd at least every other day

6. I love to organise but leave my stuff everywhere and never have a tidy room (until I had a housekeeper!)

7. I rarely wear heels

As the game goes, I now tag inspired by dooce, yarn is my metier, and portrait of a girl dressed in blue!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

suspension of judgement

(december 12, 2007)

if i can say one thing about minneapolis is that people are friendly. like the kind of friendly that makes a solo traveller feel at ease. well, apart from the immigration police officer who started raising his voice for all in the hall to hear as he told a woman, ‘this is my house and here we do things my way, maybe you do things different in your house but you are in the us now’ and ‘i am not afraid to put you under arrest.’ and all this fuss because she was ill and didn’t want to wait for the medic to arrive after he had called her. i try to suspend judgement, but a situation like that how can you not roll your eyes and feel embarrassed for americans. and if you know me, you know that i defend americans from the bad rap that they get so often and that too often people make the most negative stereotypes about them. but then after that episode, how i can i blame them?

other lovely things about today:
  • i have been travelling for nearly 2 days and am dirtay (ok that one is not so lovely)
  • i did not freeze my buns off although it is snowy and cold in Minneapolis
  • i went to the Mall of America and there is no way that it is bigger than West Edmonton Mall, nicer though
  • i treated myself to a solo lunch (i love going out for meals alone, especially when in foreign places) of canadian salmon and a glass of red wine – delicious!
  • water fountains! i had forgotten about those. i love drinkable tap water
  • telling people what i do generally impresses people. the customs guy (not the ass i mentioned above) told me it sounded interesting, the starbucks guy was fascinated, my server at the restaurant said i was on the ‘good guys’ side,’ and the t shirt lady gave me a discount as i chatted with her about where i am from, where i live, and whether or not i am married (a strange stranger question, but not at all offensive because she was just so friendly)
  • i did a lot of shopping. but i got a lot of gifts, which is a good thing as i was beginning to worry about being able to get it all done. i would say which gifts i am most happy about but i must keep it a secret
  • the most enormous ukranian lady sat beside from amsterdam to minneapolis and it made eating difficult as she really took up my space. i have never known what i think about making obese people buy two seats, but i think i paid for more space that i actually got today
  • who knew there were so many asian people in minneapolis?
  • i stood in line for one of my flights in from of two professional bmx riders and i am sure they were much smarter than they sounded. geez. i have tried to work the word ‘like’ out of excessive use and i would suggest they do too if they ever decide to be grow ups (not that being a professional bmx rider is not grown up, but talking like a teenager is not grown up and kind of obnoxious in a line up when i cannot get away from it)
  • i stood behind this most miserable mother and her three children in the same line up and was convinced the entire time that with her louis handbag, designer jeans, botoxed lips, and nasal accent that she was merican, but was mildly disappointed when i realised that she was canadian. and i bet they were headed back to calgary... (so much for suspending judgement)
  • i had my first egg nog latte in a red cup of the season! (and my tongue is still burnt as a reminder)
  • mass consumerism – wow
  • christmas tunes everywhere, i love it
  • things that work! like bathrooms (with hot water AND soap, what luxury) and public transport that won’t unnecessarily risk your life
  • an observation – while waiting for my flight in amsterdam, there were many empty seats in a section of the gate and the only people sitting there were a muslim woman entirely covered and african men and women and everyone else was all crammed into the other sections. strangely (or not?), i immediately went to sit near them as i felt less threatened and more comfortable
  • i will be home in 5 hours!
  • i bought a shirt today that says ‘i only date republicans’ – oh, the irony.
  • i have been sneezing up a storm (also not so lovely) and am afraid that i have contracted plane germs
  • the american woman behind me and the enormous ukranian woman (who was very sweet and ordered everything that i did because she did not speak much english, i hope she likes tomato juice!) seemed to be calling her most very best girlfriends in the whole world (and she was about 45) to tell them about her upcoming wedding to a knight in england and how she has been divorced since she last saw these most very best girlfriends but they are such most important special people to her that she wanted them to come to her most fantastic and beautiful wedding. i wanted to tell her to shut up and take her phone calls of such a personal nature off the plane, besides she kept apologising for waking every one of them up as if she didn’t know. flake. (ok, so much for suspending judgement, but travelling for so long in one stretch gives you lots of people watching and listening time)
  • did i mention christmas tunes?! and home in 5 hours?!
  • yay

Monday, December 10, 2007

25!

happy birthday suz!

you remember how i felt about 25, so i hope that she is kinder to you and if not, a swift kick in the junk normally takes care of everything!

miss you, but not long now...

2 days to go

1 day of work in nariobi + 1 overnight flight + short layover in amsterdam + long layover in minneapolis = home in 2 days!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

party animal

(december 8, 2007)

it is 10:30pm on a saturday night and i am at home, with my laptop, a flashdisk full of work, and a report to write before monday. all this talk of outputs, indicators, activities, outcomes, impact, components, methodology, logframes, workplans is making my brain hurt but it needs to be done. i like the thinking part of it but i have no idea if i am even doing this right. it was so much easier to be a student when i knew how to write a good paper.

but here i am, saturday night, sitting in my bathrobe, surrounded by papers, and eating chocolate. i sound just a student at the end of term.

at least i got out and about today – iced coffee with a friend, a long (dusty, speeding car-filled) walk outside, and a christmas fair where i bought no christmas gifts but some handmade mugs and bowls and a handwoven scarf for me. i just cannot turn down weaving. and the piles of fabric in my closet is proof. what do i do with yards of ethiopian cotton? i don’t know, but i had to have it.

back to the inherently confusing development speak.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

changing winds

(december 7, 2007)

i have never thought that international development had the answers to all the world’s problems and i have always been one of its strongest critics, as evidenced in my dissertation title Foreign Aid, Global Governance, and Compromised Sovereignty: The Corruption of Foreign Aid by the Neo-Imperial Agenda. but i still knew that it was what i wanted to do. or what i wanted to try and do.

and now i am here, in sub-saharan africa working with an organisation that does development work and i have a real job where i get to do a specific type of development work with all those buzz words ‘capacity building,’ ‘awareness raising,’ ‘community sensitisation,’ ‘sustainability,’ etc, etc (kenyans insist on repeating etc and actually pronouncing each letter – e.t.c, e.t.c and it drives me mad every time i hear it). and i am no longer sure it is what i want to do.

my belief in ‘development’ has been shaken and although i see a lot of wonderful things happening in this country, i am just not sure it is what i should be doing. what is a western canadian woman with a bunch of letters behind her name doing in east africa where she is frustrated daily with the lack of street lights, awful customer service, and work ethic of others around her? i am just not sure at the moment.

i love parts of my job. i would say that i love most parts of it. but i am not sure that it makes me happy enough to continue doing it. i will stay for now and i am quite proud of my project that i developed and am not implementing and i want to see it through. in doing so, i am gaining experience that will be valued where ever i go next and that i could not get through any other channel. but i am just not convinced of how long i can keep doing it.

i have really enjoyed my time in nairobi and have learnt so much and met so many people. my life is here right now, but i am not sure how happy i am about that. i am looking forward and i know that i need to find a path or a new goal, but i haven’t come up with anything concrete. then i wonder if i shouldn’t stay put because there will be some opportunities that arise very soon that could change how i feel about what i do and where i am. but how long do you wait for such things? i feel like perhaps i should stop living on foundation of the future and instead enjoy exactly where i am.

this has been on mind a lot recently and i have been applying for other jobs. the ironic part of it all was that i went to a cocktail party last night that involved far too many dirty martinis, tequila shots, and vodka sodas (really, a splash of soda with lemons and vodka – why are we allowed to keep mixing our own drinks after we’ve had a few?!) and i thought that i saw death on the horizon this morning but i got up and went to work, where i lasted a total of an hour and a half. and most of that was on facebook. after a nap (more of another night’s sleep than a nap), i decided to complete a job application and had to laugh to myself when i had to demonstrate how i have an ‘excellent record of attendance and punctuality’ whilst writing it at home because i was too hung over to stay at work. such class.

i am so lucky to be going home right now, not only to see my fam, my ladies (and gents), and have a proper canadian christmas, but to gain some perspective and think about life in nairobi outside of nairobi. 4 days!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

the spirit has taken a hit

i have been really busy lately hating the universe and it got in the way of writing about how excited i am to come home. i wasn't hating the whole universe, mostly just the british army part of the universe. but at least some of that hatred has passed. and i have let go of the fact that i cannot win in a fight against the british army.

well, almost let go.

who are we kidding, i will never be able to let it go.

but now i can get back to the excitement. 5 days!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

who's got spirit?

i was listening to christmas tunes this morning as i got ready to come into work and it put me in the most festive mood. which is rather difficult when i am also wrapping my head around sitting on a beach this weekend on the coast of kenya.

but for some reason, something has put me in a melancholy mood over the course of the day, but that could be because i didn't take time for lunch (as i had eaten my yoghurt and beets in olive oil and balsamic vinegar already - strange eating habits, i know) and my brain is now a bit fatigued of excel spreadsheets (but i do love the excel) and staring at my outlook inbox. maybe because i have actually been a bit of a productivity machine today and am just done an hour early for the day.

i have managed to clean up my desk, organise my files, catch up on my to do list, prepare for a meeting, and even apply for a job (they say the best time to look is when you have one, right? and i am not sure how long i will stay at this one.) i love a to do list but i love a crossed off to do list even more.

did i mention that i am going to the beach this weekend?! to relax, visit with my travelling partner, and read books. but i will wear plenty of sunscreen as i spied a little crease that wants to become a wrinkle near my mouth. then in 13 days (13 days!), i will be home for real wintertime christmas spirit.

which reminds me, it is now time for me to listen to Song for a Winter's Night by Sarah McLachlan obsessively.

Monday, November 26, 2007

16 days of activism to eliminate violence against women

the 16 days began on november 24th with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and to mark the day, i got to go to the american ambassador to kenya’s residence for nibblies, drinks served by servers dressed in white balancing glasses on trays, and singing and poetry by local women.

it was nice to meet people who my professional path has crossed and to be greeted warmly and describe what i am doing to counter violence against women. and to hear what women are doing and have been doing for years, it was pretty inspiring. a friend of mine just set up the first national steering committee to eliminate female genital mutilation and another is volunteering in one of the slums with a school and has done for a year. another is the director of a women’s organisation that has been running for 55 years here. others are funding such projects and some were older women who have been in this fight a long time and are exactly like african mothers, taking on the challenges of their community and never complaining and taking it all in stride. others were young women and girls who came in their school uniforms and are already leaders in their own right. and of course, the men who support women and fight for the same equality and equity that women are fighting for all over the world. you cannot achieve gender equity with only one gender and it is compelling to see men who are as engaged in the efforts as women.

there are 16 days. (more like 14 now because i am a bit late in posting this.) 16 days to do something. be active. there are global calamities affecting women like female genital mutilation and trafficking of women and girls for sexual exploitation, which are clearly not going to be stopped during our 16 days nor are any of us going to do it alone. and those of us from the global north living in developed countries won’t encounter such types of violence against women, but even canada has a long ways to go to stop all forms of violence against women. you have 16 days to talk about it. to encourage a young women to go to school, to study what they want, to work where they want, to play sports, to laugh, to play, to excel and to achieve. to build resiliency. to offer your support to a shelter or assistance programme for disadvantaged women. to speak out about rape. to talk about safe sex and choices. to teach women and girls about their rights. to teach men and boys about their responsibilities. just act.



16 days of activism to eliminate violence against women

Thursday, November 22, 2007

a list for procrastination

  • i have heart burn and have had 4 orange-flavoured Tums since this morning. i am not sure that this is a lot because i never get heart burn, but it seems like a lot to me
  • it has been raining a lot lately, which is no fun when i come to work and sit in my soggy pants (haha, soggy pants, but really just the bottoms of them are wet and then just stay damp all day) and freeze
  • uncertainty freaking sucks. and it sucks x2 when there are 2 people involved
  • it is official, i am the least patient person on earth
  • yesterday i was a productivity machine, today, not so much
  • i have been troubling accessing my blog lately, which is rather annoying but i did find a wireless provider that i could access from home on lucille the laptop. and people think i am roughing it...
  • i have my own intern now. ok not my very own intern to make me coffee but someone to help me do my work. because i actually have real work. and that is good
  • elections are in a month in kenya and there has been some pretty awful electoral violence, especially against female aspirants. just because you don't want someone to run doesn't mean you get to beat them up. start acting like a democratic country, is all i have to say
  • i might get to go to a refugee camp
  • i do get to go back to the coast next week and this time i am stretching out my trip for some beach time
  • when other people are bustling around me and stressing out, it cramps my productivity style
  • i get to go home in 20 days! and i already have a lunch date, a dinner date, a sushi date, and a cabin date

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

good no good

good – i wake up at 5:30am for my taxi to collect me at 6:30am to get to the airport by 7:30am for my flight to mombasa

no good – the coffee i make in my new maker is a touch on the strong side

good – i make it to the airport in only half an hour

no good – i find out my flight is delayed for 2 hours

good – i sit and have tea with my colleague and get to know her and kenya a little better

no good – the total disregard of the boarding rules and the mad rush to get seats

good – i chill out and read my BBC Focus on Africa magazine while i wait for the madness to cease

no good – someone has taken my seat once i finally get on to the plane

good – i finally get my seat sorted and get comfortable with no one beside me

no good – the pilot’s kamikaze flying techniques that made me afraid to go to the bathroom for fear that we might crash and i would be found in the loo

good – we arrive safely and get to our meeting

no good – it is hot and sweaty

good – there is a beautiful view from the government office of the indian ocean and the mombasa harbour

good – our meeting ends at 2:00pm and there is plenty of time for me to spend the afternoon laying by the rooftop pool and read my book (ok, this is really good!)

no good – gross crows that freak me out everytime they swoop down to get some crumbs from the nearby restaurant

good – back in my room watching tv that has more than 2 channels in kiswahili, a great novelty

no good – the oprah episode that is on is one with howie mandel and deal or no deal, a show i don’t even really understand

good – i am about to find myself some www then grab dinner at the rooftop restaurant at this hotel

really good – my job right now!

Monday, November 12, 2007

less well composed than i had planned

i was just in kisumu last week and i was preparing a post in my head that would include everything i wanted to say about the political rallies for the upcoming election, how the town was rather nice (sorry, city, they are quite proud of their city status) but lacked decent restaurants, and how i had some lovely meetings with the provincial governement guys which were pretty much circa 1954 and i swear that the old big african men who used to run the show sat on that very same fluffy velvet furniture and they were served the very same milky tea by the woman in the shift dress as i was. but i have yet to get around to it. partly because i spent the better part of yesterday (ok, the entire part of yesterday) recovering from a hangover from red wine. and everybody knows (especially glenda) how that feels. no good at all. so i read one and a half books. because even when i am hung over, i still do not have a tv and have to do something to amuse my sorry self. reading it was.

i finished Acts of Faith and i must now recommend this (you must be sick of my recommendations on books, but i really have read some good stuff recently). all about the whole aid thing in southern sudan during the war between the SPLA and khartoum government. tis long, but tis worth it.

i just realised, after catching up on inspired by dooce, that yesterday was remembrance day and i didn't even remember! that is bad. and like i said on her blog, it is especially bad considering the circumstances. yikes. i need a poppy.

now i am in nakuru and there is a lake, like kisumu, and there are jacarandas, like kisumu, there are meetings with goverment men on squishy orange and velvet couches, like in kisumu, and there is a hotel with questionable sheets, like kisumu. and this whole travelling for work thing is getting old already. oh but wait, on wednesday i go to mombasa and buying more kanga and hanging out by a pool in the tropical sun is not old. could perhaps never get old.

my travelling partner and colleague is convinced that i am anemic so i am off to find something with iron to eat. besides red meat and dark, leafy greens, i am drawing a blank as to what else i can eat. and rural(ish) kenya is really not the place to try and remedy my diet, but i will give it my best attempt. she suggested liver. ummmmm.... no.

oh, and i am going home in 30 days and i am so ridiculously excited for this trip.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

a recipe for A Perfect Weekend

  • a nice and long saturday morning walk full of sun and flowering jacarandas
  • brunch of huevos rancheros with bacon (for him) and toasted bagel with cream cheese and smoked salmon (for her) at a newly discovered restaurant with a lovely garden, impeccable service, and strongly brewed coffee
  • replacement of a newly purchased cheapo brand of fridge that was delivered without freon with a brand spanking new shiny white LG at no additional charge
  • grocery shopping to fill a new fridge with vegetables and cheese
  • a visit to a photography exhibit of one of the refugee camps in kenya
  • cold beers on the patio of the Stanley hotel on a hot afternoon with great convo and lots of laughs
  • dinner at a friend's house with homemade bruschetta, jokes about kenyan idiosyncracies, and chats about terrorism, immigration, and elections over good red wine
  • a sunday morning run to maintain the fitness, harvest the freckles, and try out the routes around the new homestead
  • collaborative kitchen efforts to make delicious omelettes and hashbrowns for a leisurely breakfast in the peace of the patio with oj and coffee refills
  • pedicures with two lovely ladies while sipping a capuccino that resulted in the reddest toes ever
  • sunday evening at the bowling alley with a canadian, a brit, a south african, a kiwi, and an american sipping tuskers while sporting the sexiest velcro shoes and marvelling at the canadian prowess on the lanes
  • gooey roast beef and tuna melts in the crisp evening air to round out the best nairobi weekend in a long time

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

renewing the spirit with a new nest

(october 29, 2007)

whilst fighting some sort of flu that was focused on crippling me by way of my left kidney this past weekend, i managed to move to my new home, a lovely little nest surrounded by a forest in an older building that offers me more comfort and privacy than my previous domicile. but who knew i could collect so much stuff over a year? i guess it is always surprising when faced with the task of gathering up all your shit and packing it into any and all available vessels for the trek in the back of a truck. with the help of some lovely taxi drivers, some hired movers, a rented truck, and askaris new and old, i am here.

still not unpacked and living out of boxes, suitcases, reusable carrier bags (who knew those things from nakumatt would come in so handy?), and every backpack and laptop bag i own, but i am absolutely relishing in having my very own space. this morning i wandered around naked trying to look for my towels and slippers, i just had a bath with the door open, and i am right now listening to music that is probably too loud for 10:00pm but there is no one around to hear it. i could get very used to this, but it will be short lived as in order to make my new flat affordable and for me to continue to afford any semblance of a social life or nutritional diet, i will have to find a flatmate. but i am no hurry and will wait until i find someone who i feel confident that i could live with. i’ve put the word out, but have yet to have any serious interest, so it might be less my decision than the universe’s.

this past weekend i also, perhaps against my better judgement, ran a 10km race. well, it was supposed to be a 10km race but there is no way i ran 10km in 50 minutes so i suspect that it was between 8.5 and 9km (seriously kenya, mark the course!), but either way it was still a great way to spend an early sunday morning and i now have bragging rights of having run a race in kenya. with kenyans. i was utterly impressed with the marathoners, they were moving at a decent clip right from the beginning and observing their levels of body fat, stride, and stamina, i am sure they finished the race at the same speed.

not that i would know firsthand, as i stood true to my word and went out for a greasy breakfast immediately after the run, which seemed to enhance the feelings of flu and forced me to have a nap once i returned home. i rounded out my battle with the bug by eating tikka paneer for dinner at my favourite local indian restaurant. in consideration of my health, i did order it mild spice this time. but i still think it helped me to sweat out the influenza.

my spirit is feeling renewed in my new space and i intend on spending the next months as a bit of recluse, hanging out and settling in and making a home. reminding myself what i want and who i am. a bit existential there, but a little refocusing and centering seems like the right thing to do in this moment. saving money also seems like a wise idea. household expenses are adding up quickly and i have that trip home in december, which will inevitably involve a lot of shopping and christmas activities. only 43 days!

and although i will be posted this a day later than his actual birthday, happy 13th birthday h! if i was weirded out that my little big brother was turning 15, i am floored by the thought that my littlest big brother is now a teenager!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

i wanted my own pizza!

and this is why i get so frustrated with this country at times:

i am at work late and my colleague and i decide to order pizza, we call the restaurant that makes good italian style thin crust pizza and order 2 pizzas, then we call one of our drivers to collect the pizzas and drop them with us, then we continue working and wait for our delicious pizzas to arrive. the driver comes with 1 pizza. just 1. who knows where the other pizza went or where the order for the the other pizza went, but i was really looking forward to a margarita pizza!

i do not expect things to be like canada or the uk at all, but i do expect a simple pizza order to arrive to me in its entirety.

sheesh.

changes and adjustments

because my blogging has been sporadic at best lately, i present you with a list.

  • i am signed up to run a 10km race this sunday. i haven’t run 10km in over a year and i fear that i will be collecting my lungs off the streets of nairobi if and when i drag my arse over the finish line
  • i have already planned the greasy breakfast i will eat after i finish the 10km
  • i am moving and i am very excited about it. in a few weeks i will be the proud resident of a 2 bedroom flat that is warm and cozy and everything i need right now.
  • i went to tanzania last weekend as it was a long weekend here in kenya and the part of my life that i love right now is that i can take road trips to have camping adventures in tanzania on weekends
  • arusha is a great town
  • cadbury's chocolate tastes a lot better in tanzania
  • the jacarandas are in bloom and although they may share responsibility with every other flowering plant for my allergies, their purple flowers make me smile on the inside whenever i see them
  • it is 49 days until i come home for christmas and i am already so excited. a bit premature on the excitement, perhaps, as my trip will be only 22 days in comparison.
  • my newest obsession is listening to Alison Krauss
  • The Historian, although a book about vampires, is a great read, if not a little long
  • the u of c is giving George Stromboloupolous an honorary degree, interesting
  • my job is all about hurrying up to wait lately. it got old about a week ago
  • when one of your good friends is working in darfur and then your hometown’s newspaper’s front page says ‘two canadians kidnapped in darfur,’ it is more than a little unsettling
  • dating someone who was married before can be rather difficult at times. worth it entirely, but difficult.

murphy's lecky law

(october 24, 2007)

tonight i wanted to make a cheezey bean jacket potato but we had no electricity (i also wanted a hot shower after my run this afternoon but that has been temporarily postponed), so i resigned myself to pasta as we have a gas stove. but then, as if god himself was listening to my pleas for the beans and the cheese on the baked potato, the electricity came back on and i cleaned and popped two potatoes into the oven and busied myself while they baked away. midway into the cooking time, the electricity went out so i was stuck frying them until fully cooked by candle light only to finish just in time for the lights to come back on so i could enjoy my meal in the full light of the irony that is kenya.

Friday, October 12, 2007

oh glenda

last night i became my mama - i came home from work, took off my work clothes and put on yoga pants and my runners to go grocery shopping. then i came home, threw on an apron (kept my runners on) and whipped up some granola bars.

not that my mom has ever made homemade granola bars as far as i can remember, but she always wears her runners in the house and until last night, i don't think i ever had unless i had just come from a run.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

dear internet,

i am sitting in my new office that has much better light than my old office (and i therefore will not be affectionately calling it The Cave as i did my old one) but i am crawling over furniture to get to my desk and my phone and internet function only when they damn well feel like it, which can be a bit trying. but i am feeling much better after a near-spirit-death experience this past week.

perhaps my change in mood and disposition is because i am currently drafting interview questions so that i can hire an intern. i guess you can feel like you are making progress when a year after you were the intern you are responsible for picking a new intern. it should be good and i will not be too cruel in asking them how they feel about doing my photocopying and envelop licking. because i am no diva and am more than happy to do envelop licking but it will be nice to have someone track people down on the phone. how does a country exist without voicemail?!

in entertainment news, i saw Super Bad last night and although it was not super bad, it really wasn't that great and the best part of the movie was the popcorn. or when i asked the guy if they had some butter to put on top and he explained to me that they were 'a little behind' and did not yet have buttered popcorn. who knew buttered popcorn was a sign of the times?

i made a dish with shrimp last night and this is perhaps the second or third time i have ever cooked them and i am not sure i really enjoy the shrimp when i have cooked the shrimp myself. i am going back to my no-meat, no-fish, no-shrimp cooking regime.

i have also sourced myself a new kitchen table and chairs. thank god, because making a delicious meal and then sitting down to eat it on your couch like an impoverished student got old long before i finished my years of post-secondary education. i am also rather looking forward to 2 long weekends in a row, both of which will be spent camping. the first weekend will be the dress rehersal for the real deal the following weekend where, if all goes well (and it often doesn't in the east africa planning department), i should be popping down to tanzania to check out the ngorongoro crater and olduvai gorge. i love the birthplace of humanity.

uh oh, problem with the new office space. now that the bathroom is across the hall from my office, i can hear when people decide to snarfle into the sink. what else do you call that noise where people suck out all the mucus from their sinuses and spit it out? well, someone just did that. and when they interviewed me and i said i was comfortable working in an international and multicultural environment, i don't think i was thinking of that! kenyans, somalis, canadians, pakistanis, brits, italian, filipinos, eritreans, americans, sudanese... never a dull moment around here.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

engendered gobble gobble

(october 8, 2007)

instead of sitting around a warm and cozy house while the weather turns brisk and an autumn breeze blows the fallen leaves and there is the smell of a slow roasting turkey and pumpkin pie coming from the oven, i am working from home because of the clusterf*ck the move to our new offices has become while listening to the sounds of the manpower labouring in the vacant lot next to my flat that will inevitably result in yet another yellow-hued flat compound. as if our neighbourhood needs another one. i appreciate that it signals the economic development and success of the city (i won’t say country as the wealth in kenya is still concentrated in the cities), but it concerns me that in ten years, this neighbourhood will look like the 1970s-tastic buildings and design of downtown nairobi (and most other african capitals, as far as i can tell). oh well, c’est la vie.

and if my attitude is anything to on, i won’t be in the city for too much longer.

it is not that i am unhappy in kenya or nairobi, just a bit bored. and a bit uncertain about my career and personal future. in a good way i suppose, because i feel as though i have options. just a matter of which option would be the best. then again, none of those options really need to be explored at this time, i just like to plan. even if planning is grossly premature.

i think all these deep thoughts are the result of some exasperation about the field of international development and this country. i spent last week at a capacity building workshop on gender mainstreaming and i did learn a lot (and you better believe that THAT is going on my cv!) but i forget that other education systems are not as progressive (and yes, i do think that it is progressive) as in canada. if i have ever had trouble understanding something, i have always been able to ask my teachers and have been able to question the topics. we are taught to ask ‘why?’ as many times as it takes until we understand and i believe our educators are held to account because of this system. obviously, there are crappy teachers, professors, and instructors in canada as everywhere, but as learners, we feel we are entitled to accurate information and the teaching of it and are able to express out discontent if this is not afforded us.

in kenya, it is not like this at all. students are taught in very traditional manners and are
required to regurgitate this material through repetition and memorisation. i realise that this is a rather profound value judgement that i am making, but i think that canadians are raised to critical analyse information presented and that leaves us better able to process new information and recognise when information presented as fact is not so simple.

is this my western arrogant attitude coming through in its true colours? perhaps. but sometimes i do think that we do some things better. and education is one of them.

i was sending violent text messages to friends and the bf full of frustration and exasperation between last week’s sessions where the facilitators were clearly unfamiliar with the material they were presenting. it was all new to me and i was incredibly interested in it but i am afraid that i am still not entirely clear as it was often so muddled and rushed that i felt the facilitators were more concerned with looking good in front of the room and demonstrated their intellectual superiority than in acknowledging that their own comprehension of the tools and frameworks we were reviewing was incomplete.

hmpf.

here is hoping that this week is more inspiring and productive and that i can put my canadian education to use in reviewing the take-home materials i was given so i can ‘engender programming’ in my department and have some legitimate claim to understanding gender in development. failing that, i will take a vacation soon and am rather looking forward to getting out of the city.

but the lodge i stayed at was lovely and i met some interesting people who i hope to work with in the future. and like i said, you had better believe that this will go on my cv. gender expert? sure, sounds good to me.

Friday, October 05, 2007

eat so they can - www.eatsotheycan.org

i think this is a great idea. and i would do it if i a) had a dining room table and b) was going to be at home this date.

maybe you are feeling like 'doing something' and want to participate in this initiative?

sorry about the short notice (world food day is october 16th and the date of this event is october 13th, although i suppose you could do it anytime), but it seemed like a practical answer to all those questions i get asked on what people can actually do about poverty and hunger in africa (as if i am an expert, which i am so incredibly, obviously, absolutely not)

check it out here: eat so they can

and of course, i urge to keep spreading the net, the other 'cause' i am still pushing!

Friday, September 28, 2007

my parachute is yellow

today i have that feeling that things are going to be ok - that my job will lead to something, that i am gaining valuable experience, that i can build on what i know and where i am, and that i am in fact employable.

we will see how long this feeling lasts, but it is a nice change from the normal sense of panic and urgency that i normally operate under. it could have something to do with signing an 8 month contract or having my business cards printed with my new title, but whatever it is, i am enjoying the ride.

i finally feel like i am really learning how to run a project in this crazy world of international development and that i am narrowing my focus whilst moving past knowing only what i don't want to do. feels good.

this optimism might have something to do with the workshop i get to attend next week - sitting around a safari lodge talking about gender mainstreaming and organisational responsiveness sounds like a fine way to spend a week to me. thank YOU canadian tax payers!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

worth a read

considering i live in a country where homosexuality is illegal, i found this rather interesting.

i also love his directions on how to slap!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

rush hour madness!

on my way to work this morning i had to yield to the bus coming down the sidewalk. shortly after i had to move my head to avoid it being clipped from the side view mirror of a matatu driving down the grass meridian.

kenya and i are not getting along so well this week.

corn for food

(september 18, 2007)

happy birthday tay!

holy shite, my little brother is 15. and way taller than me.

i am catching up on my cbc podcasts and am listening to a fascinating piece on ethanol and the growth and use of corn. as much as husky would like canadians to believe that it is better for our environment if we use biofuels like ethanol, i really do not think that growing corn to be used as en energy source is a good idea and perhaps because i tend to look at these things from a global perspective. but as the difference in climate change and energy use is negligible it does not seem to be a fair trade off to drive up corn prices, effectively cutting out many buyers in the market who use corn to keep people alive, like the united nations world food programme (WFP) that cannot afford to buy corn to feed people in emergencies or refugee camps.

but that is just my simplified and off-the-cuff opinion on that.

i finally watched Garden State tonight and i give it a big Medium. an exboyfriend of mine once told me that i was like Natalie Portman’s character in the movie and i think that just goes to show you not how quirky i may be but how devastatingly normal he is. i like Zach Braff but was not as impressed as i felt i would be with this attempt at dark humour that he is normally great at. fabulous music and soundtrack though. have you seen The Last Kiss? a recommendation for sure.

now my podcast is telling me that canadian pot is 10 times as potent and half the price of american weed. and that canada has 4 times more marijuana users than any other western developed country. can you imagine what that dude from the Molson I Am Canadian commercials would say about that? it would be a funny advertisement. good podcast though. gotta love the cbc for covering a story from all angles.

i am working on my budget and it is almost complete and since this is the beginning of the year, as i see it, it is just in time to sort out my finances for the coming year. i love a budget. and i love excel. although it took me awhile to really fall madly and deeply in love with excel. it does so many neat things. and yes, calculations, sums, averages, exchange rates are all ‘neat.’

i can hear the imams at the mosques nearby as i type from my bed. it is a soothing sound.

mubarak ramadan.

Monday, September 17, 2007

scheduling boredom for a cause

today i visited a shelter for street children just outside of nairobi (called undugu, if you want to check them out). i drove out there in a car with red license plates and a logo on the door. the police don't stop you at the ridiculous police checks and people watch you drive by, assuming you are someone important or someone who can make decisions that will make things happen. it is strange when you show up at places and your very presence invokes hope and people are on their best behaviour. i am not sure i will ever get used to that.

i will also never get used to the conditions in shelters. especially shelters in developing countries. although i know the staff and organisations do their best, it always makes me a little sad to leave them. i am happy to be involved in work that will improve at least one shelter in nairobi.

i am missing home at the moment, but not in a homesick way. in a way i cannot yet comprehend. it could be because i am hoping to be home for christmas this year so i am already thinking of all the wonderful canadian winter things i can do while i am at home and it could be because i love the changing of the seasons and the autumnal colours of the leaves and the way everything seems to begin again. it could also be because i am sick of the rain here and the red mud is really a pain in the ass.

i finished Half of a Yellow Sun and it was fabulous. i am hoping that they make it into a movie because i think it would be a wonderful story to depict visually. i didn't know a thing about the biafran war and now i know a touch and am eager to know more, which i suppose is that gift of books.

yesterday i started 28 Stories of AIDS in Africa and although i have only read the first chapter, i am so far impressed. i am even more impressed with the inscription that i failed to notice was in the front cover from a fabulous lady who had sent it to me. a little vote of confidence from someone you respect can do wonders to keep you going.

a multi-grain bagel with light cream cheese and a slice of tomato from t ho's would be on the top of a list of things i want right now. along with a hair cut and colour, the new tegan and sarah cd, and a new pair of slippers. oh, and a laundry basket, a good tailor, and the mirror in my room fixed. and a pair of sweatpants that are still fuzzy inside.

this past weekend i was rather bored of nairobi. i am missing the action and activities of bigger cities where there are always museums to be visited, concerts to attend, movies to see, people to watch, shops to peruse, cafes to haunt, and parks to walk. i like nairobi but i am not sure how many more months than the 10 i am scheduled for that i could live here.

now i must prepare for my swahili lesson. i am feeling motivated to learn and practice again, which is nice.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

overhead in nairobi

(september 12, 2007)

the following were all parts of my conversations today:

‘i put my indicator pants on this morning and they gave me good news, they indicated in the right direction’

(you know indicator pants, the ones that tell you when you have gained or lost weight)

‘today was such a long day, the best thing that happened to me was that i found out i am hiv negative.’

(i am not sure why i find this so funny but i think it had something to do with the delivery and the absolute seriousness with which it was spoken. i guess you call that irony)

‘my stomach is full but my brain tells me to keep eating’

(this seems to happen a lot in our flat but without the goodies that we are used to eating when we want to eat snacks or junk, we eat pb outta the jar, cheese, substandard ice cream, yoghurt, cups of tea, or left-overs – none of which are terribly unhealthy)

‘you smell like an engine’

(he did)

‘i know how much you love q tips, do you want the package of q tips that came in my package from north america?’

(ummmm... yes! do you even need to ask? q tips around here are like cigarettes in prison, or what i would imagine cigarettes would be in prison – you can barter and trade using them as currency because they are so scarce and difficult to get. i now have a fresh package for all my ear cleaning needs. if i have one neurosis (and who are we kidding, i have about 56), it is obsessively cleaning my ears with q tips and no other brand can even begin to compare)

Thursday, September 06, 2007

confessions

(september 5, 2007)

  • i have not been for a run since last thursday and am feeling rather guilty about it

  • i had chocolate fudge cake for lunch twice last week

  • i have made a rule that i cannot have chocolate fudge cake again until i have been for 3 runs

  • i feel as though my life makes more sense when there are rules

  • i did do pilates tonight and i really need to get a yoga mat because otherwise my flatmate is going to start wondering why his keeps disappearing and coming back smelling like my feet

  • i am having lunch with a man i hope is in uniform tomorrow

  • i am pretty sure that i am in over my head at work, but shhhhhhhhhhh..... don’t tell anyone

  • i have also been given an opportunity to demonstrate that i can do it

  • i am beginning to like the feeling of being protected and taken care of, it is an adjustment

  • i made leek and potato soup last night, it was a bit too salty but won rave reviews

  • i have been trouble getting up in the mornings lately so i have instituted a bedtime of 9:30pm but it is currently 10:15pm

  • i took my newly named laptop (lucille, if you were wondering) for her first spin on kenyan wireless and i think she liked it

  • even though i made a rule that i was not allowed to buy peanut butter (due to the unfortunate incident(s) of eating it right out of the jar with a spoon...), i bought a jar but it is just a little one and i have yet to use it for anything but spreading on toast

  • i can’t get into The L Word but am really enjoying the first season of Six Feet Under – i am also really enjoying renting bootleg copies of tv shows for my evenings’ entertainment

  • i watched Brokeback Mountain for the 4th or 5th time last night and it is still as heartbreaking as ever, i swear it is the music

  • i spent last weekend napping, reading, drinking tea, running from monkeys, watching elephants and hippos sloosh around in swamps, trying to locate the top of kilimanjaro through the clouds, eating, and drinking wine and i am not sure why i am so lucky to be able to do that on a random september weekend
  • i also spent some time last friday night on the side of a dirt road after dark with a flat tire about 20km outside of the park gates and with a jack that did not work – my job was to sit in the car and not be noticed and not protest about being told to sit in the car, i did pretty well at my job but it was damn scary and thanks only to a truck full of nice men in suits am i not trampled by an elephant, eaten by a tiger, the victim of armed robbery, or any number of other roadside calamities you hear about in this country

  • i’d rather be at home today sitting at the kitchen table with a glass of wine with my mom than anywhere in the world – happy birthday momsy

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

if you're buying, make it a double

recently, i have had a few conversations about gender with some lady friends. specifically, the issue of paying for drinks, paying for dinner, and money in general keep coming up with various different opinions and thoughts on the matter. everything from 'let's go find cute boys to buy us drinks' to 'i don't accept offers as then i feel i owe him something' has come up.

i have never known exactly how i feel about this but due to my burgeoning bank account (ha!) as of late, i have really appreciated the kindness of dudes who have bought me dinner, drinks, travel expenses, etc. whether it is within the context of a relationship, dating, or just random strangers at a bar, it has challenged me to be gracious as a response to their kindness and generosity. (or take my vodka and soda water and run to the other side of the bar as quickly as is possible in heels to avoid having to make idle conversation with boring men!)

i used to have some guilt and discomfort with this but i am beginning to come around, but does that mean that i am losing my feminist spirit and will come to expect men to spend money on me? does it just mean that i am using my red lips and blonde hair for evil rather than good? or does it mean that since i will statistically make less than men in the same position as me and that i will be the one who looses out if i ever have to take maternity leave (i know it is not supposed to happen that way, but as far as i can see, it does), am i just righting the wrongs of the professional world?

just wondering what the internet thinks about this one.

i am also wondering what my mama and grandma think about this one too, because these are the things that the other generations of women might have some wisdom on. so would gloria, too bad i don't have her email address.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

clearing the funk

i am not sure what my problem is today but i have a touch of the funk. it started this morning and has settled in to make me rather unmotivated with a bit of worry on the side. and i had a wonderful worry-free weekend and was feeling a lot more positive than i have recently. runs and sunshine and new paint and evening walks and indian food and repaired hot water heaters and sitting at coffee shops with a new book and good wine and movies will do that to you. let's hope it is just this miserable weather that is responsible for this mood and that an afterwork run and some sunshine will remedy me.

and going home to my kitchen might help... i have been a cooking machine lately. risotto (by candlelight and headlamp because our electricity was on the fritz), vegetable and lentil soup (complements of my new flatmate's repertoir), and vegetarian chile (which was cooked in a huge witch's cauldron and included everything we needed to get rid of in our fridge). our freezer is now stocked and we haven't had to throw out any vegetables.

i am coasting and relaxing and waiting and enjoying these days. apart from this cloud above my head today, i'm confident that some things are sorting themselves out. with an upcoming phone call with my sis and a double capuccino with skim milk and lunch with a new friend and a pilates class and a night of movies and furniture delivery on their way, i trust things will make a turn in the right direction.

i just had a bit of a brainwave... i think this mood is the result of my restless sleep last night which was the fault of the 2 cups of coffee i drank after work. which is a bit ironic considering the night before i had the most amazing sleep and barely even stirred when there was an earthquake (just a 5.2 in tanzania that we felt up here). the moral of the story - no coffee after 5pm for me.

Friday, August 17, 2007

the nets work, so spread'em! - www.spreadthenet.org

NAIROBI, 16 August (IRIN) - The number of children dying from malaria has dropped sharply in areas of Kenya where the disease is endemic as a result of a campaign to provide free insecticide-treated mosquito nets to families, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) said.

According to the health agency, there was near ten-fold increase in the number of young children sleeping under insecticide-treated mosquito nets between 2004 and 2006 in targeted districts, resulting in a reduction of malaria-related deaths by 44 percent.

"This is the first demonstration of the impact of large-scale distribution of insecticide-treated mosquito nets under programme conditions, rather than in research settings," a WHO statement said on 16 August.

"This data from Kenya ends the debate about how to deliver long-lasting insecticidal nets," Arata Kochi, head of WHO's Global Malaria Programme, said.

The findings have encouraged WHO to recommend the free mass distribution of long-lasting nets as the most effective way of combating malaria.

"No longer should the safety and well-being of your family be based on whether you are rich or poor," Kochi added. "When these nets are easily available for every person, young or old, malaria is reduced."

Some 13.4 million nets have been distributed in Kenya over the past five years to combat a disease that threatens more than 25 million people in a population of 34 million.

"For every 1,000 treated nets used, seven children who might have died of malaria are saved," the statement said.

In the past, WHO promoted the provision of insecticide-treated mosquito nets mostly for use by children under five and pregnant women.

Recent studies had, however, shown that by expanding the use of nets to all people in targeted areas, increased coverage and the better protection of vulnerable groups can be achieved.
"In areas of high transmission of malaria, where young children and pregnant women are the most vulnerable, WHO now recommends making their protection the immediate priority while progressively achieving full coverage," the agency said.

The Kenya initiative has been funded with grants from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Britain's Department for International Development and has technical support from WHO.

"The government of Kenya is strongly committed to achieving improved and equitable health outcomes for all Kenyans, particularly women and children," said Minister of Health Charity Ngilu.

Insecticide-treated nets repel, disable or kill the vector mosquitoes that transmit malaria. Conventional treated nets need to be re-treated regularly, while long-lasting ones are designed to be effective for the life of the net.

go to www.spreadthenet.org, spend $10, save someone from malaria.

that simple? you bet.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

quiet no more

i have been missing in action, i know. but more just hanging out in calgary, returning to nairobi, and resettling into the life i left for 6 weeks than missing. as kenyans say, i was being quiet.

i think i am still processing my trip home, which was evident last night when someone asked me how it went and my answer was, 'good... great... good..., no really, it was good' the good parts were really good and the other parts were tolerable (like the traffic parts and the price of eating out parts and 'i wonder if i could ever live in calgary' again parts).

because the only way i can think of to catch up is to make some lists...

things i will miss after my visit home:
  • driving (and therefore NOT relying on taxi drivers like the one i had last night who was clueless)
  • shopping at winner's with my mom
  • lazy days at cabins with books
  • internet connection at home
  • a dining room table
  • blueberries
  • San Pellegrino sparkling water (if i was ever addicted to a drink, this is it - although it goes against my bottled water policy)
  • summer evening sun
  • clean streets with cars that would pass emissions tests
  • lunching
  • dinners at the Cattlebaron with the fam
  • grasshoppers in the garage
  • breakfast dates, breakfast dates, and more breakfast dates
  • midweek hikes

things i was able to appreciate all over again once returning to nairobi:

  • the birds in the mornings
  • all of the flowers blooming
  • my running route
  • cooking in my kitchen
  • dinner parties
  • monkeys joining us for lunch (and scaring the crap out of me)
  • my housekeeper
  • anchor white cheddar
  • kiswahili (even though i think i have forgotten everything i learned)

and a list of random things:

  • i've been tattooed again and love it
  • what is with strangers 'poking' me or adding me as a friend on facebook?
  • speaking of the fb, i've become a facebook pusher myself
  • i am on a bit of a fitness kick, or at least am planning to get on a bit of a fitness kick
  • i have commited to running 10km in a race in october
  • i finished the book Lullabies for Little Criminals and am recommending it (i love canadian writers)
  • career trajectories, sheesh. sometimes they head where you want, sometimes they do not. today i am feeling more positive than i have been lately, let's hope it sticks
  • wearing mittens to work in august is not cool, but thankfully the weather has changed and with it so has my outlook
  • i have been craving beef lately
  • i just found out that San Pellegrino is owned by Nestle, so i feel even more guilty about my brief, but passionate, relationship with it
  • to make this the most random list of all time - i just cut my lip open eating dried mangoes, ouch

Monday, August 13, 2007

steve's outdone himself

it is almost becoming endearing how geeky he is

Monday, July 30, 2007

i'm trying

"The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly."

Buddha

Friday, July 27, 2007

weekend to end breast cancer

and my newest favourite bumper sticker?

Save the tatas

Monday, July 23, 2007

in the same vein

you might also want to check the blog entry out at in an african minute, an interesting take on the whole question of what a bunch of young white kids are doing 'playing' in africa before heading back home to make a real career and life. and if it isn't a better idea to attempt to improve a society with which you are most familiar. the question of whether or not i could make more of a meaningful impact on canadians has crossed my mind a number of times. still not sure what the answer to that one is but i will keep asking it until i find the best decision for me.

great site though.

a recommendation from me to you

buy the current Vanity Fair magazine, it is full of some good stuff about africa, development, hiv/aids, poverty, bono's attempt at getting the corporate and consumer world on board with that whole red campaign (which i am not sure if i buy - i am going to keep it filed under consideration for the moment), and all other things africa, both good and bad.

there is a great article about life in kenya, specifically nairobi, that is pretty on the mark and gives a decent depiction of what life is like in the big bad city. i think it is a perspective that is usually missed in the public media.

check it out.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

overheard in our house last night

'mom, tell taylor to give me some personal space!'

hunter: 'give it to me'
taylor: 'fine but i farted on it 3 times'
(i don't even know what they were talking about)

'mom, do you have that stuff that will get rid of my moustache?'

Monday, July 16, 2007

clickity click click

  • i am writing this on my brand spanking new laptop that is silver and very fast (fast, i am sure, because of its shiny silver exterior) and is the product of a lot of generosity and kindness and the help of the geeks at best buy who are indeed geeky as well as helpful (except for the doorknob who tried to sell me a laptop bag by suggesting the selling feature of being able to hold my make-up for when i travel... clearly he doesn't know a thing about the variety of different kinds of women out there and hence, works as a geek at best buy)
  • since when does shipping with amazon.ca cost $6?
  • i am ultra super glad that the stampede is over. i am also very smart even though you can't tell from the sentence i just constructed
  • i get to be a bridesmaid for the first time this weekend and i luckily found a pair of shoes that match perfectly, thank you winners
  • my only complaint about my very fabulous ultra super fast laptop is the clicky-ness of the keys and the fact that i keep missing them and misspelling things
  • i bought the book What Colour is My Parachute and i really hope it helps me figure out not only what colour my parachute is, but what to do with this career i am attempting to build
  • i have a dentist appointment today, which is about as appealing as a swift kick in the junk would be if i had any junk

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

cause i'm a list kinda girl these days

  • i went hiking in the foothills yesterday, i am home
  • i spent the afternoon today in a 'meeting' with my best lady where we ate the most wonderful salad and drank afternoon cocktails in her garden
  • blueberries are my favourite berry and janny knows that
  • the stampede has ceased to freak me out and i have got on with my life
  • grasshopper is my current favourite beer
  • i am loving amy winehouse, which might not be so interesting if you are not out of the pop culture loop like me
  • what is with every restaurant in calgary closing at 9 on a tuesday? i thought this city had a million people
  • the proposal that i wrote has been approved and funded - yay for making a difference. or whatever it is i do over there
  • there has been talk already that if this project goes well it should be expanded into other countries. other countries!
  • i love my new birkenstocks, it is about time i paid some attention to my poor indian lady feet
  • i know where i am from and that feels good
  • the chances of me getting another tattoo while i am home are in the 70 - 80 range. out of 100
  • my sister is loving the irishmen and who can blame her
  • i am laptop shopping at the moment and was thinking of an ibook but the more people i talk to, the less confident i am in that decision. the hewlett packard is appealing at the moment. any contributing thoughts on that?

Saturday, July 07, 2007

a busy 3 weeks

i am not feeling so creative and haven't been writing much lately. maybe because i am overcoming my addiction to facebook. i am on the 5th step of a 12 step programme. or something like that.

here is what i have been up to the last 3 weeks:
  • i rubbed shoulders with the vice president of kenya in mombasa
  • i contracted malaria because i slept without a mosquito net during the rainy season in mombasa (i direct you to http://www.spreadthenet.org/ again because now that i know what malaria feels like and that it can be prevented so easily and treated for very little money yet most who get it cannot afford the drugs, i really think that we should keep spreading the net)
  • i went to egypt and although it was hot as balls, it rocked the casbah and maybe i will get around to articulating how much it rocked in the near future, for now my smattering of photos will have to do (there are more on my facebook, if you are so inclined)
  • i found some generic egyptian drugs to treat the malaria
  • i went hot air ballooning over the valley of the kings in luxor
  • i dodged taxis and other vehicles on the streets of cairo, which put the streets of nairobi to shame even though i wasn't sure that was possible
  • i saw a half naked fat man in his flimsy white boxer shorts and am still laughing about it
  • i was defeated at trivial pursuit (but it was the british version so i had a slight disadvantage)
  • i kicked butt at ping pong on the beach of the red sea
  • i hung out in king tut's final resting place
  • i ate hummous, tabouleh, baba ganouj, tahini, and grape leaves
  • i read some books, including A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian (7/10), Blessings (7.5/10), and A Thousand Splendid Suns (8.5/10 and this would be higher but it just doesn't compare to the author's other book, The Kite Runner)
  • i went snorkelling in the red sea and got windswept
  • i floated on the red sea (but not over to saudi arabia)
  • i had my bum fondled on the metro and my photo taken on a ferry
  • i broke into kenya and snuck my way around buying a visa thinking that i could just leave on my other passport to avoid paying for yet another visa, that was NOT a good idea and they almost made me miss my flight to london by insisting i go home and locate my 'misplaced' passport, but they let me on the flight after making their point, pulling my luggage off the plane, and delaying the flight
  • i gave up my seat that had extra leg room (mine aren't so long) and they gave me a first class bag of goodies with khiel's products
  • i visited my sister in london and bought my first pair of skinny jeans
  • i ate the best sushi with some pretty good company
  • i am also a full fledged hippy as i do not have a tv, like to knit, and now own a pair of birkenstocks
  • air canada is perhaps the most miserable airline to fly with - i don't want to hear what my flight attendants are doing on the weekend, what their hobbies are, nor do i want to be barked at or be forced to overhear their rude conversations with other passengers
  • i flew next to refugees being resettled to the us, it was nice to look over and smile at the well-behaved kids laughing out loud at the cartoons
  • a man tried to lasso me as i came through the arrivals gates at the airport in calgary and i have been slightly afraid of the stampede ever since
  • i arrived home after 3 long weeks of travelling through kenya, egypt, and london
  • i am attempting to readjust to life in the developed world and the pace of calgary while avoiding the stampede

Saturday, June 30, 2007

happy birthday canada

wish i could be there to celebrate with you. but it won't be long now. have you missed me? i miss your regular electricity, clean and safe streets, your microbreweries, and your people who don't try to rip you off all the time. i will see you in the arrivals gate at yyc, please have a t ho's ready for me.

xoxo

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

brown

i am still alive and well (and very brown) in egypt. although there was a slight concern that i might float on the red sea over to saudi arabia. only joking, of course.

vacations rock.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

egypt is hot as balls

yep, that's right. hot as balls.

but it has been nothing less than amazing so far. i will collect my thoughts into some semblance of order and hopefully post some photos of this beautiful place soon.

until then, i must retire to my air conditioned room after visiting the valley of the kings in luxor this morning and eating a home-cooked egyptian meal.

things are good. if not a little hot.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

that's right...

I’ve been down to Georgia
I’ve seen the streets in the West
I’ve driven down the 90
Hell, I’ve seen America’s best
I’ve been through the Rockies
I’ve seen Saskatoon
I’ve driven down the Highway 1
Just hoping that I’d see you soon
Cause I’m coming home
I’m coming home...

I’ve never been to Alaska
But I can tell you this
I’ve been to Lincoln, Nebraska
And hell, you know it ain’t worth shit
I’ve been through thru Nova Scotia
Sydney to Halifax
I’ve never taken pictures
Cause I know I’ll be right back
I’m coming home...

I’ve seen a palace in London
I’ve seen a castle in Wales
But I’d rather wake up beside you
And breath that old familiar smell
I never though you could leave me
I figured I was the one
That understands your sadness
So I guess I should just hold my tongue
But I’m coming home
I’m coming home...
I know that we’re taking chances
Tell me life was a risk
I just have one last question
Will it be my heart or will it be his

Coming home...


so i haven't mentioned this to my boss, changed my plane ticket, or figured anything out really, but i have decided one thing and that is that i'm coming home for a visit in july.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

i am not the only one...

...that thinks david suzuki is hot!

i've only got time for a list

  • i saw a store called Guns & Cameras the other day in town, clever name
  • i am leaving this sunday for egypt and am not properly mentally prepared
  • i have to go to mombasa for work on friday. not many people can really say that. i wish i were more excited.
  • the day of the african child is this saturday, an african union day to commemorate protesting children killed in soweto, south africa during apartheid. so ummmm.... think of the african children.
  • they are cleaning computers in the office next to mine with what sounds like a leaf blower, it makes me want to bang my head against the wall
  • i joined facebook and i think it was responsible for my bleak mood yesterday, more to come on this
  • smooks made me laugh out loud about the crops today. man, i miss lady time
  • there are suspicions that the bomb in nairobi was intended to be detonated at the airport, not exactly what i wanted to hear, good thing i am getting out of here for awhile (although via the airport...)
  • this might explain why there has been more violence in nairobi lately, i hope that it ends soon even though it is an election year
  • i went to a war cemetary on the weekend and it is quite possibly the nicest park i have been to in nairobi, perhaps one of the only parks i have been to in nairobi
  • my leky (as my scottish flatmate calls it) has been on the fritz recently and i spent saturday evening wrapped in blankets on my patio, drinking tea, and watching an electrical storm with a soldier
  • pieces of advice given to me recently: 'play dumb' & 'honesty is always the best policy except for now'
  • my cousin was passing through nairobi this past weekend (not many people can say that either) and we got to have breakfast. no maple syrup or bottomless coffees, but it was great to catch up.

Monday, June 11, 2007

safe and sound in my suburb

in the case that anyone has heard of the explosion that happened this morning in nairobi, rest assured that i was far away from it and perfectly safe. no one seems to know what it was all about yet.

here is a snippet from the local paper:

Explosion in Nairobi
Story by CHURCHILL OTIENO
Publication Date: 6/11/2007

Several people are feared dead following an explosion at the city centre in Nairobi this morning.

The explosion went off shortly after 8am at a restaurant near the Ambassadeur Hotel between Tom Mboya Street and Moi Avenue.

The spot is usually a busy area with huge traffic as morning commuters change buses and rush to work. A junction outside the restaurant is one of the key picking and dropping points for buses in the city.

‘Nation’ photojournalist William Oeri has reported seeing at least two bodies and ripped off limbs at the scene.

“Personal items are strewn all over the place,” he said.

A second ‘Nation’ photographer Joseph Mathenge said he could see a body hanging from the window.

Witnesses have reported seeing ambulances deliver two bodies to the Kenyatta National Hospital and three others to the Nairobi Hospital.

"It was a very loud explosion. I thought it was a tyre burst but it was louder than that," Lang'at Justice, a 20-year-old student who witnessed the explosion, told Reuters near the chaotic scene.

The scene of the new blast is only a few blocks away from the former US Embassy which was targeted by suicide bombers in 1998.

Additional reporting by REUTERS

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

frankincense and myrrh

i cannot recall if the first thing that struck me when i walked out of the airport in addis ababa was the gentle smell of frankincense that permeates the air or the peaceful quiet that was such a change from nairobi. or it could have been my immediate fascination with the amharic language or the stunning beauty of the people. whatever it was, i was hooked from the first moment we stepped out to the stillness and calm of the capital city and took a little blue taxi to our hotel.

before leaving the airport i can tell you what went through my mind and it was this, ‘why oh why must bryan adams follow me all over the world?’ it wasn’t long before we heard celine too.



checking in was an experience that kept us laughing. i wasn’t sure if i was misunderstanding the desk clerk when she refused to give my female friend and i a room with one king size bed and insisted we pay more for 2 single beds because that was decidedly not allowed in that hotel. after failing to reassure that we were indeed just friends and were more interested in the lower room rate than snuggling in a large bed, we began to wander the streets of addis and it was not long before i realised that poverty and homelessness is a constant in the city and street begging is sadly, extremely common.

a more positive thought struck me during my first walk through the streets of addis ababa as well – i could cross the street freely without taking my life into my hands each time i stepped off the curb. i was stunned at the reminder of what lanes are on the road. those little white lines painted on the asphalt that are meant to keep cars a safe distance away from one another? entirely non existent in kenya and i had sincerely forgotten what orderly traffic is like. it is heavenly. giving pedestrians the right of way was truly the greatest invention of all time. roundabouts actually work to control the flow of traffic in addis and i had to point out to my travelling companion when i witnessed someone yielding. i pointed in disbelief and nudged her in the direction of a car waiting to enter the roundabout and said, ‘he’s yielding,’ and we both sat and stared for a moment just to make sure it was not just a stalled car and that it was genuinely a road rule in action.

another peculiar thing about ethiopians in addis ababa, they seemed to only want to talk to me and not my friend who is equally as blonde and fair as me but about 6 inches taller. she would ask them a question and they would turn to me to respond. i couldn’t figure out if it was my underwhelming stature or my african butt. one of the funnier street episodes of this nature was a man who tried to rent us a ‘big house’ because he assumed we could afford it and that we must need a place to stay while we were in addis if we just arrived. apparently, they don’t get too many tourists wandering the streets.

other definite highlights of the trip included seeing lucy, the first hominid discovered and proof that relatively, i am pretty tall for our species and our ancestors. the churches are pretty amazing too, i spent a lot of time pondering the history and age of christianity in ethiopia. the women ‘dress their hairs’ when they enter a church and people are always found in the gardens outside of the ethiopian orthodox churches, either sitting on benches or steps or kissing the walls or the ground. we had to take off our shoes to enter the churches and we had our own personal tour and got to see haile selassie’s tomb and his throne on which he sat in church. ethiopia was the first (and perhaps the only, if i am correct) state to declare christianity their state religion and it is amazing to see what a part of their history and government it has had.


i suggest that anyone going to ethiopia develop a love for all things coffee if you have not yet discovered the wonders of the bean. a delicious and frothy cappuccino or macchiato is about 30cents and for that price you can simply not stop at one. or two. the italians left behind some good ideas, including perfect pizza, al dente pasta, good service, and pastries upon cakes upon biscuits. and an incredibly sense of style. we wandered into a shop one night and i wandered out with a new pair of italian shoes, which i needed precisely as much as i needed a hole in the head. but i love them.

and the story that you have all been waiting for (or at least 2 of you)… i stole a bathrobe from the sheraton. i did not actually stay at the sheraton (because the pepto bismol pink room with the king sized bed in the second hotel we scouted out was just too good to pass up, well the pink AND the view of the city) but i did have a most relaxing and enjoyable massage at the spa there and they give you towels, a robe, and slippers to play dress up in the locker rooms which are less locker and more heaven. i have been wanting to find a bathrobe because walking around the house naked is not kosher when you have flatmates and a towel just doesn’t cut it if i am trying to make breakfast, coffee, or my lunch in the mornings due to its way of falling off just as you have the pb on the knife and are spreading it on to the bread. these bathrobes were a delight to behold so i scooped one up and stuffed it into the handbag that i carry everywhere with me and affectionately refer to as ‘the case.’ and now i have a bathrobe. and a spine that is free of knots. and no shame, apparently.



just to make the trip complete, i had my hair cut and coloured and a pedicure (i know, life in africa is tough) while sipping on macchiatos with only one scream of ‘no, no, no,’ when the stylist nearly cut me some chunky side layers (no good if your hair grows wider through the natural drying process) and a few training suggestions to build the capacity of the colourists who had probably never used such light hair dye before. in the end, all is well and my hair is brightened up with a choppy trim.

we also visited with a friend, listened to stories of being put in jail for staging creative protests, drank more coffee, became acquainted with the expat community at a 4 year old’s birthday party, and i found a calgary connection in the suburbs of addis. it never fails, that whole 6 degrees of separation thing.


and i shopped. coffee, scarves, silver, icons, honey, reams of fabric that i have yet to find a use for, prints of paintings (ethiopia has fantastic modern art)… who would have thought that so many fantastic things could be found in ethiopia? i didn’t really expect it and it tamed my little materialist spirit for a few more months before i touch down in what feels like the material centre of the universe.

can you tell i loved it there?

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

bob vs steve

neither bob nor steve are my favourite people and i am not sure that i can take a side on this one because i have my own issues with both the make poverty history campaign and canada's refusal to meet the 0.7% gdp goal of foreign aid, but this is interesting nonetheless. i will write about my love for ethiopia soon, i promise.

Rocker slams Harper over aid vows to Africa
Andrew Mayeda and Norma Greenaway
CanWest News Service
Monday, June 04, 2007

BERLIN -- Irish rocker Bob Geldof says Canada is blocking an agreement to make specific African aid commitments at a meeting of the world's leading industrial countries this week.

Geldof, a prominent anti-poverty campaigner, also says Prime Minister Stephen Harper's refusal so far to live up to African aid pledges made two years ago by his predecessor Paul Martin is shameful and fuels what he sees as the growing credibility gap between politicians and voters.

Geldof levelled his criticism at the Conservative government in media interviews from London on Monday as he prepared to travel to Heiligendamm, Germany, where the annual G8 meeting opens Wednesday.

Climate change and poverty in Africa are at the top of the summit agenda.

"Canada is the worst culprit in blocking a significant communique (on African aid)," Geldof said in an interview with Reuters new agency. "All our information says they are refusing point blank to allow concrete figures. They are very, very far behind what they said they would do at Gleneagles."

Leaders at the G8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, in 2005 agreed to double annual spending on aid to Africa by 2010-11.

Harper, who was attending pre-summit meetings in Berlin, brushed off Geldof's charges as he cited a series of African-oriented HIV-AIDS funding announcements made since his government took office.

Harper told reporters Canada was on track to meet the 2005 commitment, and his spokesmen denied Geldof's accusation Canadian officials were attempting to block specific commitments being written into the final G8 communique.

"I'm not sure what the basis of Mr. Geldof's allegations are," Harper said. "Canada made an important commitment in 2005. We are on track to honour that commitment."

Geldof, who also accused Italy of balking at specific language, said Canada's spending is more than $400 million short of the goal set two years ago. He took his numbers from a report by DATA, an African advocacy organization that has tracked the record of the G8 countries and found all countries wanting.

Geldof said Harper's refusal to meet the African aid commitment made by former prime minister Martin adds to the "mistrust and cynicism" voters feel about politicians.
"And there is no need because you are really fantastically wealthy," he declared in a CTV interview.

Dennis Howlett, co-ordinator of the Make Poverty History campaign in Ottawa, said international sources have told the group Canada is playing hardball on the wording of the G8 communique regarding both climate change and African aid.

"We have a number of different contacts who are fairly close to the negotiations and it would seem both on climate change and on aid to Africa, Canada is playing a negative roll," Howlett said in an interview.

Howlett said Canadian officials are more secretive about the position they are talking at the pre-summit negotiations than has been the case under earlier governments.

Howlett said Canada deserves some credit for increasing its aid to Africa even though it has not met the goal.

He said a bigger blot on Canada's record is the Harper government's failure to live up to his election promise to gradually raise Canada's overall spending on overseas aid to the average donor level among the members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, which now stands at about 4.6 per cent of GDP.

He said the figure in Canada, pushed by healthy economic growth, has slipped to 3.2 per cent of GDP from 3.3 per cent under the Conservative government.

Ottawa Citizen