Sunday, December 30, 2007

Sev is sick. We had the doctor come have a look at him last night. It looks like a throat infection and malaria, with bit of typhoid fever thrown in for good measure. I'll admit, it all sounds dreadful. But that's life in Burkina for you. The common cold is a rare bird. We go in for the exotic around here: meningitis, cholera and the like. But at least the cures are readily available, for the wealthy, at least. So, Sev is on antibiotics and Malarone. He's sleeping right now and hoping to be miraculously cured by tomorrow at noon, when he is scheduled to take off on an overnight New Year's Eve camping trip with a group of friends. The church youth group has been planning this since September, so he really doesn't want to miss it.
In the spirit of optimism, I did start gathing his camping gear today. (As it's a church activity, I figure that God might at least make a little effort in the miracle department) I got out the tents and asked Sev which he wanted. I was quickly informed that there was NO WAY he was taking something as geeky as a TENT on a CAMPING trip. Geez. What was I thinking? Only very uncool people sleep in tents. Cool people sleep under the stars.
And I predict that they will be very cool people, indeed, as the night temperatures here now drop down to below 60°F. That may sound warm to you folks living in temperate climates, but to those of used to tropical climes, that's freezing cold!

Friday, December 28, 2007

I woke up this morning to three goats in the kitchen. When Midnight saw me coming, she shot Aslan a look of pure panic "See!?! I TOLD you this was a BAD idea!! She's HERE!". Then Midnight and Dawn (her similarly skittish kid) scrambled on out of there like they were being pursued by the minions of Satan. But it was just me. And Aslan, at least, knows that I'm not a goat-eating demon. (although I have been known to occassionally chase livestock out of the kitchen with a broom, so he WAS being pretty brave)
Well, he settled right in and had a look around, scouting the area for tasty snacks. He checked out the fridge door for a while, but had to eventually admit that you can't open a refrigerator with hooves. He then moved on to the trash bin as a more likely spot. At this point I had to intervene. "Mallory! Come fetch your goat!" I yelled and she came right along, with her little goat-herding stick in one hand and a bucket of millet in the other. Aslan followed her out, just as sweet as you please.
If anyone out there is filming a remake of that classic tale of the Alpine goat-herding lifestyle "Heidi", I have three likely young goats to propose as cast members and one adorable little blonde girl that would be perfect in the title role!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

What did I get for Christmas ? Two bars of scented soap and a calendar. I feel that I am already both prompt and reasonably clean, but maybe I’ve just been kidding myself….Anyway, I’ve had lots of time to puzzle over the question today, as I couldn’t go to work or run any errands. The car (yes, the “new” car) broke down in the middle of Avenue Charles de G. right in the middle of the morning rush hour. The pathetic creature had to be towed to the Garage Seid, where my previous vehicle spent so much of its leisure time. So, my little station wagon and Mr. Seid are spending some quality time together today. How nice for them. For me, not so nice, as I had other plans, including the Bank of Africa, the medical laboratory, video shop, and gym, not to mention a stop at Papiers du Sahel to see how the project is doing over the holiday. Instead, I’m at home, dealing with the kitchen sink- still leaking after two “repair” jobs- and trying to “work” online. Dial-up is just hopeless, isn’t it? I may as well incise my messages on clay tablets and ship them by sea. It would be less frustrating. But perhaps messier. Anyway, I’ve spent hours today trying to catch up on emails and trying to “upgrade” my blog. And I think I broke it. Yes. I broke my blog. My counter is gone , my little flags, etc. They say the original template is saved somewhere, but I can’t, for the life of me, find it. And none of the features work like they promised they would. Which is all par for the course when someone says they are going to “improve” something and make it “easier to use”. It’s never true, is it?

In a way, though, I’m glad I was home this morning. Our young friends Aisha and Mariam came by for a visit, which was very unusual. They know I am typically not around during the day. But, as it happened, I was. The girls told me that their father died this morning. It was quite sudden an unexpected, though he was quite old. They asked if they could leave the two younger children with me today, as their courtyard would be full of visitors. And they thought spending the day around their father’s dead body might be a bit much for the little ones, as well. So, Alima (age 6) and Moussa (8) are here. Mallory just took them out for a walk with Aslan and his little goat cart. Now they’re back, playing on the terrace. Like most young kids, they have hardly realised what has happened. It’s harder right now on Aisha (19) and Mariam (13). Their mother is severely mentally ill and I know that the girls are scared that the landlord is not going to let them keep their little home without a man heading the household. I think Aisha could hold the family together, but this society is still so sexist at base, it might not work out. The elder brother has come in from the village, though, so it’s to be hoped that he’ll be able to figure something out. Though if he comes up with something horrible like : "Aisha should marry some creepy old man", I'll definitely have to do whatever I can to keep her from that fate!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

My (only slightly late) Christmas gift to you, to be sung to the tune of “Winter Wonderland”:

In the lane, trash is smokin’
In the house, French is spoken.
A maquis’s a bar.
Can you guess where you are?
You’re walking in a Ouaga Wonderland.

Donkeys bray, are you listenin’?
On your plate, tô is glist’nin’
It’s hot - don’t need coats.
Don’t need reindeer - got goats
Walking in a Ouaga Wonderland

In the street outside the trash is burning
The smoke’s so thick, can Santa find his way?
If he’s lost, we’ll find it quite disturbing
Because we’ll all get zip on Christmas Day.

You can wear tapettes and boubou
To Chrismas shop in Ouagadougou -
There’s just market stalls,
‘Cause we ain’t got malls
Walking in a Ouaga Wonderland.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

I recently sent off an email in which I wrote that someone needed another something “ like she needs a hole in the head”- which just goes to show us yet again the dangers of stooping to writing in clichés. The moment I hit “send”, I started thinking “Well, your mouth is a hole in your head, as are your ears and nostrils. Who decided that a ‘hole in the head’ is the benchmark for the ultimate in the unwanted? That doesn’t actually make sense."Thinking about it further, I determined that the expression must really be: “like another hole in the head”, which makes way more sense. Maybe I have mis-heard the expression all these years. I figured that must be it. But a quick glance at yielded the following:

Have neither a need nor a desire for something, as in I needed that extra work like I need a hole in the head. This expression has such ancestors as "As much need of it as he has of the pip [a disease] or of a cough," from John Ray's English Proverbs (1678), and "As much need of it as a toad of a side pocket," from Francis Grose's Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (1785). [Slang; c. 1940]

So, that's it. It's an expression that is commonly used in English, yet makes no sense. I contemplated switching over to saying "like a toad has need of a side pocket". It's very colourful, but seems to be assuming a lot. Maybe toads would actually enjoy having pockets. They could carry around extra dead flies and such. Could be handy.

But today is a day to celebrate, not to obsess of obscure linguistic problems! It is Severin’s 12th birthday! He’ll have a party on Saturday with a few friends. But today we’ll celebrate with just the family. I asked him this morning what he’d like for his birthday lunch.
“Rabbit!” he said, with a wicked grin.
Valentine got right into the spirit of the thing: “Mallory’s are just the right size now! Individual servings! Tasty and tender tiny bunnies! Yum!”
Just then, Mallory walked in the door with her favorite baby bunny in her hands. Snow White is one of the litter of six that was born about two weeks ago. Very adorable, with tiny, fuzzy white ears.
“Hey Mal!” I called out. “Why don’t you pick out a few of the bunnies that you aren’t so fond of and put them in a box? Just leave them in the kitchen. Severin wants rabbit for his birthday lunch.”
She just rolled her eyes at me and walked back out.
JP started expounding on the joys of rabbits as a food source rather than pets and lamenting the fact that it is never served in our home. He then waxed nostalgic over his mom’s homemade terrine de lapin (smooshed-up rabbit meat spread, for all you non-francophones)
Just so you know, there will be none of that in my home. Bunnies are for cuddles, not casseroles.

As for Sev, for lunch he’s getting fries and dead cow, in the form of grilled kebabs.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Valentine just updated her blog yesterday. Check it out if you want her take on the Christmas show last week. She also mentions Friday's party at the US Ambassador's home.
The party was indeed very pleasant. Carols were sung and cookies consumed. I was looking fairly nice, as I had just been to the hair salon that afternoon, erradicating the grey streaks that, while perhaps earned as maternal badges of honor, don't exactly thrill me on the aethetic level. I even had Gaël "style" it, which involves flattening it mercilessly with a spiky brush and hot blowdryer. It is an effect I don't have the patience to get at home, but this guy does a nice job. It turns out all smooth and shiny and stays that way until the next wash, so it was still looking good when I went to church the next day. Now, when I say "it was looking good", you do understand, I am speaking the in relative, rather than the absolute sense. I mean : 'it looked good, compared to how it usually looks'. Imagine my surprise when two of my French friends that were there came up to me and started effusing over my exceptionally non-curly hair. It culminated in Christine saying "You look wonderful! You look like........oh! What's her name?...." I waited for what she would say. I guess I have a blank-slate kind of face, because over the years many various people have claimed that I looked just like a hoard of completely different people: Kim Wilde, Laura on General Hospital, Sharon Stone (got that a lot) and Cher (???), just to name a few.
She continued "You look like.... Paris Hilton!"
'Maybe I look like I ate Paris Hilton' was my immediate thought, which I found hilarious.
But my friends are nice people, unlike me, and would have felt compelled to give me further unreasonable compliments if I had said that out loud, but I thought it was pretty darn funny

Umm... I just made an appointment to get my hair straightened again on Friday. Not that I in any way buy into the idea that it makes me look like I am incredibly wealthy, famous for no good reason and weigh 118 pounds. But still...

Friday, December 14, 2007

The UNDP human development report is out for 2007-08. And that ever-dependable Burkinabé paper L’Evenement gave it front page space, above the fold, with the headline “Human development: Things haven’t improved in our country”. It was a very short article, very to the point. Burkina has moved down in the classifications and is now second from last place.

Here’s a rough translation of some of the article, which is too good to miss: “The reality is that we are LAST place. We have to say “last”, because the only nation we are ahead of is Sierra Leone, a country that has just suffered through a war. Why has Burkina for so many years continued to wear the dunce’s cap? The answer is to be found in the naval-gazing of our leaders, which makes them incapable of seeing any farther than the ends of their noses. The worst of it is that they don’t even accept this bad performance as a reproach to their governance. According to them, the fault all lies with the PNUD evaluation itself, which gives ‘too much weight to factors that are not representative’. Poor Burkina!”

Once again, the folks over at L’Evenement don’t hestitate to speak out against the absurd, incompetent regime here. Life expectancy, infant mortality, literacy, etc are all not keeping pace with increases everywhere else in the world. Burkina’s people are losing ground daily and the government thinks to distract them with the occasional pathetic parade or speech. Bread and circuses anyone? Hey-the average citizen here would LOVE some food and a good show. But the entertainment on offer is frankly sub-par. The parade on the 11th in honor the National Republic Day was mainly an opportunity for the elites to pat themselves on the back. Certainly none of the modest folks that I work with daily knew anything about the supposedly delightful distraction proposed by their loving government. As for those people working downtown, all it did was prevent them from getting to work on time for several days (there were rehearsals for the parade that shut down the center of town for hours a day). And as for the “bread” part of the equation, that would be much appreciated, as hunger and malnutrition are rife here. But there’s no free lunch. Or even a small free snack.

I'd rather write about my scissors being held hostage and other non-controversial drivel, but sometimes I can't restrain myself.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Sunday night’s entertainment began with a couple of musical interludes and then segued right into a dramatic re-enactment of the ever-popular Rudolph saga. My twins sported small, festive foam reindeer antlers and pranced around in what they apparently thought was a very reindeer-like fashion. I guess those reindeer really know how to move. Who knew? Anyway, they, along with a couple of supplementary animals (not quite 8, but enough to give a good effect) danced around , while a much smaller boy had been recruited for the title role. Severin took on the part of Santa, complete with a pretty good costume. We had stuffed a pillow under the coat at rehearsal, but it had given a distressingly square form to Santa’s traditional jolly paunch. So, I got out the Xmas pageant costume box and found the oval chunk of foam that annually has served as Saint Mary’s expectant contours. Sev complained, of course. Not only did he have to be in a “humiliating” show with smaller children and perform it in front of all his friends, but now he was a… pregnant Santa! Oh, the shame of it. We all hastened to assure him that on him the foam block was very masculine, muy macho and as testosterone-laden as all-getout. And it was true. Nobody looks at a Santa in full regalia and thinks “Wow. A miracle of reproductive science. How many months along?” We somehow convinced him and , good sport that he is, he threw himself into the role. As the strains of Harry Connick jr played, he smiled genially, encouraging the small freakish deer's self-esteem with kindly gestures and gentle pats on the back. JP filmed it all, but I am unsure how it turned out, as technology is not his friend.
Soon after, Valentine and I sang “Lo, How a Rose Ere Blooming”, a lovely old carol. I had asked a friend to come sing the alto part for us, but she came down with a bad cold this week, leaving us with two treble voices. But we dressed it up with a couple of solo bits and got through in good form.

Afterwards there were snacks and “”fellowship. I was worried about this last, as putting JP in a room with a bunch of protestant missionaries is never predictable, as he has no diplomatic skills to speak of. When someone is being an intolerant psychopath, I can just back away gradually and hide behind a shrub until they go away. JP is more likely to drive right in: “So. Intolerant psychopath, are you? How stupid.” He is the least hypocritical person I know, but you have to watch him closely in public. Can be awkward. Luckily, a Swiss friend was there. She’s a missionary, but very open-minded, as the best of them are, and was happy to debate with JP for a while.

The kids had yesterday off school. Most of the country was closed down, in fact, as it was the national holiday of the republic of Burkina Faso. The kids invited some pals over, so there were seven of them to keep busy. I mixed up a mega-batch of salt dough and had them make Christmas ornaments and whathaveyou. Mallory got ambitious and made her own crèche figures. She went heavy on the farm animals. In fact, she made so many that we had trouble stuffing Mary and Joseph into the stable with them.

The rest of the wedding story should appear soon, with any luck. I won't have much time to write today, though. I have to figure out what snacks to serve a group of 30 Christmas carolers due at my house at 6pm tonight. This is not the simple task it would be else where in the world. For example, if I want chocolate chip cookies for the event, I have to go downtown to a special shop, buy chocolate bars, take them home and chop them up. And on the way I'll have to remember to stop at the pharmacy to buy baking soda. They don't sell it in food shops. How's that for strange?


Sunday, December 09, 2007

I thought we could slip out unnoticed. That was my plan. We’d stay for the ceremony and then quietly get into our car and drive off. My plan went the usual way of all plans in Burkina: straight to hell. WAWA, as we say around here. West Africa Wins Again.
The invitation arrived weeks ago, tri-fold cardboard covered with gold script and drawings of rings, doves , bells, flowers, ribbons, and monogrammed flying saucers (as near as I could tell). There were also creepy disembodied hands and a very un-African looking couple in wedding finery occupying the central spot.
The marriage of Djakaridja and Banvin would take place at the City Hall at Bogodogo on December 8 at 4pm. This grand fête was to be presented by the Gnamou, Yao, Ganou, Tome, Lougue, Siripe, Sougue, Gnisse, Mien and Bitie, Damoue, Ivo, Ybia and Boudo families. Each was carefully listed, along with their respective villages of origin and residence. It made for about 20 lines of text. Reading a wedding invitation here requires serious time and commitment.
Frankly, I had other plans for Saturday. I didn’t even know these people. We got invited because JP knows Banvin through his work among the Winyé. But in the interest of marital harmony, I agreed to buy the gift, get dressed up and go to the wedding. I carefully avoided committing to the “lunch” that was being offered afterwards.
Getting ready to go was an epic saga. I had spent my day from 8am to 3pm at a jumble sale, melting in the heat, trying to unload outgrown clothes and toys so as to make room for incoming Xmas gifts. The second I got back home, I was set upon by various people needing money, medical help, or just stopping by to say “Bonjour”. The phone also rang for me constantly. All in all, it was pretty hard to get presentable in the short time allotted. At one point, I thought I was good to go, but JP sent me back, pronouncing my hair to be completely out of control: “en bataille” as they say in French. I finally got it subdued to his satisfaction and we jumped into the car, rushing to make it in time for the ceremony. A few minutes before four o’clock, we pulled up in front of the City Hall of …..Baskuy. Bogodogo is the other one, on the other side of town. Right. We turned around and headed east. We got there about 15 minutes late- far too late to get even a place to stand inside the tiny, crowded room where civil marriages are done. It’s a sad little room, hidden at the back of the building. Meant to hold about 50 persons seated, it invariably is stuffed with over 100, and the overflow crowds around outside the doors to peer inside. Marriages are, by definition, a big affair in Burkina Faso. Not to invite your entire village of origin is unthinkable. Of course, not everyone has the means to travel to Ouaga for a wedding, but it still makes for crowds far in excess of a few dozen people.
Anyway, we were late, too late to even get a good spot outside the door, so we sat in the shade out in the dirt parking lot, attending the wedding at some abstract level.

After the wedding were the photos. Many, many, many photos. A small garden area on the grounds provided the backdrop for every conceivable permutation of wedding picture. I even ended up in one. Next to me is my friend Delphine. She is a small, elegant person with a severe hat fetish. I have known her for about 15 years and over this period her headwear has steadily increased in size. If a strong wind caught one of them, it would snap her neck like a twig. Luckily, it was a calm day and the the picture session went well.
But the fun was only beginning. There was no escaping the “lunch”. JP had his heart set on joining the festivities, which were to be held at a nearby outdoor restaurant. But as we had no idea exactly where it was, we were obliged to be a part of the wedding cortege, a line of cars driving slowly along, lights flashing and horns blaring. We drove and drove and drove, blocking traffic for miles. We putted around for about 20 minutes, finally ending up at the restaurant – which turned out to be about two blocks away from where the marriage had been held.

The reception meal was astonishing and merits its own blog entry, which I hope to find time to write soon. Right now, I’m busy preparing for tonight’s Christmas program in church. Valentine and I are singing a duet and the other three kids are part of a dramatic re-enactment of the Rudolph saga. The twins are reindeer and Sev gets to be Santa. ( He does not, just so you know, have shifty eyes. I made that up.)

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

A not uncommon sight in our home is me, stalking about the place muttering "Where are my scissors? Somebody has kidnapped my scissors!" They are supposed to repose in jar on top of my desk, but somehow never seem to find there way back there after they have been used to create some marvel of "bricolage" by one of the children. Hence, I spend a lot of my time wandering around like a demented old lady looking for her lost cat. "Where could they BE?" I demand querulously....
Then yesterday, all became clear. Well , as clear as it could be , given that some of the spelling was kind of creative. I found this RANSOM note laying on my desk.
It informed me that my scissors are in "captiviti"and if I wanted them back safe and sound, I would need to come up with 100,000 euros by midnight...
I suspect Severin is the culprit. He has shifty eyes. Also, there are bits of cut-up newpaper all over his bedroom floor. Take THAT Sherlock Holmes!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Early yesterday morning was a time of much rejoicing. Unto us a pig was born! (Hey-it IS almost December. Just getting into the holiday spirit.) Mallory’s beloved guinea pig (Bubbles) had given birth in the night to a fuzzy little baby. He was already stumbling around the cage, squeaking mildly. It might have been tiny cries of distress, as he had undoubtedly overheard the twins discussing his name. Candidates under consideration were: Gingerbread, TwinkleStar and Sugar Cookie. God bless 9 year old girls.
In the end, they went with just “Cookie”.

Monday, November 26, 2007

"Corruption in Burkina Faso: Business Climate Really Improves!" was the headline of an article in one of today's newspapers in Burkina Faso. Here's a translation of how it began:

"Without a bribe, you may have to wait years for your merchandise. There's nothing you can do..." says a Burkinabe small-business owner. The report "Doing Business 2008" that outlines the business environment of variuous nations was published on September 26 by the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation. It ranked Burkina as 37th in Africa and the 161st in the world rankings, out of 178 countries. This is relatively better than previous years and the progress is much touted in the local newspapers, as well as TV and radio. Burkina was 165th in 2007......

The press releases from the World Bank , Burkinabé government, and etc. are relentlessly upbeat. L'Evenement isn't buying the offical line, though. I love how the bold black type claiming that the business climate is "Really Improved" is immediately followed by a quote illustrating how bad it still is. I also enjoy the subtle dig at the local tv, radio stations and many rival newspapers that never seem to research anything. They just publish the government press releases and keep their heads down...which is probably wise. A top journalist in Niger was just thrown into prison last September for annoying the powers that be. He is still being detained and faces life in prison. Being a journalist is hazardous stuff when done correctly, especially in West Africa.

Friday, November 23, 2007

We had an excellent Thanksgiving Day and I hope to soon have a short movie on YouTube to prove it. Not like it was easy, mind you. When I called the supermarket that morning to inquire about my fat French turkeys, I was informed that they hadn’t arrived. Due to the strikes in France, the cargo flight on Wednesday night never left the ground. OK. On to Plan B….except there WAS no freaking Plan B. So, I quickly moved on to Plan C, which involved throwing myself upon the mercy of the shop owner, begging him to find me enough turkey to feed 20 hungry people. He (a nice Lebanese gentleman) said he’d call around to some of his “connections” and get back to me. My cell phone rang 15 minutes later. I felt vaguely like I was involved in an illegal drug transaction. I was told that I could pick up my “package” in one hour.That was good, as it gave me time to pass by yet another (5th!) pharmacy in search of the medications I needed, and mail off a Christmas parcel to some American friends in France (Hi Gina, Gaetano and offspring! Merry Noël!). At the supermarket (which is about the size of a medium-sized 7-11 in the USA) I picked up a few last minute items, then went to the butcher's counter, only to be told the order hadn’t arrived. I hung around for half an hour, making impulse purchases (I came home with a bottle of whole cloves and discovered that I already had a nearly full bottle sitting on the shelf. I guess we can make some of those spiffy old-fashioned pomanders out of apples and ribbons…..BTW-What are you supposed to DO with them.? Does anybody still use them? Do you WANT your clothes to smell like mummified fruit? I just don’t know.)The birds finally arrived, their corpses still warm and legs sticking straight up in the throes of rigor mortis. ( Yum!) The meat-counter guys stuffed them into a plastic sack, but it was too small and the stiff yellow feet poked up out of the top of the bag like a flower arrangement for the Addams family. I put this attractive bundle into my cart and rushed to the front of the shop. I had to get home and get them cooking or they’d never be ready by 6pm. And all the delay had put me behind schedule for school pick-ups…..Anyway, I finally got home and got to work. I had two boxes, as the check-out guys at the shop had separated the birds and sealed them in cartons with tape. I cut the tape and looked inside. The things looked big. Really big. Like, SO big that they would never, ever both fit into my oven, which admittedly does bear some resemblance to the Easy Bake Oven of my childhood -though it does work with a gas bottle and not a lightbulb, which is good. But I digress. I mixed up the stuffing, frantically trying to figure out who could lend me their oven for four hours. Most of the people invited to the event already had their ovens occupied by bread, green bean casseroles, pies. And my Burkinabé friends that live nearby don’t have ovens. Finally, luckily, I remembered that pal H. might have some oven space, so I ended up rushing one of the foil-wrapped monsters over to her house. When I got back, I found our Cecile (our cook) , Celine and Fanta (the maid/nannies) almost in tears over the burnt-orange tablecloths I’d had sewn up the day before. They had dried on the line wrinkled and the heavy fabric was impossible to smooth with our feeble Chinese iron. Next, they had borrowed the neighbour’s nicer one from Germany, which also couldn’t cope. It’s lucky I came home in time to prevent a melt-down. They get upset about this kind of stuff. As nearly as I can make out, they find it distressing that people would think that I have useless home helpers- the kind that don’t even know how to provide starchy-crispy table linens. After some effort, I got Cecile and Celine to leave the linens to their wrinkly fate go on home.
Then Fanta (no relation to the soft drink mentioned is my last post) noticed that the turkey was no longer cooking. Really. So, we made the world’s quickest trip to buy a gas bottle. Then there was me accidentally breaking off the pull-ring of the protective plastic tab that covers the nozzle. Time was passing and the stupid turkey was just sitting there in the rapidly-cooling oven.

Then the home haircut lady, Marte, came to cut Severin’s hair. I got a neighbour to come over and help us with the gas bottle. The flower guy showed up with the floral arrangements. I set the tables and started making the gravy. Then H. called and said their car was not starting and could I please pick them up? I grabbed my keys and headed out to the car, passing by Marte, waiting to be paid for the haircut. I took care of that and was back in 15 minutes with the H. family. I walked in the door and caught sight of Severin. Marte had given him what is best described as a Dorothy Hamill wedge. He looked adorable- just like an 11 year old girl. But hey- no time for fashion recriminations! The party was starting!
The décor was much admired. Nobody cried out in horror at the tablecloths (or at Severin's hair. Alothough Tony snickered to himself. I saw that!) The flowers and candles looked great and the food was excellent. But I had to leave for a while right in the middle, as I had to pick up two little girls arriving from Mali (friends of the twins, here for a track meet). So in the end, there were 23 people at my little party!
After the meal, T. (a former Seattle barista turned missionary) made coffee and we played Apples To Apples until late in the night.
No Friday off for us. No Black Friday retail madness. Just business as usual today.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Yesterday was a busy morning, as I scurried about, getting ready for the big Thanksgiving feast scheduled to occur at my house today at 6 pm sharpish.
There was the usual stuff to buy….well, not so much. There's no cranberry sauce in the shops or canned pumpkin. But I did buy bread at the bakery, so that I could make the stuffing. I also hunted around town, trying to track down some decent soft drinks for my guests. For years, all you could get in Burkina were Coke and Orange Fanta. Over the past few years, the local bottling company franchise added Fanta Citron (lemon), Fanta Cocktail (citrus+mango) and, finally last year, the piece de resistance: Fanta Fiesta (strawberry!!). As I think Orange Fanta is a tool of Satan ("Welcome to Hell!" says Old Nick "Have a drink of this Orange Fanta, then we'll get you right to work raking live coals with your bare hands"), I was much heartened. But it was not to last. They quit making Fiesta a couple of months ago, and the Cocktail and Citron are nearly impossible to find. But after visiting several distributors yesterday, I happened upon a cache of Cocktail. Victory was mine!!!
As turkeys are rare birds (ha!) around here, I had to order ours a while back. In the interests of our holiday protein intake, I went by the butcher’s yesterday to verify that the promised birds would show up as scheduled this morning. I had to order two, as I was told they’d only weigh between 6 and 9 pounds each – a far cry from the 25 lb Godzilla-turkeys that roam the freezer sections of American supermarkets. Later, I was tempted by some inexpensive harvesty-colored fabric at the marketplace, so I suddenly decided to have new tablecloths sewn up for the event. As if I needed more to do. That involved a trip to the tailor, then they had to be picked up later, washed and ironed.
I also had a doctor’s appointment, had to get my head examined (X-rayed, specifically) and then there were many (4!) drives to various pharmacies searching for all the needed meds. My allergy woes and stomach ailments are too numerous and boring to go into. Suffice it to say that the amoebas will be gone soon and my cranium, while having a nice symmetrical configuration, has less than lovely sinus cavities.
While I was in the waiting room at the doctor’s office, I was re-reading Eat, Pray, Love. (thanks Babzee!) I came to the line where The author writes that her sister has described her sartorial style as “Stevie Nicks goes to yoga class in her pyjamas”. I once again had a good laugh at this, but glancing down at my worn tapettes, old pagne, grimy fingernails and frizzy, demented hair, I thought “Geez- My style must be: Stevie Nicks’ poverty-stricken sister goes to yoga class in her pyjamas during the sack of Rome.”

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

As if I needed any further distractions, I recently found THIS very entertaining and useful site. You define a series of words and earn 10 grains of rice per correct answer. It shows you a little picture of a wooden bowl that gradually fills, but it's not just virtual. The rice really is donated to the United Nations World Food Program and goes to feed hungry people.
If you have a spare minute, it is worth the time!
The difficulty of the words increases as you answer correctly. The words are divided into levels from 1 to 50 and the site info says that people rarely go beyond level 48. Vocab maven that I am, I reached the mid 40s within minutes, but can't seem to stay at 50 for long. Guess I don't know every word in the dictionary. .....
Still more interesting news: If you check the links at right, you'll see a new one for my recycled paper projet here in Ouaga. The site is up and running at
More news, but maybe not so interesting: Aslan has been under the weather. We had to take him to the vet, where I got to demonstrate yet again how good my command of the local lingo is. "My goat has sores on his butt", I said clearly and confidently in well-accented French. How many times in your life do you get to say something like that and really mean it?
The chickens all had to visit the vet's office, as well. They have....... Chicken Pox. Really. I'm not kidding. It's called that for a reason, you know.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

He nearly sliced the thief with his trusty machete! Our elderly guardian may look frail, but Salfo apparently does not lack courage. It was 2am on Wednesday morning when Salfo spotted a young man climbing over the garden wall that separates our yard from that of our neighbors on the right. He had been on the lookout, as we have had two thefts within the last few months. In July, two pairs of JP's shoes were stolen off our terrace. Then, while I was in the hospital with malaria, the thief struck again, carrying off no less than three pairs of expensive shoes. This left my older kids with no tennis shoes to wear to school. Which is a problem, as they are required for gym class. For reasons I will explain below, it is VERY hard to replace shoes here, so it really is a problem. For the moment, Valentine and Severin are sharing an old pair of JP's tennis shoes. They alternate wearing them. It's kind of like "Little House on the Prarie" where Laura and Mary have just the one pair of lace-up boots to wear to school and have to share.
Anyway, when the thief showed up a third time, we were all ready. The shoes were all under lock and key in a cupboard and the guardians on full alert. Salfo heard a sound up by the terrace, grabbed his machete and came to investigate. A young guy wearing jeans and a long-sleeved shirt was climbing over the south wall. Salfo ran up and took a few swings at him. Completely paniced, the thief fell backwards over the wall and back down into Tony's yard. He scrambled to his feet and sprinted towards the back wall, which faces an abandoned lot. He quickly vaulted it and ran off into the night.
All the racket woke up Tony and Kirstin. As their bedroom is on the south side of their house, they were right next to all the action. Our bedrooms, however, are on the opposite side of the house, so we slept through it all, despite our open windows.
We only learned about all the excitement when we woke up the next morning. Salfo was very pleased with himself. He was very brave, but I'm still glad he didn't actually chop anyone's limbs off.
We are hoping the robber won't be back. But who knows? In the meantime, I have to figure out the shoe situation. It's complicated. Here's a short tutorial on Shoes in Burkina:
"Tapettes". In the USA we call them flip-flops, beach sandals or thongs, the latter term NOT to be confused with a "thong", which is very uncomfortable type of underpants. Tapettes are the most typical kind of footwear found in Burkina. They are cheap- the going rate is 600 cfa a pair (just over $1), so they are affordable and available, arriving by the container-load from China. You can easily buy them in any marketplace and no haggling over the price is required. Any other type of shoe, though, is a completely different matter. For any style other than a simple tapette, you need to go to one of the special shoe markets. There you find open-air stands full of a myriad of styles- shoes that also come from China and tend to be very cheap imitations of popular brands. So, you browse, checking out the shoddy "Nikes", "Air Jordans", etc. Then you start to talk price and things get bad. If you are a non-local, especially a white-colored non-local, the vendors take you for a complete idiot and start quoting very high prices. Prices far beyond what I would even pay in the USA. It's completely ridiculous and frustrating. You see Burkinabe kids wearing these shos and you know their parents did not pay 60 dollars a pair or even 30 dollars. It drives me mad and I refuse to pay even $30 for a bad pair of shoes that I could get at a Walmart for $9, all because I'm the wrong color.
So, here we are, one month later and I have still not solved this problem.
BTW, In another shoe-related incident, my tapettes disappeared on Friday night, then mysteriously reappeared on Saturday morning. I had been to a party at a friend's house that night and left my shoes on the terrace, as is good manners here in Burkina. But when I went to leave, my black tappettes were gone and in their place was a brown pair. We figured that one of the other guests must have slipped mine on my accident. But who? It was a mystery. Saturday morning, I ran some errands. When I got home at 10am, the brown tapettes I'd left on my terrace by our door had been replaced with my own black ones. I later thanked my friend for finding my shoes, but she had no clue what I was talking about. Very odd.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Pulling a cart did not figure high on Aslan's list of "Fun Activities for Goats". I doubt it was even in the top 50. But Mallory's love and patience has paid off. Now he pulls the cart all around the neighborhood. He doesn't even have to be bribed with tasty snacks.
Today, he even gave a little neighbor girl a ride all the way around the block. I wanted to get some good pictures, but the battery in the camera ran out before I could. But here are a couple of Aslan and Mal that I managed to get before the camera shut down on us.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Good news: the Papiers du Sahel website will rise again. Eventually. We lost our old domain name and the site is down, but it will be all be replaced under the name, or something similar. I am not sure when, but it will happen!
More good news: JP (my oh-so-clever DH) just got another book published this fall. You only want to try to read it if you a.) speak French and b.)are very smart. On the other hand, there are several pictures. Which is good for me. Anyway, if you are a brainy, French-reading person interested by land tenure issues among the Winyé of Burkina Faso, this is the book for you.
Yet MORE good news: Valentine has been blogging a bit more regularly. Check on her blog from time to time. She's a funny girl.
And finally: those wishing for a closer look at the winning Halloween costumes of the Jacob family have only to click on the photo album link at right. From there, click on the Oct 07 album. Many, many pics.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Here's a cake I made on the weekend for the birthday of little Zoe next door. This is just to show you that I keep busy while not blogging.
Also: I have had a few people write and say that the Papiers du Sahel website seems to be down. When you try the link, you get a sanitation project site. Now, I am all for sanitation, but I think it's pretty mean they grabbed our site name. I have written to my helper in Canada and asked "What's up with that?". I will doubtless soon have some info for you all.
More news: I finally managed to sell my demonic Land Cruiser. It is no longer mine and there is a song in my heart! I am now driving a Toyota Corolla station wagon that does not seem to break down on a near-daily basis. Which is nice.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

The week leading up to Halloween was spent in a frenzy of sewing, cutting, gluing, measuring and the application of lots of shiny black paint. The result was some pretty great costumes and prizes all around!
The kids went trick or treating through the US Embassy grounds. We used to do a house to house thing, but the security officer for the Embassy now says it's a "security risk". So now the kids go round from office to office and get their sweets.
Then there was a great party over at the Rec Center. There were lots of games and a costume contest. Mallory carried off first place with her pirate costume. Severin came in second as Darth Vader. Alexa came in fourth as a goth girl/vampire, but friends assure me that it must have been a political decision, as letting the Jacob family take all three top places might have been looked upon dimly by some.
The other big news around here is that the goat cart has arrived!! Aslan finds it rather alarming, but I'm sure Mallory's patience will win him over. Right now when he's hitched up to it, he can only be coaxed into taking a few steps when bribed by massive amounts of saltine crackers. Expect pictures soon!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

I'm just back from my third and, hopefully, final stay at the Les Genets medical clinic here in Ouagadougou. Yes, after all my worries over the various illnesses of JP and Severin, I'm the one that ended up with a nice (well, not really) five-day rest at the hospital.
It all started innocently enough, On the 13th, I had a little nap in the afternoon. Unusual for me, but not unprecedented. But when I woke up, I was cold. Freezing. "Gee!" I thought to myself "The cold season is starting a month early this year. Global warming! Climate change!" But further reflection brought up the possiblility that a simpler answer, ie: my body temperature was freakishly high, might be more likely. I traded in Occam's Razor for a thermometer and found out I was at 102F and rising. But I had no other symptoms and hoped it was just one of those weird viruses so common over here. Well, it turned out to be a whole bunch of parasites. Creepy little things. I had to spend four days on intravenous quinine and spent my time alternating between vomitting, sleeping and staring at the ceiling fan.
So, that's what's been up with me. They let me go home on Friday night and I spent the weekend resting. I'm feeling a lot better today- not up to hitting the gym, but I am at the internet café, so that's progress.
When I arrived home on Friday, there was a "Welcome Back Home" poster waiting for me on the door. It was illustrated with portraits of almost all of our pets. (The chickens got left out, but I don't feel all that close to them, anyway.) I think Aslan's yellow eyes are especially expressive, not to mention accurately rendered.
BTW, Aslan is soon going to be pulling a tiny cart! Could this get any more fun? Stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

On Friday afternon, I had the kids all at the doctor's office for their school medical certificates. They needed them so that they can participate in the after school sports activities here. The twins are going to continue with dance classes, while Severin wants to learn fencing. But he wont be brandishing a foil anytime soon. He woke up Saturday morning with a fever of 104°F and a quick blood test revealed that he was full of parasites, more so than JP had been. So, he spent a long three days on the couch. He mainly slept the first two days, but yesterday felt well enough to watch "Godzilla vs Mothra" (The review I linked to is from a site called "Stomp Tokyo", which I think is an extremely entertaining name. Not that I have anything against the city in question.) In this film, Godzilla fights a giant(yes, you guessed it) moth. I feel a special connection to the insect, as my own mother was IN ONE OF HIS MOVIES! Sort of. She was in some of the crowd scenes in the original "Mothra "(1961), but got left on the cutting room floor. Still, as a child, I was firmly convinced that my mom was a movie star.
Anyway, back to the subject at hand: Severin watched the badly dubbed Japanese monster movie, got over his malaria and promptly caught a bad cold. Good health seems elusive. At least he doesn't have appendicitis, which we feared at one point. He had a pain on his right which seemed ominous, but it seems to have been a symptom of malaria and dehydration.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Well, I guess I won't be getting an honorary medical degree anytime soon. Despite the Quinimax, JP got worse. I had to call the doctor in yesterday. (Many doctors here do housecalls! How amazing is that?) Anyway, the doctor determined that, while JP has a mild low-level malaria infection, his main problem is pneumonia. So, now he's on antibiotics and forbidden to go to work until Monday at the earliest.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

JP (the DH in my life, for those of you who don't know me IRL) came home from Bamako with a low-key, but somehow still fairly irritating cough. He's just been to a conference up in Mali and had had to sit out the last two days because he felt miserable. The doctor up there told him he had a "viral bronchitis" and sent him on his way with a bottle of cough syrup. I, on the other hand, took one look at him and said "Malaria".
"But they gave me a blood test in Bamako. They said I didn't have it." He protested.
But of course, all that meant was that he didn't have many parasites in his blood at the time. The amount goes up and down, peaking with high fevers and descending in between. I made him go to a lab here for another bloodtest and, sure enough, he had baby bugs in his blood. Lots of them at this point, as he had been letting them run rampant for nearly one whole week. Bugs in your blood. How creepy is THAT?
So, he's at home resting and taking Quinimax. It's nasty stuff, but quite effective. Very common side effects are: buzzing in the ears, sudden loss of hearing, dizziness, headaches, visual disturbances, and nausea. So, you spend the five days of your treatment feeling just as bad as someone who is taking nothing at all. But, of course, you don't die in the end, which is the fate of the many people here that can't afford even the most basic medications for common, dangerous illnesses.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

This recipe stuff isn't as easy as it looks. I got several emails which all could be boiled down to the following text: "Dear Beth, I love you to pieces, but you are the world's worst recipe blogger. How MUCH cream? What QUANTITY of strawberies. Jeez! Sincerely, XXX" Right. That would be about four cups of whipped cream. If you are doing real cream, add sugar to taste after you have stirred in your berries. As for the berries, I'd say about a pound.
Actually, from this recipe, the ininitiated might think that we live far diffrently than we do. You may imagine me cheerfully gliding through a large supermarket, loading up on frozen strawberries and Dream Whip. No so. It is impossible to buy frozen fruit or vegetables here. My strawberries were all purchased by me during strawberry season (January-February) and promptly frozen. The Dream Whip was brought in my suitcase from the US. Occasionally you can find a whipped topping mix in one of the local shops here. But it is from Turkey and it looks scary. Whipping cream is more easily had, but tends to be very expensive, as it is flown in from France. The sprinkles are also brought from the USA, as none are to be found locally.
The cookies are found in local stores at a reasonable price. And the boxes are in general, extremely entertaining. I particlarly enjoy the Brossard brand box, as shown in the pic. What relation these French cookies bear to two small children riding on a speeding zebra, I know not. If you look closely, the little girl looks decidely miserable and terrified. It is a very strange and edgy box. At the bottom it reads (in French) "Guaranteed made with fresh eggs". In fact, it says that on all the boudoir cookie boxes. Are they implying that other types of cookies are made with rotten eggs? Or that in the past they USED to make their cookies with bad eggs, but they stopped that and now we can all munch away with a renewed peace of mind?

Sunday, September 30, 2007

No news today, just dessert. This is a Charlote aux Fraises made by me. Very tasty and attractive and dead easy. It's a recipe that I learned from my über-French mother-in-law.
Lots of people put recipes in their blogs, so why not me?
Here we go (or "allons-y", if you want to be all authentic).
Gather up:
1.Package of Boudiors or Cuillers cookies (I think they are "ladyfingers" in English
2.Frozen strawberries
3.Whipped cream or Dream Whip
4.Sprinkles (optional, but fun)
5.Large, pretty glass bowl (also not required, but highly recommended)
Get busy:
Strain the defrosted berries and reserve the juice. Put aside several uncrushed berries for a garnish.
Mix up your Dream Whip, if that's what you have. (Actual whipped cream is the only thing my MIL would ever use, but in Africa, we take what we can get.) Mix the strawberries into the cream. Do this in a mixing bowl, NOT your fancy glass one.
Next, dip the cookies one by one into the juice. Just a quick dip, or they'll get too soggy. Use some of the cookies to line the glass bowl. You won't need all of them at this point, maybe about half.
Spread a layer of the cream mixture over the cookies. Dip the rest of the cookies and lay them in a layer on top of the cream. Add the rest of the cream, filling the bowl.
Garnish with berries and sprinkles. Leave in the fridge for at least three hours. Longer is even better.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The goat castration went pretty well, from my point of view, anyway. Aslan's view of the whole incident may be completely different, but it had to be done. It wasn't just the rancid goat-cheese reek of him,(which we had sort of gotten used to doing without very happily during our holiday) but there was a whole new level olfactory insult going on. It turns out that adult male goats spruce themselves up for the lady goats by urinating on themselves. Instead of a bracing spash of Old Spice, Polo or whathaveyou, they just stand there and let their pee dribble down their legs. Very convienient, but extremely disgusting from the point of view of those of us who are not female goats.
Added to the problem of his unique new "eau de cologne" was his new sound repertoire. In the presence of a female goat, his previously mild goatly bleat became a blood-curdling thing of nightmares. It sounded like an elderly, mutated dwarf being vivisected by trolls. A very LOUD dwarf. (Not that I have ever heard that particular sound, but I have a very lively imagination.) Anyway, he had a tendency to make this sound every morning at about 5am, plus at regular intervals throughout the day.
The noise thing could have probably been solved by NOT having a lady goat present. But Midnight and her extemely adorable tiny baby goatling are now living at our place, so a solution had to be found.
On the practical side, it only costs a dollar to have a goat castrated. Then again, there's no anaesthesia. Ouch. (In fact, the vet thought I was mad to even ask about it). So, I had to sit out on the front terrace of the vet's office, holding Aslan's head, trying to get him through the 15 minute procedure with a minimum of panic. Right beside us there was a huge ram dying from poisoning. I will spare you all the details, but it was pretty grim.
Our Aslan recovered very quickly from the little visit and does not hold a grudge. He now bleats normally and smells like a normal goat instead of a festering furred heap of urine. Which is nice. Think petting zoo goat.
At the top is a pic of Midnight. Baby Dawn kept running around and I couldn't get a good shot of here.
The second is, rather obviously, our pet turtles. We have had them for about 3 years and raised them from tiny turtlettes. They don't smell and are completely silent. I have no idea if they are girls or boys and would not even dream of violating their privacy to find out. Furthermore, I have never heard of anyone having to get her turtle castrated. I find that they are very relaxing pets.

Monday, September 10, 2007

I`ve been back in Burkina for over a week now. Posting to the blog or even answering an email is much harder here than it was in the middle of a forest in the USA. I didn`t have my internet connection reopened until this morning. I somehow couldn`t bear the thought of dial-up again...but the waiting list time for getting anything better here is over one month. So, I got hooked up again today to my old service... only to have a sudden rainshower knock out our phone line. I`m not sure why, but it happens frequently here. It wasn`t even a storm, I swear. I suspect that they make the cables out of sugar.
So, here I am, back at the internet cafe.
I have also been very, very busy, of course. I had to organize the kids for school, which involves buying and labeling hundreds of dollars worth of school supplies. Each thing down to the last pencil has to be tagged, god help me. Then I had to get back to work at Papiers du Sahel. And then the car was emitting alarming black smoke and the brakes went out, so that had to be dealt with.
And I also had to get the goat castrated.
I have had little time for frivolities around here.
NB:today`s pic is JP and the kids on Aug 31 in Paris waiting to get on the plane for Ouagadougou.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Today's blog entry comes to you from not-so-sunny California. Yes, we have finally reached our furthest point west of the journey and are currently camped out under the giant redwoods. JP says it's like camping in the "enchanted forest". It reminds me more of "Jurassic Park". Part of the movie was filmed here and I keep expecting a velociraptor to surge out from behind a fern and eviscerate me. But then, "Return of the Jedi" was also filmed here, so maybe I can hope that some kind Ewoks would come save me from any dinosaur attack.
The trees are astounding, though, even without dinsosaurs and aloien teddy bears.
The beach here is also lovely, if a little cold. I thought my Burkina acclimatised offspring would barely dip a toe in the frigid north Pacific waters, but they went right in.
Since the blog entry in Pocatello, we have been to Boise, Idaho and Portland Oregon. Many adventures were had, too many to recount today. We had a great time visiting family (in Boise) and friends (in Portland) and now are ready to head back east. Tomorrow we'll pack up the tent and head for Nevada.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

I am blogging to you from, of all places, Pocatello, Idaho. We are spending two nights here, taking in the local ambiance. And there's a lot of ambiance to be had down at the local Walmart, I'm here to tell you. We had to stop in to get food and buy a towel for JP. He left his in Yellowstone. Right now, undoubtably, a lucky grizzy bear is enjoying the use of a light green pima cotton bath sheet. But that act of unintentional generosity towards wildlife left JP without a very necessary item. So, we did a little shopping and observation. Pocatello is just south of a large Shoshone reservation, so there were lots of Native Americans. Ditto cowboys. Even square dancing-type "cowboys" and their lady partners sporting huge, stiff skirts like enormous,, demented Chinet plates!
One gentleman in the bakery department gave us quite a show. He had a severe case of "plumber's pants": an unacceptable amount of rear cleavage going on. Mallory was aghast "LOOK MOM! That guy's gonna lose his PANTS! I quickly convinced her to discuss the matter more quietly and steered the kids in the opposite direction. But then I realized that we did need bread...I turned around and there was the full, panoramic view. It looked distressingly like two gigantic loaves of rising bread wereb trying to escape out of the back of his pants. I did an about face and decided to go to the packaged bread aisle instead. Wonder Bread makes whole wheat now, did you know that?
The BEST thing about Pocatello so far is the extremely great powwow that we went to last night. The Shoshone are having a big festival this week and the main attraction is the dancing. We got there just in time for the Grand Entrance. It was really spectacular, with dancers from tribes all over the central and western USA.
If you haven't checked the Photobucket album lately, do so. There are pics in the Camping subalbum. There are photos from South Dakota and Wyoming. Idaho will soon follow, with views of our trip to Craters of the Moon National Park.
Note: Today's pic is from Mamoth Hotsprings in Yellowstone.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

I started this trip with rosy visions of me merrily blogging along as we drove and camped across the western USA. I guess I sort of neglected the fact that said trip would involve lots of, well, driving and camping. Both of these activities are amazingly time consuming. When you camp; the basics of living take on huge porportions. At home, when you take a shower, you just walk into the bathroom and the whole thing is pretty quickly over. When you camp, you have to do a scavenger hunt before you even get anywhere near the water. Where is your towel? The soap? Are clean clothes even a remote possibility? And when you add four kids into the mix, the fun really begins.
As for the driving aspect, we have been through Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota, Wyoming and are now in Montana. That's a lot of roadtime. The kids are mostly happy just to listen to music and look out the windows of the van. Yes, we rented a big van to hold all of us and our huge volume of camping stuff. It's a "conversion van", I was told. So, you climb into the thing a Catholic and come out an hour later saying "Hey, now that I think about it, that Mohammad guy made a LOT of sense. Where do I sign up?"?
I am currently blogging from West Yellowstone, Montana. We just spent the day at Old Faithful. We watched the famous geyser erupt, along with about a thousand other tourists. ( No, the tourists didn't erupt, though that might have added a lot to the drama.)
Last week, we saw Mount Rushmore and visited Jewel Cave (second longest cave in the world, people.) Then we went on to camp at Devils Tower as featured in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
We will be here at Yellowstone until Friday. After that, we will head into Idaho. Famous potatos and all that.
So far we have seen: bison, moose, elk, deer, chipmunks (much beloved by the twins) and many, many, many bikers. Yes, it's Sturgis motorcycle rally time ( official sponsor: Jack Daniels) and the Harleys abound, as do their leather-clad owners. Bikers from all over the USA converge in the Black Hills region and rule the roads for a couple of weeks. Related story: One night, some bikers came into camp late, their engines roaring and thumping, as Harley engines have a tendency to do. We were all sleeping, but were woken by the racket. Severin yelled "Hey? Are you just 'too cool' to buy a car, or what?" The engines shut off abrubtly and Severin disappeare ddown into the bottom of his sleeping bag. He was sure that they'd heard him and were coming over to defend their honor.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

In my last post, I added 'Ebay' in the label section and then went on to write only about extinct mammals. I meant to add that part of what is keeping me busy, besides HGTV and numerous trips to Walmart ( I am so ashamed, but am helpless to resist the siren call of 'low prices..always') is that I am posting numerous items on Ebay. It's all stuff I brought over from Africa. One item gathering lots of interest is the five foot long Tuareg bag that's in the pic at right. The curious among you can search out all six items for sale by nebraskacc.

I hope to get more items up this week, but time is running out. JP arrives on Saturday (Yay!). By Tuesday, we will be on the road, starting our mega-fun (we hope, fervently) camping adventure across the western USA.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Nebraska boasts the largest mounted mammoth skeleton in the world. His name is 'Archie'
Here is a re-enactment of the mammoth's possible reponse to being given a lame nickname.
(Run away! Run away some more!)

Monday, July 16, 2007

Last summer I had a blog hiatus due to the fact that getting online in France involved, in my case, driving to another town and going to the area's only internet cafe. Now here I am in the USA with all the computing power of my tech-savy parents at my disposal and my posts are few and far between. My vacation has somehow expanded to fill all available time, which is fun, but not conducive to blogging.
What have we been doing? Museums, shopping, and movies, mainly. Though my parents and I did manage to intall no less than 12 new window blinds in their home (only four more to go). I'm also getting several African items ready to post on Ebay. So, I do feel productive, in a non-blog kind of way.
We are getting very excited about our upcoming camping trip in two weeks. My parents just bought us a huge new tent, which has built up a positive frenzy among the kids. I am just hoping they will like it just as much after three or four weeks of actually living in it.

Today's missions? Clearing up a huge bank-generated problem with my savings account, going to the used bookstore to buy enormous amounts of books to send back to Ouaga, posting items on Ebay and catching up on my emails. Not good photo ops. I'll no doubt have some good pics this week though, as we are going to a couple of good museums.

Monday, July 09, 2007

We had a great 4th of July. The only injuries were a scraped toe (Alexa) and two singed fingers (Severin). Considering the amount of fireworks that the kids lit, we got off lightly.

The last time I came to Lincoln, I was amazed at the amount of tattoo/piercing places that seem to have opened since my last visit. This time, I am struck by all the coffee shops. There's no Starbucks, but lots of fun little independant places. Tattoos scare me, but I am rather fond of fancy coffee, so it was a nice surprise.

We called JP today. He talked to each of the kids (except for Valentine, who is in Minnesota visiting the mega-mall up there) and asked each which he preferred: USA or Burkina. Mallory and Severin said USA, no hesitation. Alexa voted for Burkina. She misses her posse.

OMG! American Idol Rewind is on! I did not even know there was such a thing!! VERY exciting!!!!

Saturday, June 30, 2007

I feel like I'm on the deck of the starship Enterprise. My mom's nice Dell PC is charging up Valentine's new Nano as I'm blogging and checking emails on her even nicer Mac. To my left, my laptop is busy doing all the downloading/upgrading that I never get to do in Africa. As I switch back and forth between the three machines, I get a very Uhura vibe, minus the mini skirt, of course.

Vacation. What can I say? The kids are having a great time- playing with my parents's dog, eating fast food, shopping, rolling in the uber-green grass, going to movies, etc.
We went to the Farmers' Market this morning for sweetcorn and other good stuff. There was someone there selling goatcheese and Mallory got a bit lonely for Aslan, her precious goatling. But mostly she is more than satisfied by the splendors of Bridget, my folks' Wheaten terrier.

Alexa has just dicovered the Beatles. She came up to me, headphones hanging down "I am the eggman'?? What's that all about? " she asked, completely mystified. Alas, I could not tell her.
"What do you think it means?" I cleverly asked.
"That he's weird?"

Friday, June 29, 2007

I can't believe we made it! Here I am, typing a blog entry on my mom's Mac. As I am so unused to USA-style keyboards, it's a real hunt-and-peck fiesta of frustration, but that is more than made up for by the sheer speed of the connection. My blog page loads in two seconds instead of five minutes. What a concept!
Our trip here was quite interesting. When we boarded in Burkina, security was good but not over the top. They open bags and wave the wand and on you go. Paris was another matter. They were in full pat-down mode. Not a sort of desultory, symbolic tap about the ribs and ankles, but a top to botttom touchy-feely that was frankly not nice. As I stood in line and watched a nice elderly lady get 'the treatment' I thought: 'The terrorists won. Thanks George. We are all doomed." I guess I knew that already, but this really drove it home.
At least they weren't subjecting the children to it, thank God for small favors.
Anyway, we flew from Ouaga to Niamey and then sat on the runway there for two and a half hours, waiting for lightening storms to abate.
Then on to Paris, where we rode their delightful little shuttle buses around and around and around. We left about an hour late and were worried about our connection in Detroit. There are only a couple of flights per week between Detroit and Lincoln. But the security in Detroit, despite being strict, went really, really quickly. They processed a huge amount of people in a fraction of the time it took in Paris. They were saving time by not feeling people up, which was nice.
But the connection ended up being a non-issue. Thunderstorms kept us on the ground and the flight left late. We easily amused ourselves visiting the airport shops and being amazed by all the stuff. We bought a People magazine (Special Wedding Edition) and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. God Bless America!
Now here we are, in the Heartland of America. (I wonder which state is the Bileductland of America? They sure keep quiet about it.)

More soon, hopefully with pictures!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Not like I have a lot of spare time these days, but I somehow recently found myself sitting on the terrace leafing through a collection of old (« classic » as they term it these days. Nothing is just old anymore) Doonesbury cartoons. I vaguely remember reading the strip back in the 1970’s and finally understanding about 30% of the humor by the end of the decade.
This time around, it struck a nerve, as you could just replace the word “Vietnam” with Iraq and have a completely 21st century twist on all the black humor.

What also struck me was the house plants. Yeah, Zonker and his talking plants. What a 70’s thing. In the 1960’s, plants grew outside. The yard was their natural habitat and they pretty much stayed there. With the notable exception of Christmas, when you got to kill a tree, drag it indoors to give off that delicious piney fragrance and create a major fire hazard that could turn your joyous holiday home into a tragic inferno. But I digress.

I distinctly remember that until 1970, I grew up in an entirely houseplant-free home. Then, suddenly, everybody was lugging big pots of dirt into their living rooms. You’d have ferns and possibly philodendrons. These were the aspidistra of the era. They'd sit in a place of honor. A wrought iron plant stand was considered nice, but the style benchmark was, of course, the macramé plant hanger. For those of you young enough and lucky enough to have missed that whole macramé thing, think knotted rope and wooden beads. The macramé aspect is logical, of course, as the entire houseplant movement was a complete hippie conspiracy. They were known as very dirt-oriented persons. Woodstock was not talked about for decades afterwards because of the clean restrooms and excellent shower facilities. So, it was definitely the hippie movement that was behind the “lets bring large quantities of dirt into our homes” concept.

I am an adult now and have my very own houseplant-free home. The idea of having containers of dirt sitting around in my clean house is distinctly disturbing. My attitude towards this issue is no doubt somewhat influenced by an incident from the spring of 1978, when my junior high Spanish teacher invited the class over to her home for dinner. I went into the bathroom to wash my hands pre-paella, and was confronted by one million (possibly more, I didn’t count) tiny baby crickets bursting out of the dirt around the “attractive” houseplant sitting on the vanity. Since that night, I have hated both crickets and houseplants. And I’m not all that keen on paella, either.

I don’t know why I wrote all that. I should be packing, for pete’s sake.
I guess it’s been festering. All these years, I have been wondering: What’s the deal with houseplants? The 70’s are over. Throw the damn things out, people. They’re just havens for bacteria and cricket eggs. Ish.