27 February 2010

I also posted at What I Eat this week.

And Then the Stomach Bug

I've been struggling all week to come up with something positive or at least novel and interesting to write about. But I'm at a loss. It's been a week of ho-hum to not-so-great.

I had a stomach bug that kept me couched on Monday and Tuesday. When I was finally feeling good enough, stomach-wise, to drag myself to work, I was overcome by the aches and discomfort of pregnancy, which everyone assures me is normal but that doesn't make it any less annoying.

Our housekeeper is sick. No, it's not the end of the world that we do our own laundry and cook for ourselves for a few days. I'm worried about him. He worked half-days on Monday and Tuesday and we haven't heard from him since. It could just be bad cell reception -- the network is terrible here and he lives in the mountains far out of town, where the reception is even worse. My fear is that he has malaria. He looked terrible on Tuesday. I tried to send him home right away but he insisted on doing a few things around the house first. We're hoping that if we can't get in touch with him via phone this weekend, we can get a message to him through our gardener on Monday.

One more thing. I'm generally extremely patient with the mail here. I know it's going to take at least two to three weeks to receive anything, so I order something, forget about it, and have a little surprise when it arrives. But the one time I really need something, of course the mail is six weeks late. I ordered my textbooks in mid-January for courses starting on March 1st. I was so proud of myself for thinking ahead and giving myself plenty of time. The latest news I have is that the mail might arrive next week.

That's it. I'm tapped out for now.

20 February 2010

Please Don't Pave

Last Saturday morning we heard some machinery going up and down the street (unusually early, I might add, since most commercial work doesn't begin until after 10 o'clock on Saturday mornings). The machine was grading the road. We live on a rutted dirt road. At first, evening it out seemed like a good idea. Until it occurred to us that grading it might be the first step toward paving it.

Several issues.

First, we live on the edge of a blind corner that's also a three-way intersection. While there's little traffic on this road, we've had more close calls than we should have with drivers coming around that corner as we're pulling out of our driveway. Keeping it unpaved will keep people from driving even more quickly and recklessly.

Second, this is a small road with nothing but a handful of private residences along it. Why would they pave it before any number of the chewed-up, pot-holed, much more travelled roads in the neighborhood? We suspect it has to do with the owner of the ridiculous house at the end of our street that was under construction for over a year and finally seems to be near completion. We've deduced that the owner must be a wealthy Burundian, perhaps even a politician, and he may have enough influence to get the road he lives on paved.

Third, we've enjoyed the charm of our dirt road. The only consolation I have is that it takes so long to pave roads here, I might be gone by the time they actually get it done. But that makes me sad, because I'm not ready to leave yet. Looking at my calendar yesterday, I realized I leave in only four months. I can't believe it's happening so soon! There's so much to do to prepare for moving that the time is going to fly by.

18 February 2010

The Acid Bug

My blog will now join the short list of results that pop up when you search for "nairobi fly, acid bug" on Google. Mike was hit by one over the weekend.

The Nairobi fly is a small beetle that does not bite or sting, but based on its nickname acid bug, guess what it does? The insides of the bug are toxic, and if you smack it against your skin the juices cause a burning rash. They are common throughout East and Central Africa, and it's the season for them here in Burundi. We think Mike and his friend rode through a swarm of them on their bikes over the weekend, because his friend has some burn spots, too, and the spots appeared on both of them after they returned from the ride.

We've heard of two remedies to soothe the burning, but Mike hasn't tried either yet. One is to use toothpaste, the old-school white kind, and the other is to cut a potato and rub it on the burn area. Both the toothpaste and the potato are supposed to draw out the acid. If you wash the area immediately after discovering you've smashed one of the bugs, you can reduce the inflammation. If you have extremely sensitive skin, apparently having one just land on you can cause small burning spots; Mike witnessed a friend in Congo show up to work one morning with "footprints" across her cheek.

Mike's doing fine. His burn patch is small and I think it's irritating more than it's actually burning.

Image from the blog Muda Mrefu.

15 February 2010

Mr. and Mrs. Gray Sparrow Expect a Family

Shortly before we left for vacation, we had the fun of watching our terrace become a singles bar for gray sparrows. For several days we spent our lunch time watching the pudgy little males puff their feathers up in hopes of attracting the slender females. There was lots of chirping going on, so much that we could hardly talk between ourselves while we were out there. We assumed that our presence on the terrace would scare the birds off, but they didn't seem to care. I counted up to 6 or 7 sparrows at once, chirping and flaunting.

When we returned from vacation, it was evident that one couple in particular had hit it off and chased away all the other sparrows in order to call our terrace "home." For the last few days I've been watching them make a nest, wondering if I should deter them or let them go. They're making the nest in a corner of the terrace we really don't use, so I'm not too worried about the mess. The noise of chicks won't bother me too much; I've heard it before, plus we have the noise of a hundred other birds competing each day and night. For now we've decided to let Mr. and Mrs. Sparrow continue with their nesting.

They aren't the only ones expecting a family. I now feel comfortable sharing my news with the blogosphere. I'm 15 weeks pregnant. We're expecting a baby in August. I've been torn about going "live" with the news online. On one hand, I've always not really been that interested in babies that I don't know personally and I don't want to bore others who aren't that interested either. On the other, it certainly affects my life here, and my life here is what the blog is about. So expect occasional mentions of "Sharkbait" from time to time.

As long as Sharkbait and I stay healthy, I'll stay here until pretty close to our originally scheduled leave time this summer. And, as long as we're healthy, it will be no problem for us to continue on to India this fall. It's just one more part of the adventure!

14 February 2010

Smoke Happens

Mike's working this morning so I planned on some alone time with some crafty hobbies. I was ironing fabric when I smelled something horrible. I looked down at the transformer that the iron was plugged into and there was smoke pouring out of the ventilation slats. My first instinct was to open a window, but I went with my second instinct instead and unplugged everything. Then, since the handle was still cool to touch, I carried the transformer out to the yard. It was still smoking and it started making a crackling sound. I ran back inside, grabbed a fire extinguisher, took a few seconds to turn on a fan and open a window to prevent the smoke detector from going off, and ran back outside.

I've never used a fire extinguisher before and I was afraid it would be too heavy and unwieldy for me to handle. But it was easy. Pull pin. Aim. Pull trigger. I was able to stabilize it on the ground so I didn't get bowled over with recoil. The poof of stuff that came out was pretty exciting. And after the fog cleared it was easy to see that the transformer had stopped smoking and crackling. Yay! I'm a hero.

I have no idea if what I did, i.e., taking the time to move the transformer then taking the time to turn on fans, was the right thing to do, what the professionals would recommend. I took the chance and it worked for me in this instance, thank goodness.

The living room smelled noxious for awhile so I took that opportunity to lock myself in the master suite and take a shower. Luckily it's not raining, so I could open every window in the house to air out the smells. By the time I finished cleaning myself up, everything was fresh.

The lesson for today kids is to make sure you know where your fire extinguishers are and that you know how to use them. And if you are petite, have a smaller one on-hand alongside a full-size one. (I did use one of our smaller ones, but it can still be intimidating.)

13 February 2010

In need of the three-day weekend

It's been a rough couple of days. I hate to say they've been bad days, because in general life is pretty good. We're not having earthquakes or blizzards or anything like that. Maybe I'm just having trouble adjusting to being home rather being on vacation.

We got back on Tuesday afternoon, twelve hours after our scheduled arrival time on Monday night. Our luggage followed about twenty-four hours later -- which is actually a pretty good record for Kenya Airways. Jetlag and fatigue kept me from working a full day on Wednesday, but I at least sorted through over two weeks' worth of emails, even if I didn't respond to them all. Thursday was somehow one of the most productive days I'd had at work in months.

But by Friday I was crashing again. Just a series of unfortunate events, you could say. I woke up in a panic because I'm having trouble finding a place to rent while we're home for the summer and the internet was down so I couldn't go online and scrutinize rental listings. I pretty much had a meltdown and got irrationally mad at Mike for no reason. Then I accidentally cut myself on a super-sharp Wusthof kitchen knife. Luckily Mike was able to butterfly bandage it, so now it's healing nicely and I won't need stitches. I just have to avoid infection. After that I found out that the satellite service won't be broadcasting any of the Olympics except for a daily one-hour highlight show. This is a real disappointment, because I love the Olympics. With the Summer Olympics they had about five different channels going twenty-four hours a day. You saw all the sports and countries that aren't generally shown in the United States. It was awesome. But thanks to NBC's propriety broadcasting, I haven't even seen a glimpse of the Opening Ceremonies. (The internet connection isn't good enough to stream any of it, so don't bother suggesting it.)

Plus it was ridiculously hot and humid yesterday. I know, I know, I complained of being chilly in California. But it wasn't just me noticing it yesterday. Several people commented that it was definitely warmer than usual, especially in the evening. Even with the air conditioner on as high as possible, I still tossed and turned all night being too warm.

Mike made excellent coffee and pancakes this morning. But he also accidentally set off the house alarm while I was dozing.

I'm really looking forward to this three-day weekend to recover from my vacation and my first week back home.

03 February 2010


Yes, we've been on vacation. We've been doing our part to keep the economy afloat by shopping at Target and eating at Uno's. We've been enjoying staying in our old neighborhood, although we could do without all the chatty people in the breakfast room each morning. We've loved seeing friends. I'm not loving the relatively chilly temperatures. (I know it's one of the warmest spots in the United States right now, but forgive me. I live on the equator. To me, it's chilly here.)

We thought about buying a house, but the stars are not aligned in our favor at this time. Maybe over summer vacation.

We've been buying new clothes instead of doing laundry. We bought several pounds of chocolate chips. I got my Mac fixed, somewhat. We love high-speed American internet. We don't love all the commercials on the radio and television.

We've taken care of some doctors' appointments -- all healthy. Mike's been indulging in my Pizza Safari, as I sample gluten-free pizzas throughout California. We're eating our favorite Mexican foods and sushi. We've probably gained a few pounds in tamale weight alone.

On Sunday we begin our thirty-hour trek back to the Buj, away from Peets and Starbucks. I'm not looking forward to all those long flights and long layovers. But I miss the cat and I miss being back at the home base.

Language Lost and Found

I had a column published in Foreign Service Journal this month! Family Members Matter, page 76.

I promise regular blogging will resume shortly. We've been on vacation, doing mass amounts of shopping while we're back in the United States for the first time in 18 months. We had back to the Buj this weekend and I'm looking forward to being warm again.