Monday, April 28, 2008

Hiking- Aesch and Laufen

I went hiking yesterday across the great green hills of Switzerville with Heather and some other people from church. I discovered more people that used to live in Beaverton, and Stephen said he'd never been to Oregon--he flew from Seattle to San Fran. I hear that a lot, and I'm tellin you all, if you miss Oregon, you've missed the best part of the west coast! But maybe I should keep the secret better.

Pictures from the afternoon:

On a train not called the City of New Orleans.

Did we really hike, or did we just sit in a field eating scottish cookies (pardon me--"biscuits"). You'll never know!

Teeter-totter, anyone?

Whoops! :) Did she do that on purpose to him??

The lovely Heather, showing her monkey-like agility.

I found this cool-looking grub crossing the road.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Spring arrived

My tulips are blooming!
I am having a very nice weekend so far! Friday afternoon I went up to Mary and Nils house. Mary volunteered to give me a much needed hair cut, and even if I hadn’t needed it, any excuse to visit Mary and Nils is a good one! So, we started with the hair—me perched on a piano stool, Mary with the scissors, and the hair cutting instruction book on the ironing board where Mary could see it and cut at the same time. I’ll’s a little scary getting a hair cut from someone who’s reading a book to do it…but I’m pretty pleased with it, actually! And I inherited a very pretty hair clip from Maureen (another lady at church) via Mary. It was too big for Maureen’s hair, too small for Mary’s and just right for mine.

After our experiment in hair styling, we munched some peanut butter cookies and inspected a whole pile of lace and linens that Mary got from her neighbors who are moving. (I met the neighbor later when we went for a walk, and their daughter is living in Hillsboro!! What a small world!). Anyway, apparently the woman made tons of beautiful things for her house, and when she died, after the family and friends had taken what they wanted there were still drawers full of things. So Mary had a stack of left-over doilies and lace and appliqued napkin holders that she had promised to find happy homes for. Now, it’s a stretch to say I have a “home” to house these things in, but you know what a sucker I am when it comes to linens…oh, and dishes. She had dishes too! So, I came home with some GREAT stuff! Check it out:

Ok, I realize this picture has a lot in it, but the woven cloth and the bowls are new. So are the little shoes, but those are from the GPs. I think I should switch the shoes, now that I'm looking at it. The right side is a bit visually heavy. But I do have some other stuff on the left side of the shelf, so I don't know. I'll have to go inspect it again.

Bowls! The design is considerably more Asian than my other stuff, but I like the colors, so it works.

A nice hand-made lace on linen...

I admit I have no place to put this at the moment...

...but it's nice, don't you think?

By that time, Janet had arrived too. So, we made some chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, looked at fabric patterns from the 1930s (apparently, according to Mary who went to textile design school, my fabric taste leans Scandinavian with a strong dark/light orientation) , and then Mary taught me the basics of knitting. I can now knit and purl, and if my life depended on it I could probably remember how to “cast on,” (not to be confused with “casting” or “fish on”). It means “put the yarn on your needle.” Now, I know knitting might not seem that cool to you, but I've been wanting to learn for a while, and there's the whole tradition aspect to think about. Pioneers! The Oregon trail! World War 1 socks! Obviously a historian should know how to knit. I bet Doris Kearns Goodwin and Arthur Schlessinger, Jr. are knitting fiends.

Today was beautiful and warm and I sat out on the patio reading homework (yes, homework!) in the sunshine, got a walk in, did my housework, wrote this blog, talked to some people online, finished some other important homework, etc. Tomorrow after church I’m going hiking out in Aesch. Most of my church friends are going dancing tomorrow. There’s a big dancing event in Basel with free classes in lots of different dance styles all day, and then a big dance party/ball in the evening. That would have been fun too, but I’m actually kinda glad to be heading outside for the afternoon. It’s supposed to be great weather again tomorrow. And with that, I should hit the sack. Night!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Found a job!

I found a job! Starting in July I'll be working as an au pair for a family here in the Basel area. I'm really, really pleased with how this has all worked out. As you know, I posted my profile last Thursday. I met this family Monday evening, and today I turned down three other offers to take this one instead. They have two girls, who are 2 and 4, and they are so sweet! They're normal kids and I'm sure they have their days, but they are cheerful, well-loved little girls, and oh-so-cute. They don't speak any English, so that'll be interesting, but they are chatterboxes anyway, and were happy to show me the neighbors pigs and their room and tell me all about it all in swiss german. My Swiss German is going to be good--AMAZING--by the time I'm done with this! :) At least at a 4 year old level.

I also really like the parents--they seem down to earth and direct, and appear to be exceptionally thoughtful/intentional parents, consistent about their "noes," patient with noise and tears and questions, and all that. So I'm looking forward to working for them and being part of their extended "family" soon! I'll be living out at their place too, so work will be close and convenient, and (and this is what I'm really enthusiastic about!) they have agreed to speak only German to me, as much as possible. Their current au pair is from the French-speaking part of Switzerland, and she didn't speak German when she came to live with them, but she does now. So I believe them when they say they will stick to German, and I will also be able to take a class a couple evenings a week. Rahel even said that if i keep a journal in German, she'll read it and correct it for me. So I would have written practice too.

Good deal, huh? The family says they're really pleased I'm coming too, which is nice but I have a hard time seeing how they are possibly gaining nearly as much as I am! But I'm sure it's not easy to choose someone you trust to care for your children, and it's probably a relief to have things arranged finally. They've been looking for an au pair for over a month!

Ok. Gotta swap the laundry and go to sleep. Love and miss y'all.

Monday, April 21, 2008


It's about time for some pictures, don't you think? I've been boring you all with text. For example, what did I do today? I could just tell you I spent the morning in Laufen baking chocolate chip cookies with my friend Roxy, or I could show you:

We had to stack a pile of books 5 high to take a picture of ourselves, and we agreed we should find a third friend. It would make picture-taking much easier! Roxy is a good friend. She's considerate, welcoming, a good listener, and she's also mega-organized. That doesn't really contribute one way or the other to her being a good friend, but I do admire her for it. You should see the chart on her wall in her house, showing all her homework and extracurriculars for the next 10 years, neatly laid out! ok, not really 10 years, but close. And yet, even though she's so organized, she's patient with those of us who aren't nearly as, and THAT does contribute to her being a stellar friend. She also bakes a mean chocolate chip cookie, as of today. On our next baking day, she will teach me how to make the German cake her Madre always makes.

Ok, moving on. So, what sorts of cards did I get for my birthday, you might ask? Well, here is a brief selection. I got the following handmade card from Stephan, and I think it's quite creative!

(Sorry for the glare; I'm too lazy to retake the picture). This card/masterpiece reflects some of the many different ways my alias "singletontug" might be in interpreted. I have thought lots of times about dropping this email identity entirely since it tends to promote confusion (as demonstrated this week when an email went out advertising a party for 'Stephanie Singleton'). On the other hand, it's a good conversation starter.

Then, we have the card from my brother Gregg. It speaks for itself, I think:

(© Hallmark)I know what you're thinking--I get no respect! And that is so true.

Well, I will share more birthday pictures just as soon as I get them from Janet, who was the designated camera lady. In the mean time, I'm off to get some shut eye, as the clock is sneaking up on tomorrow morning and I have school. My job hunt is going well. I met with one very nice family today and I might meet with another one tomorrow. More news to come soon, I'm sure.

'Night! Sleep tight!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Birthday festivities

Happy National Pot Smoking day! I bet you're surprised I know when national pot smoking day is, me being a homeschooler and all. Well, I know a lot of things that might surprise you. Like for instance, on this day in 1902, Marie and Pierre Curie successfully isolated the radioactive substance radium from the mineral pinchblende in their laboratory in Paris (just a hop skip and a jump from where I'm living now). And speaking of the French, on April 20th 1792, they declared war on Austria, which really wasn't very neighborly of them. It wasn't very neighborly of the Soviets, for that matter, to enter Berlin on this very day in 1945 either. But on a more cheerful note, and more to the point, I made my grand entrance on this day in the mid-nineteen eighties. Yes sireee, and until this whole Switzerland stunt, Forest Grove has barely been able to get rid of me since!

Mom called in the morning to sing me happy birthday and I opened my b-day box with her on the phone. There WAS mac and cheese (but I already had a pretty good idea that she was sending some). There was also a very cute outfit, some peach iced tea (a bad drinking habit I picked up living in Kershner house at Fox), and some other fun things like chocolate chips and some little shoe decorations from my Grandma and Grandpa.

Valda and Diana and Janet very kindly threw a b-day party for me after church. We enjoyed Pumpkin soup (and Janet made biscuits!) and lots of good salad and desserts. Janet also planned a game to see how well people knew me. It included harmless questions like "What's steph's favorite kind of chocolate?" and more pointed ones like "how much does stephanie's phone number cost?" which was intended to elicit a very specific story about a poor guy who wanted my phone number years ago. I'm afraid my reputation might have suffered a bit from questions like "how many pairs of shoes does steph own?" I knew it would be trouble when people started guessing "10" and "15," and when I said the person who guessed 50 was probably close to right, half the room about fell off their chairs. Coincidentally, Mom and Dad had sent me a great b-day card with a picture of a girl in front of a wall full of shoes, and on the inside it says "no one could fill your shoes...or count them." (I was surprised Dad didn't take the obvious opportunity to say it would be difficult for anyone to fill them because they're so BIG!). But anywhoo. To add to the coincidence, Dom gave me a Mark Knopfler cd with a song on it called "Imelda." So there was a bit of a theme going on today. But really, in my defense...lots of my shoes were given to me as hand me downs, purchased second hand, or on 5 dollar clearance sales, etc., and the official count includes flip-flops. So other than the space considerations...I really don't see the issue. And anyway, I got thinking about it...I got rid of some shoes recently that were worn out or that hurt my feet too much. So I think I'm down to more like 35 again. So there. :) Other quiz questions came directly out of my blog material. Like, for example, "what animal did Stephanie recently ask her mom for?"

In short, it was a lovely party, and I am especially thankful today for all my good friends here in Basel. Y'all are great!! Couldn't have had a better birthday away from home!

Saturday, April 19, 2008


Well, friends. I'm afraid I've lost fair and square. I am writing this post early the morning of the 20th. I blame a birthday party. I went to Chantelle's birthday party way across town and forgot I was supposed to leave early lest my coach turn into a pumpkin, or I be late with my blog update. I left a full hour before I needed to be home, but I missed a crucial tram, had to take a different one, had an 11 minute connection at the next one, and now here i am, late. I hope you're not too disappointed Gregg. I know you were expecting me to outlast everyone and all. But, while it's been a fun 20 days of talking to you all every day, I think I'm about talked-out anyway. Done. not much more to say. And I think if I have a break, a "pause" as they say in German, I'll have much more interesting things to say again. Plus I"m going on a trip, and I'm not taking my internet connection with me, so it would have been a little tough to carry on anywhow.

So, the party this evening was fun! I do like my classmates. They're a nice bunch of people. There were a bunch of other people I didn't know there, and we were an international crowd as ususal. Off the top of my head, we represented the US, Canada, Great Britian, Ireland, Scandanvia, Switzerland, Germany, China, Australia, Egypt, Namibia, South Africa, and Hungary. there may have been others too, but that's all I can think of. There was an unusually high concentration of Swiss people at this party because Chantelle's boyfriend is Swiss and she has a lot of Swiss friends through him. And with so many swiss people running around, there were lots of swiss kisses (like the french greeting, except three times) and I sucessfully navigated my first swiss kiss with a guy! :) Thought you'd be glad to hear that. When I first got here I avoided kisses at all costs, even with nice old ladies. Then my land lady and her mom started with them, and then some people at church and pretty soon my girl classmates, and now my guy classmates too. S0 I guess we're all friends! Hugs are still much better though.

This morning I went to Valda's house to study German with her and Janet. After a lovely breakfast of toast, baked beans, and orange juice, we moved on to a cup of tea. We talked about German for a while. Then Janet pulled out her nail polish to paint her toes, and I had brought mine too as chance would have it, so Valda pulled out hers and we sat painting our toe nails and visiting. Then...I think we might have discussed german a bit more while Janet did her make-up...oh! we did! I distinctly remember discussing bi-lingual weddings. By then it was after 12, and since we'd had such a productive morning, we called it quits and i went home to answer more job emails.

I have to go make a salad for tomorrow. Laters!

Friday, April 18, 2008

I'm going to IKEA! Hence the early post

My Au Pair job search is going tremendously well. So well, in fact, that I have spent most of the day writing and responding to emails and I haven’t done hardly a thing on my homework, which is a problem. Imagine if all job hunts were so fruitful! When I was looking for jobs in 2005 I had almost 20 different applications out at one point, and had only had 2 interviews which didn’t result in jobs. I thought I must be doing something completely wrong in the way I was presenting myself, so I went and had a consultation and mock interview with the career center at my Alma Mater, and he said nope! My interviewing skills were fine, my resume looked good, and 20% was a reasonable level of response in that job market. Well! I have had my profile up for au pair positions for barely 24 hours and I’ve had a flood of responses, which is very encouraging. And they seem like nice families, too. I hope one of the options works out to everyone’s satisfaction.

But about my homework… I am committed to finishing three papers before next weekend…so hold me to that! Ask me if I’m working on them!! I need to write one on Governance and the role of non-state actors…I’m thinking we’ll look at NGOs; one on Civil Society, and I’m thinking arms trade networks in refugee camps will be the subject; and one on something having to do with International Conflict and Globalization (I’ll probably spring board off the arms trade thing). So there you have it! My work is cut out for me! And all this has to get done despite my pilgrimage to IKEA tonight with the girls, my German study/running session tomorrow morning, and my b-day party after church on Sunday. A little pressure helps get things done, though.

I have been eyeing my birthday box my parents sent me. I’m not allowed to open it yet, but it rattles like Mac and Cheese! I was kinda hoping it might rattle like an ipod, but I’m holding out the possibility that the macaroni and cheese could be the clever disguise… :) I have already concluded it definitely doesn't rattle like a kitten. (But happy birthday to my cat Tinkerbelle too! I've had her 12 years this weekend!)

Cute babies! NON-IMBC

Meet the newest members of the family, Alfred and Millie! Alfred's on the right, with more yellow. They're Brian's babies. I asked him where's he's going to keep them, and he says "In my bedroom, of course!"

Of course. Silly me.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Presidential candidates and Au Pair ambitions

Hey, did you read about the prisoner in Texas who paid the $1000 registration fee to get his name on the primaries ballot in Idaho?

He’s running as a Democrat, against Clinton and Obama. It’s the only state he’s managed to get in on, and Idaho is a bit embarrassed about the whole thing. I don’t really think they need to feel bad about it. He can’t possibly gain any traction, particularly in Idaho, and I think it's kinda amusing.

Apparently he ran as a write-in candidate once before, but nobody voted for him. I ran as a write-in candidate last year. Not for president (I'm not old enough yet), but for some local stuff. I wouldn’t have thought of it on my own, but my friend Davorin informed me that he had written my name in for the Tualitin Valley Watershed Conservation Commission(or something like that), and once I got looking at it, I thought it would be fun to be on the commission. There were no other candidates anyway. I managed to round up close to 25 votes just in the first day! All my family promised to vote for me, and a bunch of people at work said they would too. After the election I didn’t hear anything about it though, so I figured I must have lost. THEN I went to dinner at Emily’s house and met the head of the Democratic party for Oregon and she got super excited that I had tried to get elected as a write-in, and promised to look into what had happened with that position. It turned out I’d lost to some guy who had about 150 votes. At the rate I was going, if I’d had just one more week to drum up support, I could have had that election in my pocket! And think how good that might have been for my resume too. Plus, I would have been good at it.

Speaking of jobs…I had a brilliant idea today. If I become a live-in Au Pair for the summer, I can eliminate rent and acquire a paycheck in one fell swoop! And furthermore, the agency I signed up with (oh yes! I’ve been hard at work on this!) also suggests/requires families to help pay for language courses. I’m looking for families locally especially, but even if I ended up in Zürich for a couple months that would be ok. An interesting change of scenery, in fact. I have so far, recieved a grand total of one rejection and one interested response.--oh! make that two. I just got another one. :)

Ciao Ciao!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Betcha can't guess what I'm doing

I am sitting on the stairs enjoying a suped-up grocery store pizza with pop (healthy, huh!?) and listening to a strange radio playlist. In the short time I've been sitting here, I've heard Kenny Rogers "Coward of the County," and Eric Clapton "Tears in Heaven," and on this same radio station I often hear Simon and Garfunkle, the Beatles, and Mariah Carey, plus a few German songs thrown in for fun. I'm always interested in the music that's playing when I'm out shopping. The best music variety in town seems to be at the Denner near the university. I've heard everything from Shania Twain to the Beach Boys, to whoever it is that sings "Hey There Delilah" song.

My literature presentation went well this evening. I had to reprint my handouts cuz I found typos, as I said. I was going to ignore them since they were so minor, but then I found I had used "it's" instead of "its," and you just can't distribute that kind of mistake in a literature class. Especially when you're the only native English speaker in the group (teacher not excepted). So in between my Konflikte class and my African American studies lecture I ran across the street to the printer. For some reason there is still a bundle of mistletoe hanging over the door to the Sociologie department and just as I got there there was a group of students coming out, and a guy tried to stay in the doorway under the mistletoe while the girls pushed past him. He wasn't very succesful, but it made me laugh and reminded me of when I was living at GFU and a couple guys taped mistletoe to the bills of their hats at Christmas. I don't think they were very successful either.

In April I always think of what I was doing a couple years back at this time. Three years ago I was working in Special Education (the juvenile delinquent version) in Forest Grove and going home with bruises and daily appreciation for parents who were nice to me when I was a kid (and they're still nice to me!). Two years ago I was doing technical writing and my GPs gave me a big ol' bottle of Malt liquor for the big birthday (which I regifted to Brian this year). Jessica and Christi and I went to Canada in May that year to Celebrate Christi's graduation and my birthday. And one year ago, I was still working at GV and I got to go to Las Vegas with work! By day, I manned a booth at the trade show signing people up to see the nifty mp4 compressor chip, and when the VIPs weren't using all the town cars, I had a driver carting me from hotel to show and back again. He'd bypass the long taxi lines to let me out and say, "ok, Stephanie, take your time, and I'll just circle and I'll be right here when you come back out." That is the way to travel. :) Val came and stayed with me at the Venetian and we spent the evenings being tourists together.
And this year I'm in Switzerland! Lots of changes in the last few years!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Just in time!

Hi! Am I ever a lucky duck. I almost totally forgot about my little daily blog committment. I DID forget, in fact, until about 15 minutes ago, when I was on the tram thinking how nice it would be to go straight home and drop into bed when I suddenly remembered I still had a blog to write! So here I am, on my basement stairs, 19 minutes and counting as I type.

Well! The big news of the day is that I have a presentation tomorrow, and I was done--ready and printing my handouts this evening a full 23 hours before my class! I just thought you'd all like to know that. I mean, that right there is not only a life accomplishment in non-procrastination, but a fine display of responsible, self-sufficient behavior too. I was quite pleased about it. Unfortunately, on my way home I was looking over my handout and I found a typo (bad case of subject/verb disagreement) and two of my bullet points didn't have a space between them like the rest of them do. So...I might redo them. Or I might not. It'll depend on what time I get up in the morning, I guess. :)

My other news is that there are two possibilities on the housing front. Two different friends from church have each said that their respective flatmates are going elsewhere late summer or early fall, and they're looking for someone. I'm checking into the financing of this, but I am encouraged at having the option, and I would really enjoy living with either of them. But some income in the near future would be a big help--whether through a scholarship or a job. So, please pray that God would provide there. My good friend Anne tells me this is where I'm supposed to be, and I tend to think she's right, after all the twists and turns and unexpected provisions that have brought me here. So I'm not anxious. Just not real sure where the income will come from at this point... :)

The other great development from this evening is that a friend offered to host a birthday lunch for me at her place on Sunday afternoon, and I'm looking forward to that! Aren't friends great?! I hadn't planned anything for my birthday because there have been about a billion other birthdays this month and I thought everyone would be birthdayed out, plus my place is so far out of the way it would be a pain for everyone to come. So to have a nice lunch in town, when we often eat lunch together anyway, will be perfect.

Ok, I have to post this or I'll miss my deadline. I think I've written 300 words...I hope so.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Bound to be a bum

Hi! I have bad news. It's only sort of bad actually. Not really all that tragic, but it does throw a wrench in my best-laid plans. I had two brilliant plans cooking, as you probably have picked up in recent posts. One was a great scheme to remedy my current joblessness and the other is about my living accommodations.

First the jobs. It looks as though hotdog verkauferin's around here have to speak German, which pretty much eliminates that career from my near future. I am, however, applying in general to Adecco and perhaps they will need an English speaker for something soon. (I think monolingualism should be considered a handicap eligible for disabled-person benefits). I called the Adecco office in Hillsboro to see if they could just sorta forward all my information over to the Switzerland office, or "re-activate" me in this region, but their databases are by country and I have to reapply in Switzerland as a new hire. How inconvenient!
As far as other job leads go, professional fishing guide is not looking promising, but I did apply today to be an English conversation partner, and I emailed my prof to find out what the scoop is on this nebulous editing position. So that's jobs.

Housing is the other issue at hand. The place I thought I was going to move to has fallen through, so I'm back on the hunt again, looking for someplace cheaper and closer to school, and where I can have guests more freely. This isn't an urgent need, since obviously I have a place to live right now and I'm not being forced to leave. But I did kinda give notice...or strong indication anyway that I would be making my exit sometime around July. And although it's tempting now to change my mind (since I don't have anywhere lined up), all the reasons for wanting to move are still there, so I think I'm going to stick with that plan and find someplace to go.

If all else fails on both the job and the housing hunts, it's like I've been saying for years: being a bum really isn't that bad. It's all about choosing the right street corner. And, I'd say now that I'm in the land of trains and trams, becoming a hobo--the romantic version of bumhood--is a real possibility.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

And tomorrow's Monday

It’s the end of a busy weekend. I never get as much done as I think I will be able to. Everything takes a little longer than planned, or I’m a little more tired than I thought I would be and don’t have the energy to finish it all. Welcome the adulthood, right? Still, I had a good weekend and I did get some good work done.

I am busily preparing for my literature presentation on Wednesday on that book I mentioned (Decolonizing the Mind). All the readings in that class up until now have been fiction or literary non-fiction (Green Hills of Africa, for example, and a great book, by the way. I’d recommend it). I rather shortsightedly volunteered to present this book which is collection of fairly complex essays on the subject of language and colonialism, with fairly biting commentary on all things English or Euro-American. On the up-side, I don’t have to work too hard to come up with discussion points. I can just say, for instance, “what do you think of his claim that ‘the quest for relevance and for a correct perspective can only be understood and be meaningfully resolved within the context of the general struggle against imperialism’?” or “do you think he makes a reasonable argument that ‘education, far from giving people the confidence in their ability and capacities to overcome obstacles or to become masters of the laws governing external nature as human beings, tends to make them feel their inadequacies, their weaknesses and their incapacities in the face of reality; and their inability to do anything about the conditions governing their lives’?” And presto! 20 minutes of discussion, just like that.
But I do actually still have quite a bit left to do on my presentation (like, almost everything) so don’t distract me in the next 24 hours or so!

Janet’s baroque concert/dance was very interesting! Lots of very good musicians, and I’m always partial to strings anyway almost no matter what style they’re playing. The dance was interesting and complex. Janet says baroque dance was a precursor to ballet, and I can see the similarities in the steps and arm movements. There was also a dance that reminded me very much of English country dancing (if you don’t know what that looks like, you can watch it on youtube), but the same dance reminded Stephan of the Macarena. We went out to Indian food afterward with Stephan's mom and her friend, had tea at Stephan's and I finally got home at a little after midnight! I was up at 7 today to call Oregon, so I'm a bit sleepy.

At Stephan's house I spotted a book that I had been reading at Diana's house last week. I had only gotten about 5 pages in (I kept getting interrupted to sing happy birthday, eat some cake, be social) but apparently Diana has finished it (it's actually Josh's), and now so has Stephan. It is currently in my possession, and I'll read it fast, in bits and pieces between my mandatory reading. The way people pass around books and house keys's something else.

Guest Wycliff Speaker at church today and a tasty pasta lunch afterward…fun times! gotta go! 'night.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

busy busy busy

Hi Friends. Happy Saturday to you. The terrible thing about being in school is that you end up with nothing interesting to talk about other than homework. I was planning to have a picture drawn today to post (hey--50 free points for the blogging contest, you know!), but I haven't had time to do it yet. I've been doing homework, as I said.

We are getting close to finishing our Basel "StadtSafari" walking tour, so if you live in the area, make sure you sign up for a tour! We have 6 or so stations with lots of interesting, little known facts (and a good deal of historical interpretation)about Basel and Africa and their interactions for the last couple hundred years. If you don't live in the area...well...tough luck. I signed up for this class because I thought it would be a great practical "applied history" sort of class, and a way to learn about presenting historical research to an average public audience. It has indeed been very practical, and while I think I would have enjoyed it more if I was working in an English archive, with English-speaking sponsors and an English-speaking press to pitch the project to, I have learned about how to put a tour together. It would be fun to design something like this for Portland or Forest Grove sometime! I was thinking, for instance, that it would be a great application
course at the undergraduate or even community college level. And I think I know the perfect person to teach the class! :)

This evening I am going to Janet's concert/dance thing. I'm not exactly sure if it's a concert or a dance, or both, but I hear rumor she'll be wearing a very puffy, very pink dress, and that is entertainment enough to entice me to go!

I went for a trot up the hill today and met a very nice older lady and her dog on the way back down. I have passed her several times when I'm out running. Today she said something in German and when I confessed that I don't, in fact, speak German, she said, well what do you speak then? And it turns out she speaks perfectly good English. So we walked the rest of the way home together stopping to wait for her slow-poke little dog every now and then and talking about our pets, our travels, and our respective afternoon plans.

'fraid that's all my news! Have a great day!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Gad about? not me.

I got so caught up with my evening activities that I very nearly forgot to write a post! I started out doing homework at about 8 pm, and very shortly remembered that P. Harries had posted an Obama speech on the class website that he wanted us to read. It was his speech on race (from last month? Not sure). Well, then I wanted to see some responses to it, so I watched some Hardball with Chris Matthews clips, and then a Huckabee interview and before I knew it, it was nine thirty, homework wasn’t happening, and I was feeling much more caught up on the election news! Quite the social butterfly, hmm? Sitting at home watching election news on a Friday night. I need to make more local friends...all my current friends live too far away. A half hour at the very closest, in fact, and most are about 45min to an hour away, and while that’s bad enough when one has a car, it seems an even more impossible distance if you have to watch tram/train times too.

So bviously, I need to make some new friends, preferably who live within walking distance or not more than 3 tram stops away. I have not developed a full fledged strategy for this, but I’ll work on it.

Today I spent a couple hours planning our Italy/France trip, and I am (finally!) getting excited about going! Our itinerary is shaping up like this: Ashley will arrive and spend the next day in Basel mostly on her own while I’m in school. Then we’ll have one full day for local Switzerland tourism. The next day we’ll fly from Basel to Rome for a pretty penny, but we’ll get there fast. Spend 2.5 days there, then head up to Venice for a couple three days. Then fly to Paris for a mere $80 (you can’t fly from PDX to Seattle for that!). Spend about three days in Paris and maybe take a day trip to someplace not Paris but still France, and then back to Basel. Does that sound fun, or what? I’m only missing a mere 3 days of school for this adventure, too, and don’t worry, I have been planning all semester for that time away, so all my work is in order and under control (that’s mostly a note for the parental units and the GPs who might be wondering).

Ok. I’m going to go read in bed now. The evening reading choices are: Christianity Reborn: the global expansion of evangelicalism in the Twentieth Century; or Africa and the International System: the politics of State Survival; or Religious Militancy and Self-Assertion.

I TOLD you I need more friends!!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Is selling hotdogs in my future?

Hello!! Man, I have had a good day! It poured all day—poured! We’re not talking the kind of rain where you can run in between the drops and stay dry. Nope, we’ve had a delightful, soaking spring rain most of today and yesterday too, and all the colors are vibrant and the air smells sweet. I love it.

Time flies when you’re studying and have a lot to do. I got a lot done, but not everything I had hoped.I am working on lining up some work for myself for the summer. I will most likely be monitoring some Cambridge English exams in June (“invigilating,” as the Brits say. Isn’t that a weird word?). I am also applying to work for Adecco at the Euro2008 football festivities that will be taking place here in Basel. Championships or something like that…anyway, the job is catering/food service essentially for VIPs.

Now, as you know, there are a lot of hazards to living in a foreign country, not the least of which is the chance that your friends will take your requests for language help as a chance to poke fun at you.

I found the Adecco job posting online earlier, and I was working on a nice application letter, mostly in English, but I was going to open and close in German for good measure, and I needed a little help.

“hey, really quick, what do you say when you're starting a business letter to a woman? sehr something something something?
“ ‚Sehr Geehrte Frau…..’ That one?"
"yeah, that one. Danke“
"ok, now how do you close a business letter? I need to say something REAL nice...but not too nice..."
"Ich liebe diese Arbeit und will einmal professionelle HotDog Verkäuferin werden"

Fortunately I can read some German...enough to know that means something like "I love this work and I want to be a professional hotdog saleswoman again"!

I told him he was no help whatsoever, and he tried to insist that that would do the trick, and I’d thank him later.

Adecco requests a photo with the application, so I’ve been weighing my options. I’m thinking this might be a good one, and it’s not too old--Just last summer…what do you think? I think it really shows that I'd be a good hire.

I also may be working at the African Studies department editing a collection of conference papers for publication. That would actually be interesting and fun! I love editing, and it’s a bit better for my resume than selling hotdogs, I guess. But I bet I’d end up with great stories if I worked the tournament! I will keep you posted…

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Who's writing this post anyway?!

I've been waiting for a stroke of genius or at least inspiration, but no luck so far and it is 9:40 so I thought I'd better just get on with it.

First, I need to correct a mistake from two posts ago in my handout. For some silly reason I was thinking about Chinua Achebe and put his name in my handout when I actually meant Ngugi Wa Thiong'o, and his book Decolonizing the Mind: the politics of language in African literature. I wouldn't have noticed either except I was telling Chantelle about the book, and I said the author is Kikuyu, and she said no, Achebe is Nigerian. And indeed he is. :) Chalk it up to not enough sleep. Once in college, I read the wrong book for class and wrote a book review on it and everything and didn't notice that I was a century out of step with the lectures! Fortunately I had an understanding teacher who knew my schedule. Anyway, I stand corrected, and I hope you haven't asserted anything incorrect about Achebe to anyone because of the mix-up.

So--now that I'm on my weekend...what am I going to do with myself, you may ask. For starters, I'll be writing a presentation on the afore-mentioned book and working on translations and supplementary reading for my 2 german classes. Then I have a stack of homework you wouldn't believe. I will also be finalizing my travel plans for next month, which, after some waffling on our parts, are now relatively certainly almost for sure virtually without a doubt going to happen.

I am quite short on things to say, I'm afraid. I have plenty on my mind, but not much of it is sharable. Gregg is giving me ideas for topics. He says I could debate the merits of white vs. wheat bread, or take up the chicken or the egg mystery. Or I could just talk about the topic of the day, which is "How would your favorite fictional character write your post?" Hmmm...good question. How would Emma Woodhouse write my post? (I am perfectly aware that it's really girly to like Jane Austen, and I really shouldn't like her on principle, if nothing else. But it's the only girly thing I do, so just indulge me on this one point). First, as Gregg pointed out, she'd be rather surprised at all this technology, and she might be hard pressed to get a post in on time what with the learning curve and all. But she's a pretty sharp cookie, quite independent, and rather concerned with appearances, so I'm confident She'd figure out the technology (and she wouldn't ask for help in the process). If anyone asked if she was going to make her deadline, she'd say, very cooly, "I never pay any attention to the internet!" And then once the person was out of sight, she'd whip out her laptop and finish pounding out her post, which would undboubtedly be something about the charming local men (if there were any to talk about), the "elegant" other young women (won't mention any names, since elegant is Emma's Euphemism for "insufferable") and her current benevolent projects (which are sometimes interpreted as meddling in other people's lives).

Lucky for you, Emma isn't writing this post!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

No more presentations for one week!

Our presentation went off quite well. I opened up with the lovely theoretical groundwork you all read about in my handout, the political and social circumstances of the 1930s and '40s which were the backdrop for Bantu Education, and a nice comment on the erroneous tendency to over-simplify history and see Bantu Education as a fairly simple, "whites wanted to suppress blacks" sort of story. My professor was quite pleased with my cautionary tone and stopped me to make sure no one had missed the point. At Fox, Paul Otto used to talk about historians as either "lumpers or splitters," largely depending on their personality and particular political and ideological persuasions. I tend to be a splitter by nature, prone to see differences and subtleties. My teacher is also a splitter, so we get along quite well in that case and can have a good rousing discussion about all the fine points of the various ideological factors present and influencing a person's decision. It's splendid history! I finished up my part, and was only told to talk slower 2 times, and then my partner, ES, did a very nice job of illustrating how Bantu education was actually implemented, the opposition, the financial problems that emerged, and so forth.

I really enjoy ES. She isn't a historian, but actually works with the Tropical Institute and her specialty areas are HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis. She worked in Afghanistan from 1996-2001, and she is wonderful to talk to. We know each other from church, besides this class. She's from the Netherlands, and grew up in the Dutch Reformed Church, which as you may or may not know was tightly linked to Apartheid in South Africa. For her, reading this history is particularly personal because of that. We had a long chat over lunch about how we approach our work as Christians--her working with HIV/AIDS, studying the social stigma attached and whether that influences people to not seek treatment, thinking about how it affects the churches in Africa, and how our churches elsewhere in the world should respond to the needs.

And of course, good history includes looking very closely at the beliefs and circumstances that moved people to action as well as the results of those actions. In African history, the churches and missionaries played a prominent role almost everywhere, both for good and bad. For any historian, the challenge is to portray historical people with a fair, critical eye--trying to account for their varied influences and neither romanticizing nor blackening them in the process. But for Christian historians, looking at Christians in history, I think there's an added dimension too. We think about what the past says about loving our neighbors. We think about the fact that those people tried to be faithful. They wrestled with ideas and circumstances, and for the most part were making decisions they believed to be best. But how limited our vision is as we go about our lives! If they had had any idea how history would criticize them, I venture to guess they would have done things different. So Christian historians have greater than average reason to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Presentation tomorrow...

So, again, cutting it very close. I have been mostly hard at work on my presentation for tomorrow morning. I don't really like presentations. At least with papers, I know when I'm done, but with presentations I tend to fret and study and read right up until time to give it even if I'm already pretty well-prepared. It's no fun. But since I still have a bibliography to fine-tune, today's post goal is to stay in the competition. And besides that, people are always asking me what exactly it is I do or study and why it matters. Well, here is your chance to find out. You always wanted to know about Bantu Education in Apartheid, 1948-1968, right? (oh, and my mother just emailed me to remind me to post a blog...thanks mom!).

I bring presentation handout. Let me know if you want my bibliography too for further reading! (how many comments do you think I'll get on this post? I predict 0).

Bantu Education 1948 – 1968

Bantu Education was the expression given to apartheid policy in the field of schooling.

Overview of most important events

• 1949 – 1951: Eiselen Commission
• 1953: Bantu Education Act:
• 1959: Extension of University Education Act
• 1963: Coloured Persons Education Act
• 1965: Indian Education Act
The implementation of the Bantu Education Act started fully in 1955.

Key issues
Eiselen Commission and Report
• Headed by Dr. W.M. Eiselen—trained Linguist and Anthropologist; also influenced by ideals of the Berlin Mission Society. An important thinker for the National Party.
• Enquiry into the “the formulation of the principles and aims of education for Natives as an independent race.” (Horell, p.136).
• Eiselen report interpreted several ways by historians: 1) a pragmatic attempt to deal with current political circumstances by directing Africans to their “own” areas to develop their own cultures, and at their own pace; 2) aimed at overhauling the inefficient Mission-dominated system in place; 3) designing education system to force Africans to supply labor for industry.

Bantu Education Act, 1953
• Extended education to a greater number of of black students
• Restructured education tracks to emphasize trades and technical skills
• Government control over curriculum, tests, etc; more community involvement in school administration

Initial Implications for the Schools:
• Intense financial burdens forced many mission schools to close
• Moved expenditure on black education: costs largely carried by black population
• Inadequate level of material provision and reduced quality (accommodation, material, maintenance, overcrowding classes, lack of teachers, experienced teachers left etc.) – up to 60 children per class, double sessions.
• Problems exacerbated by huge growth in black population

Discussion points
1. How persuasive do you find the various historical interpretations of the goals of Bantu Education? (key historical arguments summarized below)
a.Intended to ease labour demands in industry (Marxist vision)
b.More ideologically, concerned that the mission schools were providing the wrong kind of education for blacks—a sort that was instilling unrealistic expectations (Liberal vision)
c.Primarily concerned with improving efficiency in the schools and in governance

2. What was (or were) underlying reason(s) for closing of the mission schools (e.g. finances, quality, underlying denominational disputes, rise of nationalistic policy, starting spirit of revolution among black students (e.g. 1946 Lovedale).

3. How did the rhetoric of apartheid education line up with its implementation within the political and economic constraints of the time?

4. In other contexts at this same time, mother tongue instruction was seen as the best route to education. (Chinua Achebe, for example, writes acerbically in the 60s and 70s about English being imposed on children in Kenya and criticized the missions for not using mother-tongue instruction.) Why was it seen differently in South Africa?

5. What were the complicated factors of Bantu education for teachers?

6. Are there positive points to mention about Bantu Education (for instance, can you justify it because it extended education to more people?) (e.g. stabilising the educational system)

Sunday, April 6, 2008

The fishing plans continue...

Mark Twain once said “Switzerland is simply a large, lumpy, solid rock with a thick skin of grass stretched over it.”

I missed church today due to a sore throat and a lazy alarm clock. I probably would have sucked it up and gone despite not feeling well because I look forward to Sundays so much, but I woke up too late to catch my tram so I decided maybe it was best to stay home and finish getting well.

The problem with this daily blogging bit is I really don’t have that much that’s interesting to say. Plus, anything I say will be old news to some of you.

I suppose I should update you on the status of my fishing plans. Bryan went fishing yesterday in Oregon and that only added to my annual spring itch to fish. I’ve been researching my prospects, and it looks like fishing is an under appreciated pastime here. Fly fishing is somewhat popular, at least among expats. There isn’t much fishing in the Basel area, but there are a number of guide services who fish trout and carp near either Zurich or Geneva. Geneva is too far, but I could go to Zurich. Of course I’m not going to pay for a guide—I’m only interested in them for info on where they fish. I couldn’t believe how much the guides charge! 350 for one day, or almost 1000 francs for 3 days of fishing! Clearly, I have been looking for work in the wrong sector.

My roommate in college sold bear tours on the spit in Homer, Alaska, and I always thought that was a pretty cool job. She also worked on the commercial fishing boats in the summer, which is different than guiding, but I’ve heard it on good report that in general, girl fishing guides do quite well profiting off the novelty factor.

The only glitch in this is that I don’t know how to fly fish, and I really don’t know much about fishing of any sort. I have been handicapped thus far by going with people who do all the work for me. I bring the sandwiches and they bring all the fishing stuff, help me set up my pole, I bait my own hook (I have some pride, you know), they tell me which rock to stand on and where to drop my line, and when I catch a fish, they pack it out for me. So basically, I’ve been benefitting from my own personal guide service all along and haven’t learned squat about fishing on my own. It’s been this way ever since I started fishing with dad and the boys.

While this is generally an excellent system (as evidenced by the photo), it would be the first thing that would have to change if I’m going to cash in on the fishing guide business. In the mean time, I’m thinking my best bet is to make friends with someone who would teach me fly fishing out of the goodness of his or her heart. And I’ll happily pack sandwiches. That's plan A. Plan B is to buy a normal fishing pole and tackle and fish for trout that way, which I've done plenty of times and could manage even on my own. There is also some possibility that my normal fishing "guide" Davorin will be passing through CH in the near future and will let me tag along on a fishing trip, and that would be the most fun scenario!

Alrighty. I’m off to finish writing my presentation. Ciao.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Hemingway and Surprise Parties

Well, I’m cutting it a bit close this evening, so you’re not getting anything other than the straight stuff today. This essay is called “What I did on my Saturday vacation.” First, I slept in. WAY in. It was barely morning when I got up. Oh, but I should back up. Early in the morning (and I mean VERY early in the morning) I was still at Diana’s house up in Deutschland. I’m sure you have been wondering all day what possessed me to bake biscotti yesterday, and what I wasn’t able to tell you then was that I was going to a surprise party for Janet! Hence the biscotti. Janet turns 20-something on Monday, and Stephan organized a great party in about 4 days flat. That’s pretty quick in surprise party time. I mean, you have location, alibi, food, dessert, flowers, guests, transportation, drinks, music to think about. That can all take considerable leg work, but we pitched in and by the time Stephan and Janet showed up at Diana’s for their supposed dinner for three, all the food was hidden in ovens and cupboards and behind chairs, and the other 14 of us were twittering in the back bedroom, camera’s poised. Janet was sent to “go let the dog out of the bedroom” and was (we think) genuinely surprised (but you never can tell. I mean, would she really say if she hadn’t been?). That was at about 7 pm or 7:15. By 1:05 am I was hopping a tram in Switzerland back to my house, and shortly thereafter I was checking my eyelids for holes, as is my custom every evening. I mention all this to explain why I slept in this morning. I think you can see why I needed too. Oh, and I’m a tad sick too.

After ascertaining that my eyelids were in sound condition, I got up, and it’s been a fairly average day ever since. I went for a run/walk (all my runs are run/walks these days. It’s pathetic, really. I need to go more often). I tried a new wanderweg today (that’s “hiking trail”, for you Anglophones) and it was pretty nice. Steep and long, but just about right. I walked almost all the way to the next town and back, and that took me about an hour, clipping along at a pretty quick pace.

(look at that! I’m over my daily word requirement, and I haven’t even said anything interesting yet).

I am reading Hemingway’s Green Hills of Africa for my literature class, and I’m surprised at how much I’m enjoying it. It’s about hunting, and not just about hunting, but I mean it is one long hunting story. You know those guys (and some girls) that go hunting for weeks on end, and they can talk almost that long about each hill they scaled and every cow, bull, or calf they saw? That’s Green Hills of Africa. It’s all about his big game hunting trip on the East side of the continent in 1933. But it’s Hemingway, and so it’s about the most enjoyable hunting story I’ve ever heard. I’m 140 pages in (half way), and still liking it. His wife was out there with the hunting party too, and I like the way he talks about her and her interactions with the guys in the party. He and his guide said she was “marvelous. She’s like a little terrier out there.” But she “disliked intensely being compared to a little terrier. If she must be like any dog, and she did not wish to be, she would prefer a wolfhound, something lean, racy, long-legged and ornamental.” She must have been cool—out there hunting rhinos and what not in the 30s. I was also rather pleased to read that Hemingway was reading Tolstoy’s book The Cossacks while on that trip, and he thought it was very good. I read it over the summer, and I really enjoyed it, although I actually think I didn’t get to the end because I was moving. I will have to re-read it. So there we are: two good book recommendations and a daily blog, and you’ll be pleased to know I wrote this entire thing in under 30 minutes. That’s fast. :)

Friday, April 4, 2008

Soda vs. Pop vs. Coke

If you read my comments section on the last post, you might have noticed I said "sodas." I only realized it after I had published the post. This just illustrates what I've been saying all along: living away from the Great Northwest is affecting my English. We don't say sodas where I come from. We say "pop," generally, but not very many people here say that. My British friend teased me about it last time I said I was "going to buy a pop." I actually came across the following US map a few months ago that shows the county distribution of the different words used to describe carbonated drinks.

I'm not sure how accurate it is, but it's interesting at least, and it seems like it's probably accurate for the part of Northwest Oregon where I'm from, and I see that in Mississippi nobody says Pop, which would explain the waitress' response when I tried to order one last summer. She laughed and said "Pop! honey, I hav't herd that in a Laawngg time!"

So, what do they say in your neck of the woods? Can you corroborate any of the other states' usage? I'm particularly interested in what you east coasters have to say about it.

Speaking of interesting regional language varieties, wikipedia has lots on the subject. Just type in American English.

Some of it's hard to understand if you don't have some basic linguistic vocabulary knowledge, but the section on English words that went out of style in Britain but survived in the United States is quite interesting. For instance, did you know that faucet, diaper, candy, eyeglasses, skillet, and crib are all Americanisms? One of the most interesting ones, I think, is the use of gotten as the past participle of got. I say that, but not consistently, and I always thought it was just really bad grammar and I couldn't imagine where I had picked up such a construction! Turns out it's just an archaic usage that has survived in my part of the country. Wikipedia doesn't say a whole lot on that one, but if you ever want to read a great book on the development of the English Language world wide, I would recommend The Story of English, by Robert McCrum, et al. I also hear that Bill Bryson's book on the history of English is quite interesting and easy reading.

Well, friends, there you have it: my daily post. I am currently making chocolate-dipped orange biscotti, fending off the flu which I can feel is crouched and waiting to pounce on me, and writing an outline of my upcoming presentation on Bantu Education in South Africa between 1948 and 1968. Ta Ta! Have a good day and I shall speak to you all tomorrow!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

I have started out on a campaign to reduce my weekly grocery bills. I am currently spending between 35 and 45 francs a week on food if I don’t eat out (and more if I don’t take food with me to school and have to buy it there), but I hadn’t kept close track of exactly what it is I’m buying each week. So, since I do my grocery shopping on Thursdays generally, and it is the first Thursday of the month, today seemed like as good a day as any to baseline the situation.

I started with a nice meal plan for the next 7 days, including 21 fairly balanced meals, some snacks, and provision for one batch of biscotti. I already have peanut butter, jelly, rice, cereal, flour, and pasta so those aren’t included in this week’s expenditures even though they sorta should count…I’m not really sure how people figure those sorts of things into weekly budgets. They last forever.

I went to the store and bought everything I’ll need for the week with the possible exception that I might buy more carrots midweek, and my grand total was 36.25—on the low end of my normal grocery bill, even though I bought meat and planned for a full 21 meals (I rarely eat that many meals each week and I almost never buy meat). So that’s a good baseline. It shows I can certainly eat for a whole week for that price. Now I’m thinking about how I can make it cheaper, but short of buying some chickens and growing my own vegetables, I’m not quite sure. I spent 5.20 on bread. I could reduce that by making biscuits each week…and I might be able to find someplace cheaper to buy vegetables and fruit. But about the chickens…I can’t remember exactly how much a dozen eggs cost at home, but 6 eggs cost me a whopping 2.70! And chickens lay them for FREE every day! I asked if we could get some chickens (the neighbors have some), but my land lady said only over her dead body. I’m guessing that also rules out the possibility of starting a fish farm or getting a pig or two. One salmon fillet at the store was 19.00 francs! Just think if we had our own swimming around. I wonder if I can get a fishing license here…that would be fun. I’d have to get a rod and tackle too, I guess, or I'll have to make some new friends. But I bet if I just got a couple things and a license…

I’ll look into it.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

sad news

Wednesday is my long day. Starting at 10 am with a lecture in German and ending at 6 pm with a literature seminar, I have back to back classes. They weren’t bad today. Didn’t understand much of the first one, but I’m pleased to report that I’m getting pretty efficient at taking notes in German off the overhead. This is tricky, you know, because I have to look at almost every word to learn how to spell it, and also write fast enough to get a whole slide copied down before he moves the next one, and all this while trying to listen enough to catch the drift of the lectures. Fortunately his sentences and his slides are peppered with country names, English quotes and phrases, and UN resolutions. These help me keep up with the topic sequence, if not the argument itself. But I am understanding full sentences and a paragraph here and there! When I don’t understand much of what I hear in a day, every paragraph I can follow feels like a first class accomplishment.

On a more serious subject, I’ll tell you what’s been on my mind all day:
Last night when I was poking around online I read on the George Fox website that Ben Hawkins, an acquaintance from school, was killed Sunday in an accident near Newberg. He and his wife hit some ice after a hail storm and slid off the road (but were ok). Another car came and slid on the same ice and hit Ben (the people in that car were also Fox alumni who attended while I was there). I didn’t know Ben very well, but he was a delightful person to chat with and good friends with many people I know. Last time I talked to him I had stopped by Chapters bookstore in Newberg, where he was working. He was getting married soon (or maybe just had) and was so cheerful telling me about her and their plans as he made my coffee. I’ve been sad today thinking about the people who will miss Ben for the rest of their lives. His wife, Rachel. His parents. His best friends. Sad for the couple in the other car, who will have a double burden of grief and guilt on their hearts. Please pray for them this week.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Blogging competitions and Bayesian Kriging

It’s day one of the blogging competition. I have been thinking about how to manage this so that it will be most interesting for you and me both. I’m sure you’re not interested in an hourly log of my daily activities (and neither do I care to write you one). I could tell you stories about my day, which is more or less the model I’ve used so far on my blog. I could write extensively and primarily about the optional “topic of the day” (part of the contest), but I can already tell you I will not have 3 let alone 300 words to say about some of the topics. For instance, if I'm not mistaken, today's topic of the day is "fonts," as in Times New Roman, etc. I don't know anything about fonts. I knew a guy in college, however, who was a Graphic Design major and he had an entire semester course on just fonts (!!) so apparently it is a large topic. Later, after college, I was looking at job openings at Hallmark and discovered that the person who writes the messages on greeting cards is not the same person who picks the font and designs the presentation of the message. Those are two separate positions. And neither of these is the person who comes up with the card concept in the first place. Except for a few trivia about the first movable type printing presses, that's really all I know about fonts. So clearly, some days I would find it difficult to write substantially on the topic of the day.

Alternatively, I thought about having themed days on one or two given days of the week—kind of like families that always, invariably have pizza on Saturday night. I could instate “Switzerland Saturdays,” for instance, and bring you an interesting weekly column relating to my country of residence (which would be appropriate on a blog that claims to be about my adventures here anyway). Other theme days options include sharing information from my classes and projects (Epidemiology Tuesday, or African Literature Wednesdays, or Refugee Thursdays). So, I am open to taking suggestions for regular weekly “column” days (I’ll do up to two a week), but they have to relate to something I’m doing and/or interested in. So don’t even bother suggesting stuff like baseball, economics, and underwater basket weaving. But anything that you think I might know something about (ha! That limits it right there!) and that you would like to know more about is fair game. You can post them on here, or tell me in some other way. Ok ‘nuff said.

Last night I went to my epidemiology lecture on the spatial patterns of infant mortality in Tanzania. Now, if you ever wondered how you would use a degree in statistics, epidemiology is a good application. For instance, yesterday’s presentation was a Master student’s project. The research team connected with the Swiss Tropical Institute took available information on infant mortality rates and demographic and socio-economic factors in certain limited clusters throughout the country and combined this info with environmental factors (soil types, distance from bodies of water, annual rainfall, etc.). They used Bayesian Geostatistical models to assess the infant mortality risk based on this information and then applied something called Bayesian kriging (more statistical stuff) to estimate infant mortality in the areas for which they don’t actually have data and to produce a smooth map showing the areas that have the highest risk. Governments and other health care organizations can use this information to focus their interventions on the areas that need it most in order to curb infant mortality. Interesting, hmm? I don’t understand Bayesian kriging one bit, but it looks like an interesting topic to read up on for you math-minded people. Here are some links: