Tuesday, December 15, 2009

South Africa Photos

As promised, a few pictures from my time in South Africa.First, my thatched-roof room in Midrand:

I was in the "Orange" room...can you tell?

Pizza night! Hanging out with the roommates. I don't have any pictures of Martin. He left after the first week and wasn't around much the week he was there.

On a walk with Schalk and Anthony. This is along the running route we normally took. Shortly after this they got tired of me taking pictures of trees and flowers and tried to confiscate my camera until we got home. It didn't work.

Schalk from South Africa on the left, Anthony from Zimbabwe on the right. We took these the night before Schalk left, despite his protests that he hates having his picture taken. Schalk is a farmer from near Bloemfontein, where his family has a 1000 head of cattle and run a game farm.

Anthony doesn't mind having his picture taken. He's also a very talented pen and ink artist. He had two great drawings there at the house, one of a crocodile's head and one of a lizard. We're going to do a drawing swap sometime this next year.

Some tourism:
Pretoria, from in front of the Union Buildings (Capitol buildings).
Union Building.

Voortrekker Monument. You can read more about the monument here

Flying in Helicopters:

If you look very closely, you'll see there's a bungee jumping platform between these two towers.

Flying over it at low levels is a great way to see the city, but I can't remember where this was. I think it was maybe Pretoria...could have been Johannesburg too though.

Joshua, doing his pre-flight routine.

Hartbeespoort Dam.

That's a R44 you're looking at there, folks.

Safari:Amanda and I enjoyed a drive through Pilanesberg National Park on Saturday. Here's just a few of the pictures from that excursion.

Monday, December 14, 2009

South Africa, Dubai, dahei...

I'm sitting in Dubai again, headed home. My first flight had half the world's population of professional rugby players on board...The Scotland team, the US team, the French team, the Russian team, the Portugal team, and a handful or so of guys from the New Zealand, British and Irish teams, just to name the ones I was aware of. Two things about the lot of them: first, in general rugby players have a lot going for them, but the Portugal team...they have a LOT a lot going for them. Second, Rugby players are humongous. They don't look so big on TV (hard to believe, I know, but I have in fact watched 2 Rugby games on TV since moving to Europe. That's a rate of one game per annum), but standing in a crowd of them, I felt extremely petite even though, as you know, around ordinary mortals I'm average size. And yet somehow, even with all those giants in Economy class, Steph got a bulkhead aisle seat. How fantastic is that! Best cheap seat on the whole airplane. The trade off was that my Paris-bound neighbor was obviously very sick with a fever. I hope I don't get that.

Saturday I went on a mini safari at a game park in the North West Province. We saw a lot of animals, and even though I had kind of thought, "see one rhino (or zebra or giraffe) and you've seen them all," I really enjoyed driving through the bush and finding animals that were out wandering about. It is nicer than the zoo. I'll put up some pictures when I get home.

Gotta go. More soon about my trip.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

9 days left and a bundle of nerves

I am officially nervous about my presentation on the 18th. I opened the email with the schedule a half hour ago and my stomach has been doing cartwheels ever since. Thankfully I'm scheduled in the afternoon and after Lukas' presentation; I hate going first. But still...! What am I going to say for fifteen minutes?! and there are a bunch of smarty pants people who are going to be there too, and I know they'll ask me long-winded, confusing questions that I hadn't thought of.

Not knowing what to say reminds me that Schalk and I were talking the other night about a TV program in South Africa that finds wives for farmers. His family says they're going to enter him as a contestant, and he can't think of anything worse. In the first round the farmer has five minutes to talk to each lady candidate. I thought that was pretty short, but he said, "jo, that's sooo long! What would I say?" Schalk was in residence at a boys school from the first grade. I think that might have something to do with it.

Joshua left yesterday for Phalaborwa and Schalk headed back to Bloemfontein today, so our fun little apartment is down to just two. I won't know what to do with myself when I go home and have nobody to throw gravel at me, put rocks in my hood when I'm on a walk, hide my drink, pull my chair out from under me as I'm sitting down, mess up my hair, point out "no pets allowed" signs and suggest I wait outside, or make jokes about my intelligence all day long.

Good thing Brian's coming soon!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Of Helicopters and Spring Boks

Just checking in quickly to say that things are going well here in South Africa. I just got back from a 1.5 hour helicopter ride with Joshua, one of the guys I'm staying with. That was my third flight since I've been here. I was warned ahead of time that the first ride in a helicopter can be a bit scary, so I was ready for it. But yesterday we took a Squirrel(I think that's it's real name?), a sort of medium sized one with room for 6 people, and I thought it was great. Didn't find it a bit scary. When I got home the guys asked me if I'd been in the something-something model (as if I'd know). I said it was silver. They said, "well, c'mon, what were its call letters?" Beats me, I said, so they showed me pictures of different choppers until I could identify it. That's the only reason I know it was a Squirrel. It was pretty cool to see Johannesburg from the air, including the World Cup stadiums that will be used next year, and famous former townships like Soweto.

This morning we took a smaller helicopter, which I think made it bumpier (or maybe it was cuz it was a student pilot?). I don't know what model it was either, but I can tell you it was blue. And there were no doors. I could have fallen right out of that thing! It took me a few minutes to relax, but once I did it was fun, even though as I was shivering in the back, the guys up front were like, "oh, it's so nice up here without the doors...what a nice breeze." We flew out over a dam which was beautiful and reminded me of Lake Como in Italy, except that the water was polluted. We went over some neighborhoods of HUGE houses with tennis courts and pools in their yards, and then over neighborhoods not far away that are run down, patched together shacks.

Then this afternoon, Joshua and I took an even smaller one north, past the dam and on to another airport. Joshua is a student pilot, too, and I was his second non-instructor passenger. Schalk, another roommate, was the first, and that was yesterday. I told him after we landed that for future passengers, he might want to edit the words, "Oh shit" out of his vocabulary while he's flying. As far as a non-pilot passenger knows, it could potentially mean anything from, "I should increase RPMs a little--but it's not a big deal" to "there's a Boeing descending and barreling straight toward us." He agreed I had a point.

Next week I hope to go to a game reserve to see some animals, and of course, I'll be busy tying up loose research ends and writing more of my thesis, perhaps doing some interviews, and hopefully finishing my presentation for African History day on the 18th.

Hope you all are well! See those of you in Switzerland in ten days.

(and p.s., mom, I just wanted to add that I checked with the main instructor before I flew with Josh to see if he thought it was a good idea, and he said it was perfectly fine. I just thought you'd appreciate that level of precaution.)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Spiderman 3

I'm supposed to be packing. Actually, I WAS packing, and then I remembered I was hungry and hadn't had dinner. So, I'm taking this culinary opportunity to tell you a story (and I still plan to be in bed in a half hour).

Yesterday my 12 year old neighbor kid came over for his weekly English lesson. That's going well--I enjoy our chats and he seems to. We're learning some really practical vocabulary and doing a lot of role play scenarios.

"Simon says put your socks on your ears."
"Simon says put your shoes on your hands."
"Simon says don't take your shoes off your hands, and put this stocking cap on your head."

See? Clearly useful. After that, we worked on understanding the song "Fun House" by Pink (yay for youtube! Very helpful teaching resource). He asked me how I watch TV at home, since I don't seem to have a TV. Well, I said, I don't watch much TV, but it just so happens I do have internet TV now and get the normal Swiss channels. I showed him how it works and he explained to me which channels he thinks are best. "oh, and this one--do you like movies?" he asked.
"Ok," he continued, very earnestly, "On Sunday night, at 20.15, this one is showing Spiderman III"


I think that's sweet.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


"Advent is concerned with that very connection between memory and hope which is so necessary to man. Advent’s intention is to awaken the most profound and basic emotional memory within us, namely, the memory of the God who became a child. This is a healing memory; it brings hope. The purpose of the Church’s year is continually to rehearse her great history of memories, to awaken the heart’s memory so that it can discern the star of hope." - Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger

Does it seem to you that there has been an uptick in recent years of Evangelicals observing Advent? I'm not sure if I'm just more aware now, or if everyone is a bit more aware. This time last year I saw this video put out by Advent Conspiracy, which as far as I can tell is a fairly loose organization that encourages people to give relationally, as Jesus did, and give financially toward real needs rather than needless stuff. I like the idea of what they're promoting. At its core, I think the point is not to spend less money on presents, but to spend Christmas celebrating again that Jesus' arrival was hope for the world, and to discern how we can convey that hope in our relationships and around the world. It's to worship with our whole lives, in our hearts, in our homes, with our money. It's not a new point, I know. This has been the point all along. But the reminder is good.

In the Advent Conspiracy 2009 video they suggest that spending less time combing the malls, sitting in traffic, worrying about money, attending parties, buying sweaters, running hither and yon gives more time to worship fully "the newborn king who came to earth and changed everything: history, power, humanity, intimacy, hope--everything."

I find that a stirring collection of words, because I spend my work days thinking about history that is often ugly (sometimes beautiful, too), power relationships that are fraught with injustice, humanity that is hurting and has been for centuries, intimacy that has been compromised, commodified, appropriated; and in all that, sometimes not a lot of hope. And yet I think Jesus did change those things and does bring hope. So, during the Advent weeks, as part of my own observation of advent, I want to think about how Christmas relates to each of those.

I'm curious what y'all think about Advent, and who observes it, who thinks it's an un-evangelical sort of holiday to recognize, who doesn't think about it, etc.

I've also decided that the occasional visit to the coffee shop is a good Advent activity. Today as I slurped a toffee nut latte and worked on a schedule, I was aware that the soundtrack was all about God with us, God who forgives our sins, and washes clean the hearts of men. It was a good cup of coffee.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


I think it's official. I suffer from Wanderlust. I noticed some time ago that I get a hankering to go somewhere every 2-6 months, but I realized this morning just how bad it really is when Rebekkah emailed Janet and me about our coffee date: "Where shall we meet, my lovelies? Starbucks? School? Paris?" And for the last 40 minutes, ever since "Paris" arrived in my inbox, I've been kicking around the idea of making the short train trip over there. It's really not very far--just three hours, I think. Why would I go, you ask? Why WOULDN'T I go?! And if you need a reason more specific than that, I can probably come up with one.

Paris will have to wait at least a month though, because on Sunday I'm headed for the Sunshine of South Africa to work on my MA research. Things I'm excited about for this trip are a)Early Summer! b)a Safari! c) seeing the country that I've had about a bazillion classes on in the last two years, and d)getting to know the family I've arranged to stay with; they are friends of friends, and seem like lovely people. I'm also looking forward to working on my project. It's now titled, "Damming the Olifants: Mining and Hydropolitics in the Limpopo Province." I'm working on the historical and political context of water rights/allocation and the Mining industry, and particularly the decision to build the De Hoop Dam and the currently contested proposal for the Richmond Dam. I hope I'll find the information I need! Planning a research trip is a new experience for me, and not like the days at Fox where Paul Southwick and I just trekked over to the Oregon Historical Society archives every Saturday for a few weeks. I'm sure I'll wish I'd prepared differently in some ways, but it's a first try, so I don't want to hear any tsk tsking if I make some mistakes or didn't anticipate fully everything I'd need. I am pleased to have four quality readers lined up already for my February draft review process! That's going to really make my paper better.

That's it for now. Go somewhere interesting! If not Paris, perhaps Pendleton. If South Africa is too far, maybe Southern Oregon. Life is more fun if you go somewhere!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Thesis Thoughts

Derek Gregory, on writing in the Social Sciences (and I'll add, the humanities):

"If, as these [critiques on Ethnocentrism, Sexism, Abstraction in social theory] imply, there is no privileged vantage point, no singular place of reflection, no unambiguous closure, no unitary logic, then how can we make the lives of other people intelligible to us--how can we bring them within the horizon of our own (limited) sensibilities and competencies--without in some way being invasive, colonizing, even violent? Yet surely we are not condemned, in imagination or in practice, to our own eccentric worlds? I can offer no answer to what Clifford calls this predicament of 'ethnographic modernity': perhaps all we can do, at present anyway, is to disclose our vulnerabilities and, as Spivak puts it, 'unlearn our privilege as our loss.' If so, then part of this deconstructive process will entail an examination of our textual strategies-and in particular a consideration of the duplicities of narrative and image--because it is through these modes of representation that many o f our most commonplace privileges are unthinkingly put in place. To put it as starkly as possible, the crisis of representation has once again brought the politics of social theory and the poetics of social inquiry into the same discursive space."

Now don't you wish that you too could spend your days reading about the Historical Geography of Modernity? ;)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

book review

My book review that I wrote last week is going to be published in the upcoming edition of the Schweizerische Gesellschaft für Afrikastudien newsletter. I'll try to remember to re-post a link in mid-December when it comes out, since I know you all won't want to miss THAT! :) It's my first publication with my name on it (although I did possibly covertly slip my name into illustrations I created for Grass Valley product user manuals. But I don't think that counts).

Saturday, November 7, 2009

How He Loves

My cousin made a reference to this song today on his facebook page, and it catapulted me into GFU nostalgia, not because I knew the song at Fox, but because it's the type of song that reminds me of chapel and green room. I miss chapel, and singing with 1000 people in the middle of my weekday morning!
But anyway, I'm reading Jerry Bridges' The Discipline of Grace on the trains and buses these days, which is essentially about what "the gospel" means for Christians...since Christians tend to sorta think you only need "the gospel" to become a Christian. I'm in the middle of a chapter about how Jesus stood as my representative not just in paying for my sin, but also in his ability to perfectly please the father, so that what Jesus did, I did, and the way the Father loved Jesus is the same way he loves me because he counts all of Jesus' goodness to me. This song puts the feeling of this grace nicely, I think.

We are His portion and He is our prize,
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes,
If grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.
Heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss,
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest,
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets,
When I think about, the way that
He loves us.

If you think big sloppy kisses are too sappy for such a serious thing as the gospel, well. Consider Isaiah:

I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

Weddings...sloppy wet kisses. same idea.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Rebekkah and her roommates hosted a Halloween party Saturday night. I didn't have time or supplies to make a very creative costume last week, and Saturday afternoon I was tied up writing a book review on Peace and Conflict in Africa (good book, by the way. I'd recommend it if you're interested in strategies for sustainable peace, or the integration of the liberal peace project and traditional endogenous conflict resolution mechanisms). In the last 10 minutes before running out the door, I quickly cut out a piece of cardboard, printed a sign, and packed some tape in my purse so that I could finish assembling my "Nudist on Strike" costume on the train on the way. Unfortunately, I didn't notice until I was at the party (and Janet pointed it out) that I had mistyped and I was a "nudist on stike." How very disappointing. And how very typical of me, too. Mistakes like this probably really undermine my claims to being a competent editor, and yet it seems I have an editor "hat" that functions quite well when it's on, and the absence of which is very evident when it's "off." Anyway. I added an R to my sign. You can kinda see it squeezed in there, written in pencil.

Valda being catty.
Richard and Rebekkah.

Speaking of editing, I finished my big PhD editing project last week, and I'm enjoying the freedom to prioritize my own projects again. By projects, I mostly mean my MA thesis, but yesterday I also finished the drawing I'd been working on, and I went to a GIGANTIC art store with Sue and Tim to look for framing stuff. I got a silver frame (that I think looks pretty nice!) and the materials I needed to frame it up myself, so it's finally ready to give to my friends! I got two other frames and mats as well, so that just as soon as I draw two more pictures, I can pop them in frames and (hopefully) trade them for some George Washingtons.

Duty calls! Gotta go! Love and miss you peeps at home.

Monday, November 2, 2009

50 years

Congratulations are in order for my lovely Grandparents, who celebrated 50 years of marriage Sunday!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Coming through

Hi friends! A very short post to say I haven't entirely abandoned my blog, and to tell you about the funny things a person might see in Switzerland. You know those bicycle bells that people use to alert slower travelers in front of them that they're coming through? Bells of this variety:

Last week on the bus I saw an old man with a bike bell like this one attached to his cane. His said "I Heart Switzerland."

Don't we all. :)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

work work work

As usual on the job front, when it rains, it pours. I've been busily working away at editing a PhD history thesis on gender in Namibia--thinking about things like the expansion and collapse of Oorlam socio-economic hegemony in Kaoko, and the implications of the raiding economy. To finish the paper on time, I need to finish 20 pages each week day for the next couple weeks, which is several hours of work each day. It looks like I might also get a 400-page project, or part of it, but it has to be done in the next 10 days! Why would anyone wait to find an editor until 10 days before the deadline...that's nuts. But good for me. However, it does mean 60 pages of editing a day, and that's a lot of focused reading time. Interesting thing about me and editing: when I'm tired or getting tired of it, I have a really hard time thinking of nice and constructive ways to suggest changes. I want to circle things and write "THIS IS STUPID! DON'T DO THIS!" which, admittedly, isn't very helpful.

Anyway, thought you'd all be pleased to know I've been a busy bee over here. I'm also trying to sell a couple paintings (the two small landscapes I posted ages ago...this one and this other one ). They are currently down the road in Reinach getting mounted and and matted in a lovely off-white. So, if you want to buy one, speak up! I should say both of these were exercises I did based on another artist's work as a way to learn how to use a new surface and softer pastels. So they aren't "original" in the sense of being my own concept or composition, but naturally they aren't just like the sources I based them on either.

Off to do my daily 20.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Hide n Go Seek

Friday afternoon I took the girls to see the pigs and then on to the play ground just for fun. M2 has just learned to ride her bike without training wheels, and she peddled over there. She even rode the downhill parts, holding the handbrake reeeaaaaallly tight and periodically saying, "see? I'm not scared." She hopped off every now and then to pick up pine cones for me to hold. I scratched the pig's back with one of them and accidentally dropped it in the pig stall. She was offended, but graciously only said, "ok, now don't drop any others!" While we were standing there, she said, "Listen! The chickens are making music!" and when I listened, the yard full of hens pecking, scratching, and quietly talking did sound a bit like a song. M2 notices things like that.

At the play ground, she zipped around on her bike, showing off for the twins from her playgroup who happened to be there too. They still have training wheels on, and were duly impressed. M1 and I played tag (which M2 tried to play with us, but she got mixed up about whether she was being chased or supposed to be chasing, and she didn't like getting tagged. She went back to her bike). M1, on the other hand, was not mixed up, and she is FAST! She's also a great sport, whatever position she is in the game. She generally is bubbling over with the joy of life, no matter what she's doing. She and I played "versteckis" (hide and seek) after tag. The playground is very small and there aren't very many good hiding places, but one time when she was counting I scurried up the play structure and laid down on the top platform. I was in plain sight, but you know how little kids forget to look up (so do robbers, I've read, so keep your valuables up high). It took her ages to find me!! The other little girl kept yelling, "I know where she is!!" and her mom would holler back, "You don't tell!"

When she found me, she scrunched up her nose over a huge smile and said "grrrh!"
So fun. :)

Friday, October 2, 2009

Kris Kristofferson in Basel

Kris Kristofferson is playing in Basel next month with Rosanne Cash. Tickets are 110 francs, which is disappointing. I'd go if it was cheaper. Like...if they were 20 francs. :) I'm gonna work on it though. Maybe I can think of something. Make friends with the sound crew, for example...

I recently learned that he wrote the song Sunday Morning Coming Down, which I really like, even though I know about half of you will think it's sad and depressing. It's been on my rotation of Sunday Morning pre-church music for about a month now, and usually I only do Hymns on Sunday morning--a little tradition that my friend Joe and I both enjoy. But I think Joe would agree that an exception could--should!--be made for Kris Kristofferson, particularly since the song is so aptly-titled. Here he is singing it a few years back with Johnny Cash.

And yes, in case you were wondering, I canned my pears. They're very purty. :) Here's hoping I don't die of my own home food-processing experiment!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

drawing almost done

My picture is getting pretty close to done now. I've spent too long on it and have been going in circles half the time I think. My background hills got kind of dark when I wasn't looking, so I need to lighten them up I think, and I'd like to add some final brights on my trees and stuff.

I'm open to critical thoughts or suggestions of what might help it be better...though I don't promise to do what you think I ought to. :)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

the Canning, continued

It looks like I may finally start my pear canning tomorrow. Before I forget, here's the link to the oh-so-inspiring canning video from Portland Preserve:


I looked around town for some of the supplies I would need to can this way (basically the same as what mom does), but I didn't find them. I called some capable American ladies I know, who all said, uhm....we don't think people do it like that here. Finally, I talked to Dom and Raph's mom who told me how she does pears ohne fancy-pants equipment, and she even lent me some jars. How nice is that. :) Lukas helped me purchase and haul pears home from across town this evening, so I'm set to go.

In other things creative and inspiring, yesterday I had a very nice Stephanie day. I started by sleeping in a bit--an important part of any Stephanie day. Then I had a schoggiweggli (bread with chocolate in it) and coffee on my way to the art museum to see 70 of Van Gogh's landscapes in the "Between Earth and Heaven" exhibition. (Each ticket was linked to an hour long entry-time window, and my window was 10-11. I figured if I got there at 10, I'd probably have to wait in line and would be stuck the whole way through with a crowd of old people who had probably all shown up at 9.15. So I got a bus at 10, got there at half past, and wouldn't you know there was already a long line of older folks waiting for the 11-12 window?! And I could walk right in. Silly people.). But anyway. Back to the paintings. I'd seen a couple of them before, but most were new to me. The roughly chronological display of the pieces made it easy to see the growth in his sense of composition and technical ability, as well as his shifting style over the years and the influences he was reflecting. After that, I browsed a few stores, and enjoyed a falafel lunch by the Tingely Fountain (This one), and considered as I watched the birds and the fountain that if I ever had a restaurant like that one, I'd list that Falafel as "Full Awful," just for my own amusement. After that I went home, where I had a little visit with M1 and M2, took care of some chores and listened to more of Leo Tolstoy's The Cossacks (a book near the top of my list for favorites at the moment), and stared at my drawing. It's been living on probation, taped to the front of my closet with blue scotch tape. I'm not very content with it yet, but I have a couple ideas of what might help.

And...that was more or less my Saturday. Talked to some of my favorite people too. That was great, and Grandma told me how to make applesauce. mmmm. :) It was a good day.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Canning Pears

Look what I found!

Portland Preserve.

I went poking around the Internet this evening to determine how hard it would be to can the bag of pears I have sitting in my drawer, and it looks like it's hardly any trouble at all. Tomorrow I plan to locate me a jar gripper, a few jars, and a big pot, and presto! I'm going to have some fantastic pears this winter for fairly cheap.

Now, I've watched and helped mom can lots of times, but my start to finish concept of the project was a little fuzzy, so I watched a very helpful five minute demonstration which just so happened to be from Portland Preserve. It's very pleasing when the best (or most readily available) solution to my problem originates in my very own stomping grounds.

I'm going to go investigate what else I could can that's also for sale at my local farm.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Sleeping in for the cure

In 2006 I participated in the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation "Race for the Cure" in Portland. Some of you kindly supported me with donations. This Sunday, September 20th, I'm participating through their "sleep in for the cure" option for people who can't be there in person. It'll probably be more like "Have an Afternoon Coffee for the Cure," considering the time zone thing, but you get the idea. Even though I'm not running this year, I'm raising money for research and screening in the Pacific Northwest, which is not only home to me, but also to the highest rates of breast cancer in the nation. Most of the money will be used in Oregon and Washington. 25% of the money raised goes to support screening and research nationwide.

My lovely mama, post-cancer and making things happen! :)

Breast Cancer research has become more important to me in the last two years since Mom's cancer and treatment in 2007/2008. She is doing well now. Let's support research and screenings that can save our favorite ladies!

The event is THIS Sunday, so if you wish to donate, please do so today. Stephanie's Komen fundraiser page. (I have to say, I'm not very impressed with their website, so I'm sorry if it gives you trouble! I'm also really sorry if there is a scrolling tally announcing how much you gave. I am trying to figure out if I can turn that off so that donations are private).

And now, some deep thoughts about boobs:

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Thought I'd share a picture I've been working on the last few days as a gift for some friends (who I hope don't read this blog...I think they don't). It's based on the photo in the heading, which I took last fall in the Wallis.

I don't have the patience to properly photograph my drawings (or maybe I just don't know how), so this photo is a bit washed out and blury, but not bad. I still have about a million things to do on the drawing, including: fix the shape of the barn, sharpen it up, and fix the light on it, fix the light on the happy little bush in front of the barn, finish my distant trees, draw the cow in (oh yes! there's a cow!), fix the color/detail level in the distant hills, add fences, add detail grasses, etc.
But..it's on it's way, and I'm pretty pleased with how it's going. I wasn't sure the composition would work with so much space between the yellow tree and the barn, but I think when I finish my cow and trees and mess with the light it'll be ok.
I hope they like it.

What's that you say? Why yes, I do have a dissertation to be writing! Why do you ask?


If you haven't seen Brian's new blog, you should be sure to check it out: Alexander Guitars

Monday, September 7, 2009

21k is a long, long way...

Howdy! I'm back from my triathlon relay in France. Team "Faster Than You Can Say Jack Robinson" finished in 6:52:31, position 816 overall, and 34 of the mixed relay teams (not sure how many mixed teams there were...very possibly only 34). The runner was definitely the slow poke. John finished the swim in 36:21, which is fast. Although Cedric cycled past us on his first loop looking relaxed and chatting with his neighbor on the next bike, he finished his 94k in 3:59:52, which is also pretty quick. I ran my 21k in 2:13:02, which is not like lightening, but also isn't terrible for a first half marathon, despite what some people may think. Gina heard my time and said, "ok, so high speed walking. Not running." It sure felt like running to me! Here's how the race started on Saturday morning:

I'll post some pictures of our teams when I have some. I'm surprisingly motivated to do another 1/2 marathon and try to improve my time considerably. On this one I learned that I need to be running longer distances more often. I was on track for the first 8 or 9 Kilometers to finish in closer to 2 hours, but slowed down a LOT during my last 7K particularly. The furthest I'd run before Saturday was around 8 or 9 miles I think, so that extra 4 or 5 miles was tough. I also learned that no matter how many times I go to the bathroom before I start, I'm probably going to have to stop along the way, so I'd better figure that into future running time estimates.

Our team name turned out to be literally more fitting than we anticipated. People along the course often read the team name off the people around me and called out specific encouragement to them. I could see them trying to read mine, but I was indeed faster than they could say Jack Robinson, and so they resorted to "Allez la Fille!" and "Bon Courage la fille!" There were so many more men competing that the women got lots of enthusiastic support anyway.

Our group stayed in a chalet up on the hill, with a great view of the lake and the hills. Raph came out Saturday night and did massages for people at the house (much appreciated!) and when we were driving home Sunday he noted that the landscape reminded him of Oregon. I had thought the exact same thing. I hope to have some pictures for you in a couple days. Bye!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Triathlon - five more days!

Five more days until our relay triathlon in Gérardmer, France. Do these guys look tough or what!?
More about Crazy Competitive Triathlon Peeps

I'm the runner for my team, and our team name (thanks to me and my big mouth) is "Faster than you can say Jack Robinson." I suggested it at the beginning of the summer when I still had plans to run four times a week, and when I was busy trash talking a team of French guys I sort of know, suggesting that they be prepared to be left in the dust. As it actually happened, though, I think I ran about four times all summer, until precisely 9 days ago when I decided I should hurry up and train. So, I've been running a lot and man! I'm tired! I haven't slept so much in months. On the up side, there is often an old man practicing his Alp horn in the evenings when I run along the Wanderweg toward the woods that divide Pfeffingen from Ettingen. His songs make the evenings sweeter in my neighborhood. I also just found out that the French dude I needed to outrun got hurt (which I was sorry to hear...really, I was), and since I don't feel the need to outdo anyone anymore or live up to any fantastic claims I might have made in June, the pressure has really let up. I could walk if I felt like it.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Saturday morning with friends

Not much time to write, but some pictures from the weekend:

These guys plus Ed picked me up Friday night after work and we went miniature golfing in a nearby town and then back to Raph's house, where we all were staying. Saturday sometime after facials, we decided to float down the river, so we piled in the car and zipped over to Mumpf, where we left the car, hopped a train back up river to Stein, where's there's a footbridge that's fairly handy for jumping. (Video plucked from the internet so you can see the bridge. There's stuff on Wikipedia too. Sorry, I don't have pictures from where we jumped, but...it's about 10 seconds into the video. We climped over the railing on the right side.)

. I just learned on the trustworthy information site known as youtube that it is the largest covered wooden bridge in Europe. It was my first time jumping off it, and see mom? I lived. We swam across the river to Germany (which in retrospect was kind of silly, considering there was a perfectly nice bridge there) and then back across to Switzerland. In other interesting events from the week, Aubrey asked Raph about his observations from his trip to the States, and among other things, whether I was any different at home than I am here. He said I smile a lot more at home. Y'all must make me happy. :)

Saturday, August 8, 2009

If you were a sailboat, I would sail you to the shore

Howdy friends. For those of you who don't know, I'm back in Switzerland and have been for two weeks nearly. I have a temporary job working in a department store distribution warehouse. I unpack, sort, and hang up clothes for the stores. Pretty exciting, I know. I've been there a week thus far, and although it's not the most compelling work I've ever done, it's good to have a job and the days go surprisingly quickly. Besides that, I work with a group of lovely girls and it's been a pleasure getting to know them a bit this week. I work across the table from a Swiss girl named Ilenka, who just finished highschool and is excited to be going to California and South America soon. There's a French girl who is studying to be a nurse and who speaks about as much German as I do, seems a bit shy, but makes funny faces if things go wrong. I think she'd be fun to know if we could talk a bit more. There's another Swiss girl named Lila who is getting ready to move to Holland to study illustration, and she's nervous about moving to a foreign country where she doesn't understand the language. We talk about what she should take, what she should buy there, and the fact that she'll make friends in short order and will be fine. Yesterday we discovered Raphael is a mutual friend; she went to school with him when they were 14. Oh, and Ilenka and I know some of the same people too. I think meeting new people in a foreign country and discovering you have mutual friends is a whole new level of home, and I like it. On Monday when Raphael thanked God for our food and my job, he prayed I'd make some new friends at work. Nice that God gives friends on top of work and food.

Know this song? I read that the girl who sings it thinks "that a lot of love songs tend to deal with the fluffy nice side of love, but this one deals with how you get very selfish when you fall in love with someone, and you don't want to share them with the world, you just want them all about yourself. What's genius about Mike's lyrics is that instead of saying that directly he uses these crazy strange metaphors, "if you were a piece of wood I'd nail you to the floor" and quite bizarre stuff and I like that. Musically it sounds like a really nice smooth love song, but the message is pretty intense and quite dark." I disagree about the dark part, and I might tell you why later, but I'm STARVING at the moment...so, I must be going. :)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Vacation, continued.

Running short on ideas for great summertime activities? I can recommend installing a transmission as quality family fun for a weekday morning.

Plus, when you go shopping in the afternoon and you still have a bit of grease on your arms, you won't look so prissy buying that cute new purse and shoes.


Sunday, July 19, 2009

Oregon tours, home improvement, and big plans to import cars

Well! As usual, the lack of bloggage indicates a rather busy schedule. This time you can thank Lukas for prodding me to post something. I've had a busy couple weeks at home catching up with family and friends, attending my cousin JoAnna's wedding, and convincing mom to undertake a variety of home and yard improvement projects (most of which she was already considering in some form anyway. I just affirm where affirmation is due: "YES! New flowers and a new patio would look GREAT there! Let's go buy stuff right now"). Today, for example, we agreed on a location for a firepit ring (which I fully intend to make, because good grief! those things are overpriced!), and we did some scouting for free brick on Craigslist for the new patio areas we are now planning to build. Furthermore, we've assessed a variety of options for keeping bugs off one porch and making it a more user-friendly "outdoor living space" for the future. We'll be paying Ikea a visit next week to investigate their curtain options.

In the midst of all that planning, we're also working to make our bathroom more fabulous and coordinated than it already is. We're painting an old brown spice rack white to serve as shelf for small things, and since foreign European words make everything seem more sophisticated, we want to put some word on the face of the shelf. Unfortunately, the most obvious option, "BATH," translates to "BAD" in German and "BAIN" in French, neither of which sound one bit sophisticated. The German is out for obvious reasons, and I for one couldn't look at "BAIN" without thinking "BANE of my existence."

As fun as all that has been, certainly the highlight of my time home so far has been showing off Oregon and toodling all over this Northwest corner with Raphael, who was here for a week and a half. You're just going to have to wait for more pictures, cuz I only have a few to show you at the moment. We camped a few days at Trillium Lake near Mount Hood, caught trout from the canoe and fried them up for dinner, went to a rodeo, climbed Multnomah Falls and drove up the Columbia River Gorge, visited Cannon Beach, and ate a humongous, hot, gooey, glazed cinnammon roll at Camp 18. I love American food. We also went to the Auto races, drove some fancy pants cars (I didn't; he did)...hmm. This would all be much easier to talk about and more interesting with pictures. So I'll tell ya more about my Oregon tourism later.

Raph's first catch of the evening. He got another one too.

On the way to Cannon Beach.

Driving nice cars. Woohoo. :)

Finally, about importing cars: Raph and Brian and I have been discussing the possibility of importing old, hard-to-get American cars to Switzerland. Will keep you posted.

That's it for now I suppose. Laters!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Good, wholesome Oregonians.

(Church bbq picture--thanks Gina!)

Annnd...she's home. It's funny coming home after so long. It doesn't feel like it's been 11 months since I've been here, EXCEPT...I went for a drive today (all the way to town, in fact, for the express purpose of buying hazelnut coffee creamer and root beer--yay for cars!), and there are several new houses and a new park! I hate finding new things like that popping up all over the countryside. I'm not sure which is worse: driving by it every day for three months and feeling irked each time until it's finally finished, or finding it already done in concrete finality, thereby rendering useless all forms of passive aggressive resistance (muttering as I drive, for example). Anyway. There's a park on Thatcher road. I'm over it. really.

In other neighborhood news, my parents got an invitation this week to attend the wedding of a very lovely neighbor girl. The invitation is handmade. The gift registry is at Walmart, and the driving directions are provided from ACE Hardware. The wedding is in a family-owned park up the road. I think that's all refreshingly unassuming.

Oh, and speaking of married. The customs officer in New York was so busy asking me about my marital status and then about whether I have a boyfriend that he nearly totally forgot to ask about my recent contact with livestock! (which is what he was supposed to be asking me about all along). Thought you'd all be pleased to know your border officers are so diligent about containing the flu pandemeic. Not five minutes later, a guy also making a connecting flight struck up a conversation and found out that I'm from Oregon. "You look like a good wholesome Oregonian girl," he said. I've been wondering ever since exactly what good, wholesome and Oregonian look like, because when I stepped in a ladies' room a few minutes later, all I could see was that I looked like I'd been up 16 hours, on a plane for half of those, and not wearing any makeup. That doesn't say much for Oregon, if that's an identifiable look.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


Mr. and Mrs. O and the girls came over today for dinner. Was very nice to see them! They were pleased with my progress in German, but kept correcting my Swiss German pronunciations. "AEsch, Stephanie. Nicht 'AAAshh.' und say 'nichts' not 'nüt'."
I'm thankful to have a place where I can have guests!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

birds, bees, and anatomy according to a three year old.

M2 is quite interested in anatomy and the mechanics of bearing children and nursing and things like that at the moment, and we've had some pretty funny conversations about it all. A few weeks ago at lunch she told me that on her next birthday she's going to wish for a baby, and maybe she'll get one in her tummy. Maybe, I said. It's worth a shot. (I figured it wasn't the time to tell her what my grandma says about wishing in one hand and spitting in the other). Today as I was getting her dressed she shared her (apparently new) insight that when she's a mommy she'll "have a bigger chest, but when M1 is a daddy, she won't."

Rather than straightening her out on that, I took the easier and safer route of changing the topic and teaching her that you can start fires in the sun with a magnifying glass.

(don't worry, she's not coordinated enough, and yes, I gave her the talk about only doing it outside on the pavement with nothing around). Never to early to make a girl a scout, I say.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

15 days...

15 days until I get to go home! Woohoo! Things I'm looking forward to, besides the very obvious one of seeing family and friends: flavored coffee creamers. My great fluffy towels. Drive-through coffee stands and peppermint mochas. Tinkerbelle. BBQ with the neighbors. BURGERS! Gales Creek store and midnight Plaid Pantry runs with Brian. Clapshaw Hill Road. Driving. BIG bookstores and BIG craft stores. Cannon Beach. Camp 18. Fishing! Country music. The Columbia River Gorge, and those fantastic icecream cones at Cascade Locks. Summer reading. Movie nights at Gregg's house.

15 more days.

But first..in that 15 days, I have a TON of stuff to do for school, work, getting ready to leave, etc., so I shall be very busy and probably kinda stressed out. Just fyi.

In other news, steph got a haircut and is now a much happier camper.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Thun/Bellagio, continued...

It's about time someone updated this blog, and since nobody else has gotten around to it, I guess it'll have to be me. Let me try to catch up a bit:

Italy was lovely, as I said. We drove to Thun the first day and picked up Ben at his Grandma's house. (Turns out I can understand Bärndütsch pretty well--well enough to respond correctly to questions. Many of the stories-on-tape or cds that the little girls listen to are Bärndütsch, and I guess it's been sticking in my brain. So for those of you trying to learn...that's the way to go!). We walked from the farm on the hill down to town, saw the lake and a bunch of fancy restaurants...and found a merry-go-round.

And a castle of sorts. One of my favorites I've seen in Switzerland, I think.

The next day we drove through Lugano and Como on our way to our campsite in Bellagio, and we camped on a hill at the edge of town. We had a couple of cute little camping neighbors who were 2 and 4, and who quickly decided that playing soccer with our guys was the very best part about camping, and they were in our campsite every time their parents turned around after that. Bellagio has old streets, fireflies and olive trees, and little winding staircase alleys that divide gardens and fields, and I enjoyed walking around town with Aubrey and Ben. Saturday and Sunday we went swimming, ate ice cream, and drove along the lake. We got stuck in the world's longest traffic jam on the way home. Fortunately we had ping pong equipment, snacks, and music. Entertainment included playing 20 questions, riddles, and a game of HORSE, throwing the ping-pong ball into a plastic cup on the dash, and sticking to the standard rule that a person has to shoot from the same place from which the previous shot was made.

Mmmm, breakfast! Mom, we enjoyed some of the delicious coffee you sent me in my stocking for christmas. Toffee nut one morning, and candy cane truffle the next...very posh camping. :)