Monday, March 26, 2012

home sweet home at the backpackers lodge

If you saw a version of this post that looked kind of out of character, it was complements of a block of cheddar sitting on my PC as I carried my laptop inside.

Nell and I were writing by the pool under a clear sky full of stars. It feels just like summer to me, even though it's coming on winter here. The evenings are still warm. I can still sit outside in a strapless dress at 19.30, but when I drink my instant coffee with peanut butter toast on the front patio at 7.30 am, I need a sweatshirt.

I've obviously waited too long to update my blog, because now I can't decide what to tell you about. Do I start with the cramped, upstairs print shop on Cairo Road, where I waited for 45 minutes for my water diaries to be inscribed on 730 pieces of white A4 paper, while one girl powdered her face and the other cut out hearts by hand for a wedding invitation? or maybe the friends I've met here: s'mores nights, and dinners out, shared working sessions and the sharing of folk tunes? Or should I get straight to the compounds, where a woman my mom's age asks me if I can bring water to her pipes again--they've been dry for 12 years.

I think it'll be more than one post.

The lodge said goodbye to several friends last week. On Sunday, Swedish firefighers Oscar and Alex went back to fight fires (now, they do fight fires and are 18 and therefore technically men, but they still think it's funny to, for example, poo in a friends' dorm room trash can, and they cook "epic mealtime" dinners. If you don't know what that means, you clearly don't spend much time with guys 18-27 yrs old. See youtube for clarification). On Monday, English Tom headed west for Victoria Falls, despite my offers to bake him a 19th birthday cake on Wednesday if he stayed a few more days. At 9, 9:10, 9:20 and 9:30 on Wednesday I found he had thoughtfully added four alarms in my phone to remind me it was his birthday. As if I'd forget. By Saturday, English med students Salma and Laura had left for a Safari in Tansania, and on Saturday the other two English girls--Charlotte and Laura--finished out their holidays by almost spending the night alone up north at the side of the road with some poached meat and their (understandable!) fear of snakes and the poachers themselves. Fortunatly, they didn't have to do that, and made it back to Lusaka safely and in time to catch their flight home on Sunday.

Thursday night a Dutch anthroplogist and an American Peace Corps volunteer who both live in other parts of Zambia were here. We have similar music taste and I enjoyed sitting around with them, listening to folk tunes and talking about anthropology and fish farming. We're all quite different--very different personalities and backgrounds. Funny how people can be so different and still hit it off. They are trying to convince me that I would be perfectly safe to hitch hike 6 hours alone to their villages to see them and to see more of Zambia than just Lusaka. Apparently Peace Corps girls hitch hike all the time without incident (there are 300 peace corps volunteers here), and every vehicle is a taxi. But other women say they wouldn't recommend it. Gregg says if I want comments on my blog, I need to generate controversy. Hitch hiking alone in Africa. That should do it. Discuss.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Ski Camp

A tiny bit more winter, even though It's so sunny and warm here it feels like months and not just two weeks since I saw snow!

But from a couple weeks ago, video and pictures from ski camp (I'm easy to spot in the pink snow britches and black jacket):

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Doing Research in Lusaka

I'm in Zambia, where I'm doing research on everyday water technologies and household water use. Actually, so far, I haven't done that. I've been finishing some prep work, writing abstracts and consent forms and basically having quality time with my computer all day, every day. But that's ok, because quality time with the PC by a pool in sunny Zambia, or at a table in the bar under the cover of the thatch-roof in stormy Zambia, is still a pleasant change of scenery from Basel. Week one of my trip is mostly administrative and about making connections. Week 2...hopefully more researchy. :)

I'm staying in a dorm, but some people here are camping. It's less than half the price, and comes with all the same amenities, minus the bed. If I owned my own camping gear, I would have camped. What's better than lying in a tent and listening to the crickets sing?! Nothing that I can think of. Last night there was a yard full of tents and motorcycles out by the pool. This morning they're mostly gone again, except for one or two long term guests. One Dutch guy is camping his way through Africa, fully busy with his web design business. He's been on the continent 7 months, and is in his 3rd country. I'm a little jealous.

Most of the other guests are here for a few days to a few weeks. Several are working at a hospital nearby. There's an 18 year old English guy who is here for his gap year and who is cooking for himself for the first time. He tossed a pot of failed rice the other night, and--same meal-- held up a pot with about an inch of oil in the bottom and said, "If you were going to fry vegetables, how much oil would you need?" So, after that, we agreed I'd help him cook some food that's edible. Yesterday was a moderate success, with pasta, sausage, mushroom sauce and vegetables. And it even looked pretty!

Back to work I go. Also, if you haven't already seen it, I have finally added a video here (thanks to Gregg and his solutions).

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Be gone, Winter!

Carnival came to Basel this week, and for three days the city was packed full with marching bands, costumed piccolo pipers, and tractor-drawn floats. A Waggi threw me a rose, and I was quite flattered! Other girls had whole bundles of roses from the parades, but this one Waggi (see first picture) made such a point that he intended the rose for me (attaching it to a clementine so it would reach me back in the crowd, motioning for everyone else to move, waving his hands dismissively at people in front of me who thought he was talking to them, acting exasperated when I thought he wanted me to move too, waiting for me to put down what I was holding so I could catch it...I mean, that's effort!!), it made my day and I couldn't have been happier with just one!

But what's Fasnacht without the din? Imagine hearing this for most of 72 hours, including at 4:30 am, and you'll know what my week has been like.

The last of Winter

Someone threw the Spring switch last week. Now the flowers and the temperatures are up and my flip flops have already made their season debut. As usual, I'm making new acquaintances every day I wear them. They're such a conversation starter! But before I start with the spring pictures and activities, the last of winter:

So, church retreat in Lungern a couple weeks ago, when it was still cold. Sara and I went early on Friday afternoon to get some sledding in before everyone else arrived Friday night, and I was so happy we did! Check out the sunset! And also, it was super fun to hang out with her over the weekend.

I had a backpack full of breakfast supplies for the retreat. I almost got stuck in the train.

On Saturday Sara went snowboarding with Raph and Dom, and I worked on learning to ski. You may remember pictures from last time I was learning to ski...I'm carrying my skis in most of those pictures. I made some progress this year, however! Hans spent all day helping me and another beginner. It's a good thing too, because last weekend I went to the beginner ski camp with the university, but I missed the first day of lessons because I was sick. If I hadn't had Hans' help the week before, I couldn't have managed.

After skiing, Sara taught Raph and me how to lose at foosball.

We went for a walk on Sunday, past the church, up to the frozen waterfall, and along the slippery path beside the lake.

We met a cute cow.

Yup. Lungern. Thanks for sharing some of these pictures, Gina!