Thursday, February 14, 2013

Kudu in the headlights

I've been slow to recruit research participants this trip, but I (finally!) have 4 appointments with people willing to do my water diaries in Lusaka. I was starting to really consider getting worried that I wouldn't find anyone at all..and I'd say I'm still not out of the woods yet, but things are certainly better. Unfortunately I have trouble talking about or explaining my work. I met a doctor here. She talks about her work like a champ. It's invariably interesting and focused (and to the non-medically minded, usually heroic-sounding, too!). I try to talk about my work and it's scattered, fragmentary, and includes a lot of "" even though I've spent two years mostly working on the precise problem of "what is my focus?" You'd think I'd have it down by now! Today I had lunch with some friends with a vested interested in the water sector and they asked me again, "what is it exactly you're studying?" I'm sure I had my deer in the headlights look (kudu in the headlights around here?). I wanted to say, "you know? good question! beats me!" But, since that's generally not good for networking, I stumbled along trying to explain in 30 seconds or less what it is about everyday water technology that merits three years of work. Ugh! and then I went shoe shopping and the world is now a better place, though I still feel like a loser of a PhD student. Now I'm a grumpy phd student with cool green shoes. 

It's St. Valentine's day, and while I don't have any romantic news or thoughts to share, I can share with you my recently discovered (new) way to inspire men to holler at me on the street: walk on their nice new cement curb before it's dry. If you haven't had your fair share of attention this valentine's day, or this decade for that matter, let me tell you: THAT draws attention! It reminded me of the time years ago when I was driving to Newberg on a nice empty road, and pulled up to a construction truck and an exceptionally handsome man with a stop sign. I rolled down my window. He said, "There's some road work up ahead; you'll just have to wait a few minutes." "Ok, thanks!" I said, and drove off. When I looked in my mirror a second later, he was yelling and jumping and waving his arms at me. Apparently, I was supposed to infer that he meant wait right there by him, but honestly, the things construction workers expect you to figure out on your own these days! gosh! 

I'm headed out to dinner tonight with a group of friends. I'll wear my green shoes and I'll stay off the curbs.

Friday, February 8, 2013

First Book? We'll see!

Small celebratory moment here in my little room in Zambia! I just submitted my first book manuscript to a publisher! Boom! I know rejections (and lots of them) are standard, but I'm pleased I've sent it. I started this book in 2007, sitting in an MA course on Biogeography in Africa...or was it biodiversity? Something like that. I don't really remember too much from that class because I was, you know, writing a story. I also remember the teacher was Simon Loader, and he really likes frogs.

This book has nothing to do with frogs, or Africa. It's a picture book manuscript that will take a good illustrator (and, let's be honest--probably a good editor, too) to make it cool. It's about being in a new country, and encountering the unfamiliar with expectancy and persistence. It's for 3-7 year olds. Don't worry, I don't use any of those big words in the story.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Zambian highlights

These pictures make Lusaka look calmer than it really is, but these have been a few of my favorite things so far. There are kittens where I'm staying. This one likes my bed. I've tossed him out three times this morning, and he comes straight back each time, hops up onto my bed and resumes his bath. And he purrs, as if that's going to convince me it's fine. I actually don't mind him being there, except that he's only 3 months old and I've been told he occasionally forgets to notice if he needs to use the facilities. I'd prefer he not forget while he's in my room. Next up, lovely evenings! The sunsets and evenings here really are beautiful. Those dirt roads get muddy, though, with all this heavy rain. The last two nights, the rain has been loud enough to wake me a few times, and it's been raining all day so far. I lent my umbrella to my assistant yesterday, and I forgot to bring my rain jacket, so I guess I'm staying in for a while today. Flowers in bloom are also a bright spot in Zambia this time of year. I'm sure I appreciate their colors more since I came in from winter's white and brown. And finally, good things to eat. Always make friends with the cook--especially if he's a particularly competent one. He might bring you steaming dishes of nshima, duck and vegetables, or add chocolate to his weekly shopping list just because he knows you want some. :)

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Monkey Pools

Went swimming and had a picnic here at the Monkey Pools today. I admire the hospitality and kindness of people who invite strangers on picnics in the woods! 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Victor Hugo and PhD comics

The first time I saw Les Misérables was 9 years ago in London. I went with Emily, who was 10 years older than me and familiar with the story. She loved it. I thought the characters had confusingly similar names, and from the nose-bleed seats, it was hard to tell who was who. Ten year jumps in the plot didn't help and, since I was lost anyway, I decided halfway through I would just try to enjoy the experience of watching a musical play in London. I did enjoy it, but Emily had to explain the story afterward. Going to shows in London with her ended up being one of the most memorable things from my first trip to Europe, along with our Paris room that looked like it had been designed for the red light district, and a late-night skinny dip in the Rhein in Germany with all the girls on the trip. I think I saw Les Misérables another time after that, though I can't remember where or why. Last night I saw the movie (also with a friend 10 years older than me! how poetic!) and the third time must be the charm! I got the plot. Maybe understanding all the words in the songs and being able to clearly differentiate characters' faces instead of looking at specs on a stage from the upper balcony helped, too. I recommend the movie. 

I also recommend the PhD comics adaptation: