Friday, December 21, 2007

Merry Christmas/Feliz Natal

Hello everyone!

And so begins our third week in Nampula province. Everything is running smoothly. The house is in running order (I killed a large flying cockroach last night with my Tevas and gave it a sailing grave out into our backyard, a lizard fell from the ceiling yesterday as we cooked dinner and a snail somehow made it's slimy way into our back porched in area - we are the Dr. Doolittles of Monapo. We are considering taking a puppy from a PCV in Mousseril once his dog has her puppies). We go out to the market everyday to buy food. We have improved our food situation slightly. I cooked pasta with sauce from Nampula City and we have actually made egg sandwiches. So, yes, we have strayed from just eating bread with peanut butter and mangos. We aren't sure what we'll do once mango season is over. We have heard that the orange season starts right after. I guess the oranges here are much more acidic but don't worry Mom and Dad, I'll make sure I brush my teeth afterward to make all those years of dental work on my pearly whites worth it.

Nia and I made a trip to Ilha the other weekend to visit with Katie on the island. It's an awesome place so I can see why it's such a tourist destination. I never had tried squid before or eaten shrimp with the heads still attached and unpeeled. Before, in the states, my idea of seafood was fishsticks and the thought of those poor lobsters with their claws tied in those circular death tanks. I claimed to be a hater of seafood but after trying Katie's fried squid, I have converted. We went to a music festival on the island and watched Katie perform some songs with her guitar in front of a crowd of probably 2,000 Mozambicans. Pretty awesome. We also went to the beach and attracted a large horde of small children. The three of us were just sitting there talking, doing absolutely nothing interesting and about 10 children came up and laid on the sand in front of us, only about five feet away and stared at us. So I stared back at them to make a point but they just laughed and continued staring. At first, their curiosity is endearing and cute, but after they just wouldn't leave, it got irritating. And when they ask for your water. Or for your sunglasses. Or your hat. I'm getting really good at just saying a blunt ''no.'' I feel like I used to be more of a pushover but not now.

I'm excited because we're heading to the beach for the Christmas and there will be several of us Americans in one apartment overlooking the ocean. And apparently, someone has A Christmas Carol to watch on a computer. I really have a desire to watch Christmas Vacation, but alas, it is not to be. Today we are in Nampula, converging to buy things for the holiday, various foods and gifts for Secret Santa. We left our house in order when we left, with the embrigada to keep an eye on it with everything locked up. I still can't help feeling nervous leaving our house for more than during the day. I left her our numbers in case of an emergency or if anything happened. We went to the police station next to our house yesterday to introduce ourselves and the police officer was like "yeah, someone robbed your house before when the other two lived here but we caught them,'' tossing a thumb in the direction of the jail out back. All in all though, I feel like Monapo is a pretty safe place. I never let my guard down though or let my things out of my site. Better safe than having to spend money on a new phone or camera.

This morning, as Nia and I were getting ready to come to Nampula, she started singing '' It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas'' and we couldn't help but laugh. It doesn't feel like December 21st. It feels like July 21st. Although last night it got somewhat chilly and I used my wool blanket for half an hour.

I want to wish everyone a very merry Christmas and possibly a happy new year, since I don't know when I will be able to get online next because I'm sure hours of internet places change around the holidays. Please watch Christmas Vacation for me, listen to Christmas music on the radio (the only christmas music I have is what Kara added to my music selection and I thoroughly appreciate it - thank you, Kara), enjoy the lights on the Christmas trees and the decorative lights outside. It's tough being away but it helps to have my peace corps friends as another family. Feel free to buy phone cards and email me for my phone number. :) I love you all and hope everyone is doing well. Merry Christmas!

Love from Moz,

Monday, December 10, 2007

estou aqui

So I am in my new site in Monapo, Nampula. Woot woot. Our house was pretty much already set up for us, which was nice. We have a quaint little house with a fence around it for privacy. It seems like a top location for a dog because it could wander around the yard. We have more things than a dog to think about right now though. We have a front porch area where we can receive visitors, a kitchen with two bedrooms of the exact same size to the left and then a back, screened in area where we keep our water. It pretty adorable. There are bars on the windows and a lot of locks so it seems secure. We also have an embrigada (or a housekeeper) and she has worked at the house for 3 or 4 years so she knows what´s up. She washed our clothes today and carted water for us. She seems pretty awesome thus far.

Monapo is a big, long town. I would say that half the population or so is Muslim and another some percentage are Christian and other. It is hot here too. It seems hottest in the early morning too when you would think it would be hotter later in the day. There isn´t a ton of food here right now but there are the basics. Once the rainy season begins there starts to be a ton of fruit and vegetables and my roommate and I are looking forward to it. We have to figure out how to cook with a gas stove too. It´s a whole new ballgame.

I miss Namaacha and my family there. I called them yesterday to say hello after I hung up with my number one family from the states. I feel like I am going to have issues with separation anxiety by the time I return to the US, what with all this leaving people business.

I have to keep a list of what I want to write here because right now, everything escapes me. Right now I am content and a little nostalgic over the US. I miss the people and the material girl inside me misses some of the stuff. Like an oven or running water and a shower. But I know that what I am doing is good and I don´t have any regrets.

And hey, it´s not too different here in comparison with Namaacha. We have cockroaches and bats in our bathroom this time. Heck yeah (pump my fist).

Thursday, November 22, 2007

i chase chickens out of bathrooms

The other day there was a snake in the bathroom. It was 5 am and I was just getting up. I opened the door to see a snake coiled up after I shut the door. Ugh, disgusting. I was just like "sai, sai!" and it went through the wall. After it went away, I realized that the snake probably didn´t understand that I was telling it to go because last I checked, snakes don´t have excellent ears. My bathroom is crazy. In fact, I would probably say that it´s an 8 year old American boy´s dream come true. I have chased a chicken out of the bathroom, yelled at a snake, seen plenty of lizards and many centipedes. I am just waiting for an unpleasant experience in the bathroom/outhouse revolving around an animal living in the latrine.

So we´re nearing the end of November here in Namaacha and I now know where I am going to in Mozambique for my two year stint. I will be living in Monapo in Nampula Province, which is in the northern part of the country. I am going to be moving there with another Moz 12er, Nia, and we´re going to share a house that is actually located at a school. It sounds like it´s a pretty secure site, especially since our house is right next to a police station and the primary school. I am excited though because according to PCVs I´ve spoken with, our site is going to be at a good location, about two hours or less from Nampula City and about an hour away from Ilha de Mocambique, which is supposed to be gorgeous. I´m happy with my site placement but I´m dreading saying goodbye to my host family since we´ve become close. I hope to visit though, depending on the price of plane tickets.

I apologize, since I haven´t been able to download pictures as of yet. I am technologically impaired enough as it is but put me on a slow slow computer and you might as well take away the computer and hand me a calculator. Anyhoo, I hope everyone is having a wonderful fall season. It´s Turkey Day soon and we Americans here in Namaacha are going to have a little festa. I wish everyone well!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

happy november

So it´s November. Holy crap. Time has flown. Anyway, everything is going well here. I have just found out that I will be traveling to Tete next week for a site visit. And Tete is pretty much the hottest place in Mozambique. So what did Peace Corps do? Send the sweatiest volunteer to Tete. How wonderful for me. Christmas has indeed come early. I am excited tho, nonetheless. The volunteer I am going to stay with sounds nice and I even bought shoes for it today - at the shoprite in Namaacha, which is basically a big flea market of clothing from China and given from the US. I even saw a Dare shirt. I felt like I was in fifth grade again. Hmm. What else? I am still eating rice and I had ice cream today. It was strawberry chocolate ice cream. I pretty much died and went to heaven and I bought one for my brother too. I am not even worried about gaining a little weight because I sweat so much here and everything is always uphill. It´s like jazzercise every morning on the way to language class, minus the pumping jams and an addition of small children and adults staring at you. I went to church last sunday for 7 hours and it was 7 hours full of dancing and singing church songs. Pretty impressive actually. Definitely beats St. Mary´s at home in the entertainment department. Me and Jamie, another volunteer, don´t know what´s going on most of the time but we go for the music and for a fellow American´s company. My brother is a translator from Changana into Portuguese, which is pretty interesting to watch.

That´s all for now I suppose. When I return to Namaacha next week I am going to try to download my pictures onto the computer, onto my Flickr site to give you all a little slice of my world.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Charcoal and KitKats

Life is good so far. I have only had a few down moments. For example, yesterday, I was helping my host family with dinner and neighbor children were over. I was just sitting there and all three of them were just staring at me. I was going a bit bonkers so I decided to hightail it to my room for some privacy before dinner. Other than that, it´s just been some language setbacks and homesickness. It really helps having Americans around though.

I´ll break down some things for you:
1 - I eat rice...and I mean A LOT of rice
2 - They have delicious bread here
3 - You can´t spit without hitting a mango or papaya tree
4 - Women can carry a helluva lot of stuff on their person. I saw one woman with a baby tied to her back and carrying a bag with a crate of 24 full bottles (not cans) of pop on her head
5 - Roosters crow here at 2 in the morning and do a call and response with each other for as long as they want
6 - People stare and you have to get used to it since there´s no way of blending in

I was in a storeroom with my 18-year old brother, helping him sort empty bottles of Fanta and Coke and this large rat or mouse scurried down the side of the building. I freaked out and jumped out of the room and he just laughed. We had talked about the cartoon Tom and Jerry before and now we refer to the storeroom as "a casa de Jerry."

I was helping my sister and brother with a meal and we were breaking apart clumps of charcoal for the burners. My hands were pure black so to goof around I did a McCauley Culkin with my hands and they were horrified. Cleanliness is such a huge thing here. I was late leaving for school this morning and my host mother was like "your sandals are dirty!" I was just like "nao tenho uma problema con isto para agora." I don´t have a problem with this for now. My sorry portuguese. And I washed my clothes with her the other day and she and their neighbor laughed at my technique. Washing clothes is using four different buckets filled with different amount of water and detergent. And that´s all I´ve got for now. I found KitKat bars at the market today and I am going to go home and savor every last bit of it like a weirdo, as long as it doesn´t melt.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

ola, oi, bom dia...etc.

So we have internet here! Hooray! I am really liking my fam. They are great. I have two brothers. One who is 2 and one who is 18. And then two sisters who are both about 12 or 13. The girls are SO quiet. I put eyeshadow on them the other day and they thought that was hilarious. They work so hard! I have my own room in my house which makes me feel bad because then the two girls, the 2 year old and the parents all share one room. I feel like such a jerk but I think that peace corps required that it be that way. I have a cell phone! I really only use it for text messages and for people to call me because it´s hella expensive to call the US. It´s funny here because I wake up to rapping by Busta Rhymes or to a rooster. I have wanted to strangle the roosters by my house. They start crowing at like 2 am and do this call and response with each other. Today, when I woke up, my brother was playing Shania Twain. And I went over to his mom´s house the other day and we watched music videos. And in response to Kara´s comment on the last post, yes, they LOVE Justin Timberlake. I went over to my friend´s family´s house the other day and they were watching JT´s music video. I taught my brother Sudoku puzzles and he copied some to take to school to do when he gets bored. It wasn´t that difficult to explain how to do sudoku puzzles in my sorry portuguese surprisingly. I have also shared the wonders of my digital camera and iPod with my family. They even changed their clothes to have their picture taken.

Language training is a bit arduous. It´s for the entire morning every day of the week and it makes the morning move incredibly slow. Otherwise, I like my group and it´s nice to have fellow PCTs suffering under learning a new lanugage with me. I suppose I should scoot. My brother has sat here, waiting for me for about 45 minutes and I feel bad for him. He has even been looking at the telephone book. Ate logo para agora!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

bom dia from Africa!

So, per the request of my fam, I will blog about what´s happened thus far. I made it to Africa with all my luggage intact. I didn´t get anything stolen from my luggage surprisingly. Maybe they just cut the lock to find nothing was worth stealing. Hehe, suckers. I didn´t end up saran wrapping my stuff because it costed about 15 dollars per bag plus tip. So I was willing to take the risk and it ended up in my favor. Last night I had a great time. We had a meeting at the hotel everyone else is staying at (I´m with a group that has been staying in the middle of Maputo at another hotel). The current PCVs did a skit on their experience with homestay and any things we might find odd. For example, women are supposed to handwash their underwear as it is inappropriate to hang women´s underwear out to dry. You can only shake with your right hand. And you place your left hand on your right elbow as a sign of respect to people who are older than you. It is also bad manners and wasteful to leave food on your plate. That last one makes me nervous because I don´t have much of an appetite. So, yes, I meet my homestay family later today and I´m nervous. It´ll be a whole new experience. Boy oh boy, did it rain last night. Last night we had our cookout and afterward we danced to African pop music. However, it started to rain, so the DJs had to move the music player so it didn´t get damaged. So we crazy americans stayed out in the pouring rain and had an impromptu dance circle with one person constantly moving to the middle, which mostly consisted of, for example "go Erin, go Erin, go go go Erin." I did the running dance from flashdance. After there was a major bolt of lightning, we stopped but some people ran and jumped in the pool next to our dance floor. It was a lot of fun, despite the fact that I got soaked. And then after that, we stood around for a bit and two PCTs played guitar and harmonica. I have to go. I´m not sure when I´ll be able to use the internet again. Hopefully, my new town has internet. If not, they´re taking us to an internet cafe next weekend in Maputo. All the peace corps trainees I´ve met have been really nice and this last week has been fun with all the activities we´ve done together. I´ll post more about it later but I have to go get my luggage from my room to take down to the bus. Tchau!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Mozambique Overview

So - since I leave in two days to go to the Cities to spend the night before I leave and I have a ton of packing/repacking to do, I felt that this would be a good time to sit around and do a bit of a Mozambique presentation, thanks to the handy dandy CIA Factbook.

Mozambique is on the coast of southeastern Africa, bordering with Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Swaziland. It is a little less than two times the size of California. It is a tropical to subtropical climate and the Zambezi River flows through the north central region.

Mozambique flag - the only national flag in the world to have a gun on it

Population: 20,905,585
Life expectancy: About 40 years
Languages: Emakhuwa, Xichangana, Portuguese, Elomwe, Cisena, Echuwabo and more
Literacy: 47%
Government type: Republic
10 Provinces: Cabo Delgado, Gaza, Inhambane, Manica, Maputo, Nampula, Niassa, Sofala, Tete, Zambezia
Independence: Won independence from Portugal in 1975
Civil War: From 1977-1992
Agricultural products: cotton, cashew nuts, sugarcane, tea, cassava (tapioca), corn, coconuts, sisal, citrus and tropical fruits, potatoes, sunflowers; beef, poultry
President: Armando Guebeza

That's just a snapshot of the country. Just reading about it all gets me pumped for the flight. There'll be l...o...n...g flights. But I have sudoku, crossword and The Brothers Karamazov to keep me company, not to mention, fellow Peace Corps trainees. Everyone I've met online in Moz 12 seems incredibly nice so I'm excited to meet everyone and get this ball rolling.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

butter knives are not made to chew on

So I had a busy afternoon/evening. I went with Erin (not me, another Erin - another living, breathing, separate entity) out to eat and to a movie. It was a pleasant meal until halfway through when a small child sitting next to us with her family decided to straddle her chair like a detective playing bad cop with the interrogation of a murder suspect in a cheesy cop film. Yes, this blonde minion found us to be interesting specimens to examine while chewing on her butter knife. And she was only about seven feet away. Do you know how hard it is to eat french toast when you have a child, whose meal has already been ruined by her poor coordination and inability to keep her burger on her plate rather than on the poorly vacuumed carpet, stare at you? The mother just sat beside her and didn't bother to correct her. My parents would have never let me sit, staring at complete strangers and ruining the enamel on my teeth with a knife. Kids these days. Don't they know that they should chew on butter knives in the privacy of their own homes? I wasn't even doing anything fun enough to attract attention. There was no song and dance routine. I might have missed my mouth a couple of times with the fork but that was probably due to performance anxiety. She looked like a swashbuckling pirate, preparing to descend to the deck from the watchtower by slashing down through the sails.

I am finishing up paperwork and packing up still for Mozambique. Putting things in, taking things out. Testing the waters, if you will. I bought checkers tonight. That was thrilling. I also bought a mini bottle of body spray. Yes, I am sure you are thinking "what kind?" Well, I'll tell you. Mandarin. And it smells good. Not much has happened lately to be honest. I rented some movies. I returned some stuff to the library and paid off my $1 fine. Tomorrow night I eat at my grandparents' house, Thursday night I eat out with a friend and Friday night are for my mom and I. Saturday, I head to the cities with my parents to see my sister and go to half-price books and we are spending the night at a hotel. Then I fly out at 7 on Sunday morning. So that means I'll have to get up at an ungodly hour to get to the airport. I'm starting to get sad, I'll admit. I got home at ten tonight and my mom had already gone to bed and I was sad that I didn't get to say goodnight. I only have a few more nights of being able to say that in this house. Man, I can't even express how difficult the airport goodbye is going to be. I get a lump in my throat just thinking about it.

On another note, we saw The Brave One tonight. Excellent movie in my book. Jodie Foster kicked serious behind.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

cubicle corners and burping

I have officially finished my summer job and now have a week to slob around. In fact, I already took a nap and I only ended work three and a half hours ago. I woke up to the sound of a gigantic burp, thinking "was that me?" Because I never burp. Never figured out how to do it. Burping shall forever remain a mystery to me. Come to find out, the dog was getting sick behind the recliner. He always goes and hides. I have never yelled at him about it and yet he slinks off to some corner that's practically uncleanable without rearranging the living room. The kitchen floor is an ideal place in my book but apparently he never got the memo.

When I got into work today, the women I work with had decorated my cube with streamers and good luck signs and there were cards on my desk. Next to the cards was a bottle of hand sanitizer with a post-it saying "Figured you could use this. Hehe." I wished she would have given it to me a week earlier with that campground because I probably would have made better use out of it. As much as I don't mind talking about my impending trip to Mozambique with people, I had grown a little tired of repeating everything about my trip to each person who dropped by my cube to say goodbye. I bet the people who I shared cubicle borders with grew tired of it too because they heard everything.

I am going to miss those crazy cubicles though. I loved hearing one person pick up the phone and dial it and then the person on the other side of me picking up and answering. We might as well operate with cans connected by string in that place. That'd be excellent. We could be like the Little Rascals. I'm not going to miss the corners though. I always found a way to run into one at least once a week. I have this problem with underestimating corners and there are constant corners in cubicleland. So cubicle corners, your days of tyranny and bruised arms are no more.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Little Campsite by the Big Grain Elevators

We have returned from our camping adventure in Red Wing, MN. I figured that with the label of "campground," we would pull up to a lush, green campsite, surrounded by the wonders of nature. I might even hold a dove and feed Bambi oats directly out of my hand. Instead of frollicking animals and a rendition of the scene from Snow White, we were situated next to a Marina, in a campground consisting of mostly whirring RVs and under the Mississippi bridge, across from the Archer Daniels Midland plant, with their gigantic grain elevators and two sets of train tracks. And on the other side of us, a beautiful fungi-infested, mosquito-swarming swamp. I actually befriended a few of my fine, malaria-carrying friends and we are planning to get together next week to cross-stitch and discuss current events whilst watching General Hospital.

As soon as we got to the campsite, I stayed in the van and my parents hopped onto a golf cart so that the lady in the office could show them the site. On their return, when they got within 30 feet of the office again, the golf cart died on them and my parents helped push it to the golf cart shed. That's when I turned to the dog and said "what a craphole." I think I might have seen him nod but I'm not 100% certain. Anyway, we found out that our electricity in our small pop-up camper wouldn't run properly so as my mom put it - we would "rough it" by the light of our TV set. And we did. After we'd roughed it for five minutes, we hightailed it to the casino for some gambling and a heart-felt family sing-a-long to Petula Clarke's "Downtown."

I've never been gambling before and I expected it to look vaguely similar to the hit NBC dramedy "Las Vegas." I was expecting to rub elbows with a Josh Duhamel type or James Caan. If any of you visit the Treasure Island casino with these expectations, you'll be sorely disappointed. From a distance, when driving toward it, the entire establishment looks like a giant Arby's, which immediately had me foaming at the mouth for curly fries. As we parked near the back, under the sign of the banana, I was amazed at the large quantity of vehicles in the lot. We went inside to find a band playing "Island Bonita" and a vast ocean of slot machines. I immediately thought back to my neighbor's thoughts on casinos and the germs. Hand sanitizer would be helpful, if not necessary, and I made a mental note not to lick any of the chairs, as my neighbor informed me that some people find themselves on a winning streak and find it unnecessary to get up to relieve themselves. I found myself thinking how any of this could really be avoided - one should not walk into a casino wearing a garbage bag with a hole cut for their head to protect themselves from germs. After sitting down for a while with $10 credit, I became quickly bored. I don't see how people can get addicted to it. I did accidentally pass up the free soda and mixed drinks wheeled around on a cart by a bored casino worker and I paid the piper by being parched for the rest of the evening.

On Saturday, we drove to Prescott and went to Prescott Daze and tested some of their exemplary deep-fried garlic cheese curds and went to the car show, which meant nothing to me - just boys and their overpriced, over-worked on hunk-of-metal toys. I did buy homemade chapstick in Mint and Tutti-Fruiti, which was refreshing. It always comes full circle between me and chapstick. From there, we moved onto Pepin for Laura Ingalls Wilder Days. From what I recall, the Ingalls family didn't even reside in Pepin for long, so I can't help but question the validity of holding a fair. Anyway, there were little girls dressed in prairie garb everwhere. They even had a fiddling contest, a Laura-look-a-like contest (which we also questioned due to the fact that no one really knows what she looked like without the impression that Melissa Gilbert made on the TV show. If they are really going to go by the show, I think they should have a reenactment of that younger sister taking a digger on the hill). I think that the one girl only won because she had a lunch pail and braids. There was also an essay-reading contest and I felt that most of the girls were lacking important public speaking skills. Their presentations were too canned. I thought it would have been fun if they had been like "I like reading Laura Ingalls Wilder's books because she helped save my life. I was a drug addict and reading her books helped me overcome my addiction" or maybe a girl could drive up in a covered wagon that she built from scratch. Now that's entertainment. But they did have excellent ice cream in waffle cones and I was halfway tempted to buy a bonnet. All in all, an entertaining weekend.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Chapstick is delicious

I was talking to a receptionist at work yesterday about Africa and she asked about supplies I would be taking. I told her that I don't know what type of resources I'll have but I'm bringing stickers because they're kind of a little prize and easy to transport. Today she rolls the mail cart past my cube and hands me nine packs of stickers she bought. What a sweetheart! That made my day.

Also, news. I have booked my flight to staging and am eagerly awaiting the day. I have actually been pretty busy. I called the hospital for immunization records (check), canceled my cell phone (check) and picked up power of attorney papers (check). Tomorrow I get the papers notarized (and unfortunately not by my sister, who actually owns a t-shirt that says "world's least responsible notary," as she is a certified notary person). And man oh man, I am stressing about the luggage deal. Computer or no? It'd be easier for creating lesson plans when I start my teaching post. But am I willing to sacrifice some of my rationed luggage weight for it? Ah, the agony of indecision! I do love those space saver vacuum bags for traveling though. My mom and I put some clothes in one tonight - first she sat on it and then I sat and stood on it, finally resulting in the perfect pancake of clothing. Brilliant. I'd like to give the inventor of that two thumbs up and a great big hug.

I was talking to my mom about how kids have difficulty parting with their mothers on their very first day of school. I thought I had no separation anxiety but my mom said that wasn't the case. I have run into my kindergarten teacher a few times since she taught me (18 years ago) and she still remembers what I would do. Apparently a little before it was time to go each day, I would go up to her and ask her "is it time to go home yet?" When she would tell me no, I would walk over to my purse (this shoddy little yellow number with red hearts) and slather on Chapstick. I guess this happened every day. My mom said that at five, I must have had the smoothest lips of any kid around. I think I just wanted to get home to sit and watch Days of Our Lives on the recliner with my mom.

I am going camping this weekend with my parents and we are going to attend Laura Ingalls Wilder days (kick it Wisconsin style) and go to the casino for the first time in my life (watch out penny machines!). The dog is coming so that should provide endless entertainment. He has more personality than a dog should. He is attached to my sister every time she comes home and my parents and I automatically become second-class citizens in his eyes. She came home this last weekend and he would sleep on her bed each night. After she went home Monday, I was up in my room watching a movie and I heard the jingle of Kirby's collar upstairs. I called for him since he tends to steal things (mittens, socks and hairthings are his faves) but he didn't come. As a result, I went into her room to find him sprawled out on her bed, as though sucking in every molecule of her spirit she could have possibly left behind. He gave me a look like "what did you do with my beloved Kara? You're boring and stupid. Leave me alone in my grief."

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Flea Market Day!

Wow - three weeks away. It's getting so close! It's kind of a scramble to get things together. I am still on the fence as to whether I should bring my sister's old computer with me. To make matters even worse, my digital camera has decided to become a pile and it has stopped working on me. So that's more money! It's neverending. I bought new shoes for wearing on hikes or long walks (plain old New Balances) but they are so white. Before I leave I think I'll go out to the field behind my house and rub some dirt on em. Give em that weathered look.

I went to a flea market in Hatfield, WI today with my parents and our dog. To give you an idea of how large Hatfield is, the sign coming into town says "Summer population 5,000 - Winter population 50." They had a rollerskating rink though, which is adorable. It was a much larger flea market than I expected. There were people with some good stuff but also loads and loads of stuff I can't imagine anyone buying. But one (wo)man's garbage is another (wo)man's treasure, I suppose. I bought a lot of homemade soap from a few different vendors because it seems to last SO much longer than the soap you buy at the store. One woman sold soap that smelled like dirt - on purpose. She said that it was for hunters. They take a shower with dirt soap before they go hunting? I don't understand. Either way, a wild animal is going to smell or see you, no matter how much camo you wear, how high your tree stand is or how much dirt soap you lather up with that morning. Seems a bit excessive - but then again, I'm no hunter.

We then went to Black River Falls where my mom went to a spinning shop (the wool spinning - not the torture on a bike kind) where she bought this liquid to wash wool with. She just made me a shawl to bring with me to Africa. Something to have to think of her and home. It's beautiful and she spent so much time on it. She cleaned the wool, carded it, spun it on a spinning wheel and knit it. I'm glad to have something like that with me.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

ringing and singing

So my friend backed into my parked car tonight...sigh. The damage is pretty much the paint but yeah, can't wait to tell my parents that one in the morning. I feel like I did something wrong.

I went to Coldstone Creamery on a whim today to maintain my svelte figure (pshah) and I remembered that I loathe their "singing for tips" strategy. I tip but I refuse to ring the bell because for some reason, I am severely embarassed by their singing. It's like forced humiliation. What if a person just kept putting a dollar in the jar and ringing the bell? And is there a minimum tip for the required singing? What if someone is a wisebutt and threw a dime in and rang the bell? Although ethically lacking, is the singing still required for this meager tip? I think they need some standards. Needless to say, after I put the dollar in today, the girl said "you can ring the bell if you want to," I said "no, that's okay." I said it conspiratorily, as though I understood the daily humiliation she endured. She probably didn't give a rat's behind either way, given her monotone, lack of gusto performance with the previous bell-ringing. Now I would ring the bell if it was a real theatrical performance - or someone had an accordian and polka music. I really think that musical accompaniment would add to their performance and maybe up their take-home in tips.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

just hang a chalkboard around my neck already

I have lost all ability to talk. I went to get take-out for lunch today and the guy asked me if it was for there or to go. I was like "oh, for, I mean, to go." Yesterday I was at Michaels, aka my favorite local craft store, and the girl asked me my zip code and I gave her the Altoona zip code because I couldn't think of my own. I have never lived in Altoona in my life, just went to school there. I'm not sure why I'm such a psycho when I talk and I'm thinking it's because my thoughts are moving too fast for me to make complete thoughts, much less complete sentences. I'm convinced I'm two steps away from wearing a chalkboard around my neck to communicate and a bib to catch my own drool. I'll say something and automatically wonder why I said what I did. I went to a graduation party in high school and a girl was talking to me about how she was surprised her parents weren't there yet. I could have said "oh, I'm sure they're on their way here" or "they're probably picking up a graduation card." No - what do I say? I say "maybe they got in a car accident." Who says that!? She looked shocked. It totally slipped out and I have no idea where it came from. Honestly. Maybe I just need to start from scratch again with this whole talking thing.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

after-dinner mints and shellac

I went to Walgreens yesterday and it was a pleasant experience. First, I bought a MedAlert bracelet so that if I get incredibly ill in Africa they'll know what I'm allergic to and not inject me with every drug I'd swell up from. I got a little nervous when the clerk was watching me write down what I'm allergic to. If I would have had some cereal boxes, I would have constructed a makeshift wall around me on the Walgreens counter. Come to think of it, the cereal aisle was only one aisle over so it would have been possible. Anyways, I wrote down "sulfa, septra, bactrum and amoxicillan" and she was like "well, septra and bactrum are sulfa." But then I was thinking "well, why do they have their own names then, huh?" I don't want to die in Africa because of Linda at Walgreens, who didn't even know where the order forms for the bracelets were until she asked someone. So when she wasn't looking, I still wrote them down. Sucka. I was halfway tempted to write down plums at the end of that list but since I don't believe they serve a medicinal purpose, this would be unnecessary. I can't picture a doctor being like "she's fading on us...10 CC's of plum juice...stat!" And then I picture a nurse sticking a plum with a needle and pulling out the juice, tapping the needle with her finger and injecting a flatlining me. When I eat a plum, my lips become about three times their normal size. It's all kinds of hilarious. Kind of like when we used to have family get-togethers and I would eat a crapload of those after-dinner mints and my back would be covered with hives. I think I grew out of that allergic reaction (or maybe a human was just not meant to consume a quarter of a bulk-sized carton of after-dinner mints) but still, hilarious if I had "after-dinner mints" engraved on my MedAlert bracelet.

After I ordered my bracelet for the sweet deal of $10.50, I went out into the store just to browse and ended up spending more money on kids toys and picture frames. I got matchbox cars and a teddy bear for kids I encounter in Mozambique and some pretty picture frames for the family I'll be staying with. I also found a package of 10 toothbrushes for a dollar! Who cares if half the bristles fall off in my mouth. What a deal! Also, I'm still in the process of making magazine bead necklaces so I should be set with gifts for new friends abroad. Plus my next-door neighbor bought me a gift card for Michael's for graduation/going away. That is definitely my favorite craft store and I have found it in my heart to forgive them for not carrying shellac.

Friday, August 10, 2007

what do you do with a Precious Moments figurine?

I can't fall asleep so what better than to sit in the cold basement with the dial-up? I shouldn't complain though. It's a computer.

So I had my first hit of realization at how long and how far away I am going to be in Africa when I was packing up my room. My mom wants me to put everything into boxes and store them. It's so depressing. And it wasn't even the fact that I was packing things up because I can live without 99 percent of my stuff. It was the idea of dust settling in my old room. You know, that feeling that a childhood room has been abandoned. Like a room made to look pretty in case company comes, a guest room.

That room has memories though. Like when my sister, my friend, Nessa and I got locked in there when we were little. We were leaving the room and turned the doorknob, only to have it fall off in our hands so we sat for a bit and then shouted for our moms in the kitchen. It was the room where when I was about six or seven, I pulled out all the drawers of a dresser and was so impressed with myself. I told my sister "look what I did!" Then it toppled over on me and she stood and laughed at me. I don't blame her. And then there's the bed. The mattress is higher on one side than the other and has never been switched (despite telling my mom that I could go sledding down my bed if I wanted to). I have actually woken myself up at night by falling off of the bed (I'm a thrasher.)

And it doesn't help when the dog is sitting with me in the recliner and my dad points out "you're going to miss that." I'm already sensing that the airport goodbye is going to be tough.

Wow - this has been a bit of a Debbie Downer post. Wah...wah...

However, on a good note, I watched a German movie tonight - The Edukators. Definitely one of my faves now. Go rent it.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

seals can squint

I was bored at work on my break yesterday so I went online to and entered a haiku contest on a whim. Well, turns out I won the daily contest and I now am having my haiku printed onto a mousepad and they are mailing it to me. They provide a picture to "inspire" you and my picture was of a squinting seal. So I wrote:

They squint at the truth
An arm raised above their eyes
And pray for the clouds

Profound, huh? I'm just stoked about that mousepad and I don't even have a use for it right now. I would just like to dedicate my forthcoming mousepad to that squinting seal. I wish him/her nothing but the best in their future endeavors.

And I went shopping tonight with my mom for some stuff for Africa. I bought, or I should say my mom graciously donated, some collared shirts for teaching and one of these crazy towels that sucks up a lot of moisture and takes up little space. It is supposed to suck up to 9 times its weight. It's the stiffest towel I've ever seen - like a huge cloth you'd wash your car with. So I can't wait to spread it out at a beach and be all awkward because right now it's more like a yoga mat than a towel. Overall, I'd say it was a successful shopping trip, complete with a heated discussion of socialized healthcare on the drive home.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

i'll get you and your little clause too

So what a craptacular day. Here's what went down.

I had a rough day at work. I think my eyes are going buggy on me from all that reading.

I had put my library books and movies in my desk because I didn't want them exposed to the heat sitting in the car. So I finish up work for the day and walk out to my car, forgetting my library materials. I go to go back into the building and they've already locked the doors. That's three dollars in library fines for those late movies.

Not even a minute later, I check my cell phone and it's the fitness club returning my call. I particularly like the part in the message where the guy says "I received your email...and your letter...and I see that you have some questions..." That's right. I'll admit I went a bit overboard on using both postage and internet but drastic times call for drastic measures. So I call him back and then he has to call me back and he explains to me that during the time I signed up for the gym, there were employees working there who were failing to mention the clause in their contract. He reassured me that now they made sure they informed members of this clause, bolding and underlining it. Then, after he admits that they made a mistake, he says that they can't refund my money because then everyone will want their money back. BUT...they could give me the month of September for free. If that's the case - why don't they just give me the price of that month of membership and refund me my money?! I told him that I don't want to use their gym and that I am leaving in the middle of September for Africa anyway. He was like "is that for a few months?" and I said "no, it's for just over two years." He stuttered for a bit and then proceeds to tell me that "well, when you come back, we could set something up." That's a little something I like to call grasping for straws. I told him that I appreciated him calling me back but that I was still disappointed in the quality of their service. And then he told me "good luck in Africa." Right after I hung up, I hopped on the Better Business Bureau website and filed a complaint. Boo-ya! It's not just $41. It's my $41. I'm not a fan of people blatantly ripping me off so I figured that I might as well take it up a notch.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

you are my sunshine, but not my only sunshine

So I got my iPod my sister got me by overnight delivery today. I am beyond thrilled. I have never had an iPod before. I had a nano but apparently they don't take well to spin cycles. It was my one ray of sunshine in a day that shall forever go down in my list of businesses to never frequent, ever again.

I checked my bank account online to find that my gym has continued to charge me for a membership that should be over at this point, which is something I wasn't prepared for so I received an overdraft notice. So I call them up and lo and behold, they continue to charge you after your six months unless you come and cancel. I am sorry but what is the point of a "six month" membership then? So I called them and I went in and talked to them but they refused to give me a refund. I was so angry when I was signing the cancellation sheet that it looked like a Muppet printed and signed my name.

So what is one to do who is horrible at confrontation? I wrote two strongly worded letters. I wrote the fitness club an email and mailed a letter to the owner expressing my disgust at their failure to make their "cancellation" policy more clear. The college kid at the front desk was so nice too and I explained that I knew it wasn't his fault but I was still livid. The manager or whoever just gave them directions as to what to tell me and didn't even come out to discuss the problem with me.

And here's my letter that I wrote, with a sentence contributed by my sister (the one that sounds the most lawyerish):

Dear -- ,

I signed on for a six-month membership with your gym at the end of December of 2006. I truly enjoyed visiting your gym as your staff is wonderful. They always greet you when you come in and are willing to answer all of your questions. As I assumed my membership expired in June, since that would be six months later, I did not believe that I would be charged for any more membership dues.

However, today I checked my online banking and saw that there was an overdraft statement on my checking account. I came to realize that your business had charged me for a month that I was not aware I would be charged for. When I called and came into your gym, they explained that if a member does not come in to cancel their membership after the six months is up, they continue to charge that member on a month-to-month basis and were told to refuse to refund my $41.00. This is not something that I was made aware of when I signed up to use your gym. It may have been in fine print on your contract but it was never relayed to me by the young man who signed me up. I understand that your business model necessitates the usage of these contracts; however, I feel that this clause in your contract should be pointed out to new members. I did not sign up for a "six month membership and a couple more." Also, if you will check your records, I have not attended your gym for the past few months since summer began and the weather improved, so there is no reason I should be charged for something I am not using. During my membership at your gym, I even talked a friend into joining, putting another $246.00 in your business' pocket.

Like I stated before, I have always had nothing but kind words for your gym. Working out at your facilities helped me to lose 25 lbs. At this point, if my money is not refunded to my account, I will change my mind. Although your workers and facilities are excellent, your policies are unacceptable and unclear. As a lifelong resident of Eau Claire, I will never recommend your gym to my friends who are all in their twenties, an age group that is a significant clientele of any fitness club. I recently graduated from college with thousands of dollars in student loans so money is not something I tend to throw around and waste on unused gym memberships.

Thank you and I look forward to your response.

Friday, August 3, 2007

mama said there'll be days like this

I love the Shirelles.

I made chocolate chip cookies today for a friend's birthday but ending up burning half of them. I hate sensitive baking pans. I figured "ya know, the bottoms are burned and if I threw them out that'd be wasteful." So I ate all the burned ones and passed out on the couch instead of exercising for a half hour. My mental checks and balances system is quite manipulative. I have odd dreams too. Like I had a dream today that centered around Martha Stewart's fashion designer guest and I dreamed that the models had a party afterward and Martha wouldn't drink the punch, claiming that I hadn't washed her glass correctly. So she pulled out a fold-out cup she had stashed in the pocket of her well-pressed khakis. And I also dreamed of a jingle for a chicken joint. Instead of the numbers sung with "867-5309," I sing "8 piece chicken just $6.99." So unless I subconsciously heard that somewhere, there's a free chicken jingle up for grabs.

My day has been a bit off because I felt groggy to begin with. That might be because my eyes are tired from reading at work. It helps to take a nap when I get home to rest them but then I wake up grumpy. You don't want to mess with me when I'm sleeping. I've been known to swear at family and say odd things without realizing it and walk in my sleep. In fact, when I'm sleeping would be the perfect time to con me because I would agree to anything for someone to leave me alone. I'm practically comatose when I sleep and I like it that way. When my sister and I were little, our parents took us on a camping trip. It started to rain hard and thunderstorm and I don't remember any of it. Then there was the time when I was six or seven and my sister lost her cookies in my hair at a campsite while I was sleeping. All I recall is being shaken awake and my mom saying "Erin, get up. We need to go to the bathroom." Then I also randomly showed up in the living room in my sleepwalking state with my sheets wrapped around me when my parents were watching TV. Now I just have dreams that play along with the TV program I still have playing while I am asleep. I wonder if there is such a thing as a productive sleepwalker, someone who actually accomplishes something besides finishing off a package of Lorna Doones or lying down to sleep at a kitchen table somewhere. I like to think there is someone out there who does their taxes, cuts their dog's hair, exercises or writes emails to friends they haven't spoken with for a while. I would love to read those emails.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

the Shakers invented clothespins

So what did Erin do today you might ask? Well, let me tell you.

First I finished Eve Ensler's "Insecure at Last," an excellent read for anyone who is interested in feminism and learning about atrocities commited based on gender. And I then read some of "Body Hunters," which is about Western doctors and drug companies testing unapproved drugs on impoverished people. And then I watched TransAmerica, a very good movie (I have rekindled my love for Dolly Parton with her theme song to that movie, "Travelin' Thru"'s a foot-stompin', knee-slappin' kind of a tune. I felt inspired to whip out some spoons and start a jam session) and a documentary on the Shakers. So I had an educational day. I didn't even take a nap, a true sign of productivity. The end.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

you look like you stole that hammer

So I thought I would write today. I'm so excited that it is officially less than two months before I depart for Philadelphia. I just need to make it through these last weeks of work, staring at a computer in my six by six cube. I do have some good stories from working at the seminar company though. The people there have always been great and extremely entertaining to talk to - always willing to lie on their stomachs to get a stray quarter for you from under the soda vending machine (and yes, this did happen to me). "I think I can reach it as long as it isn't next to the mousetrap." There's the woman who keeps a badminton racquet in her cube to carry with her for her afternoon walk so that she is armed if the protective, nesting bird swoops on her. Then there was the motivation meeting last summer, when I got to say "My name is Erin and I am a gem." And we swung our arms, hands clasped and sang like it was Christmas morning in Whoville.

I also miss working at the bookstore. I can't help it. I have a hard time letting go of things sometimes. I miss the people I worked with and my friends who worked there. I miss my sweet sweet 33% discount. But I've tried this new thing called the library and it seems to suit my needs just fine. Waiting for the middle of September to roll around with my flight to Africa, I feel like the small child waiting in line at the mall to see the Easter Bunny or Santa. You are hopping up and down, painstakingly excited to get to your destination. Then when you get there, you are stunned and terrified. Well, I'm just hoping I'm not the one who wets their pants.

I just came off of a weekend of managing a thrift sale with my sister. It went off well. We had some hagglers and some hilarious people. My sister and I particularly enjoyed the few people who as they were leaving, thanked us and told us that they had fun. And I also enjoyed the conversation we had with a girl involving Kathy Matthea's greatest hits. And the little girl who was only happy once her mother bought her something - settling on a 10 cent stuffed Bartok from the animated movie, Anastasia. We also met our paper man, who turned out to be quite the fireball. And then there was Kara, hammering in our thrift sale signs and then sprinting back to the car for no reason at all. Yes, many good stories from this weekend.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Testing, 1...2...3

I am going to Africa September 25th to teach English. In particular, I am going to Mozambique. So, in the two months before I am to leave, I have created this blog so that I can share my experiences. I will be gone for 27 months so I should have dollops of things to say while I am there - as long as I have internet access. I am excited and thrilled right now and I'm figuring the nervous part sets in about a week before I go. Two years is a long time to be away from family and friends. My first real grown-up experience. I really don't know what to expect because I don't know what type of living conditions I'll have once I settle in or the type of community I'll be living in until December. I go through a 3-month period of training in Maputo until December. I then put my nose to the grindstone for two years and come home in December of 2009. If I like it enough and feel like I have been useful, I'll extend my stay a year. I've wanted to go to Africa for the longest time and now it's happening. Stay tuned.