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It was a pretty typical weekend for us.

The weekend started on Friday at noon. I work a schedule (8-5 M-Th) which allows me to take off early. A very nice perk indeed. I went home and made a chocolate cake for a colleague who was in town briefly since she's covering the office in Bamako. Instead of regular chocolate I used white chocolate so the cake looked like a regular yellow cake but with a very chocolate-y taste. I used dark chocolate and cream-cheese/coconut icing to make swirly patterns.

Saturday morning found us at the International School. Mohamed plays soccer every Saturday morning and I have a tennis lesson. Since I finish before M does I swim or watch tennis or the soccer match. Then we returned home, heated up some lunch (potato carrot soup this time from How to Cook Everything) and decompressed by taking a nap (me) or watching more soccer on TV (M). Since stores close between noon and 3:30pm, our shopping is crammed into the afternoon with other errands. Normally our housekeeper buys fruit and veggies but I'd forgotten to put lemons and strawberries on the list so M ventured to the open market facing the grocery store. He wasn't able to find Hawa, the young lady who's our fruit & veggie fixer, so he bargained on his own.

Back at home we put away the groceries and I puttered around until the evening. A friend of ours (whose husband is the political officer at the US Embassy) was giving a piano concert at the American Cultural Center. She played a selection of American classics including Gershwin and Joplin, and was joined by another American who sang "'S Wonderful" and "I Got Rhythm." The concert was outside and it was a beautiful evening - look up and you see Orion clearly - but since the ACC is located on a main street there was some noisy traffic. We saw many, many friends, and the audience was about half Burkinabé, half foreign. M saw some of his classmates from the American Language Center; ACC events are announced there, as well as the MLKJ library.

One of the friends we saw from the US Embassy suggested an excursion to the goat cheese restaurant in Loumbila, about half an hour out of town. So Sunday morning we slept in, and then picked up Susan, who teaches English at the engineering school on a Fulbright program, and Laurel, who works for a Canadian organization, before joining the others (ladies who work at the US Embassy and Peace Corps) at the restaurant. It was very hot. But the warm goat cheese salad was absolutely heavenly, topped off with beef brochettes. After lunch we visited the dormant turtles, the camel who was amusing him/herself by licking an empty crate, and the two depressed monkeys chained to a tree.

Once we got home, we conked out for another nap, then roused ourselves for a tennis match. M said that my technique was good but I played like an aged turtle. I rolled my eyes and responded that he played like a monkey on crack. Ah, marriage. For dinner afterwards, I had some leftover penne so I made a quickie tomato sauce with basil lovingly plucked from our tiny garden.

Note that we had very little interaction with Burkinabé. M hangs out with his Moroccan cronies (who work for Royal Air Maroc, the Embassy, or the Food and Agriculture Organization). My friends are all American except for the Filipino Baptist missionary family. So despite my heartfelt promises not to lead a cushy expat life, by default we have.
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On March 20th, 2006 02:57 pm (UTC), (Anonymous) commented:
You cook good stuff
I'm impressed - between you and Adriana (and JA, if she'd ever actually BLOG ABOUT IT FOR PETE SAKE!!), you are inspiring me to cook more. I love the description of your and M's differing tennis styles...and I would add that I myself play sort of like a turtle on crack, so I'm somewhere in the middle. I don't move too fast (turtle) but I smack the ball like I'm in Fenway Park (crack). Or something like that. :-)

[User Picture]
On March 20th, 2006 03:41 pm (UTC), ticklethepear replied:
Re: You cook good stuff
Yeah...here I have no ingredients but lots of time, and in the US I'd have lots of ingredients but no time.

M is really the cooking diva. He *refuses* to touch the food processor (my best kitchen friend) and does every thing the long way, including meticulously fluffing the coucous. (I commented on this on Adriana's blog.) He's always getting on my case about peeling tomatoes, which I categorically refuse to do.

Re tennis, I'm sure the ball boy thinks we're both on crack as he spends most of his time running after our stray shots.
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[User Picture]
On March 21st, 2006 02:03 pm (UTC), meredith_eats commented:
I am a bad expat too. I have no Japanese friends and have sort of stopped liking Japanese people. It is indeed time for me to move on...

What do you do in Burkina Faso anyway?
[User Picture]
On March 21st, 2006 02:23 pm (UTC), ticklethepear replied:
Good question! I actually blogged about this last month (see below). My title is Program Quality Manager and I work at a big American NGO. Everything that gets produced by the technical depts. (agriculture, education, microfinance, HIV/AIDS, and monitoring and evaulation) goes through me, plus I do a lot of training and a lot of writing. I do enjoy my job, but I miss the sense of community that I had when I was a lowly English teacher in Cameroon.

After having lived in Japan and studied Japanese and Japanese culture/history, I'm really amazed that people actually become JICA volunteers (their equivalent of PC). I became friends with the JICA director and his wife here, who were volunteers in Niger, and a friend of mine when I was posted in Bamako was a JICA volunteer in Ghana and now works for UNESCO. It just seems to out of character to meet Japanese people interested in Africa.

Jill of All Trades
Or, "Are you sure that’s in my job description?"
People always ask me what exactly I do. I do pretty much everything – mainly in English but in French too. Since 1999, I’ve:
· Reviewed a million documents in French and English, including proposals, concept papers, scopes of work, mid-term and final evaluations, training designs, and trip reports
· Wrote or co-wrote a bunch of proposals in a variety of sectors – education, agriculture, emergencies, etc.
· Wrote or co-wrote assorted important documents in English, including evacuation plans, field security plans, briefing books, welcome packets, annual reports, and website text, progress reports, and final reports
· Organized, facilitated and co-facilitated an endless number of trainings, in English and in French, including financial management, gender and development, partnership, and strategic planning
· Pinch-hit for a number of colleagues, most recently for food distributions in the 2005 food crisis
· Represented the agency at many many long meetings
· Spent a lot of time on the internet looking up stuff
· Spent a lot of time emailing asking for stuff
· Spent a lot of time reminding colleagues to send stuff to me on deadline
· Spent a lot of time answering emails
· Smiled as much as possible
· Kissed up to various official people
Oh! I tire just thinking of it.
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