Friday, November 18, 2011

I like big butts...

I had to go to the Division Officers office today, to get some more information for my CNA and to invite them to my groups Support Day. Getting there is a pain in the butt and I try to avoid it if I can. It's way out there, matatu's do not go out there and if it rains at any point in the previous three days it is muddier than a pigs sty. Oh, it rained yesterday. A lot. It takes about an hour and a half to walk there from my house, if I walk fast and do not have to stop and greet people. I was going to meet one of the mama's, B, there at 10. I got there at 10:05. She got on to me for being late. Let me rephrase this, a Kenyan mama just got on me for being late. Five minutes late. Pot-Kettle and all. I wanted to point out that I had walked and she rode a pikipiki (motorcycle), but decided to just suck it up. So of course we get there and wait for an hour to meet with anyone. Once we were done we headed back. Because I have horrible timing, it was lunch time for the kids so they were out in droves. There were three boys along side the road. I hear one say "Habari yako." (What is the news, or how are you) and I hear another one say something else but I did not quite make out what he said. All of the sudden Mama B starts yelling at the boys, asking why are they not learning proper english and if they are why are they using rude and bad language. A mama (theirs I assume) comes out and asks what happened, mama B says some stuff in dhluo and the other woman yells something.

We get about five feet and my curiosity can take no more. I ask Mama B to tell me what the kids had said. At first she was reluctant, she said it was so bad she did not want to repeat it. She told me that the woman was apologizing and was really sorry for what the boys had said (this means they probably got a beating today about this.) I talked her into telling me. Apparently one of the boys yelled that I had a…wait for it…."small butt." I don't think I am offended by this. Though apparently I should be, at least judging by the reaction and response of the mama's. Which leads me to believe that they are aware of it (it being my small butt, though I think the word small needs to be taken into context. Kenyan women have awesome butts and small would not be a word to describe them) and assume I am self-conscious about my lack of booty and have been offended. This still tickles me.

My baba's cat had kittens, 3 of them. At least originally. She ate one. Now this same thing happened during training, but that time the mama cat ate all three of her kittens (I never saw my host Mama that upset before). Now I know why this happens and intellectually I understand it (Mama cat is not getting fed enough), but it still gives me the heevie jeevies. On a side note, I do want to keep one of the (surviving) kittens as my own. I'm down to three possible names: Gargamel (if it is a girl), Severus (if it is a boy) or Dr. Evil Whiskers.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Climb every mountain, cross no sea

I wish I could say I've been too busy to post anything on this blog. I haven't. But I am now, so no complaining.

I have had a wild past two months. My groups are organizing a support day for the orphans, widows and widowers in the community. They help provide food, clothing, school fees and other items to assist. It also means a lot of meetings. For those who are not aware of how meetings work here in Kenya (and Africa as a whole), here is a breakdown:

Meeting is scheduled for 10 AM
I arrive at 9:45 AM, walk through town and greet everyone who makes eye contact. Inform the same three pikipiki (motorcycle) drivers that I am not interested in marrying them today, but tomorrow? Who knows. Arrive at Jiko la Jamii (my yogurt group) and greet Mama Risper.
9:50-have a discussion with Mama Risper about why I am not eating mandazi (awesomely addictive fried dough) and chai.
10:00-play a little snake on my phone
10:05-10:30-make faces at all the kids that stop and gawk at me. Discuss past and future travel plans with Mama Risper
10:30-10:45-stare off in space
10:45-11:00-wander over to the VCT to talk with Dr. Abebe
11:00-11:30-return to Jiko La Jamii and help package the yogurt
11:30-the first mama arrives for the meeting.
12:00-meeting starts (if it is a good day)

So I spend more time waiting for meetings. TIA. But it gives me time to talk to people which is great and Mama Risper usually gives me a lot of yogurt to snack on. So, yahtzee.

I've finished my community needs assessment and there are a couple of programs/projects that I would really like to start here. One is a resource center for youth. Lots of the youth can not afford to go past, what we in America would consider, 8th grade. It would be great to start a program that allows them to receive training of some kind after this if they are not able to afford more school. Another project that I would like to work with is water sanitation and hygiene. These are two areas that I think would really assist the community. Next week I am meeting with some NGOs in the area to see what projects they are working on. This is all in my head for now, so who knows what the future brings.

I took a trip to Kisumu for Halloween, in engage in some good food, good friends and fake blood. Yes, I got to use my fake blood. My friend Sarah and I went as mob justice. She was the mob, I was the victim. We met up with a bunch of other PCVs at an NGO crash pad for the party. Good times.

After two weeks of being at site, I needed to get out. So last weekend I took a trip down to Sori (look at a map of Kenya and go as far west and south as you can before getting to Uganda or Tanzania and this is where I went) to visit my friends Elise, Molly, Brennan and Chris. From Elise's house you can see Lake Victoria. We sat on her porch Friday night enjoying some good wine and watching the omena fishermen come out. The lights from their boats dance across the water, making it look like christmas tree lights slowly bobbing along. It was so relaxing and fun. I am completely jealous of her site. The next day we met up with Brennan, Molly and Chris to do some hiking. We hiked up some big hill. Despite some initial fears, we were not attacked by cougars ( neither the cats nor the women searching for young men) or by black mambas. The views were spectacular, at points we could see three countries, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. The rest of the night was spent designing a paddle bubble/pontoon boat that would allow someone to bike across Lake Victoria, using chapati as frisbees and staring off at Lake Victoria. Then I had the longest, dustiest, bumpiest ride back home ever. Totally worth it.

Thanksgiving is coming up. Not sure what my plans are, due to some new rules PC has decided to enforce. I'm just hoping it involves food.

new items for wishlist:
-gossip mags
-mac and cheese (actually if you want to just send the packet of powdered cheese that would work too)
-Reeses Pieces
-camera memory cards

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

"Are you American? I love you."

Real question I got the other day

I have lucked out and have electricity at my site. Most of the time. It goes out randomly. Which is not a real problem for me, I usually just use it as my excuse to go to bed (it makes it sound better than saying "I went to bed at 8:00 because I'm tired"). It really worries my family, I live on their compound, about what I do when it goes out. They also worry about what I do for water, cooking, traveling, washing, living, etc. I'm pretty sure they wake up each morning surprised I survived the night. This often leads to them requesting (demanding) that they do stuff for me. I've tried to let them know I'm pretty self-reliant and have thus far been able to survive on my own, they usually just stare at me and start talking in dhluo really fast to each other (which means they don't want me to know what they are talking about.).

Food continues to be an issue with me. My whole day pretty much revolves around it. Thinking about it, making it and/or eating it. I even dream of food. Some people get really vivid nightmares from mephlaquin. I dream of food and peace corps. On a positive note, I have about 10 pounds of groundnuts (peanuts) that different mama's have given me.

I helped set up my first VSLA (Village Savings and Loan) today. It's pretty much a group that gets together and pays shares each meeting (social fund, development fund, shares), money is then loaned out and saved, either for personal use or for group use. Obviously there is more to it than this, but that is the gist of it. Hopefully all will go well, it's with my catering group and they are a pretty driven bunch.

I also have been going to church. Yes, church. A Catholic one. I figure it's good for my rep (also, one of the mama's in my community called me out the 2nd week I was here, wondering why I don't go to church) plus it's a break from my daily routine of: washing, reading, cleaning, washing, sleeping, eating, cleaning, watching movies. And it's near my house so I can walk. It's pretty interesting. For one, it is all in dhluo. Luckily, I've been to mass enough that I can follow along (see family, I do pay attention). Second, they have dancers and the choir does that undulating sound that I think is pretty cool (both things that would definitely liven up any mass). I also tend to attract a crowd, of kids. While this is not abnormal, this is the only place I spend 1 1/2 hours getting poked, touched and smelled. I try to shoo them away, but that just draws attention to my hand, which they then want to hold.

Got to meet with the health center today, hopefully I can get them to let me do my secondary project there. I miss health.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Adjusting to site and other such (in)conveniences

So I made it to site. And there were fireworks. Literally. Though not for me. My first night I went to a funeral and they had fireworks. Please note on the scale of awesomeness, it ranks pretty high. I expect fireworks at my funeral.

It's been awhile, I haven't had access to the internet, so this is a long one.

Some info about my site. According to Peace Corps I live in Kadongo, in Nyanza south of Lake Victoria (googling it does not really provide any information. It's small, I can almost walk across town and hold my breath). My nearest big town is either Sondu or Oyugis, both cost about 50 KSH (less than fifty cents) and take about 30 minutes to get to (less if I wasn't riding in a matatu, which stops every 5 minutes to cram 26 people, goats and chickens into an 11 person van. "Mzungu, you have two Kenyans on your lap" is an actual quote I have heard. Though generally try to draw the line at people sitting on my laps). I actually live in Oriang' (Oh-ree-angwah). Which consists of a Catholic church, one duka (small shop that sells random items) and a boarding school. It's not really a town, more of a collection of houses and said shops/businesses.

I live on the compound of a family here, Baba and Mama Dok. She works north of Lake Victoria during the week and comes home on the weekends. He is retired but sells Mpesa (a phone/money business through cell phones). They have two adult children, the girl lives in Tanzania and the boy has a house on the compound, but does not live there. There is also a family, we share the same building, that lives here (dad, mom and cute little 18 month old daughter), they do my family's house cleaning and cooking. (I do my own chores) My house (well, really it is connected to the outdoor kitchen, a storage shed and the house family's room. So it's more of an apartment?) is small. It was one room, but the Dok's partitioned it off. In total it's about 16' by 16'. But I do have electricity! For now I have running water, we use rain catchment and it's rainy season. Once this ends there is a well outside my door I can pull water from. I also have an indoor toilet! I have to manually pour water to flush, but no more pooping in holes for me!

My job is interesting. I work with four different groups in the area. One makes probiotic yogurt, one makes ceramic jiko's (stoves), one caters events and the other is a self-help group. I'm working with them to help them strengthen their groups, strengthen their businesses and network. All groups have a goal of helping to provide for the orphans and widows in the community (there is a lot of orphans in the area. Mainly due to the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS. Pretty much every group member is raising at least one orphan. Most are children of relatives, but others were found wandering around the market). I'm also working to help organize the groups under one network (Ruwonet), which I hoping to help develop. We'll see, things run in African time around here. Which means, schedules are not really kept, time is not really observed, the PCV spends a lot of time reading while waiting for people to show up for things.

I attended a graduation ceremony this past Monday. I had to give a speech. I did not know anyone graduating and it did not really have a lot to do with my job, but I was invited. I also had to preside over the cake cutting ceremony. It was odd, really cool, but odd.

The area is really cool. It's really green and these beautiful hills are all around. Sweet potato, maize, sugar cane and pineapple are mainly grown, but there are plenty of other veggies and fruits. Guava is a weed here and grows in abundance on the side of the road.

Something else that is in abundance on the side of the road: children. At least they are when they see me coming. I have yet to get one to call me "Cory" they prefer mzungu. Apparently, it is the same in dhluo as it is in kiswahili. I have made one child scream in terror just by walking by him. Score.

I promise to update more often.

Please note, when sending things:
-US Postal Service, while slowest, is the cheapest. Especially the padded envelopes. You can fill those suckers up with a lot of things.
-Write a bunch of religious sayings and bible verses on the package. Less likely to get opened or stolen
-Don't declare anything of value. Feel free to state it is books or such
-Don't send anything that you would not send to your grandmother. I most likely will have to open the package for inspection and Kenya culture is very conservative. I have a reputation to uphold (the weird mzungu who walks everywhere and speaks funny, but still I would rather be the weird mzungu than the possibly shady mzungu)
-Things could take up to 2 months for me to receive, so don't worry if it takes me awhile to confirm that I received anything.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

"It makes babies disappear"

So the first picture is of my host brothers and sisters (well two of them are missing). The second one is neighborhood kids. The third one was taken at the safari I went on in Ambeseli. We saw lions. 9 of them. My mama and our guide had never seen lions there before. So, awesome

Quote from PCT.

So today I swear in. Nothing special. Just at the ambassador's house here in Nairobi. With hamburgers and hotdogs. I hope they have enough food. For me.

It's been a long, but good, 10 weeks of training. I've learned how to speak like a 3 year in kiswahili (though have not mastered the high pitched, nasal 'How'a you' quite yet), cook on a jiko, poop in a hole and eat ugali. I've also met some really cool people, both Kenyan and American. But honestly I'm glad training is over, it's been long. (It bears repeating).

We're here in Nairobi and it has been a load of craziness. We met our supervisors for the first time yesterday and got to have more information on what our jobs will be. I don't have time to go into it right now, but mine will be pretty awesome and I am really excited about it. It will be difficult, but I'm Cory. We also have the stress of saying good-bye to those who won't be living near us (it will be three months before we see them again). So we've been having some major media sharing parties, mani-pedi parties and mustache parties (just the guys). Even got some ultimate frisbee in.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Long and Winding Road

Training is winding down, but at the same time getting busier. We have our language test coming up, presentations to give and beer to attend to (ok, so not really the last one, but I'm looking forward to heading out for a drink tonight). Then I will still have to learn Luo (the local language for where I will be living) and still have to pack.

Kenya is pretty amazing so far, I went up, with some others from my group, to Chogoria which is really close to Mt. Kenya. We stayed with a volunteer up there. The views, with the mountains, banana trees and tea plantations was just awesome. Plus watching Carlo chase kids really made me giggle. I know that sounds mean, but until you have a non-stop chorus of "How'a youuuu?" yelled at the same high pitch frequency everyday than you can't judge. Seriously, the kids are annoying.

We also got to stay two nights in Nairobi, one on the way there and one on the way back. Which allowed me to see the last Harry Potter. I'm not going to spoil it, but it's not as good as the book. We did get to eat at an awesome Indian restaurant.

So far I've gone against PC tradition and have lost weight. Not really sure how, pretty much all they eat here is carbs. Maybe it is the increase in walking. Or lack of fast food, alcohol and my now semi-vegetarian diet (still can't stomach most of the meat).

It feels kind of odd that in less than a month I will be living in yet another part of Kenya and will actually be doing "real" work. Also, will not have 51 other Mzungus (wazungu)around. But I've got some pretty cool people that will be living near me, so all good. Our Mzungu migrations will just be smaller.

Here are two things I've learned about Kenyans: they love TV novellas and Celine Dion. Oh, and I'm still covered in dust.

Monday, July 11, 2011

It's been a month already?

Wow, so I am one lazy person. I have been here in Kenya and this is my first update. While I could try and blame this on the fact that I do not have internet,but there is an internet cafe in town. I'm just lazy.

So, obviously I made it to Kenya in one piece. After the long plane ride we arrived in Nairobi at around midnight. We stayed there for a couple of nights before going to Loitokitok, where are training is located. Loitokitok is at the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro (obviously on the Kenya side). I have a couple of words that describe Loitokitok: pretty, hilly, dusty and very dusty. Still not sure if I have a tan line on my feet or it's from the dust. This stuff does not seem to wash off.

My host family is great, I have 6 siblings. My normal day consists of: chai, bread, language class, lunch, chai, technical class, chai, bread, dinner, chai.

I am going to try and be better at updating this, so I will try to come back a bit later. Chai time

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Um, I'm going where?

In 74 hours I will be in Philadelphia. In 120 hours (less time than that hiker Aron spent trapped between a rock and a hard place), or in about 5 days I will be on a plane to Kenya. To say I haven't had some "What am I doing" moments would be a lie. I'm sitting here in a Starbucks across from some douc...odd guy with bleached hair, red tips and a batman symbol tattoo (he really plays no part of this story, I just think he is ridiculous. Nay, ridonkulous) it keeps hitting me at this time next week I will be in Kenya.

I started my packing last night. It looks like I will be doing really good on space. My problem might just be weight. I have books (gulp) that I can take out if need be. I will probably end up not using half the stuff. but you never know.

So I am leaving soon, it seems odd that I went from a berry farm to New York City, back to berry farm and am now going to Kenya. Where am I going to go next that won't be similar to anyplace else I've ever lived. I fear at some point the only option I will have will be Antarctica.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

17 Days to Go!

In just a little over two weeks I will be on a plane to Philly for a two night stay before leaving for Kenya. Two weeks is not a long time. I have so much left to do. Such as getting my parent's psycho cat, Louie, to like me, or at least not attack me every time I walk by him. I tried to sweeten him up with tuna last night. He just glared at me. I also have some stuff to pack. By some stuff I mean everything. I pretty much have most of my items that I want to bring so that is not a huge issue, it's just getting everything together and then freaking out that I am forgetting something.

I've been neglecting my kiSwahili the past couple of weeks, but have decided to brush up on some words that I think will help me. So I looked up snake today. Just in case I come face to face with one I can at least shout it's swahili name before it bites me. Tomorrow, I will learn "the lion is chasing me."

In the middle of reading "Bossypants" by Tina Fey. I am really going to miss 30 Rock.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Is this a dry on run for Kenya?

So it's been storming like crazy here in Arkansas (and all over the south) for the past three days. Every afternoon for the past three days I have turned on the radio to listen to some (mediocre) tunes. I can't get through a whole (crappy) song without the national weather service beeping. Luckily for my family we have been lucky and have not, really, been affected by the weather. Sadly, many communities around us were not so lucky.

We did not get totally away unscathed. A branch crashed down on our power line. Thus, we lost power. Monday night. So far it has not been found again. Living without electricity is not the worst, I have now been able to get through a lot of my books. But since we have a well, which runs on electricity, we do not have water. Now I know what you guys are thinking. Stop complaining, whiner, this is what you will probably have to deal with in Kenya. True. And I'm not whining. I'm not in Kenya yet, and this totally screws with my whole way of living I've been doing. Mainly, the line of thought "hey, I'm going to be in Africa for two years, they may not have this, I might not be able to do this in Africa, I better eat this because I may never have it again." I expected a short stint in eden before going to Kenya.

Here's to hoping the electricity will get turned on back on by Friday. If not, does anyone (with electricity) want a houseguest for awhile?

Monday, April 25, 2011

It seems to be the popular thing to do

So it's only 42 days until I start this Peace Corps thing. It seems like a long time away, but it won't feel that way. I've only been in Arkansas for a month and it seems like about 2 weeks since I moved back in with my parents. I am having to start to come to terms with some of the changes that I will have to make. Yes, I've had to make some changes in terms of moving back home and moving away from NYC. (Do you realize that things in Arkansas close at 10? Do you know how much time I apparently spent online in NYC and how apparent that is when your parents do not have internet? Bagels. Dunkin' Donuts, Shipley's and Daytime Donuts do not know real bagels). Moving to Kenya will be a big change, so some things that I think I will miss:

-Cheese. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE cheese.
-A fan to sleep with. I'm trying to wean myself off of sleeping with a fan. This has been a habit of mine forever, I'm trying to figure out a way to fall asleep without it. I probably will not have the electricity to do this.
-sushi (though to be honest, I am already missing that. Landlocked states are not really known for their good seafood)
-Eating. Let me be specific, if I crave something I can easily hop in the car and go get it (with the already previously noted bagels not included).

Friday, April 8, 2011


I am writing this while sitting at the airport, waiting for my plane to take me back to Arkansas. Unlike my previous trips home over the course of the years, this time I am not coming back. As my cab was careening towards, what I was certain of at the time, sudden death, I got a good view of Manhattan. It kinda made me sad. In a way I don't want to leave.
There are so many things I haven't done! It can't be time for me to leave. I never had tea at the Ritz. I never went to a Knicks game. No La Bernadin, no kayaking the Hudson. My mind knows that I can always come back and do all of these things and more. It's always there to do. But I don't think I will. New York was fun and I had a blast, but I am done with it. Let others have their fun.

I am off for bigger and better things. First up, surviving the wilds of Lonoke, AR.

That was obviously written a little over a week ago. It was not posted until now because my parents don't believe that getting the internet at home would be beneficial. Since that time I have survived the first week of Lonoke, attend the 40th anniversary of University of Arkansas rugby, and watched hours of Yo Gabba Gabba. Only one of those things I did under my own free will (hint: it does not involve a farm or toys that come to life). So now I'm in Kenya mode. Well, not really. So far my preparation has been buying a skirt and two shirts, trying on my Chacos and deciding if I want to bring a halloween costume. I'm sure I will get more into it the closer it comes.

Also there was a huge bull in our yard this morning.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Where did this come from??!?

I moved to NYC with, literally, 2 bags and a backpack. For the life of me, I do not know where everything else came from. The DVD's I understand. I bought those. I think everything else just reproduced. I left it in my closet or in boxes and it multiplied. There is really no other explanation. Trying to move has meant numerous visits to the post office and UPS. Keep in mind I have a large pile of donations to give, so the things left in my apartment that are not for sale or donation had to come from somewhere. I just don't know where.

I hate moving. I hate 3rd floor walk-ups.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Jersey, St. Pat's and Peace Corps

So for the first time ever I went to Hoboken, NJ for their St. Patrick's Day Parade and festivities. My friend Geoff and Kirsten live out there on the parade route so we watched the parade from their stoop then retired to their new, and awesome, apartment. What? I did not go out to a bar? I sat inside like an old person? Yes. First off the bars charge around $20 cover and you still have to spend $7 for a beer. No thank you. Second off, drunk people are annoying if you haven't been drinking. So we sat inside and talked. Geoff made some very good pizza, Kirsten and I made hummus (well okay, I squeezed a lemon). I met some interesting people, one VERY interesting. Apparently, through accounts from the others present, looked liked the movie Hostel was shot there. Talking with one of the party-goers we got on the subject of me keeping this blog.

I don't know if I want to call it a blog, but rather random ramblings and thoughts that pop in my head. Yes I occasionally do hit on some things going on in my life (Peace Corps) that is mildly interesting, but often it is just random things. So don't come into reading this if you expect hilarious/thought provoking/educational issues. No, it's just things that at the time I thought of and happened to be near my computer.

Work is going to be ending quickly. Just 14 more days. Only 29 more days until I am watching "What Not to Wear." Staging was moved back, but that really does not affect me too much since I will be unemployed as of March 26. On another PC note, we have a Facebook page which has allowed me to meet, and talk, to some of the guys and gals coming with me. This I think is pretty awesome, and from the look of it the people who are going seem pretty awesome.

Tonights movie: Pinocchio's Revenge. So far, so cheesy.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Things just got a little more real

So today was the day I told my clients I was leaving. I'm not leaving my job until March 25, but wanted to give my client enough time to process this with me. I told them all individually, not giving them full details just that I had accepted a job in Africa. I explained the transition process and what I was doing to ensure that they would continue to receive the services they need. I discussed how I would work with them to process any concerns, emotions and anxiety. I got a whole level of responses. A few were upset, one cried, but were happy. One stated she did not want a man to replace me. I got a blank stare from another. Another one seemed excited for me. The responses were all appropriate and were in step with how I knew each would handle it.

It was hard to do this, I almost felt like I was abandoning some of them. Trying to explain that they would have to work with someone else kind of felt like I was breaking up with them. I worry that my replacement will not have the patience, the knowledge or the empathy. I worry that my clients won't connect with the new person (some will probably rejoice though). Now this is not to say I am some bleeding heard social worker, I'm pretty straight forward on rules, boundaries and bullshit. But a lot of my clients I have worked with since I first started 4 1/2 years ago, some I am the only worker they have known since moving in.

I have to keep in mind I have done this before. I moved away to NYC leaving clients to work with someone else. The world will not end. It will not take long for them to make the transition (though I am sure the replacement will get what I got, mainly clients stating "That's not how ::insert name (me in this case):: did it). I have to keep reminding myself that I am not the gold standard and that the person replacing me will probably be at least as awesome as me (probably more so. I am still working on my organizational skills, but the HAVE improved).

In conclusion, I think telling my clients has really made this whole Peace Corps thing real. I left work tonight in kind of a freak out. I only have like 5 weeks left in NYC. Only 5. Freakin'. Weeks!!! So in the next couple of days I will be making an NYC bucket list. This will not include sitting in my apartment listening to my neighbors fight. No matter how entertaining. As one of my clients said "You are moving to Africa! Oh my God, that is exciting! You are going to have quite an adventure. You have to be scared and happy at the same time. My spiritual lady (her audio hallucination) is pleased with your decision and says"enjoy life and drink everything in."

Monday, February 14, 2011

Yummy stuff

I just made chili. After debating between white chili and "normal" chili I decided on "normal." I started the process of making it yesterday after a trip to Trader Joe's, with the intention of making white chili. But the shelves were empty. LIterally there were no onions, fruits and very few veggies. Plus the only chicken they had was thigh meat. To top that off, the line wrapped around 2 times. People were waiting for an hour to check out. I looked around and walked out. So today I went to my neighborhood grocery store and stocked up on all things chili. I had decided to marry to different recipes, one from Food Network and the other from the Joy of Cooking.

As follows:

1 lb beef chuck
1 lb ground beef
2 cans kidney beans
2 onions
1 green pepper
4 cloves of garlic
2 1/2 T of chili powder
1 cup of Burgandy wine (cheap is what I used)
dash of cumin, paprika, salt and pepper
5 jalapenos
Cayenne pepper
48 oz can of crushed tomatoes
2 tsp cocoa powder

Dice beef chuck and place in ziplock baggie with salt and pepper, a couple of shakes of chili powder, a bit of olive oil and the wine. Let marinate for however long you want. I went for 4 hours.

Cook (not pouring the wine mix in the pan, but some of it will come out. this is good) b. chuck until just done. Remove from pan and cook ground beef. I used a slow cooker because I bought it 3 years ago and have never used it, but can be made in a normal pot. Transfer meats to your choice of cooking thingy. Add tomatoes and beans. Add spices (not garlic).

Next dice and saute the onions, garlic, green pepper and 3 of the jalapenos. Add to meat mix. Cut up last 2 jalapenos and add to pot. If using a slow cooker place on low for about 6 hours. If using normal pot, medium low for one hour. Season to taste. Top with monterrey jack cheese, more jalapenos, and crackers.

Let me say, it turned out great! I would probably marinate longer next time. But I was anxious to make this.

So there we have it, my recipe for the day. And you thought you were getting some exciting story.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Addicted to the drama

No, not me. I prefer to be an audience member in all things crazy and manic (hmm...maybe this is why I chose social work?). I hate to love the Jersey Shore, Real Housewives, etc. They are pretty worthless shows, but I just can not turn away. My new favorite show? The girl that lives across the hall from me. I don't know her name, we're friendly enough to say hi to each other but that is about it. I shall refer to her as LGAH (loud girl across hall). She is dating VSN (very similar name). There have been a couple of guests spots, but no return characters.

LGAH and VSN first started providing me entertainment the first week after Christmas. I was sitting in my kitchen/computer room (best wi-fi connection) when I hear someone yell my name. I got really confused. While I greet my fellow apartment dwellers if we run into each other, with the exception of the guy below me who let me borrow his ladder, I don't know them by name. Plus my downstairs buddy (DB), would A) not be screaming my name and B) works nights as an EMT. No it was my introduction to my, previously, quiet neighbor. I could hear every word, and boy has it been entertaining.

LGAH and VSN have a relationship that is based on mistrust and jealousy. Constant fighting about the other one flirting with others/not being romantic enough/not defending the other one/being stupid. Literally all the arguments, and this happens at least 4 times a week, center on at least one of these issues. Now I"m not sitting there with my ear pressed to the door to listen, they are that loud that I can hear them. I don't try to, but I don't walk away. Well I have somewhat participated I guess. Usually at least three times in the argument VSN will start yelling "Maybe I should just leave." I have on occasion stated in a loud voice "Yes you should." They didn't hear me.

Does this make me a bad person?

OH my God, they just started.

Well back to the real, non-Borderline world. GO PACK GO!!! I know I'm a little late, but I was busy. I was, and am, thrilled that the Pack won the Superbowl!!!! I know my grandfather was over the moon!

We are starting the interview process next week for my position. It's only like 5 weeks till I move back home! Acccck! My piles of stuff that I want to give away keeps growing. Today I cleaned out my fridge. Lots of "wonderful" presents in there. Still trying to talk my boss into letting me take the non-working shredder out back, playing the Office Space theme, and smashing it to bits.

Also, the line at Trader Joe's was an hour long. I pretty much said screw this, I'm going home. Tomorrow I will attempt it again. I really want to make the white chili.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

My history of knitting

My dad's oldest sister, my aunt Laura, taught me how to knit when I was young. I do not remember the year or how old I was, but I was probably around 9ish. She taught me to knit on a bench at the seminary near my grandparent's house. She taught me the easy way of casting on and stockinette stitch. I remember sitting at the bench as my younger siblings and cousins played on the playground. Amazingly I was in no rush to join them. We went to my grandparents house almost on a weekly basis, and almost always made a trip to the seminary. Here we would play on the playground at the nursery or play "Mother May I" and "Red LIght Green Light". During the fourth of July we would occasionally set off fireworks. I remember going there with my friend Erin where we would visit the different prayer stations, located among the pine trees, where people would write their prayers and leave them at the base of the tree/saint statue. We would read them (please note we were 9 years old and obsessed with Nancy Drew. We were hoping for some mystery)

It was an easy walk from my grandparents house. It was also one that we would make by ourselves. The fact that our parents and grandparents would let us roam freely in the neighborhood surprises me, as there is so much over protectiveness now it seems. I remember going off by myself to the pharmacy (on a busy road, gasp!), to the seminary or to the magic shop that was far from the house (we had to cross a busy street. shock!).

But it was here, one of my big childhood memories, that I learned to knit. I don't remember it being overly hard for me. That is until we got to the purl stitch. I could not get it. Sadly, my Aunt Laura lives in Washington state and left before teaching me how to bind off (well she might have but I do not remember). It was 10 years before I picked up knitting needles again.

I re-started knitting thanks to The Gap. No they did not finish my lessons, but they did inspire me. While shopping at McCain Mall in North LIttle Rock with my friend Amanda we were wandering through Gap. It was winter time so they had the scarves and gloves out. They were selling the scarves for $30. I looked at one and said "I can make that way cheaper." Amanda just kind of rolled her eyes at me and we left to go watch a soccer game.

After my grandmother died lots of her belongings were given to my father to store until his sisters could come and sort out who would get what. My grandmother was a knitter. She made us beautiful outfits that, even now, my mother still laments that we did not really want to wear (apparently we were nudists when we were little). Among her belongings were her knitting supplies. I helped myself and borrowed (kept) a pair of needles (which I still use) and some scraps of yarn. I was going to make a scarf. So at the age of 19, in between studying, sleeping and partying, I sat in my dorm room and knitted. It was not a complicated thing I was knitting, just a long rectangle. I finished it, a multicolor scarf. Problem was I never learned to bind off, I improvised. It would be another 6 years before I learned the correct way.

I loved that scarf. It was not something you would ever see at The Gap, Hollister or J. Crew, but I loved it. I remember I brought it home one Christmas and then never saw it again until I saw a picture of my sister. She was wearing it, now I am not accusing her of stealing it. She probably just saw it lying around and needed a scarf. I never said anything, if she enjoyed better for me.

The next six years saw a lot of scarves, and one failed attempt at a hat. I was not branching out or exploring other options. But I did make a lot of scarves. I also unmade a lot. I would often start a project with an idea but realize half-way through it was not working. This got me through grad school. Coming home at 11 PM each weekday night after a 12 hour day on campus and/or internship I was restless. So as my dog, Pig, would sleep on my feet I would watch TV and knit.

After I moved to NYC, the agency that had offered me a position soon closed that position. I had, at this point, just moved to NYC without a job, without an apartment and two bags of clothes. I quickly found a job at Virgin Megastore and found a free apartment through a hostel in exchange for work. The first couple of months were chaotic, to say the least, but are still some of my most enjoyable. While I continued to look for a "real" job, I was able to explore the city. Hell, I even lived across the street from Central Park. Each night I would come home to my cramped apartment that I shared with 8 other people and watch movies. All the while I knitted.

Now in college I had friends and colleagues who asked if I smoked pot because I never seemed to get anxious or worried. No, I didn't smoke pot I informed them, instead I would use my anxiety and stress to knit (and play with my doggie). Knitting allowed me to work away my stress and concentrate on something that did not involve family theories, the DSM-IV TR and my thesis. I move up to NYC and suddenly I had an excess of energy. I can not sit still. My remedy? Knitting. I knit when watching TV, on the train and even at movies. My roommates would often comment on the fact that they never saw me just sitting there, I was always knitting, cleaning or writing.

I have progressed past the stockinette stitch (thanks to inspiration from Aunt Laura and Grandmother and help from Stitch N' Bitch). I can now purl like a pro and bind off expertly. Thanks to a little old Asian woman who approached me on the subway and missed her stop in order to teach me a better way to hold the needles, I can now knit without really looking at what I am doing. I can now knit by feel. Not that I don't occasionally need to see what I am doing, but I can tell if I missed a stitch by feel now.

Knitting has become my massage. If I am feeling restless, anxious or bored, I pick up knitting needles and just start casting on. I may not have a plan, I might change the plan and I might never finish the plan, but it gives me something to do. It calms me and relaxes me. There are only two stitches in knitting, but you can use those to stitches in different ways to make patterns. Patterns clear my mind, I have to focus on what I am doing, even when I am able to do it while watching TV. Counting stitches. Increase. Decrease, Purl. Knit. These are tangible things. Things that I can control. If my mind is feeling out of control, I pick up knitting needles and suddenly there is order.

A couple of things I am planning on bring to Kenya: knitting needles and yarn. Even if I have to knit something, frog it (unravel) and knit something again, this will help me keep my center. Hopefully there will be someone who wants to learn to knit. Someone who will see what knitting can do for the heart, the body and the mind.

Also Tuesday was Teets day! It was a glorious day!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

What would you do for a million dollars

So I just finished watching The Social Network and it got me thinking. The concept of being a billionaire is not something my brain can fathom. The first thing that I think of when I've read stuff about Mark Zukerberg is Scrooge McDuck. I picture Zukerberg spending his days swimming in gold coins. Now I know this is not true, but I think if I was to suddenly find myself in billions of dollars I would try my hardest to make this a reality. I want to swim in gold coins. Here are some other things I would do if I were a billionaire:

1. Burn money. Literally I would get a couple of dollars and set them on fire. Yes, I know that this is bad and that there are people who could use the $2 I would burn. But I would still do it.
2. Buy a new phone. My current one is scratched up, the back pops off if you look at it, parts are missing and it randomly turns off.
3. Eat at La Bernardin with Eric Ripert personally preparing and serving my food.
4. Fly first class
5. Own a home in: Maine, NYC, Santa Cruz, Seychelles and Peru
6. Hire a maid, but would probably be too embarrassed to have her clean so she would sit on the couch and watch tv while I clean, or more realistically talk about how I need to clean.
7. Buy a yarn shop
8. Buy a pair of converse in every color ever made
9. Tell someone "I could buy you."
10. Buy the following cars: VW Bug (though not the new ones.), 83 Volvo, Jeep Wrangler, a Vespa, and a delorean.

Sure I would do some of the practical and nice things (charity, paying off my parents mortgage, putting my parents in good nursing homes) but I would do these things for myself.

I also can't fathom being labeled "the youngest (insert title here)" I'm pretty much at that age where someone has, at sometime, already achieved it by my age. I wouldn't win for youngest person with Alzheimer's disease. The only thing I can shoot for would be youngest president and that will never happen.

Peace Corps stuff:
-Sent in my updated resume and aspiration statement.
-Sending my visa and passport stuff tomorrow
-Have started to organize what I am: throwing away, giving away and shipping.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sigh of relief, scream of ???

So it has been a week since I received my invitation to Kenya. So many thoughts, many of which are very schizophrenic/bipolar. Here is a smattering, some are pieces of conversations I had with other, others are actual thoughts:

-I have to eat this, I may not be able to eat this in Kenya!
-Holy Crap, I will be in Kenya in 5 months
-What if I can't retain the language and get kicked out
-I will be living at the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro for the first couple of months
-What am I doing?
-I rock (though to be honest, this is a normal thought for me)
-AAAAAAGGGHHHH!!!!! (mainly in response to everything that I need/want to do before I go)
-Oh. My. God.
-I'm putting in my notice soon
-You have to send me DVD's of zombie movies

So I think I am taking this well. Though I am very upset I might be a little late in seeing the next Harry Potter flick (dork, yes).

I sent in my aspiration statement and resume after spending way too much time on them. I have a bad habit of over thinking things, specifically in regards to me. Ask me to read a book and write a report on it. Easily done. Ask me to write something about myself. Overkill. Especially if it will influence my future. I finally had to sit down and just write what came out of my head. I did three read overs to make sure it sounded correct and e-mailed it off. Of course immediately after I sent it, I regretted it and thought of everything else I should have said. But it was fine, which I know intellectually.

I want to thank all the current PCV's who are keeping online journals, you guys are helping me out so much! It helps me to get an idea of what I might go through. I can not wait, for the good or the bad!

On a second note, I was not bit by a spider. I have an infection on my ankle. I went to the doctor today and we're trying out some antibiotics for it. Luckily my body has always complied with my wishes to "man up" and be healthy. I don't tolerate being sick and require my body to heal very quickly. It always has in the past, nothing big or bad has happened. I won't allow it. My body realizes this and acts accordingly. I think this is just some rebellion on it's part. But i have laid down the law. Still have to let PC know which stinks.

Put in my notice today. My 2 month notice. It was pretty great.

If anyone wants to come clean my apartment I will heat you up some gumbo and give you a beer.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Kenya dig it?

So I'm going to Kenya as of May 30!!! I am very excited in the "I decided to go sky diving and I'm up in the air about to jump" way. I can't wait, I am excited and also scared out of my mind. But I'm jumping, I accepted the invite today. Now there is so much to do and so much that I still have to wrap my head around.

I knew I was getting the invite when I got home last night and saw a slip of paper from UPS stuck on the front door of my building. They said they would try back the following day, which meant I had to be home (the UPS facility in NYC is in East New York, I have been there one time and that was one time too many). So I texted my boss and said "personal day." I then headed out to watch the Sugar Bowl, my Hogs vs my new nemesis Ohio State.

I'm not going to go into the game, my emotions or my actions (I did behave myself, I just screamed and danced and screamed and slammed my head on the bar). It was not a good night. On the plus side I did get most of the people in the bar to call the Hogs and I did get some free beer, but still not a good night.

Woke up early this morning, bummed around. My intercom door buzzer goes off. I nearly knock myself out getting to it. UPS! I rush down stairs, sans shoes, socks or keys. And scared the hell out of the UPS woman. I might have been a little overly excited. The rest you know.

So now the real work begins, I've got to start packing and getting things in order, I've got to write and fill out the rest of the PC stuff. Oye Vey!