Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Gringo

Shortly after I posted about my lack of friends I was invited on a short sightseeing tour by the director of the office I’m consulting for. Last Saturday I woke up at about the crack of dawn (7 am) and headed out to a small town/village about an hour away from the capital Bamako.

The Malian landscape is absolutely beautiful and I was just amazed by such rich colors in the scenery we passed. We decided to hire a guide and hike up some pretty interesting rock formations which was a first for me. The extent of my outdoor activities consist of the annual camping trip I take with some friends but hiking isn’t part of our activities. Despite my initial reservation, I took to it with gusto and think I may need to find some friends interested in hiking when I get back to D.C.

Unfortunately I solidified my gringo status when the New Yorker in me decided that my purse couldn’t possibly remain in the car even though there wasn’t another person around for miles. So I proceed to hike around for about an hour and half with my coach purse slung over my shoulder and my large water bottle in hand. WHO DOES THAT?!?! Apparently I do and yup I’d do it again or leave my purse at the hotel.

I took pictures but was a little uneasy at taking pictures of random people without asking first. So I have far more scenery shots then I do people shots but hopefully I can fix that next weekend. This last week was a series of exhausting 12 hour plus work days so I decided to relax and chill out this weekend. I adventured out to the National Museum, had some lunch, did some touring around and then settled down by the pool. I didn’t have any friends to hang out with this weekend but I needed some quality alone time so I didn’t mind too much. Hopefully I’ll get someone to take me shopping for souvenirs next weekend.

[I've added most of the pictures I've taken to my FlickR page. Click on the collage on the side to check those and other pictures I've taken on various trips. If it doesn't work just refresh the blogger page]

Monday, August 20, 2007


I didn’t jump on the My Space bandwagon when it first started because I figured it was something that the “kids” did online. I believe by the time I even realized there was a My space or a Face book I was fully hooked and addicted to blogging and I can only have one internet based distraction at a time. I have my space biases and think folks 30 and younger shouldn’t be on it (not sure where I got that age from) but in any case I do feel it’s for the ‘youngins and at the ripe young/older age of 33 that doesn’t mean me.

Yet some folks I know don’t feel the same because in the last month I’ve had 3 different friends who are over 30 bitch and moan to me about something some dude they liked/used to date/are dating did on my space. It’s either some picture they saw of dude and another chick, or some chick’s comments or something someone commented on their page that made them realize that they were really not in town when they said they were etc, etc, etc. At first I was actively listening to their story and injecting some tidbits when needed. However the moment they mentioned my space and the dude in one sentence I became distracted.

I’ve been sent my space pages of random people before by some of these friends so I could “see” what they were talking about. To me it was a bit like stalking and although I will refresh a blog page fifty eleven times (CreoleinDC’s) to see what’s been updated or what new comments have been posted on a controversial topic (Hostess) I don’t see that as stalking. Now going to someone’s my space page fifty eleven times in a day, clicking links to other people’s my space page who happen to leave provocative comments is stalking to me. In fact it seems like one big soap opera mess to me.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Making Friends

So far I’ve seen the inside of my hotel room and the inside of my client’s office. I did manage to take a walk yesterday to the ATM, saw scenery I thought would be cool to take, and ripped my pants in the process of trying to take a picture. I have like 2 casual (chilling pants with me for the month) uhhh! The office driver has offered to take them to the local tailor to get them fixed and for that I’m grateful. I’m also grateful I got a tetanus shot before I came and my skin didn’t get pierced when I climbed over the iron gate.

Whenever I travel for work I’m usually either going to a project office where there are local staff and foreign staff working or I’m traveling with 3 or 4 other consultants for a specific assignment. I’m generally never the only consultant on an assignment where we don’t have a project office which is the situation I’m in now. For me that has meant a lot of nights ordering room service which I’m not used to at all. When I’m traveling I usually have dinner with my teammates at least several times a week and if we’re new to a particular country we make plans to go sightseeing together on the weekend.

This trip is a bit different as I’m alone really and although the client is here they haven’t offered to meet up for dinner and/or offered to take me sightseeing. That’s fine because they live here and have their own lives going on and honestly they hired me to do a job, they don’t need to play Julie cruise director and I hate feeling like I’m imposing or forcing myself on people. So now I’m on a mission to make some friends because at this pace, I’m going to finish up all the casual reading material I brought with me way before my departure date.

So I’m on a mission to make friends, which I’m finding is pretty hard and awkward for me. I’m not one of those people who just randomly strike up a conversation with strangers. I often wonder how people come off a plane with a new best friend. I sit down, dig out my reading materials and put on the headphones.

So now I just have to work on getting out of my comfort zone because this traveling alone stuff is so not what I’m used to.

Sunday, August 12, 2007


In the last month or so I started working on an assignment at work that required me to use my French language skills. A bit rusty, I’ve been trying to practice speaking a bit more with my parents and other francophone friends. I started thinking about language and how we learn it and realized that I never consciously learned French the way I learned Italian or Spanish in H.S. I guess it was similar to when most toddlers start comprehending and speaking I always remember speaking and understanding French. In fact when my mom often reminds me that although, I was born and raised in NYC, French was actually my first language. That’s what my parents spoke and since they were at that time firmly entrenched in a Haitian enclave of friends and neighbors that’s all I heard around me. According to my mom I didn’t start really speaking English until I went to pre-K when I was four. Go figure, I remember learning how to read and write English and French in school but comprehension was always there. Similar to Haitian-Creole which I always remember understanding without any difficulty. I was never formally thought Creole (Kreyol) but similar to French it was spoken around me since infancy and I guess I just absorbed the language in that part of my brain.

I’m heading to Bamako, Mali now via Paris and although I haven’t spoken French on a regular basis since my trip to Brussels last Christmas it’s all flooding back in. Wish me luck as for the first time in my career I’m actually going to be conducting meetings in French. Gasp! I’ve only had to speak to friends and family in French since I graduated from college so we’ll see how forgiving these clients are at my accent and grammatical mistakes.

This is my first trip to sub-Saharan Africa so I’m sure I’ll have plenty of stuff to blog about over the next month.

Friday, August 03, 2007

They Asked for Forks!?!?!

Last night I got together with a few bloggers because BC was in town on his US tour. Since, the Hostess, the BC and I are addicted to Ethiopian food he suggested to the dinner organizer, CreoleinDC that we head there for dinner. The invitation was made to the blogworld and Tsiporah, onefromphilly (no blog), Royce’s Daughter and another blogger decided to RSVP to hang that night. We were going to one of DC’s many many many Ethiopian eateries and I was pretty excited because if I could, I’d eat Ethiopian food EVERY DAY, it’s that good to me.

It doesn’t always dawn on me that there are people out there who don’t care for the food because well it’s like someone saying they don’t like cake. Just weird to me lol! I’m so used to eating it communal style that I never thought that not everyone is ok with the traditional style of eating Ethiopian food which is around a big communal plate where you take pieces of injera to eat your food. Similar to how other Middle Eastern and African cultures eat. Just make sure you use your right hand because traditionally the left is used to uhhhh clean oneself.

There was a lot of confusion and distraction not just because there were 8 people who’d been reading each other’s blogs but never really met but because one of the bloggers was giving everyone MUCH blog fodder. Check out the posts of the different bloggers who were there to see what I’m talking about.

So, Creole asked the waitress for a fork and I think I clutched my imaginary pearls. Creole doesn’t really “do” communal plates and I can respect that because that's how she is. Then half the hands at the table started going up in demand of forks. I just felt my heart dip a little and I may have yelled out “ahhhh NO”. Some tried the injera and just couldn’t get past the taste but without the bread you really can’t eat the food traditionally. I actually think the bread is good but I only take off little chucks so I won’t get too full too fast. Most of the people I know who don’t like Ethiopian food don’t like it because of the bread.

I feel like Ethiopian food is a DC staple just like the Smithsonian museums. A must do when you’re in DC especially if you’re anywhere near the U Street/Adam’s Morgan area. Either way the evening was a great success that ended waaaaaaaaaaay past my bedtime.