Airline tickets– a moving target; language limbo

It was in my head this year to purchase my ticket for the summer visit obscenely early, because last year there were no Brussels flights left, and I despise Ethiopian airlines. Well, turns out the !@#$ Ethiopian flight is really my only reasonable option, even taking into account the headache of purchasing a ticket and flight delays and lost luggage with no compensation. Basically, the unpredictability.

Fortunately, the ticket purchase was much simpler this year, although still more pain than necessary.

Continue reading Airline tickets– a moving target; language limbo


Low-cost biology lab tricks, West Africa edition

There are a few pages out there that give tips for low-cost biology labs. Unfortunately, we can’t all just skip down to the store and purchase food coloring (seriously, why is there no food coloring here?).

These are some alternatives or not-often-seen equipment I’ve figured out do (and do not) work. I might post further updates as I try new things.

Continue reading Low-cost biology lab tricks, West Africa edition

New Year’s in Africa

The past two years, my family has come for the holiday, and I’ve been so focused on that that I haven’t taken in the culture.

The stories from my colleagues are the beginnings of a Hallmark movie: a wealthy, jaded man from an African culture, which only experiences the commercialized side of Christmas, moves to the US, which goes full-throttle holiday spirit with Salvation Army ringers and candlelight services and family meals and all that.  (I don’t know if I’ve ever actually watched a Hallmark movie, but Americans seem to have a weird obsession.) In the Hallmark version, it continues thus: American falls in love with African, teaches her the true meaning of Christmas.

Then both run into confusion and exhaustion trying to handle both this and the massive family/community/church festivities on New Year’s.

As my colleague explains it, New Year’s is a big deal across Africa. November and December are months when witch doctors need human blood, so there are more deaths during these months. Come January 1st, people thank God that they are alive and really feel the new year. My colleague confessed that it’s very emotional, and she has cried on a number of occasions.

It’s like starting a blank page in life.

Continue reading New Year’s in Africa

(Re) Elections

About a month ago, local elections were held. In two districts (one being here in Bassam), the elected officials were accused of fraud. These accusations are accompanied by sometimes violent protesters and the burning down of the Abissa square (this was weeks before the annual Abissa festival, in fact). What tipped the people off to fraud in Bassam, I’m told, was that the local king did not vote for the elected.

The people called for a re-election, which was granted.

Continue reading (Re) Elections

Photos of Abidjan! And food!

Ah, the end of semester. Today is the calm before the storm, as next week is finals week and tomorrow is the last day to submit extra credit (listen to and summarize an episode of the Talking Biotech podcast, because it is not helpful to be proud of having an outdated agricultural system that results in massive food waste– see picture below).

I have this one good-hearted but absent-minded student, who has consistently gotten 50-60% on each quiz. She received 97 on the very last quiz.
“Madame, you know what?”
“This is the first quiz I studied.”

….Yeah that’ll do it.

Today, will be a bunch of random photos of… just around. Enjoy.

Continue reading Photos of Abidjan! And food!

(Part of a) Wedding

A woman from our church invited me to her wedding.

It was kind of her. I felt a bit like… like how the handful of international students at Juniata must have felt whenever they were taking PR photos of the campus. (“Look at us, we’re diverse and so important that we have students from China and Africa and India! Don’t look at all the photos at once or you’ll realize it’s the same three students in every photo!” “Open house today? GET THE FLAGS.” Ah, they tried so hard, and frankly they did an excellent job of educating us about other cultures, in spite of the homogenous student body. We jested with fondness. But I digress.) Continue reading (Part of a) Wedding

Yakoh, Curses, Technology going bad

Dear heavens, I’ve become an Ivorian in phone quantity: three.

The delay between posts is due to loss of fully functioning laptop.

Today’s post:

  1. Curtains
  2. Phone Saga
  3. Curses
  4. Offering “Yakoh”
  5. Misc WAWA

The laptop is acting up again. (I’ve reset Windows twice, and the second time it didn’t work; the fan runs full blast the whole time. I’m afraid to use it for fear the fan will wear out.) From now on, I’ll have to write updates on the work computer. It is Saturday, although most of this was written on Thursday.
The new prep program instructor from England is watching football on his office laptop (“We’re winning!!!”). There is some program just beginning in the auditorium (it was supposed to start at 4, 45 minutes ago). I’m trying to decide if the beef I bought (mostly bone, leftover from what I need for class) is safe to eat. I might risk it.

Continue reading Yakoh, Curses, Technology going bad

Bad phones; holes in the ceiling and negligent rental agents

]I’ve learned that my students know next to nothing about nutrition, so when I ask what foods contain, say, calcium, I can get an answer of anything from bananas to milk. The exception is that they generally have a good idea of what is high in sugar (possibly from the high incidence of diabetes?).

Still, a student threw me for a loop the other day when I asked what foods are high in nutrients and received a confident response, “oil!”


My laptop is working for now. I’m not sure why. I simultaneously killed several programs and put it on airplane mode and neither of those things should have worked and could both be correlations, but I’m afraid to change anything.


My phone is not working. Finally bought an Intel smartphone for the equivalent of $43. Two and a half weeks in the screen starts randomly going stripy, and they had to send it to Abidjan.
“We’ll call you when it comes back.”
“On what?!”
So I got a $10 dumbphone, a Nasco. It has radio, a really crappy camera, voice recording, and theoretically internet access although I’ll never type in a URL in the number pad.  Oh, and came with headphones. Headphones are a standard feature here, it turns out. Does the US do that yet?


Meanwhile, I have had holes in the ceiling since moving in. They went from 2 to 3, and then I started really bugging the agency about it. Now, this guy is negligent in many ways, not the least of which is never giving me my bills so I’m always forgetting and thus paying late fees (that reminded me to check electricity, so caught that one in time).

He promised to check on the holes. I clear my schedule and wait. He comes, looks, take a photo, sets an appointment for next week to get them fixed.
Again, I clear my schedule, put off everything I needed to do. Move everything away from the holes. Wait. At 5:15PM, I call. “Oh, the artisan decided not to come because it’s raining in Abidjan.” *
Next week, same time, clear my schedule again. Go home, prepare. 4:30, he calls. “He’s not coming today.” At this point, I’ve pushed off trips to Abidjan to get curtains, Bible study, purchasing a microwave and other minor things for three weeks, and simply can’t anymore. (I still haven’t gotten the curtains or microwave, but we did manage Bible study.)
He starts proposing days of the week to reschedule, and I simply can’t. After trying four different  days and times and failing, he says, “Well, what do you propose?”
That was the end of my last nerve. I started shouting (ranting) over the phone, in English, everything I’ve just written in the previous paragraph, and that they can’t just make up times and then not show up.
“Let me call the artisan.”
He gets back to me in a few minutes. “5:30?”
“5:30 is great, thanks.”
6:15PM, the doorbell rings. It’s the agent himself, not the artisan, with a bag of plaster and one of those spade things. He proceeds to do a fantastically horrible job of filling in the holes (they were too big to simply plug up), and now I have a giant lump in my ceiling that I’m pretty sure the next resident is not going to be too happy with, but hey, not my problem. (Maybe I’ll get a photo up later; no camera at the moment.)

This is now the second or third time that I’ve degenerated into shouting at people, and the thing is sometimes it’s the only thing that works. But, I don’t want to be that person.



*Abidjan and Bassam get totally different weather.