Extremely Interesting other Pages

Monday, July 25, 2011

Stella (Lenna) gettin her grooove back

Ever since moving to Nairobi, I have definitely fallen into a bit of a fashion slump.  I don't really care about what I wear or how I look at all. Given the option of looking fashionable or looking casual/comfy, I have been picking the latter for a while now. My little jaunt to West Africa has been changing me! These women wear beautiful floor length, fitted, vibrant, traditional ensembles daily...not just on special occasions or when going somewhere after work, etc. They wear them just because it's time to get dressed. The streets are filled with women in differnt patterns and colors and designs walking through the streets. It's inspiring. I mean, i keep thinking, "well, in Nairobi..or especially in DC, i can't just leave the house in a big bright orange ruffly floor lentgth get up with matching head wrap" - but then I think "but, maybe I could". I mean, maybe I could have someone make me something that isn't exactly the traditional ruffly, floor lenghth look, but still vibrant and fashionable and alive. Something not black pants and white shirt.  Here is something I would normally wear to work:
My pose is sassier than the outfit
So, I took the photos of the designs I wanted (found on the internet) and went with my co-worker, Venus, who is the model West African woman, to shop for material and meet with a tailor. Everyday that girl is wearing something more fabulous than the day before. I wish I would have taken more photos of her on various days..but here's an example for you of one of my favorites:

Venus with her superstar dress!
Here are some photos of a few things I wanted to get made - sort of a blend of African chic and white girl:

First we first went to this "nice" shop where they make custsom clothing. There are a TON of shops like this in Dakar. Like I said, everyone has their clothes custom made. If it is a ready-to-wear shop..it will say so..Pret a Porter..right on the front door. The shop wanted WAY too much for what I wanted. Plus I started thinking...if their idea of tailoring to fit is that yellow suit that the owner was wearing (see below photo)...i'd rather go elsewear.  She forgot to factor in her mid-section before cutting that fabric!

Me and a couple of ladies from work at Aldo Allure Boutique (Venus in the middle)
So we left the shop and went to the fabric market. The place is awesome! It's an area of a larger marketplace but it's just fabric stalls one after another..and they get really good stuff. There are batik wax fabrics from Ivory Coast, nice died cotton and lace type stuff from India..lots of eyelet fabrics in all colors, I mean really anything you might want in really cool designs and prints. For all the clothing I wanted, we needed the wax fabric and Venus knew where to get the good stuff..like anything else, there is good stuff and bad stuff. So, we met up with Venus's tailor..a young guy named Alla. Alla is awesome.  And I dont mean GOD in this case..I mean...Alla.  He can make ANYTHING and it looks like a million bucks when he's done. the finishings, the linings, the hems..he is amazing. He could easily win Project Runway, blindfolded without index fingers. And imagine how many people like Alla there are in Dakar...tons of amazing self taught tailors.  I wish i would have thought to take pictures of shopping for fabric..I was in this tiny tiny tiny little stall in the crazy heat for like 45 minutes undecided about which fabrics to choose...My clothing was literally drenched with sweat..the stall owner was fanning the hell out of me..i could tell she was like.."this white girl is not going to pass out in my stall on my watch". Alla ran for water thinking i was dehyrating. I tried to explain that it's sort of normal for me to look like a swamp monster in 90 degree weather. They relaxed when they saw I was laughing about it. The scene would have been an awesome photo opp. I try to not whip out my camera all the time though..I feel like it sort of creates a divide between me and the local peeps when i'm trying to just be one of them for a few minutes. But i do miss a lot of great photo opportunities...the memory is in my head to enjoy though..right?
So $30 bucks later, I had myself 18 meters of cool fabrics..different kinds for making my new West African wardrobe.  I'll do another post on how my clothing turned out..but here's a sneak peak of a wrap shirt thing that he made me:
Cute right? I wouldn't have picked white eyelet lace for the edges..but I think it looks great overall
Also just wanted to show you this awesome hand-made leather bag I bought today. I was running the other day and saw this guy tucked away in the corner of this street making stuff and I stopped to attempt to talk to him about what he was making...and he had these awesome bags he was making out of really nice leather and then sewing them together. Here is the one i bought..it wasn't so cheap. I didnt' bargain too hard because the guy was clearly down and out and I didn't want to exploit his need for money..so i paid the second price I got out of him...around $38..but it's really thick nice leather and it's treated/tanned so it smells good..unlike some gross leather items i have bought in african markets. I think this bag will easily add a shot of HELL YEAH! to my outfit..what do you think?

I'm back baby!!!  The Lensta is back.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Staying Safe While Traveling Solo

Okay I finally wrote a post for my Africa Travel Tips Page on this blogsite. Here's the post:

Minimize your risk of this happening to you!

Staying Safe While Traveling Alone in Africa..or anywhere really.

For 10 years now, I've had jobs that send me on international travel alone. I have worked and lived abroad in Central and South America and Africa...but also in Europe, where surprisingly more negative things have happened to me than anywhere else! But from traveling around without anyone to rely on for safety, I've learned a few things about how to minimize risk but enjoy being somewhere at the same time. For women readers, you are automatically more vulnerable than men and it's important to be aware of that, regardless of how powerful you feel or how travel savvy you think you are.

1. For US Citizens - Before leaving on your trip, go the website of the US Embassy for the country you are traveling to and register your travel. This will allow the Embassy to have your email address and other contact information in case there is an emergency. Often the US Embassies abroad will send out periodic updates regarding any political or social turmoil going on in the country. You will recieve pertinent notices for areas of danger or risks to the safety of American citizens abroad.

2. Before leaving, make a contact sheet with names, addresses, and phone numbers of hospitals, the police, the US Embassy, and the hotel you are staying at.

3. Make a photocopy of your passport and put it in your suitcase - in a separate place from where you keep your actual passport for travel.

4. Once you arrive at whatever airport you are at, see if there is a place to buy an unlocked phone if you don't already have one. Often airports have a shop that sells them and you can get a cheapo for around $25. Then buy some phone credit - They usually sell this at the airport as well. Just by having a means of communication you are already better off.

5. If you are traveling alone especially, use the hotel's taxis until you find a regular taxi you can establish a relationship with and call each time.

6. When in taxis or any vehicle, ensure doors are locked at all times and if you don't know your surroundings, do not roll the window down. Never ride with your arm out the window or hands close the window in traffic - People are willing to do almost anything to take your jewelry or cell phones..do not forget that. And don't travel with any jewelry that you would be upset about losing. Having flashy jewelry is just tempting someone to try and take it if you are in the wrong place.
7. If you are traveling alone especially, try to be back at your hotel or sleeping location by 9 or 10pm at the latest. Do not go out alone late at night if you are a woman traveling in Africa. It's just not smart. Depending on the country you are in, there are many different beliefs about women being alone.
8. If you are a man, there is a good chance that local women alone at bars at night are selling services..in one way or another. So, you can be flattered, but it's safer to not get too involved.

9. Do not be overly friendly with random people. Your good nature will want too, but in many countries where life is difficult and money is scarce, alterior motives are rampant. Do not believe every sad story you hear and even if you believe it, do not allow yourself to get involved unless you know the personal personally or someone you know knows the person.

10. This is discretionary, but I always travel with pepper spray. I haven't figured out what I would do with it yet...but I have it!!

11. Use your 6th sense. If something does not feel right, it probably isn't. Do not be as liberal as you are at home....Allow yourself to have a good time and explore during the day, but still be aware of your surroundings and do not go into isolated areas. Do not get lured into places that are not public.

12. If you travel with a purse, have one that be clutched up under your arm and has a zipper. In busy areas or market atmospheres, keep the zipper zipped and in the front of the purse and keep it clutched under your arm with your hand holding on to the strap.

I hope these help - I may come back to this and clean it up a bit and add or subtract a thought or two. But, all of these are things that I consciously practice each time I travel. Remember to have fun and see things and don't let traveling solo keep you from having great experiences. But consider safety first and foremost so that when you go home, great experiences are the only kind you taking back with you.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Kamikazi Mosquitos and Lewa Marathon Play List

The day started a little messy - I woke up 30 minutes late.  Haven't been sleeping well here.  As much as I try to kill all the mosquitos in the room before I go to sleep a few seem to escape me.  There are no mosquito nets here - it's a nice new Radison and that would ruin their vibe.  But those mosquitos drive me crazy when I sleep. And they are different than the ones at home or in Nairobi. I wake up at all hours feeling bites - I throw the lights on and have to hunt it down before going back to sleep. They leave big giant welts that swell for 48 hours. The other day, one got me right in the eye lid while I was sleeping - Not kidding, I woke up and felt that I could not open my right eye. I thought maybe my eye lashes were just bent and locked together...then I looked in the mirror - The mirror should have shattered honestly ..my face was soo messed up! I looked like Chunk from the Goonies -  My eye lid was so swollen it was holding up my upper brow super high..I looked so bizarre..and it was pushing my eyelashes down into my eyeball. The inside was like glued shut. Good times.  Here's a little sneak peek..and this was a good angle:

Sergio loves this shot of me...really reminds him of my beauty while we are far apart.
 I had to go to the office though - Too much going on to hide in my room..so I just warned everyone and held my head up high. It really looked crazy...everyone kept asking me what was wrong with me. But you know, so many people have stuff like this that they have to live with daily..so I actually just kept reminding myself that I can handle 1 day of looking different and I should still hold my head up and be confident.  Vanity...what a B.

On my healthy eating today - Did decent:
egg white omelet
musli cereal

Sam as yesterday - Grape Leaves [veggie], Hummus and a piece of wheat arabic bread and an apple.
Snack - Came to the hotel after work and found some cookies they left for me here..ugh. So I ate one.
Dinner- Taboule, Shish Tawouk Wrap.

Work Out - Ran 3.2 miles and did 25 minutes of Jilian Michaels work out DVD.

Okay, on to the playlist
This playlist almost made me forget of the horrendousness of the run. I'm definitely a music schitso:

Rolling in the Deep - Edele
Take on Me – Ah Ha
Song for the Lonely - Cher
Forever Yellow Skies - Cranberries
Bad Moon Rising – Credence Clearwater Revival
Sandstorm - Darude
Orinoco Flow - Enya
A little Respect - Erasure
When Lights Go Down – Fleetwood Mac
On Melancholy Hill - Gorillaz
Hold you - Gyptian
Same Mistake – James Blunt
In my head – Jason Murulo
I’m Yours – Jason Mraz
Down – Jay Sean
Volverte A Ver - Juanes
Thinking of You – Katy Perry
Skating Away – Jethro Tull
Mr. Brightside – The Killers
All these things that I’ve done – The Killers
Read my Mind – The Killers
Use Somebody – Kings of Leon
Bad Romance – Lady Gaga
Just Dance – Lady Gaga
Paper Planes - MIA
Down Under – Men At Work
Grace Kelly - MIKA
Unwritten – Natasha Beddingfield
Just A Dream - Nelly
99 Luftballons - Nena
Just Like a Pill - Pink
Raise your Glass - Pink
Solsbury Hill – Peter Gabriel
Fidelity –Regina Spektor
A Fuego Lento - Rosana
Ciega Sordomuda - Shakira
Inevitable - Shakira
Estoy Aqui - Shakira
Te Dejo Madrid - Shakira
Waka Waka - Shakira
Love Story – Taylor Swift
Toxicity – System of a Down
That’s not My Name – Ting Tings
You Don’t Know How it Feels – Tom Petty
Africa – Toto [Of Course]
Teenage Dirtbag - Wheatus
Because the Night – 10000 Maniacs
Stockton Gala Days – 10000 Maniacs
In da Club – 50 cent


Friday, July 15, 2011

Healthy Eating in Senegal

Today I'm catching up with my healthy eating accountability blogging - I think today went well considering I am still in Senegal, living in a hotel with no kitchen and trying to make the best choices for accomplishing my goals.

At the breakfast buffet, I completely avoided the fresh baked croissants and the rest of the carb section - I had some muesli mixed with fiber one cereal, a couple of hardboiled egg whites, some cherry tomatoes and cucumber, and some cantaloupe. So, I made it out alive today. That breakfast buffet kills me – so many delicious cheeses and breads, etc. Imagine being in france..that is the type of spread they offer..i could easily consume my entire day’s worth of calories at breakfast..much lIke I did last Saturday morning by eating this bad boy:

Rediculously good waffle with Nutella - I did not hate it.
 For lunch, I brought with me to the office some canned stuffed grape leaves, canned hummus and some wheat Arabic bread that I found at the supermarket. Oh and you would not believe what i found at the supermarket here - it might as well be crack considering my addiction to the stuff....LEBNE!! AND introducing something I have not found, not even in the US..LEBNE BALLS WITH ZAATAR ALREADY MIXED IN!! are you kidding?? no, i'm not.  But i did not eat that for lunch..I bought a jar to take home with me..i'll probably buy a few more. I got nervous that it would get bought out because that's how African supermarkets work..buy it while it's there is a lesson i was taught very early..so since i didn't have much money on me i hid some in the store somewhere where not even the finest stocker in all the world will see it!! yahooo!!!! like i said..crack.

I am really missing veggies though. It’s hard to eat veggies while living in a hotel. The salads at the hotel cost $18 and really leave much to be desired. I haven’t been successful at trying to order cooked veggies…heaven forbid the kitchen deviate from the menu – thinking outside the box is out of the question. The mall next to me has no salad options – except for a really gross fatoush with cabbage and radishes?? So, I think I’m going to buy some veggies and bring them to the office to at least eat for lunch. There is a fridge and full kitchen there – our office is actually a giant apartment. My office is a big bedroom with a gigantic bathtub and shower.


For dinner I did good – chicken brochette with a side of couscous [no veggies on the menu of course]. After driving out into the field and seeing many other areas of Senegal I think I understand the no veggies thing….the land is either completely dry or flooded here [around the coast line]. In all the driving around that I have done (days and hours of driving...ugh), I have not seen any good farm land at all. Sad really..you can see people trying to farm but it’s just so dry and the soil just doesn’t seem rich for agriculture. I may be talking out of my rear end right now but that’s what I have noticed here. Nothing like Kenya, Rwanda, etc where you can see good fields of fruitful crops everywhere.

dinner turned sideways..okay so i'm not a food photographer but the cook was not a food artist either
So, tomorrow I start all over ...I think i'll start each morning with the serenity prayer..since I truly do believe I have a sugar and refined carbs addiction and it is painful weening off that stuff!! And though it may not be life threatening for me or as serious as drug and alcohol addictions...it's never a good thing when something has control over you to the point that you feel powerless to change. So.....

God grant me the serenity

to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Lewa Race Day..or The day that almost never ended..or the blog that almost never ended

Writing to you from Kaolack, Senegal - a tiny town in the middle of nowhere, where we stopped  for the night on the way to the edge of nowhere (Koumpentoum and Velingara Districts). But alas! There is internet here! And the hotel is pretty decent! I get really really nervous when I go out into the field in the countries I manage because you never know what to expect as far as places to stay are concerned...this tops the charts as far as small Africa town hotels go.  But, this post is about our Lewa (half)marathon day, not my trip to Senegal.
We departed Friday on the 5 hour drive to Lewa to pick up our race packets and check into our hotel.  The plan was to get a good night's rest for the big race the next day. We didn't want to risk eating food festering with salmonella at the lodge so we brough some pizzas with us so we could carb up (read: fatten up).  The highlight of the drive was passing the equator point.  At which time, everyone in the vehicle spouted off all the facts they knew about the equator to show how smart we are.  These included:
1) You are 10 pounds lighter at the equator (fact check please!)
2) Toilets flush different directions depending on what side of the equator you are at
3) Is normally very hot at the equator since you are closest to the sun at that line on the earth...but it's not the case in Kenya because of the alti
4) The longitudinal equivalent of the equator is the prime meridien (how long has it been since you thought of that word)?

We arrived at the race site to pick up our packets.  We were extremely intimidated driving in seeing bus loads of tall thin kenyan men in matching sporty jumpers. We immediately regretted not coordinating our running outfits to at least try to intimidate others.
 Scott and Serg got in line and picked up our race packets - i was running under the alias of Peter Lapray so I had to hang back incognito style.  Then, we took some photos to show we were there.

Then, we made our way to the lodge.  The place was extremely rustic..in fact we saw a mouse in the sugar bowl in the reception area when we walked in! That's pretty rustic and down to nature if you ask me.  But the place was about $15 per night so expectations had to be lowered quickly.  On the plus side there were giant turkies to chase around...

You could hear every single strange sound from the woods all night long...the scariest growling sounded like it was happening literally right outside our door in the middle of the night...it was like an evil moutain lion sound or something...there were colubus monkies out the - serg thinks that's what it was..but i can't imagine something like a monkey sounding like a fire breathing dragon...serg and I were both too scared to talk about it when it woke us both up...that plus very wierd bird calls and the bass from a party in another cabin...literally alllllll night long.  Honestly, not one of usslept much more than 4 hours I would say. There was nothing else to do but wake up and get the run over with...the day that would never end had begun....

I think 237 different materials went into creating this shower

Outdoor dining at its finest - was actually pretty nice there

Byu lacing up
Freaky muzungu girl painting for runners inspiration?
Departed at 5:45am for our grumpy hour long drive to the race site.  I complained so much about not having hot water to make instant coffee with in the morning that my warrior (serg) went out at like 5am and asked the grounds keeper to heat me some water so i would shut the hell up. Love my BYU!  Scott and David were in rare form at this point since their cabins were sandwiched around the party cabin playing house music until 4am.  David literally had large enough cajones to go in the pitch dark to the party cabin, knock on their door, and politely tell them to shut the hell up..it's 3am. But by then the damage had been done.
SO we arrived bright eyed and bushy tailed....

All the local spectators came out to see Serg and I run! They heard how slow we are and had to see for themselves!

More like numbers 300, 400, and 500.

stretchin it out

And they're off! All Sergio needs is a fake mustache and he'll be in full disguise! Scott broke away right at this point...3.3 seconds after we started ;-)

The race course was extremely difficult - it felt like it was uphill the whole way! Really long gradual inclines constantly. It was really really tough. It was pretty land - you can sort of see what the scenery was in the photo above. Towards mile 12, there were herds of elephants..but it was mile 12 and no one gave a SHAT at that point. ;-)

I was okay for the first 9 miles I would say...but the inclines were just killing me ...killing everyone...As soon as the hills would start again, EVERYONE would start walking...I mean, no one had the energy to run..It was constant hills. The description of the marathon says that it's one of the top 10 most difficult and now we know why. It was really tough. Scott has run a marathon before and he said this course was killer. We saw the incredibly talented Kenyan front runners go by - Just amazing...they look like they are floating. But even they were around 20 minutes slower than their normal marathon times with this course. 20 minutes to a star marathoner is like an hour to an amateur.

Serg was having knee issues but kept going and would pull over and wait for me since I have a slower pace than him - very sweet of him but i feel like it really messed up his pace. We finished my half marathon together more or less (he did a lot of waiting for me, which is the nicest thing ever) and then he went on to complete the 2nd lap for the marathon! The funniest thing was as I was nearing the end alone, there was this small crowd of Kenyan spectators that all the sudden erupted in cheering..I was so confused since it was just me..I looked behind me to see who they were cheering for and all the sudden one guy yelled "YOU, YES, YOU!"...and they were all clapping and cheering for me all alone out there..It was very very touching. I love those people..hope they felt my love.

I crossed the finish (13.1 miles) feeling like my feet were going to fall off. Really. It was my feet and my butt muscles..they were killing me. I was just completed fatigued. I sat down for a bit and then realized that I needed to go find David. So I found some energy to get up and go walk around and look for him. I ended up in a sea of local Kenyan spectators - there were people for miles...it was a mess..people literally everywhere..nothing was distinguishable! I couldn't figure out where I was and there was sweat in my ears so everything was clogged and I couldn't hear myself speak. It was bizarre. I somehow wondered back to the finish line area and just sat down...wasn't feeling well after walking around in the hot sun getting lost. Then, I started feeling super nauseous and like I was going to pass out - I laid down and started thinking, let yourself pass out Lenna, but then I was worried that I would throw up all over myself and the other end would do something as well. I was feeling really horrible, with cold sweats - All the sudden I just looked at this random guy sitting nearby and told him I was about to pass out...then I don't remember much after that! I remember sort of being put on a stretcher and taken to the sick tent...and I do remember hearing them talk about giving me an IV...but I was kind of in a different place in my head. Like, I did not care what anyone did to me - I just wanted to shut my eyes and pass out, I had no energy left in any of my bones and my head just sort of checked out. Then I woke up a couple of hours later and realized what time it was and oh SHIT! Serg and Scott are going to be crossing any minute if they didn't already. And I woke up so I was ready to roll again! I went out and waited for the boys to come in...First came Scott, then came Sergio..then came baby in a....oh..never mind. THEY FINISHED THE MARATHON IN ONE PIECE! and they didn't pass out..either one of them. Byu was a little beat up with his knee pain but in general they did AWESOME considering that terrain.

I'll post the photos of the finish once I get them - or maybe never..since we all looked pretty gnarly by then! We rested for a bit and then got in the car for a nice 6 hour drive back to Nairobi. So our 20 hour day finally ended....but like half of the day during the run felt like 2 or 3 weeks and then the car ride home felt like 3 or 4 days..so all in all the trip was like a month long in 20 hours (if any of you have seen the Jerk with Steve Martin) you would appreciate this last line ;-)))