12 February 2012

Burkina, Books, and Baseball

I sat outside by the pool today and got absolutely fried. But, I'd rather that than be in DC with snow! Now I have some pretty sweet tan lines in February (the one giant plus - NO bike shorts tan. I think this is the first time in years I don't have a bike shorts line. Now my legs are simply red from hip to toe). Towards the end of the afternoon I got bored and went for a walk around the city. I got a little lost (shhhhh, don't tell anyone) but found my way back to familiar ground relatively quickly. Sundays are really nice in Ouaga, MUCH less traffic and quiet streets because most people are home with their families. The sun was getting low in the sky, the weather was a little cooler, everyone was saying hello as they passed by each other, I couldn't wipe the smile off my face while I walked - it was a perfect afternoon stroll. I made my way over to my favorite collection of shops - it's this building and yard space that has been set aside for artists to create and sell their wares. I found a bronze figurine of one of the trees you find out in the countryside as well as a few paintings and some other small items. I like going to this particular place because they artists aren't pushy at all and are happy to show you their work and I don't feel pressure to buy anything. I've also gotten better at bargaining!

Tomorrow we are having dinner at this chicken place by the airport - we work with some consultants based at the local university and it has become tradition for them to take us out for "poulet." It's this dirt lot with a few tables and chairs, lots of scattered chicken bones, and these chicken coops and grills. You choose your chicken, they kill it, grill it, and there's about 10 minutes that elapse between when the chicken is running around alive in its coop and when it's in pieces on your plate. Truthfully, I'm slightly horrified/intrigued by the place and I pull the vegetarian card when we go there to eat. I just enjoy a soda instead. In the meantime, there are also people walking around selling the most random assortment of stuff - last time we went, one of the guys with us bought a generator while he enjoyed his chicken dinner. I'll be bringing granola bars with me to dinner tomorrow - I am simply not that adventurous when it comes to my food. My eating habits have provoked some gentle ribbing from our friends here and it has become a game amongst them to see what I will or will not eat.

I've gotten all of my scheduled workouts in this week. Some were shortened due to lack of time, but in the end, I managed to spend some quality time on the treadmill and the stationary bike. It's been a good exercise in heat acclimation too - NEVER have I been so sweaty from a 30 minute spin bike session. I need to hang my clothes up to dry off after a workout, it is disgusting. DISGUSTING.

I finished two more books - "The Devil in the White City: A Saga of Magic and Murder at the Fair That Changed America" by Erik Larson. Another REALLY great book by this author, it didn't disappoint. Chicago won the bid to host the Worlds Fair in 1893. Their goal was to top the previous Worlds Fair that was held in Paris, which had set the high water mark for sophistication and intrigue. The builders of the fair faced alot of obstacles (lots of worker deaths, storms, short timeline) but they put together a fair that surpassed the one held in Paris. The Ferris Wheel made its debut, America's answer to Eiffel's tower. Electricity was used to light up the fairgrounds, and lots of attention was paid to the architecture and landscaping. In the midst of the Worlds Fair, there was a psychopath who managed to murder a large, unknown number of women who were visiting Chicago. It was impressing and appalling how he managed to be so deceitful and basically lure these women to him, close enough for him to eventually kill them, and nobody suspected anything at all. FOR YEARS. Anyway, I have never visited Chicago, nor do I know much about the city, and even though the Worlds Fair was over a century ago, this book made me want to visit and see what is left.

The other book I finished was by Doris Kearns Goodwin, "Wait Till Next Year." Highly, HIGHLY recommend this book - very well-written, entertaining, and detailed. It's basically a memoir the author wrote about her childhood, growing up in a suburb of New York City in the 1950s and being a Dodgers baseball fan. Being a Red Sox fan (though a rather fair-weather one now that I'm no longer living in New England and don't fervently follow baseball), I felt a kinship with the author as she wrote about her beloved Dodgers and their attempts and failures to win the World Series until the mid-1950s. And when she wrote about the Dodgers finally winning the World Series, it was almost like reliving the 2004 Red Sox victory again in my mind. I was still following baseball pretty closely, having left New England only recently at that point, and I remember turning off Game 4 in the American League series against the Yankees in disappointment before the finish saying "maybe next year" and then not believing my ears when I heard on the radio the next morning that the Sox had come back to win it. And then they went on to win the remaining 3 games and headed for the World Series where they won it all in less dramatic fashion (because the only matchup that really matters is the one between the Sox and the Yankees). I floated on cloud 9 for days, bought every newspaper I could find to read the sport section, and had my mom send me the Boston papers so I could savor the victory from as close to the heart as possible. I still have those newspapers in somewhere in a closet at home. Though the Sox have won the World Series since 2004, I don't think there is any victory that will ever be quite as sweet. Anyway, the book was more than just about baseball, it was a window into an era and a time that seems so far away from present day. It was a story about growing up in a close-knit neighborhood where summer days were spent with all the neighborhood kids, darting in and out of each others' houses and playing outdoors, not using cell phones or video games or the internet. It just sounded like the best possible time ever to be a kid.

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