Friday, May 16, 2014

I am the Airport?! and other Recent Adventures

April 19, 2014

Traveling Travails
I arrived in Rwanda yesterday evening.  This is my first visit to our francophone operations and I've been nervous because, well, je ne parle pas français.  So, I started studying well in advance of my trip.  A wonderfully helpful coordinator in Rwanda replied instantly to my email promising a taxi driver named Jean-Paul who would greet me and drive me to our site.  I got through customs with a weak "merci", picked up my bag, and left the airport.  No Jean-Paul to be found.  After struggling through an ATM (Wait, what's the exchange?  Should I pull 20,000 or 200,000?  Oh, crap.) and the purchase of a phone line - I called the number I'd been given.

Turns out, Jean-Paul speaks neither English....nor Swahili...nor Panic.  So, I decided to try out my newly acquired French "skills": Jean-Paul!  Bonjour!  Je m'appelle Sarah.  Indistinguishable words came flying back from the other end.  Jean-Paul?  Uhhh...uhmmm... Je suis l'aéroport?!  Jean-Paul hung up.  "I am the airport?!"  Clearly, Jean-Paul also doesn't speak crazy-lady.

A Pudginess About the Tum
My last post says something about a half-marathon.  That wasn't actually me.  I mean, it couldn't have been.  Because whenever I even consider exerting any kind of physical effort, something much more powerful compels me to turn on Mad Men.

That said, I still decided to climb another mountain.  This one turned out to be much, much taller than the last.  My Dad came for a visit and we went after the snows of Kilimanjaro.  This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, for two reasons: 1) it's remarkable, beautiful, beyond compare - and it's unlikely an opportunity like that comes up twice.  But, also, 2) it's really, really hard.  So once is probably enough.

Here's me and mon pére at the top:

After 4 days of moderate but do-able slightly-uphill walking, all of a sudden, there's Juma pulling you out of your sleeping bag at 11:30pm so you can spend the next seven hours trudging directly up the last 1,200 meters of elevation through slippery volcanic ash in the bitter cold, dark, and windy night.  Your reward is stunning, but man, that was rough!  Still, if you get the chance...

Sweet tat, man.  That ink is boss.
I'm kind of far from "cool" in the traditional sense.  As a painfully telling example, this week, I earnestly described a day as "pretty great, actually" because I "broke through a serious excel barrier."  It took like three hours so I was feeling quite accomplished.

My husband is basically the opposite.  He's the kind of enviable guy that was probably described by the parents of his high school compatriots as a "bad influence."  I've reached the point in my life now when all of this is supposed to shake out.  The cool, wild child of yesteryear is meant to be selling used cars while I revel in all my good karma coming to fruition - and, to wit, here I am in a beautiful guest house in Rwanda, overlooking Lake Kivu and Eastern Congo.  Pre-ty-cool.

But life ain't fair and not only has the "bad kid" not wound up flipping burgers (thankfully, since I married him and all...), but he's off in another part of the world generally living la bonne vie.  He's getting a new tattoo in Prague while I'm here.  I'm - not shockingly - nowhere near brave enough to do this kind of thing myself.  Instead, I'm planning on falling asleep at 10:15 on a Saturday with my French flashcards.  A decade ago, while I fell asleep to another set of flashcards*, my college roommate went off to get a small, geometric turtle tattooed on her ankle.  We'd spent weeks pouring over options and had finally settled on this... so, naturally, she returned the next day with a green Celtic cross on the back of her neck.  I admire, but do not share, that kind of spontaneity so as I run through my conjugations, I'll be wondering what might replace David's best-laid plan...

*Россия, я любила вас...

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