Tag Archives: Friends

first impressions

i’ve been back in the US about a week now. i don’t really feel like i’ve moved back, since i’ve done nothing but visit old stomping grounds. i won’t actually move anywhere for a few more weeks, which allows me to suspend reality just a bit longer. right now the weirdest things i notice are the fact that my clothes are in the dryer instead of hanging on a line… that i can heat up my tea water in the microwave… that i can plug my computer into any electrical socket without worrying about sizzles and pops. and i really like to drive.

the two biggest changes concerning my closest friends are these: erin and brian have a son named keegan, and christina and andy are engaged to be married. both very exciting things.

this is my first real face-to-face time with keegan, my first sort-of nephew. we’d skyped a few times while i was in africa, but nothing makes up for the smell and feel of holding a baby. we’re going to be best friends. though i’ll admit, since i missed most of erin’s pregnancy, it seems more like keegan just showed up… not like he was birthed by one of my best friends. the stork brought him.

then there’s christina and andy… who have been dating since i introduced them about 4 years ago. i cried when she told the story of how andy asked her to be his wife. she cries every time she tells it. the three of us spent the weekend in lex for our college reunion.

before heading to lex, christina took me to her stylist in b’more… seeing as i hadn’t cut my hair in over a year. wearing dresses and letting my hair down… that’s culture shock.

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welcome… home?

i’m leaving benin tomorrow. after living here 9 months, it’s hard to say where home is. i was actually in the US for all of 38 hours a few weeks ago–yes, that means i spent more time in the air than i did on the ground… but it was for a job interview and it was totally worth it. when i got back to benin, my adopted family picked me up from the airport… which actually felt more familiar than when i landed in the US a few days before. i got to the house and my “little brothers” had made signs to welcome me home.

i am super psyched to move back State side, but i’m going to miss my family, friends and students here like crazy.

peace out benin!

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keegan is born!

i’m finally an auntie! no, stephen and pierce aren’t daddies yet… erin and brian gave birth to keegan on december 23 (erin did most of the work) and the baby is finally home! you can see pics of my favorite new baby here.

just call me tata lau.

oh my, i am SO excited!


merry christmas!

Christmas day!!! I woke up with the rest of the Mitton crowd to open presents and eat cinnamon rolls, just like Christmas back home! The Mitton family spoiled me with tupperware, ice cube trays, candy and Tuareg leather gifts. Tuaregs are a particular tribe of people from Niger that do very nice leather work (frames, boxes, etc.) and jewelry. It’s the quintessential West African gift, so I was excited to finally have some Tuareg items of my own.

We went to our friend Anne’s house for a late lunch/early dinner. What a feast! Salad, bread, turkey, ham, broccoli, macaroni and cheese, “calorie corn,” pumpkin pie, cheese cake, pecan pie, homemade chocolate peanut butter cups (I helped make those), peanut butter cookies, I could go on and on. Lots of these things are hard to come by here (like peanut butter, turkey and broccoli), so it was a real treat to eat so well.

As if we hadn’t done enough singing already, we sang some MORE! I think I’ve sung more Christmas carols this year than ever. I guess you have to sing more to make up for the hot weather. But, oddly enough, today was the coolest day in Benin since I arrived. I hear it dipped below 80 early this morning! And sitting in Anne’s air conditioned living room, I had to sport a hooded sweatshirt to keep from catching a cold. That helped get me in the Christmas spirit!

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christmas eve!

Christmas Eve’s Gift!! This marks the first year someone from my mom’s side of the family has NOT called to play the “Christmas Eve’s Gift” prank. Oh well. It was still a lively day.

After running errands all day, most of which didn’t pan out, like going to the bank to find the ATM machine wasn’t working, Josue and I headed over to one of the schools to set up for our Christmas party. The event was supposed to go from 3-6. At 3pm, about 5 of us were gathered to get the party room ready. The boys were cleaning like crazy (things get so dusty during harmattan) while I blew up balloons. We decorated and waited and decorated. People started trickling in around 4pm. At 5pm we started talking and praying and singing. At 6pm Josue started the party, giving me just enough time to sing “Silent Night” with my English students before heading across town to the Mitton’s house for the Expat Christmas gathering. I hope the rest of their party went well. The Mitton’s party was a real treat. We sang carols (thank goodness for Rob’s musical skills), loaded up all the kids in the back of two pick-up trucks for a “hay ride,” and ate lots of goodies. I spent the night at the Mitton’s house, since no one should be alone at Christmas!

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christmas eve eve

I celebrated Christmas with my mom tonight, far away from her, and alone in my new home. I know Christmas Eve and Christmas Day will be busy, so I wanted some time alone to really think about my family, since that’s usually the focus of this season, along with the birth of Christ, of course. My mom sent some really cool things, but the two that really touched me were a devotional book that belonged to my grandmother and an Episcopal Hymnal and Book of Common Prayer signed by my mother. I cried a little when I opened the first, missing my grandmother and grieving the fact that Alzheimer’s will change her before I get back; and I really cried as I read my mom’s words in the cover of the second, as she described that her mother gave her a copy of the same hymnal and prayer book years ago. Finally! A good cry in Africa! I’ve been stocking up on tears for months now. I wish I could describe how it makes me feel to be connected to women like my mom and grandmother, to think that I’m in that same line of inspiring women, to recognize I come from somewhere, that I have a heritage. And now I have the music to hymns I used to sing every day in chapel, starting at age 4. My mom and I are funny about hymns. We sing them all the time. Sometimes a hymn will get stuck in my head and I’ll email my mom to tell her, knowing she’ll start singing the same one with me, humming it all day on the other side of the world. We might be two of the quirkiest people I know. I love you, Mom.

After the whole sentimental gift opening moment, I got a call from Josue saying he and his wife Prisca and son Isaac were coming over. We had talked the previous day about how I’d like them to come over for dinner, but seeing as he was calling at 8:30pm, I thought surely they would have eaten before arriving. Au contraire. When they walked in at 9:30pm, I panicked to find they’d yet to eat a thing. So I ran into the kitchen and threw a quick salad together. Prisca came in to check out my spices and what not. She opened each one and ventured a guess as to what it was used for. At one point she opened my “Italian Seasoning” and asked, “Is this what white people drink in hot tea at night to be skinny?” I said no, that it was seasoning for food, but that I did have herbal tea if she wanted to try some. she said, “No, you can drink it because you are white.” After eating the salad, she said, “This is how you white people stay skinny,” as she pranced around the kitchen in her best ‘white’ impersonation, “We eat rice and pounded yams, but you eat lettuce.” I think Prisca has an overstated impression of our differences. I hope to bring her to the US someday so she can understand where I come from a bit better.

I also gave Prisca and Josue their Christmas presents. Here, people exchange gifts on New Years. Christmas is a celebration for kids, since it’s celebrating baby Jesus. The New Year is significant though, since it means you have made it through another year safely. But keeping with my traditions, I gave them Christmas gifts anyway. The coolest gift was “tissue,” or fabric. I bought a pattern that I thought was pretty, but more importantly, I bought the brand name “Hi-Target Block,” the best in wax fabric fashion. I ran into some of my students in the market right after purchasing the fabric, and I showed it to them, seeking approval. They totally ignored the pattern and immediately judged by the brand name that I had chosen well. Only problem is, you can only buy “Hi-Target Block” in 12 meters. I needed to buy 15 to 18 meters if Josue, Prisca and Isaac were all going to make clothes out of it (matching family outfits are SO hip here), so I splurged to buy a full 24 meters, telling Josue and Prisca I wanted to keep 6 meters to make my own matching outfit. They were absolutely delighted. They can’t wait to wear our matching outfits and to take a gazillion pictures. Such fun.

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best thanksgiving ever

okay… maybe that seems like an overstatement. i mean, i am millions (it feels like) miles away from my friends and family. i have even been admittedly miserable this entire week, wanting to cry about everything, and yet finding no tears.

and perhaps that is why today was the best thanksgiving ever.

just when i thought thanksgiving was going to be dreadful, it was awesome. just when i thought i’d have to make do with chicken, a platter of TURKEY and stuffing and gravy appears! and mashed potatoes! and pumpkin pie!

the only food items missing were pecan pie and duke of windsor sandwiches (made from leftover turkey, cheddar cheese and chutney… yum).

and while there’s no substitute for my family back home (i love you guys!) i did get to dine with a room full of really bright, really caring, really interesting people… including my adopted family.

and speaking of my adopted family… in true american fashion (even though my fam here is canadian), i went shopping this morning with kim. and bought Christmas presents. and wrapped them in Christmas paper. and listened to Christmas music.

AND my real family sent me a paper “Christmas tree in a box” that now stands about 2 feet tall in my borrowed apartment!

see… best thanksgiving ever. for real.

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last night out (that’s doubtful)

last night was supposedly my last night out on the town… though i’ve got plans tonight too and i’m sure something else will fall into place monday. paige, laurel, david and i started pretty early at ropewalk. we (the girls, at least) made quite the scene. we basically turned the place into a karaoke bar, and nobody seemed to mind because they all knew i’m leaving tuesday. i’m going to miss smalltimore. it really is like being on the show “cheers” in my neighborhood.

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farhan and roohi took me to the coolest restaurant last night. roohi found it online… tam-tam. it says it’s an “african american” restaurant, but the food is not at all american. the people and recipes were all from senegal, which is also in west africa, not far from benin. i had a whole tilapia with some sort of starch… i think from the cassava root? very similar to what i’ll be eating starting next week. it was sooo delicious! roohi had an excellent lamb dish and farhan had the grilled chicken. all the marinades were phenomenal. i also had some ginger juice and a traditional dessert. i highly recommend tam-tam to anyone in baltimore wanting to try something new. it may not look like much, but your mouth will think otherwise.

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