Sunday, November 30

Where where you on April 5 1994?

Can anyone remember what happened on April 5, 1994?

Some of you might remember this as the date in which Poland's application for accession to the European Union was written, but probably not cause that didn't make headlines news for very long.

Others might remember it from what I recall as "breaking news" as the day in which the lead singer of Nirvana killed himself. I remember the day rather well actually because my best mate Kristen was in tears when she told me that Kurt Cobain had died. I remember thinking she was over reacting at the time, but none the less tried to comfort her in the only way we at our age of 16 knew how. Seeing as I had just gotten my driving license 2 months earlier and since I'd borrowed my mom & dad's Lumina APV van that day, Kristen & I drove around town with no real destination, just thinking we looked cool cause we were driving (BIG deal when you've just turned 16!) and blasting Nirvana music!

And to my amazement, I don't recall hearing on the news or in the classroom anything about what was going on in Africa. Now some of you may recall more details about this day than I do, but I think my generation was a bit side tracked with one of our favourite musicians have just killed himself. I just wonder how I completely missed the fact that in Rwanda a genocide had been going on for FIVE days & yet I never had heard a thing about it. I was in a good school and obviously history was taking place all around me, yet our teachers never mentioned it, on Sunday when I went to church we didn't pray for victims of the genocide - how did I miss this? Within 100 days nearly 1 million people died & for me the worst thing was that I wasn't sure how Nirvana was going to cope - that seems a bit petty compared to what was REALLY going on in the world!

As today is my "Thanksgiving" dinner, I felt it necessary to watch, Sometimes in April which sort helped to make me even more thankful! That might sound a bit sadistic, but I still feel that even though we're all thankful on Thanksgiving, we are normally thinking about "issues" we're having in the US - like thankful we could get a new car this year, thankful we're able to go to Hawaii on holiday, and we breeze over the things like being thankful to have a roof over our heads, clean drinking water, etc.

Today I am thankful:
  • I have never had to experience first hand the acts of a genocide
  • none of my family was raped, mutilated, or killed in a genocide
  • I did not have to live in a swamp for nearly 100 days waiting to be saved without food & drinking only the dirty contaminated water which had rotting dead bodies floating in it
  • that America has elected a new president who I hope would never sit back like our government did in 94 and let some like the genocide in Rwanda go on!
Okay enough of that - I have to get back to cooking for the 13 people who will be showing up today to eat & learn about American Thanksgiving.

In case any of you are feeling generous today, please drop by Itafari's website & consider purchasing a goat for a child headed household in Rwanda, a brick to build a secondary (high) school in Kigali, or give any monetary amount you can spare today AND remember to be thankful that you have the freedom to choose to give or not to . . . not all have that choice in the world!!

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Friday, November 28

My 31st Birthday plans . . .

I've finally decided what I'm going to do for my 31st . . . I'm going to Geneva, Switzerland to visit my old flatmate, Louise, since we share the 25th of January as our birthday - who better to celebrate with?? Lou will have just moved there to start her PhD as well & probably won't know as many people so I think it's nice to go & visit, plus this way we can celebrate our birthday together (and I can add yet another country to my growing list & my new years resolution to try be in a new country every month, which might be harder than I think!!)

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Thursday, November 27

Thanksgiving Trivia Questions

1. A spooked turkey can run…
A. 50 miles an hour
B. 5 miles an hour
C. 20 miles an hour
D. 60 miles an hour

2. What utensils did the pilgrims eat with at the first thanksgiving?
A. They were proper Englishmen. They had all the basic utensils.
B. Their hands
C. A spoon and knife
D. A fork
E. B and C
F. C and D

3. According to popular legend, where did the male “tom” turkey get its name?
A. The popular Tom and Jerry Show.
B. Benjamin Franklin named it after Thomas Jefferson when he would not allow it to be the national bird.
C. A tom cat. Wild turkeys were just like wild cats back then. They would roam around and get into fights all the time.

4. What foods were served at the first thanksgiving?
A. Deer
B. Codfish
C. Bread
D. Milk
E. Boiled pumpkin
F. Pastries
G. A, B, and E
H. A, C, D, and F

5. What Indian tribe was invited to spend thanksgiving with the pilgrims?
A. Sioux
B. Wampanoag
C. Red Sox
D. Comanche

6. How many degrees can a turkey see with its eyes?
A. 360 degrees
B. 100 degrees
C. 270 degrees
D. 90 degrees

7. What is a baby turkey called?
A. A chick
B. A squab
C. A poult
D. A goblet

8. What was the name of the Indian chief that helped the pilgrims survive the winter?
A. Massasoit
B. Geronimo
C. Washaki
D. Sitting Bull

9. How can a turkey drown when it’s raining?
A. By looking up.
B. By getting its beak stuck in the mud.
C. By hiding it’s head between its legs.

10. What vegetable did the pilgrims have available for thanksgiving but did not use because they thought it was poisonous?
A. Beans
B. Pumpkin
C. Tomatoes
D. Potatoes
E. Cauliflower

11. Who was the first president to pardon a turkey from thanksgiving dinner?
A. Truman
B. Jefferson
C. Clinton
E. Lincoln

12. What percentage of pilgrims who sailed on the mayflower survived to celebrate thanksgiving?
B. 100%
C. 20%
D. 75%

13. Do turkeys have heart attacks?
A. Yes
B. No

14. Which gender of turkey says “gobble, gobble”?
A. The female, when she is eating.
B. They both do!
C. The male, but only seasonally and when going to sleep.

15. What does cornucopia mean?
A. Horn of plenty.
B. The goddesses’ blessings.
C. May your table always be full and your friends many.

16. Who was the first astronaut to eat a turkey dinner on the moon?
A. Tom Hanks
B. Neil Armstrong
C. James Lovell, Jr.

17. Who was the first president to make thanksgiving a national holiday?
A. Truman
B. Lincoln
C. Jefferson
D. Roosevelt

18. How high must a cranberry bounce before it is harvested?
A. 12 inches
B. 8 inches
C. 36 inches
D. 4 inches

19. The original thanksgiving lasted how long?
A. 2 months
B. 14 days
C. 7 days
D. 3 days

20. Plymouth Rock is how big today?
A. The size of Manhattan
B. The size of a car engine.
C. The size of Carnegie Hall.
D. The size of a peanut.
E. The size of New York Block.

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Thansgiving Day Graphics

Wednesday, November 26

Guest Book

Monday, November 24

quick update

I'm bloody knackered but wanted to give a quick update since I know of at least one person who has admitted to being "addicted" (thanks Dave C!!)

I was in Glasgow all last week at the Annual British Society of Immunologist Meeting and then drove from Glasgow up to Inverness & back at the weekend (that equates to just over 400 miles in 36 hours . . . did I mention it snowed, rained & was very cold & windy?!?!?!)

Whilst at the conference I had this CRAZY & I mean crazy for those of you who know me idea to cook Thanksgiving dinner for my coworkers & a few other mates . . . now remember I live in a studio flat, I have 4 plates, 6 glasses, no wine glasses, a 3 seater couch, 1 chair, a wee table and a bed. I do however have a full size kitchen, but let me fill you in on a rather interesting bit of this story - I've never cooked a whole chicken (I KNOW I KNOW suppose to be turkey but you can't get them anywhere near me cause they're all "on order" for Christmas - don't ask) the point is I've NEVER baked a chicken - I normally make the sweet potatoes - that's my job, but this weekend I will have to cook ALL of it on my own - any suggestions on the best way to not screw this all up?? Also, check my menu - feel like I'm forgetting something, but in my defense I've missed the past 3 turkey days in the US so forgive me if I'm missing something obvious!
so far I've got:
green bean casserole (any sub ideas for the noodles which I can't find)
cooked carrots & broccoli
bread rolls
sweet potatoes
mashed potatoes
apple pie

Today I got my work permit extension (after a long process - details later) off to bed now!

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Monday, November 10

You might like to wash your hands NOW!

This info comes from, here.

The further north you go, the more likely you are to have faecal bacteria on your hands, especially if you are a man, according to a preliminary study conducted by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

But women living in the South and Wales have little to feel smug about. In London, they are three times as likely as their men folk to have dirty hands, and in Cardiff, twice as likely. The men of London registered the most impressive score among all those surveyed, with a mere 6% found to have faecal bugs on their hands. Overall more than one on four commuters have bacteria which come from faeces on their hands.

The Dirty Hands Study was conducted in order to provide a snapshot of the nation's hand hygiene habits, as part of the world's first Global Handwashing Day today. Commuters' hands were swabbed at bus stops outside five train stations around the UK (Newcastle, Liverpool, Birmingham, Euston and Cardiff).

The results indicated that commuters in Newcastle were up to three times more likely than those in London to have faecal bacteria on their hands (44% compared to 13%) while those in Birmingham and Cardiff were roughly equal in the hand hygiene stakes (23% and 24% respectively). Commuters in Liverpool also registered a high score for faecal bacteria, with a contamination rate of 34%.

In Newcastle and Liverpool, men were more likely than women to show contamination (53% of men compared to 30% of women in Newcastle, and 36% of men compared to 31% of women in Liverpool), although in the other three centres, the women's hands were dirtier. Almost twice as many women than men in Cardiff were found to have contamination (29% compared to 15 %) while in Euston, they were more than three times likelier than the men to have faecal bacteria on their hands (the men here registered an impressive 6%, compared to a rate of 21% in the women). In Birmingham, the rate for women was slightly higher than the men (26% compared to 21%).

The bacteria that were found are all from the gut, and do not necessarily always cause disease, although they do indicate that hands have not been washed properly.

Dr Val Curtis, Director of the Hygiene Centre at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, comments: 'We were flabbergasted by the finding that so many people had faecal bugs on their hands. The figures were far higher than we had anticipated, and suggest that there is a real problem with people washing their hands in the UK. If any of these people had been suffering from a diarrhoeal disease, the potential for it to be passed around would be greatly increased by their failure to wash their hands after going to the toilet'.

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Countries I've visited in the past 30 years

In Europe:
Portugal (as of this weekend)
Czech Republic
In Asia:
In Central America:
Costa Rica
In Caribbean:
In North America:
In Africa:
South Africa


Sunday, November 9

a few camera phone photos

on murano island in venice italy
showing off one of the many canals in venice
christmas lights on regent street, london
the london eye with kaylie
kaylie & me on the southbank showing off our new hats


Wednesday, November 5

Crispus Attucks fell so that Rosa Parks could sit, Rosa Parks sat so that Dr. Martin Luther King could march, Dr. Martin Luther King marched so that Barack Obama could run, and Barack Obama has WON so that our children and grandchildren can fly."

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My thoughts on Obama Winning

As I was getting into bed last night with the telly on McCain had 7 electoral votes & Obama had only 3, course this was just a few minutes after some of the east coast polls had closed, but I went to sleep slightly worried. Luckily it didn't seem to effect my sleep as I awoke to a text message from a mate of mine up in Oxford saying, "glad to know I can keep calling you Sara" since I'd swore if Palin had gotten into office I was going to change my name - no way I'm sharing with her name in the news all the time! I immediately put the telly on & didn't have to wait but 10 seconds for them to show McCain's speech which I thought was very professional (or at least the section the BBC news chose to show) - he was saying something along the lines of: Even though Barack & I have disagreed on topics & might again in the future, I hope to do everything I can to help him make the country a better place for everyone. In my head I started to hear the national anthem & was excited to think that maybe being an "American" (living overseas) won't have such a negative connotation associated with it in the near future - I know it's not a guarantee but I am ever hopeful, cause I have to say it's not been the easiest of times these past 3 years - America has not always been a place I've been excited to be associated with when living in the UK.

As I was telling one of my mum's mates this morning via email, I can honestly say I've never hidden the fact that I'm American, just have ended up spending a lot of time defending myself/my country, which gets exhausting when I can see their side of it & even am on their side at times, but that doesn't make me any less American.

I was born and raise in America & no matter what I do will always be American and for so many reasons I am so very proud to be American!! I was thinking yesterday of all that has happened in other places like the recent issues in Zimbabwe with their election, and how blessed I have been to grow up in a place where I never think twice about having the right to vote, freedom of speech, or the option to practice a religion that might not be "the norm" without the risk of persecution.

There are no guarantees on the future, but I'm hopeful that this change will be for the better, but everyone must remember change takes time, we can't expect miracles over night. Some of my hope comes from my recent trip to Rwanda, where having heard what happened in their country 14 years ago and seeing them now - I know all things are possible!

For those of you who've been asking what it's like in London today I can say that the energy and feeling here is crazy - all sorts of people (not just Americans) stayed up ALL night long and even though looking as they've not slept for hours are still animated, happy, even going as far as running around congratulating me & other ex-pats on Obama's win!

To all those who didn't vote for McCain - I hope that you continue to love America & do everything you can to make it a place we are all proud be from. And even if you really really dislike Obama, just remember 4 years goes by rather quickly.

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Tuesday, November 4

48 hours, Oh no, I mean 72 hours in Italy!!

I'm safely back from Venezia, Italy but it wasn't a good weekend. So here is the weekend in a semi quick review:
Friday I felt like I had a cold coming on & was in one of those "I don't like anyone or anything" moods brought, but as I walked out of the office on Friday evening my coworkers told me to relax & try to have fun (famous last words, ah?)
Walked up Gower Street to the Euston Square tube station, took the circle line to Liverpool Street station, picked up my Standstead Express ticket, got on the first train, half way to the airport I started to feel better, got to the airport, got some Euros, met MC, checked in, through security, to gate, on time, no worries. (note: I'd never met MC, but a mutual friend introduced us via email and she really wanted to travel together so I gave it a whirl since I enjoyed travelling with the mutual friend) MC & I start to chat about this & that and things seemed okay, but I realise she's probably one of those people if I'd met her ahead of time I'd probably realised I'd not wanna travel with her.
The plane takes off & they warn us it's going to be a rough road for basically the whole 2 hours - you know me, I'm not thrilled but remember to breath & try to keep occupied with reading my guide book of Venice. Come to find out MC's even more scared to fly than me - not good if I'm the one offering the comfort (LOL) but to be honest the bumps where not that bad & I was really fine as long as I was occupied.
Side note one example of why we're never going to be bosom buddies, she said, "oh I never have turbulence on planes" to which I asked, "how often do you fly?" "This is my 4th plane ride" How in the world can you make a comment like you NEVER get turbulence when your on your 4th plane ride?!?!?!?!?! Now really come on! Also just cause you live in London doesn't make you a world traveller . . . so you've gone to & from the UK to the US once & travelled with work to Denmark - yet she bashes other Americans for not having a passport or seeing the world. ALSO & probably even more disturbing to me is she likes Sarah Palin & she voted for McCain - I should have left her at the airport at that point!! I'm just kidding it was just that she spent a lot of time telling me how great Sarah Palin is & I was nice about it but clearly stated that I wasn't a fan & didn't really wanna be lectured in a way where I felt she was trying to bring me over to her side - I'm not a fan of Sarah Palin, but I know people are & that's the wonderful thing about America we have the right to have our own opinion - I'm not going to try to convince you to not like her so don't try to convince me to like her. I understand people like her & McCain & I respect people's opinions - I know lots of people who like them & that's great that we have the right in the US to have opinions about our politicians, just don't try to shove it down my throat, you never once heard me lecturing anyone about how great Obama is, so why do you feel the need to lecture me, cause it's too late, I've already voted!!
Okay back to my weekend . . . We land in Treviso, get the last bus to Venice, arrive in Venice in the fog & rain - MC hands me the paper with the reservation on it & is of NO help at all in finding where we need to go, not that I need her to help but she's complaining about how cold, dark & wet it is (as if I have control over these issues).
I find our hotel thanks to the Lonely Planet guide, we get into bed around midnight. I ask what time she wants to get up to start exploring, thinking I'd like to be out the door around 8am as we're only here 24 hours. She wants to wake up at 9am . . . I decided as it's late that's a good idea to get a good nights sleep so I go with it. I neglected to realise when you wake up at 9am, shower, do your hair, put on your make up, get dressed etc that you won't be ready till 11am. Trying to remain calm & not be totally rude & ditch her as she has admitted she's super shy & afraid to travel on her own (aka don't leave me in this room alone) I try to respect that knowing I was not always as independent as I am today, but making mental notes to check credentials of future travel partners before flying to foreign countries!!
Out of the hotel, off to get our boat bus ticket, HUGE queue, but weather is rather sunny & warm. High tide so we're walking on the special board walks which I think is cool & makes me feel like I'm really in Venice - others complain about the slowness of the process & the annoyance of having to wait (HELLO, we're on holiday take a chill pill lady!)
Got the passes, I find the way to the number one boat which takes you to almost every stop along the grand canal - I make the executive decision as I have the guide book & the sense of direction that I'm now going to run this show (not rudely, just not going to waste time anymore). An hour later we're at the far end of Venice, so we get off & slowly start to walk back taking in the scenery. We stop for lunch & a glass of wine, which by the way was horrible!
The rest of the afternoon was spent walking around exploring the Murano glass & the beautiful carnival masks. I took us on one of the walks in the book so I was able to see the famous sights.
That night we eat on the grand canal at this horrid place where the gnocchi tasted like dog food. Back to the hotel by 9pm, asleep by 10pm & I was up early, but she was not - getting frustrated I woke her up & told her of my plans for the day, she jumped into the shower & attempted to be ready quickly (note quickly is not in her vocab at this hour in the morning).
Got a boat out to Murano island to see the glass blowing, a glass museum & some more beautiful necklaces! Good day all in all but I noticed the weather was getting rather rainy & foggy. At the airport 3 hours before its suppose to depart in fear the bus would be delayed in traffic - noticed immediately that all flights leaving "soon" where delayed due to weather & I tell MC I have a gut feeling we're not getting out of here tonight, and I also tell her I KNOW my gut & it's 99.62% right. We get a bite to eat whilst waiting to check in. Then suddenly there is lots of commotion & I look to see all flights for the night are cancelled due to weather. She starts to whine about how she has to work the next day (as if I don't!?!?!?) We stand in the huge queue for 3 hours (6 flights cancelled & only 2 help desks open). During which time the news travels back to us that the next flight out of here to London is on the 3rd . . . half hour later, 4th . . . etc by time we reach the desk at 11.45pm there next flight is on Friday the 7th unless we want to fly from another airport. Our only choice is to fly at 10.45pm the next day from Torino - I say okay having no clue where it is or how we get there.
During this time I've made friends with a mother & her 2 daughters (age 30 & 28) from Australia. They're in the same boat as we are so I offer to find a hotel & ask MC to get us a taxi for 5 (the Aussies are besides themselves with no phone, no internet & no clue what's going on and not really experienced travellers either) I call & reserve 2 rooms, get the 3 Aussies & head outside where MC stands without a cab. What's going on I ask her - "oh there was a cab but he can't take 5 people so I let him go" . . . this is now past midnight & it's not like Treviso is a busy town, not sure when a taxi will come back for us, why did she not ask him to call another one, I don't know, well I do but I'm trying not to bitch about her too much. I go inside, call for 2 taxis to the hotel, they arrive, we get to hotel, get our rooms, asleep by 1am.
Wake up call at 6am, someone is not happy about how early it is, she explains she doesn't wake up till 7.30am cause she doesn't have to be to work till 9am - I explain we need to get a train which we haven't yet booked so I'm sorry but get your arse outta bed or I will leave you here.
Breakfast at the hotel, I get directions & bus passes for everyone, play follow the leader to the bus (can you guess who the leader is?) Get on the bus, go to train station, I get 5 tickets from Treviso to Torino (via Mestra and Milano). Get on the train to Mestra, 1 hour wait for next train to Milano, 2 hour trip to Milano, 1 hour wait for next train to Torino, 2 hour train there. Attempt to find the bus to airport, but nobody speaks English. I come up with idea to go to a hotel & ask them. Yet again it's follow the leader to the hotel where I ask for directions, I book 5 bus tickets and then announce I'm hungry & lets get some food as the bus to the airport is only 45 minutes & we've got 4.5 hours till check in begins & I'm guessing the airport isn't a Chicago O'Hare where we could entertain ourselves.
Only problem at this point is that it's 4pm and where in the world do you get food . . . let me fill you in, just in case you couldn't figure it out on your own, you don't! We wondered around & finally found a place which at 5.30 would have a "happy hour buffet" so we sat there & ordered a glass of wine for 8 Euros which included all you can eat at this FABULOUS buffet of fresh antipasto and pasta with fresh tomatoes - YUM! The wine here was actually good, course I have no clue what it was since I don't speak Italian for anything and just asked to try the house red. From there I lead everyone to the bus stop, we boarded the bus all rather cranky & knackered at this point, ride for 1 hour out to the airport, wait for check in to start, check in, go to get an ice cream, watch the sign warn that the plane will be 1 hour late, wait around for more time!
Finally board, MC runs & pushes to the front, I let her go and calmly board like a normal human being, end up not being able to find her in the crowds of people so I don't have to sit with her (blessing in disguise), plane finally leaves at 11.30, we arrive in London 2 hours later, go through passport control, (MC at this point has bolted yet again without saying goodbye or even sending a text message, pushing & shoving - being that obnoxious American I'm always complaining about in public places so from here on out we don't see her).
The Aussies & I find out we've missed the last train into London so we have to get a bus which doesn't go anywhere near where we want it to, we arrive at Marble Arch at 2am, I help them find a night bus going in their direction & I wait for a night bus in my direction for 26 minutes (not that I was counting just trying to keep myself awake) and then ride bus home arriving safely around 3am!
All I can say is I will think twice before travelling with strangers, especially mutual friend introductions - I think random internet meeting is safer, right Momma Itafari?!?!?!?!
I think I sorta like Venice, the canals are cool, the glass is amazing, but have such a sour taste in my mouth from being with MC that I'm not sure I can recommend the city at this moment in time. Oh & one other thing, I forgot my camera and you know how much I LOVE to take photos!

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