Wednesday, December 24

Frankfurt, Heidelberg and Triberg

I'm leaving soon to get the tube to Heathrow so I can fly to Frankfurt tonight - YEAH!!! My bag is finally packed (yes I started this morning after the last gift arrived from the Royal Mail!)

So far the plan is for "us" (Kaylie, Neala, Neala's mum, Ben, Chris, Nik, Katelynn, and me) to go over to Melissa & Mike's house for Christmas day. Should be fun with 12 of us all together :) Then on Friday we'll go to Heidlberg and on Saturday we'll go to Triberg, two cities I've never been to so it should be an adventure - I mean any time you get 8 people travelling together something funny is bound to happen, right, and Melissa's family might join us too!

Well I best get going, have to zip my case closed, turn off all the electrical stuff, turn the heat down & bring the rubbish down to the street!

So I wish you all a Merry Christmas tomorrow or Happy Hanukkah (I think today is day 4) and I'll update as much as I can over the next 2 weeks but know that we'll be very busy! I know once I get back I'll have lots of photos to share.

Labels: , ,

Yellow Ribbon Holiday

This is to all those serving away from home this holiday season. In particular my adopted brother Michael and my mate Tim stationed in Iraq.

Labels: ,

Sunday, December 21

LSHTM alumni Christmas Lunch

Those of us who are in the London area all met up yesterday for our annual Christmas lunch, here are some photos - they're in reverse order:

By the end of the night Chris had fallen asleep with Sophie & Andrew not far behind (enjoying some presents from Secret Santa) Soph & Andrew had just flown in from Sierra Leone & Sudan respectively at 5am
Emma testing the mini water gun with Sophie, after Chris had filled it with wine

Look at all that food! (I made corn souffle & green bean casserole)

Jeremy, Louise & Emma prepping one of the two chickens before everyone arrived

A video of Andy dancing with a dog (watch the dog's ears!:

Chris testing the mini water gun full of wine out on Emma:

Labels: , , ,

Friday, December 19

Questions From Readers - updated December 2008

purple is June 09, green is Dec 08, blue is from April 08, black is from a long time ago

What did you do last night?
Watched a little bit of Shrek 2 before falling asleep.
Nothing I was too busy reading, We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda by Philip Gourevitch

Have you ever licked a 9 volt battery?
No, why should I do this?!??!!

How many cars have you owned?
2 - Nissan Pathfinder & Subaru Legacy sedan

Type of music you dislike most?
Opera - it's worse than water torture to me - okay been to see 2 more operas & they're not as bad as I thought, but still not something I would choose to spend my time doing. have not attempted any more operas still not tried any more

Are you registered to vote?
Yes since they day I turned 18!! and got to vote this past Nov :) nothing new on this

Do you have cable?
Nope, haven't had it in years, well aside from the 3 months I was house bound after knee surgery, but aside from that not since I was at Norwich which was 2001. Last Nov (07) I had moved into a new flat & needed Internet connection and the cheapest option was to join up with Virgin Media - you can get a phone, Internet & cable package, so now I have the BASIC cable. nothing has changed I still rarely watch the cable on the telly - primarily use the DVD players, yes that's correct I have two, one is for UK and the other is for US DVDs since they read different regions! Slight change here, Virgin Media service has been cut off (long story) but I'm back to just having 2 DVD players, no internet & no phone.

What kind of computer do you use?
A Dell laptop Inspiron 600 (I think that's what it's called) at home & at work I have a brand new fancy black thing which I can't read cause it's hidden under my desk but it's really nice with a flat screen monitor this fall I had to get rid of my laptop cause it crashed for the second time in a month, now I have a new shiny thing - no clue what it's called - LOL no change

Where did you get your nickname Rara?
My nickname Ra comes from Sa-ra, my dad always called me it while I was growing up & my best friend's mom use to call me, "Ra-ra" after the Sun God because I was the only kid on the block who was always smiling, so it just sorta stuck. Then when I was in undergrad I was the Resident Adviser for my halls so I was R.A. Ra (and yet again Rara stuck as a nickname)

Are you American or British?
I am American, at times I come out with a few British words here & there, but on the whole my accent is still very American. Still American :) and again still 100% American

Where did you grow up?
I was born in Yonkers, NY, but spent most of my school years in the Ardsley School District, but actually living in Dobbs Ferry.

Where did you go to school?
Ardsley High School - regents diploma ('94-'96)
Hofstra University - one year only - transferred credits to NU ('96-'97)
Norwich University - Bachelors of Science in Biology with minor in Sports Medicine ('97-'01)
London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine - Masters of Science in Immunology of Infectious Diseases ('05-'06)

Why do you live in the UK & not the USA?
I moved here in September 2005 to get my Masters & now have moved for at least a year because of a job. Can you believe it's been nearly 3 years??? I can't! Just signed my contract at the beginning of this month to stay till Dec '09 Still planning on leaving at the end of this year

Do you plan on living there forever?
Right now I would say no, but forever is a long ways off . . . who can really say?? These days I'm leaning more toward moving home to the states, but no decision has been made. Still feeling I wanna go home at some point, just not now when the economy is crap - gonna keep this job for a year! Looking to move home in early 2010, just not sure where yet.

What is an MSc?
Masters of Science

What is your job position?
My position here at the university is called an MLSO (Medical Laboratory Scientific Officer) fancy British way of saying research assistant scientist. They've gotten rid of the title MLSO, but my work permit still says that so I'm not sure what to call myself ;)

What disease do you work on in London?

Burkholderia psuedomallei which is an infectious disease and the causative agent of human melioidosis. Bps is a public health problem in SE Asia & northern Australia & the CDC has it listed as a bio terrorism agent, hence where the funding for my job comes from. Still working on Bps! Have done a bit of TB work as well, but primarily still Bps :)

How did you end up getting this job?
My undergrad was in general biology with a concentration in forestry & minor in sports medicine - I just sorta took a job in upstate NY b/c I couldn't find any other places that would hire me without experience & here I am 6 years later loving it - I NEVER would have guessed it in a million years, nor would my undergrad adviser when I called him - he was very surprised

So do you like your new job?
I TOTALLY love my new job - course it could be that the people I work with are just brilliant & wonderful, which in my opinion can make or break a job. I did of course already know my new boss since he was one of my profs from last year. Still enjoying it :) still here aren't I? ditto

How awesome is that you get to live in London - do you love it?
I do totally love it here. It's a wonderful city - I grew up just outside NYC & never really feel in love with it like I have with London, but then again as my mom always points out the grass is always greener & most of those people I meet who where born & raised here love NYC much better, so maybe that's it. Still love it, who can argue with the ability to be in Paris or Brussels in 2 hours by train?!?!?! Again, I'm still here so I must like it! still enjoying it

How many brothers and sisters do you have?
One sister, who is 21 months younger than me & my bestest friend, plus she's super smart (as in she's an engineer)

What religion are you?
I was born, baptized, confirmed & raised Episcopalian, but at the moment I would say I'm not associated with any religion. I think if I were to choose one I'd go with Buddhism, but I'm not actively following that either. nothing changed on this front either

How does your family feel about you living in the UK?
I don't reckon I've directly asked them, but I know they are happy for me to have such a wonderful opportunity & it gives them a good excuse to visit London, the UK, and Europe, but I'm sure if given a choice they might pref I be closer to them (aka anywhere in the states - my family is rather spread out over the US) only difference is my mum is now back in NY so we're not quite as far away, but my sis did move to TN so she's a bit further now :(

Do you have a companion animals - if so what is it?
I don't, I couldn't right now - I mean it would be unfair to the animal - I'm not home enough to take care of him/her. I suppose I could have fish, but I don't fancy them, so for the moment I have to live vicariously through my mom's 2 English Cocker Spaniels, Henry & Quid, who are just fantastic!! If I had not moved to the UK I was going to get one of their cousins, but I'm here now :)

whats your name spelt backwards?

Have you ever made a prank phone call?
Yes, but let's not go there . . . I was young & stupid

Would you ever go bungee jumping or sky diving?
NO WAY, I hate heights to start off with & I'm not a fan of that free fall feeling which I think would occur in both of those instances, that said I did go zip lining through the rain forests of Costa Rica & that was WAY FUN!!!!!!!!!

Furthest place you ever traveled?
I flew from Montreal to Cape Town, South Africa, I think that's the farthest I've gone, but maybe when I go from London to Thailand in Nov that will be farther, will have to look into that! From London to Bangkok on one airplane was 13 hours - talk about LONG HAULING it!!! Went to Rwanda last fall & had a 15 hour lay over in Nairobi, Kenya, so if you count that in, that was the longest trip, but LHR to BKK is still the longest plane journey I've taken.

What's your favorite comic strip?
I don't really read them, I guess Peanuts

Do you know all the words to the national anthem?
Yes, learned them in school growing up, don't all students? I now understand why this question was asked, many people in England do not know the words to God Save the Queen (their national anthem!)

Do you shower in the morning or night?
Mornings or I'd never wake up

Best movie you've seen in the past month?
Blood Diamonds, Juno, Shooting Dogs, The Notebook

What are your favorite pizza toppings?
Pineapple or veggy mix

Do you prefer chips or popcorn?
homemade popcorn or salt & vinegar crisps (aka chips)

What cell/mobile phone provider do you have?
Orange in the UK & Verizon in the US I'm now on a contract phone in the UK with O2

Have you ever been in a beauty pageant?
Nope, couldn't be bothered to.

Do you drink orange or apple juice in the morning?
If I have apple juice in the house yes, if not just tea.

What is your favorite chocolate bar?
I am particularly fond of KitKats!!!

Who is your longest friend and how long have you known them?
Kristen F, since 3rd grade just realised now that she's been married for a few years I should probably refer to her by her married name so Kristen F. B.

What is your favorite arcade/video game?:
Tetrus or Pac-Man

Do you prefer Sprite v 7-UP; Coke v Pepsi; Canada Dry v Schweppes ?
Probably Sprite, Pepsi & Schweppes, but I don't know that I would know the difference if blind folded

Have you ever thrown up in public?
Oh yeah, when I was like 10yo & got sick during the church service & puked all over the seats - REALLY embarrassing!

Would you prefer being a millionaire or finding true love?
I don't want to be greedy so how about a little of both :p

Did you have long hair as a young kid?
Yes and very short as well.

What message is on your voicemail machine?
"Hey it's Sara, leave me a message, thanks"

Where would you rather be right now?
at home relaxing, travelling, on a plane to TN to spend Christmas with my sis, home relaxing

What do you think about most?
Depends on what I'm doing, at work I think about science, at home I think about family & friends, sometimes I think about absolutely nothing at all!. Where I'm going on my holiday next! how I'm going to save up money for more travelling and how I can help out more in Rwanda.

Can you cook?
Yes, but it's mostly a small range of things I do well. I made a fabulous Thanksgiving dinner a few weeks ago & EVERYONE loved it so yes, I can cook :)

What is your favorite place?
Depends, when I want an adventures, Costa Rica, when I want quiet, the Adirondacks, Now I'm adding Laos & Thailand, adding Russia & Rwanda to the list, adding Germany to the list.

Do you have any Tattoos and/or Piercings?
Yes, 4 in my ears (pierced, not tattooed) and 1 tattoo on my back

What is your worst habit?
I'd have to say it it definitely procrastination.

Do you have a negative or optimistic attitude?
Optimistic most of the time

Tell me one weird fact about you.
I'm told the way I eat an oranges is weird - I don't like any of that white stuff so I spend about 30 minutes peeling it all off before I eat it, I am still friends with my ex-fiance's family, my alarm clock time always has to end in the number 7! I hate flying in planes, yet get on one every month just to make sure my New Years resolution is kept!

Do you think clowns are cute or scary?
Cute, but they can be scary on Halloween

Have you ever been arrested?
Nope, not yet . . . you'll be happy to hear it's still a no, still no to that one :)

If you won £10,000 today, what would you do with it?
I reckon I'd go on a really cool holiday to Australia & New Zealand, buy some goats for Itafari, along with a plane ticket to Australia with a lay-over in Kigali, Rwanda! I'd still buy some goats for Itafari & maybe even sponsor a few more children, but my lay-overs en route to Aus would be Rwanda and Papua New Guinea (to see my cousin).

Do you swear a lot?
No, but probably more than I should and also depends on the company I'm with - at work I can control is a lot more than with my mates

Biggest pet peeve?
Just one?!?!!? Well today I would say it is parents who are inconsistent in the way they treat their kids and then complain about their behaviour. (I know that might sound a bit weird, but it's based on something I saw on the bus ride into work today) or washing your hands after using the toilet!!!! luckily I can't think of many others, the above two are bad enough!

In one word, how would you describe yourself?
that's a hard one . . . I think independent would be the best, my friend have corrected me to say the word should be adventurous, I'm still sticking with independent, my mates still insist on adventurous, so I'm choosing an independent-adventurer (not sure if I add the hyphen if it makes it one word still? I think that still applies

Labels: ,

Thursday, December 18

Rwandan "kingpin" jailed!

I was just reading on BBC's website about how the former Army Colonel BAGOSORA has been convicted and and given a life in prison sentence by the UN's tribunal for the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. I think this is a good thing - I know they're not going to be able to find everyone who did wrong, but at least they're doing something!

To read more about it click here. As most of you who read my blog know about 1 million people were killed in Rwanda's genocide. It was decided that Col BAGOSORA and 2 others organised, trained, and armed the interahamwe militia, a Hutu paramilitary organization (kinyarwanda word meaning "those who work together") which were at fault for the majority of killings. These men were responsible for making a list of both Tutsis and moderate Hutus, aka anyone who did not agree with their vision for an more ethnically "pure" Rwanda.

Some other interesting facts about Col BAGOSORA's trail is that it took 409 days, used 30,000 pages of transcripts, there were 242 witnesses heard, and 1,600 exhibits - I'm not even sure OJ Simpson can claim those sorts of numbers!

If you're interested in doing more for Rwanda, visit Itafari's website, buy a goat, sponsor a child, support a local business, or buy a Rwandan basket - you won't regret it!

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, December 16

hole covered, heat & hot water restored :)

back into normalcy - plumber fixed the hole!


how low will it go?

the temperature in my flat that is? It's just part 2pm & the temperature is down to 13C . . . let's play a game: how low will the temp go before the plumber gets here & fixes the hole in the pipe??

Labels: ,

14C and waiting

So the flat's down to 14C and I'm STILL sitting here waiting for the plumber who should be here "any minute" . . . I have to say that hot water bottles are the best - they can keep you totally warm all night long! I wish there was better day time shows on (LOL)

I just keep telling myself - I'm healthy, have a job, a roof over my head, food in my tummy & have a loving family for which I am very very thankful, so I shouldn't be complaining about my lack of heat or hot water, but it's frustrating when you're use to having these things at your disposal.

Labels: , ,

Monday, December 15

problems in London

got home today & heard a weird thumping noise in my kitchen - discovered it was coming from the water pipes going to my water heater, then suddenly the fire alarm went when I also realised there was water all over the floor . . . after a long time standing in the cold trying to reach the "emergency contact" for our flats we discovered the water was not just all over my floor but it was leaking into the flat below me as well - also learned there was a hole in one of the pipes which is the size of which my pinky finger can fit into . . . it had been covered by tape for goodness only knows how long - lucky i was here to sort it out - the emergency line guy can't help as he's not a plumber & he'd been at the pub drinking so he admitted he didn't wanna do anything technical. so i'm without heat or hot water until they fix it - it's 16C right now & dropping - got both of my duvets on my bed and both wool blankets on chair next to it just in case I've also got 2 hot water bottles on standby from Nim & Andy's where I also showered tonight - this is so annoying! I sure hope my landlord is ready to hear from me & the guy who lives below me tomorrow - cause we're not impressed with the circumstances we're in - guy below me had water leak onto his mattress & all over his wardrobe - i'm going without heat & hw until this problem is fixed, last time it took 3 days to get a plumber & that wasn't during the holiday season . . .

Labels: , ,

2 more points of Obama in my mind

I know this is not a really good reason to like Obama more, but it made me giggle today when I read Why Obama may not like Britain, so I wanted to share my thoughts with you - feel free to comment, discuss, agree or disagree with me - I've always said, opinions are like ***holes, every one's got one and they all can stink!

It starts off by saying, "It recently emerged that Obama’s Kenyan grandfather, Hussein Onyango Obama, was imprisoned and tortured by colonial British authorities for two years during the 1950s, when the Mau Mau insurgency was rebelling against British rule."

The funny part to me is when the article says, "In his [Obama's] memoir, the British come across as “ill-dressed, pasty-faced, and racially arrogant; cramped, spotty, and joyless.” " anyone who has lived over here for a period of time probably felt the same way on at least one of these comments, or is that just me???

I was glad to see the article wasn't all just about pointing out reasons why Obama could dislike Britain, as it also mentioned, "With the global economy in free-fall and his country mired in two wars, Obama surely will not be “fixated on extracting revenge from the U.K.” Britain’s “colonial sins” are unlikely to “pose a risk to our relationship with the soon-to-be most powerful person on Earth.”"

I also thought it was great when they ended the article with, "But still, instead of wallowing in our guilt, let’s learn from it. The Obama family’s experience demonstrates the horrors of imperialism. . . . “anti-imperialism is little more than an excuse for tyrants to visit misery and terror on their own populations.” If the West has learned anything from the experience of Hussein Onyango Obama and others like him, it will denounce all such abuse—no matter whom the perpetrator is."

Your thoughts . . . if any??

Labels: , , , ,

The East Midlands

Kaylie & I left Luton at 8pm on Friday bound for Nottingham. The traffic was fine, but the service station was a bit crap - we were hungry & nothing but Costa was open so we grabbed a quick sandwich & continued on our way to the Holiday Inn. Woke up early on Saturday to find it was pouring rain (as had been forecasted) and we proceeded to spend about 1 hour driving in a circle around the city centre looking for the castle, only to find out it was closed once we eventually found it. We drove up to Sherwood Forest for a photo op, as you can guess it was pouring rain, so we didn't stay to hike around.

From there we drove through the peak district and the high peaks, which looked like rolling hills to Kaylie & me . . . yet the English call them high peaks. It was pretty just not as peakish as I was expecting having lived in the Adirondacks and the High Peaks for 4 years.

We spent the night in Manchester at a place called Victoria Cottage, which was NOT a cottage & to be honest I'm not even sure I would have called it a hotel - it was situated on a main street in a small mini shopping centre just next to the Chinese/fish & chips place - yes you read that correctly, you can get fish & chips at a Chinese restaurant now a days in the UK! The room was clean & warm, but there were no signs to mark the place & when we called the man said he'd be over in 5 minutes, which he did, and he showed us our room, gave us our keys & said he was off to visit with his grandchild & we could just leave the keys in the room when we left in the morning . . . so we did. As we were getting settled before getting dinner we heard a strange noise from the window - upon closer inspection a pigeon was settling in for the night. He made a lot of noise & Kaylie named him Ralph. We attempted to take photos of him, but that was harder than one might have thought since there were 2 layers of glass & one had not been cleaned in ages. All a bit strange, but it was a warm bed for the night so we have no complaints.

Sunday it wasn't raining but there was a nice layer of ice on the windshield & no ice scrapper to be found in the hire car, so we sat & let the car warm up for a bit before starting off on our trip back towards home. Along the way we stopped off at another castle & an abbey before arriving back into London at 7pm. All in all it was a great weekend get away road trip. Photos to follow!

I can't believe it's 10 days till Christmas . . . where has the time/year gone?

Labels: ,

Friday, December 12

Coupé Decalé

Have you ever heard of Coupé Decalé? An interesting type of dance I learned about today when talking with a mate. It's a pop music which started in Paris, but with Cote d'Ivoire origins. If I understood everything correctly coupé decalé means to cheat a person & then run away. The person being "cheated" refers to someone from Europe, when this first became popular, the songs were congratulating people who had 'make it' outside of Cote d'Ivorie.

When I Wiki'd it I found two quotes which I thought were interesting:

Vladimir Cagnolari suggests that the music is a way Ivorians are coping with their unstable political situation. "For a few hours, the rooms is transformed into an ephemeral temple of festival/party, using carefree-ness and amusement to counter the socio-political problems of a country still waiting for peace. ... In a musical landscape dominated by patriotic and military music, coupé-décalé arrives like a breath of fresh air to forget the difficult context in which Ivorians are living."

Kohlhagen Dominik, "Over the past three years, Coupé-Décalé has become one of the most thriving forms of popular music in francophone Africa. Produced by people who claim to have achieved "success" abroad, Coupé-Décalé represents "elsewhere" as a site from which one can achieve a certain status in consumer society so as to return home to be celebrated. This music expresses generational transformations that affect lifestyles in Africa as well as ways of projecting oneself in the world."

Labels: , ,

Thursday, December 11

A cure for cholera!

Apparently Mugabe has found a miraculous cure to cholera since he announced today that there is NO cholera in Zimbabwe . . . The United Nations had estimated that 16,500 cholera cases had been reported, yet today Mugabe declared that there's no cholera in Zimbabwe and that the crisis is over in his country, concurrently the UN raised the death toll to nearly 800.

If you're interested to hear him tell you "in person" then just here I think my favourite part is when he goes on to talk about a war over mad cow in Britain - that really is just such a classic line - interesting to me also was that there aren't that many people clapping for him - if he's actually found a miraculous cure to cholera wouldn't more people be happy for him? I mean really, he'd be famous, or is that infamous?!?!?!?!

People like him really piss me off, but it's nearly 7.30pm so I'm going to try not to get all upset over this idiot & his blatant lies!

On a total side note, rooibos (South African red bush thanks to Sam) tea smells like wet beach mats, but tastes good on a cold day!

Labels: ,

Tuesday, December 9

better late than never, ah?

Sorry for my tardiness in updating, things here in London are about the same as always . . . work, buy Christmas presents, work, eat, sleep, work some more . . . We've been prepping for a big meeting with the funders so I worked on & off this weekend & stayed late most nights last week only to find out last night at 4.45pm that the meeting will be rescheduled for January - I cannot tell you how upset we were after we'd worked our butts off to get all this done "on time" but oh well at least it's set for January now :)

Rob has moved into his new flat - it's great, Kaylie & I went round on Sunday to check it out & were lucky enough to even get a thai green curry dinner - yummers!

I suppose I cannot complain too much as I'm off again this weekend with my mate Kaylie on a road trip from London to Nottingham (to see the forest) and then through the peak district and onto Manchester before back again to London - checking out castles and other things along the way!

I think I've already said this, but in case I haven't, for Christmas I'm off to Frankfurt, Germany to visit some American mates who are stationed there. I'll stay with them until the 4th of Jan.

An for those of you who know my former flatmate Louise, I'm going to visit her for OUR birthday in Geneva, Switzerland - she will have just moved there to start her PhD.

I also found out that I'm definitely going to Vancouver in Feb for the Keystone Conference and since that's sorta close to Portland, I'll meet up with my dear Sistah Itafari & finally get to meet her husband John so I'm super excited about that!!

And in case you were thinking I had not really been travelling that much, in March when my mum comes to visit for a week we're off to Morocco - my mum's first time to the continent of Africa so that's super exciting too :)

Aside from that it's the same old same old . . . though I'm sure to most my lifestyle is not "same old same old" but for me this is what I've always sorta done - I remember my mate Shabaana use to say, "and where are all of your family today?" cause we were always on the move, so I like to think of it as keeping a family tradition up!

Oh well it's nearly 11am & I've yet to do any actual work related work, so I best leave you now.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, December 3

Thanksgiving 2008 UK style :-)

Mel, Laura, Tash, Rob S, John
John, Nim, Jaiden, Andy, Olivier (baby), Roberto
Laura, Mel, Olivier, Roberto (LtoR 1st row)
(LtoR around table -John, Nim, Jaiden, me, Andy, Alberto
my flat

sweet potatoes without pecans (Rob S is allergic to nuts)
1st of 3 chickens - YUM
green bean casserole

Labels: ,

Who am I?

What Famous Leader Are You?
personality tests by