Liz, if you were sick all thise time, you must have read something..

Why, yes. Yes, I did. First off, human interest:

Related to the economy:

And, did you know there's an election soon?

My poor neglected blog

I haven't written in a while and here's why. I think I may have mentioned feeling like crap a few times. Basically, I got back from Africa and shortly thereafter, every time food hit my stomach I was so nauseous I thought I was going to die. I also had a low grade fever. Mercifully I was without other *ahem* intestinal distress so I thought I'd just feel better in a day or two.

Monday morning (day 5) as I was sitting in my boss' office, I realized I needed to see a doctor. So I called my clinic for an appointment. The hold time on the phone was so ridiculously long I actually drove to the clinic before I was taken off hold. I got right in to see a doctor. When I described my symptoms and recent events, he agreed it was not an African parasite/bug/amoeba. But then he started asking me all these mildly frightening questions like "have you ever had abdominal surgery?", "do you have ulcers?" and then decided he needed a blood count to make sure I wasn't bleeding internally. There is a lab in that clinic so a few minutes (and one freaked out phone call) later, I was declared not to be bleeding internally. Then my doctor put me on a clear liquid diet.

Have you ever been on a clear liquid diet? I mean really been on the diet. Food never smelled so good to me. I was allowed to eat juice, popsicles, soda, honey, broth, tea and jello. By the way, I don't like tea or jello and without the tea there's really no good vehicle for the honey. So I was juice/popsicle/broth girl. Yeah, none of my pants fit anymore, but in a good way. Nice. I was on that diet 2 or 3 days. This morning was my first morning of real exercise. I went to the gym. My body is a little freaked out right now. I'm thinking about running tomorrow. Not sure how far I'd make it but it's worth the experiment I think. This could be the beginning of marathon training, right here. Also, my stomach is the size of a walnut. I'm hoping to keep it that way. It's really amazing. I'm trying to adopt a new attitude about food. Like, I don't need as much of it and I don't need to eat as fast. It's a life style change so it's not easy but it's going ok so far.

Other than Monday, I was at work all week. Things got back to normal there. The outgoing message on my voice mail says that some messages are being erased before I can check them. As a result, no one is leaving me messages right now. I know some were erased from when I was out of town. Eep. Sorry.

Tonight is Halloween, my least favorite holiday (other than Columbus Day, the most racist holiday ever). Any night where I have to dress up in an outfit designed to make everyone look at me is my idea of hell. I liked passing out candy in the past. That was always fun. But now I live in a condo and we don't get any kids here. My mentee called me and I wound up taking her and her friend out for Chinese. They were equally thrilled about dressing up for Halloween. Although they did take the time to tell me there's a guy (staff) at their after school program they want to set me up with. Their description?
  • white

  • has hair

  • has his own car

  • has his own place

  • funny, likes talking to people

What more could I want? I'm required to wear my hair down if I meet him. This is my mentee's rule, not his.


Part 3: Cape Town

The sites of Africa:
Unbelievable poverty.

Khonje (at least in Chichewa, I think it's in the Aloe family in English). This really reminded me more of Malawi than South Africa. It's what was used for fences there. But I was glad to see it, it made me feel like I was at home.

And Table Mountain. That's the view from my hotel room. Nice.

The weekend: We really only had one weekend of leisure on the trip. It's tough to tell in this one just how high up Mom and I are but we were walking up for about 30 minutes before this was taken.

Did you know there are penguins in Africa? No, seriously.

The giraffes aren't real, but the street vendor is.

The coast looks nice but I've heard the ocean is freezing.

Best part of Africa: The singing. No contest. I actually went to a church in one of the townships with Mom. I've always said once I experienced that kind of music, there was no other way to love god. Once Mom went, she said she understood why. I don't have pictures of the church (because I wisely took video instead) but there are lots of singers in the tourist areas which makes me happy.

South African Wildlife: It's all about the baboons. We saw them a couple places. These are some of the better pictures I snapped.

Mom and I at a formal banquet. Yes, I am still that tan.

The wire mesh Mandella bust is proof that in Africa, crafts can be made from everything.

I did make it to one nursing home in Cape Town. Guess what. The government in South Africa pays for single rooms. Guess where I'm moving when I get old. This is one of the Community Sisters (which is a nurse) who showed us around.

Table Mountain: Liz faces her fear of heights and her blood pressure drops. Table Mountain is the signature of Cape Town. It's like the Brooklyn Bridge or the St. Louis Arch. There's a cable car up to the top. On windy days, when you get close to the top, they give a warning to hold on because the cable car bangs into the mountain. Ask me how I found that out. Ask me what my blood pressure was. It could be counted on your fingers and toes.

Mom wouldn't even take the cable car up. Mom, who is not afraid of heights at all, wouldn't go to the top so I went with a lady called Mary from Arkansas. Once we got to the top, the clouds actually cleared for a while. She didn't understand my fear of heights but had the good grace to be entertained by me getting on my hands and knees to get near the edges. You know my knuckles are white from grabbing onto that railing right?

This was actually the way we spend our last morning before the 35 hour marathon homecoming. I've decided for all international travel, I need to fly business or first class. Also, South African Air is one of the more pleasant airlines I've traveled.

Part 2: Johannesburg

Johannesburg was great but it was mostly the business end of the trip. We saw a bunch of agencies. The biggest problem in South Africa is HIV (it seems obvious, but in many African countries Malaria is an even bigger problem). It tends to kill the generation that's both actively parenting and actively caring for their parents. The scope of the problem is really hard to comprehend but it touches everyone. There are a lot of families headed by the oldest child of deceased parents. There are so many families lead in this way that they can't be put in foster care and so they're supported in other ways.

The first place we visited was an after school program for families like these. The trick in Africa is to give your camera to a kid and have them take the pictures. (Hint: Make sure your camera has a strap and strap it on the kid well.) These are my favorite pictures from the whole trip.

We saw some other important sites. This square is where Nelson Mandela was tried for treason. It's also at one of the other sites we visited, a drop in center for girls.

And this is what Johannesburg looks like to me. All I see is bananas.

And now, what you've all been waiting for. Part 1: New York

A long awaited reunion. I got to spend a day with Sona and Sarah (I always want to leave the "h" off your name). It was really nice because I hadn't seen either of them since like 2002. It's weird how we've grown and our lives have changed but we still have a lot in common. Plus I loved walking around New York. And Sarah saw Jon Stewart and notified all of us. Sadly, I couldn't get my camera out in time. Yes, that Jon Stewart.

Mark and Irmghard were nice enough to put me up (and buy an air mattress in the process, thank you). We also got to see our cousin Erin and her family. It's really nice to see Mark because he's like my big brother and I see him rarely. I won't get to see Mark or Irmghard for Christmas so it was nice to get a long pre-holiday visit.

Yes, my cousin owns a bull dog. It was a surprise to all of us.

Erin and her youngest girl and I. Yes, I did purposely avoid spelling her name.

I think Mark looks really good with a little kid in his arms. She looks happy too. I'm just saying...

That's more like Mark's actual personality.

Just a few updates

When I left the country, it was 70* in Minnesota, gas was $3.00/gallon, and no one knew how expensive Sara Palin's clothes really were. It snowed on Sunday, gas is $2.20 here and I saw for $1.99 in Cincinnati, and an alarming number of people are interested in Sara's outfits. Seriously? Who cares?

Meanwhile, I found some other interesting things for you:

Getting Close to 1,000

I've got 15 posts left 'till number 1,000. Congratulations to Kelly who is close to number 3,000. Good job.

Why haven't I been writing? Well, first there was that trip to Africa. I did get back last Thursday. Why haven't I written since then? I'm sicker than a dog. At first I thought it was something I would just get over. So when I tried to go to work today and was worried about loosing my (pathetically small) breakfast, I decided it was time to seek professional help. I called the doctor's office. And waited on hold long enough for me to just drive there and ask if they had an appointment.

I saw the same doc I saw when I had the sinus infection from mars. So far I like him. After asking me a few preliminary questions, he made me get a blood count to make sure I wasn't bleeding internally. (Yeah, that was not fun.) The good news is it's supposedly just a virus and not a little critter I brought home from Africa with me. I have been put on a clear liquids diet. I really miss food. The thing is I'm actually hungry. My symptom is nausea. I feel fine (and hungry) until food hits my stomach. Then all hell breaks loose down there. And then it gets digested and I feel better again.

I did go to work today and was there for a couple hours. I'll try again tomorrow. I'll just take the juice and Popsicles with me. There were no real crises when I got back. Just one small fire I wasn't able to attend to and one that someone else is going to put out. And then I learned that my voice mail is deleting messages without my knowledge. So who knows what's been going on that I don't know about. Oh well, if I don't know about it, I can't fix it.

It's kind of hard to be back in America. Living in Africa is just a whole different state of being. It's easy for me to get back into it, since I lived there before and I know what to expect. In some ways it's a more pleasant experience than my current state of being as an American. I can't really explain it more than that. It's something that's hard to understand unless you've lived in another culture. And by lived I mean a lot more than just a vacation.

Also, as soon as I got back, I started having the back to Africa dreams again. I have these dreams all the time. I always dream I'm going back to Africa, seeing people I knew before, planning to live there again. It just seemed ridiculous that I was just there and I'm already having them again. Anyways...

I'll try to keep you posted on this whole liquid diet thing. Right now I'm juice and popsicle girl. I'm saving the broth for later tonight.


I can't believe I'm going to South Africa...

I'm trying to take things one day at a time. I actually was able to pack everything in carry on luggage without too many issues. I keep thinking I forgot something. (There's no way it should have fit that easily.) First I'm headed to New York to see family and friends I haven't seen in forever. I have to get up at the crack of dawn 4:45am to make my 7am flight. I was able to find someone to haul me to the air port that early. Thanks Sue, that's really nice of you.

I've already taken out the trash. There's one plastic bag of (duh) plastic bags I need to recycle. I threw out the ones that had pesticides on them. I still need to run the dishwasher and rinse out the garbage disposal. Then, I need to try and sleep. Hah! Yeah, I'll be able to sleep. Everything I own that rings is set to go off tomorrow morning, or it will be before I go to bed tonight.

It's been an interesting week for me. Yesterday all my clothes came back. And all the other textile/fabric/leather/shoes they cleaned. Wow. I really am fortunate. I have a lot of stuff. If you're wondering how they keep clothes from four or five different families straight, they use tags. You know the tags on new clothes they fasten on with those little spikes of plastic. That's what they use. A tag with my name on it. And a spike of plastic. On everything. No, seriously. Everything. All the stuff that came in a box, I already cut the tags off. I also cut the tags off anything I packed. And then I was worn out from all the cutting of the tags. And I stopped. I still have to address myself to the hanging clothes. And coats. And blankets. I'll do that when I get back.

Yesterday was a big day of cleaning. This morning I worked for a few hours. I couldn't really concentrate and luckily I'd tied up almost all my loose ends on Wednesday. I did have to write a script to read for my outgoing message on my voice mail. It's that long. In addition to my being out of town, Jewish Family Service is closed four of the ten work days I'll be away so there's about three different contingencies in my voice mail. (Wait 'till I get back, talk to someone else here, leave a message for someone else here, call someone at another agency.)

Cleaning today was easier than I thought it would be. My apartment looks great now. It's nice to leave it this way and it will be nice to come back to. I also ran to Target to get a case for my new iPod Touch (sweet) and some granola/protein bars for the (multiple) airplane trips I'll be taking in the next few weeks.

Here are some things to entertain you while I'm traveling:

It took an expert to find the link between creativity and mood disorders? Seriously?

This one is for Amanda: 10 ways to eat more bacon. We've already done the chocolate covered bacon. Bacon covered tofu sounds like vegetarian repellent.

And now, whenever people ask me about the presidential election, I'll wave my hand in some general direction and say, I'm voting for "that one".

Speaking of voting, It could be dangerous. Actually, the last time I tried to vote for president, I did get in a wreck and was without my car for almost a month. Maybe I'll walk to the polls this year.


holy crap it never ends

Well, I'm back home. For those of you who haven't been reading, there was a bed bug infestation in my condo building. Four or five units were impacted including mine which was below the source unit. I left Wednesday in a panic and stayed with Amanda 'till yesterday. Please note, it's been over a week since I've slept in a bed.

I came home yesterday after work. The exterminator told me to stay out of the unit for 4 hours after they sprayed. I think it's possible they meant 4 days because everything was still wet when I got back. Ewwww. The bed was wet, the couch was wet and the air mattress was wet. F%ck, where will I sleep? Turns out I had an old school camping mattress that was not sprayed. And the batteries in the pump still worked. Sweet. So I slept on a camping mattress last night.

Tonight, well the mattress is fairly dry now. It's in a waterproof, dust mite proof, bed bug proof mattress case (seriously, it zips) and there's another waterproof cover over the top of the mattress too. Hopefully I won't get cancer. Again, Ewwwww.

The couch is still kind of drying. It turns out they didn't spray my camp chair either so that's what I've been sitting in. Everything else I touch I try to wash the pesticides off, towel bars, chairs, counter tops, tables, stools. I have re-unpacked everything that goes onto my entertainment center. My clothes are on my table. (Good thing I didn't get rid of that when I finished my kitchen.) They can't go into the dresser because it's still wet from pesticides.

The rest of my clothes get delivered tomorrow and there are no words for my joy. Here's the thing, I'm trying to clean up my place and everything is covered in pesticides so I want to wear old clothes. Do I have old clothes right now? Not really. Another happy moment tonight was when I realized my old painting clothes are in my storage closet which to my knowledge was not affected by the bed bugs so I can wear those tomorrow. Another beautiful thing about working for a Jewish agency is I have tomorrow off. (For anyone observing Yom Kippur, have an easy fast.) I'll be putting the place back together and washing pesticides off things all day. I'm also thinking about buying an iPod Touch. We'll see, I freak out every time I see my bank account. That's what happens spending several hundred dollars replacing things I already owned in my apartment.


updated link fun

Travel Related:

Debate Related:
  • I had a lot of fun watching the debate with ten of my closest friends people, most of whom I'd at least met before. That's pretty much how I felt about the debate. I wanted her to read her energy note cards just one more time.

  • If you were under a rock and somehow missed the debate, here's what you missed. They really did a good job of getting the high points.

Tech and Geek Related

And the rest:

I didn't think cleaning would take me as long as it did..

This morning when I woke up, I was going to go out and watch the marathon. I was going to get inspired for next year when I'm running in it. (Keep your fingers crossed, that's the plan for now.) But I kept hearing this weird noise. Rain. It's called rain. So I laid back down for a while.

To get ready for the day, I picked out the clothes I wanted to wear and a towel and put them in a zip lock bag with my phone and computer. Then I chose exercise clothing I could live without for at least 'till after I get back. Why? Clothes coming into my apartment have to have been cleaned and in a sealed bag.

Instead of watching runners, I went to the Y and did some running of my own. In the scramble to get out of my house I took the oldest pair of legitimate running shoes with me and sent the rest to be cleaned. What I've learned is these are no longer legitimate running shoes as they give me shin splints and hurt my legs. I refuse to believe I'm that out of shape after not running for five days. And one of those days I did other stuff.

Then I got home and realized I had food there so I cooked myself breakfast. Yum. I am in an egg mood lately. I have no explanation. Nonetheless, yum.

The list they gave me for how to prepare the condo for these people is mildly insane. Everything is off my shelves. (Seriously, what shelves?) I went through all my files and put them in sealed bags. Books and magazines are in giant zip lock bags (yes, they do make them that big), my DVD collection is in an under the bed sweater box, all my extra shampoo, toiletries and hair accessories are similarly bagged.

I had to take the pictures off the wall and the face plates off the light switches and plugs. Remember that super disgusting sight beneath the face plate of the buzzer? That's getting cleaned too. I hope.

I think I took out about seven bags of trash including the best pillow ever. That one will be replaced for sure. At some point during this process I realized I could take a little spending spree at Ikea or Bed Bath and Beyond when this is all over. I made a list of the stuff I need to replace. There's also a few things like a new scrub brush for the dishes, new dust mite covers for the pillows I'll buy, those were kind of the bigger things. Also, have I mentioned the mattress and me sleeping on top of all these Dying bugs? I'm still not cool with it.

I ran into my neighbor Steve again. He said, in the middle of all this, his toilet tank cracked and leaked last night. It was only then that he learned that his shut off valve to his toilet doesn't work properly. Home Depot apparently opens at 7AM. Not something I'd like to learn the hard way. He's got it worked out at least for today and he'll call a plumber tomorrow.

After all this nonsense and grossness I took a shower and put on my nice clean clothes. I thought it would just be in, out and on my way. I underestimated the project. I wound up being there about five or six hours. Some of that was cooking and some of that was being on a secure internet connection to do some banking. I had a few unexpected expenses this month... Now I'm nice and clean and sitting in Carribou Coffee enjoying the free internet here. I like their decaf lattes better than Dunn Brothers. I don't feel like they were really making them decaf for me. It is fun to imagine someone pretty much going off caffeine and then giving them esspresso but it's not fun to be on the receiving end of it. I'm thinking about Chinese for dinner. Mmmm. Egg drop soup. (Yes, still with the eggs.) The plan is I'll go home and call my parents. Is it wrong to sit in Caribou and call the restaurant next door to make my order?


Wow, now I'm really close to 1,000 posts

Things are looking up. Why? I got some of my clothes back and I ran today. I haven't really been able to run pretty much since this nonsense started. I think maybe I ran Tuesday with Amanda. Today I ran intervals around the lake again. I tried to go fast, not sure if it worked or not because I haven't hooked up my iPod to the Nike+ site yet.

This morning Amanda and I went to the Uptowner (which is in St. Paul, ask me if that makes sense) and had possible the most food I've ever seen in my entire life. It was yummy. I hadn't had eggs in a while and was craving them. Also there was bacon. So really, I felt as though I had to run to use up some of that great fuel.

I ran by home to get the mail and check on the place. I ran into a neighbor there and wound up talking to him for a long time. He's in the same building as me but not infested with bed bugs. I hear two conflicting things about said bugs. One is that the infestation must be at least a year old. The other is that this person who stayed with my neighbor temporarily (Amanda, remind you of anyone?) brought them with her but it doesn't feel like a year since she moved in. We also talked about getting solar panels for the condos. That'd be nice wouldn't it?

Then I went to the gym to work out a little longer. My abs are getting stronger and stronger. Also, I needed to take a shower. Now I'm sitting in Dunn Brothers enjoying the free internet. I've also downloaded a few more games to play on my computer so I'll be entertained without the internet.

Tomorrow I'm planning on the following:
  • Watching the Marathon, maybe I'll even get up early enough to see Eric run by

  • Going to the gym and running, because I've missed a few days of that and my body doesn't like it

  • Getting my condo ready for the exterminators

I have a whole plan having to do with clothing, towels, and zip lock bags for the apartment and not tracking anything back to Amanda's. It's quite an operation. Also, dustmite proof mattress covers are expesnsive as hell. I really hope I get reimbursed for all this.

I told someone today that I don't really think I can sleep on a mattresss knowing all these little bugs are dying inside of it. Steve thought I was nuts. Seriously, I think I'll ask for a new mattress for Christmas. Blergh!

I'm waiting on my dinner from Longfellow Grill (I got takeout), fried green beans and pear salad. My body really wants fruit right now. I'm happy that I crave healthy things from time to time in addition to coffee and butter. Then I'm heading home. (Amanda, don't you love that I refer to your house as "home"?)


Catching up on the link fest

Sorry I've been away. As you can see from the previous post, I'm away from a regular internet connection for the moment. Does it make me a total dork that I want to spend my Friday night in a coffee shop for the free internet? Is it bad that I decided I'd rather do this than eat dinner. (Something will still be open. It's Friday night after all.)

In going through my open tabs, I find there are few that remain relevant. I decided not to post the ones on the bailout from last week. That seems moot at this point. Here's what I do have:

A Great Day for a Meltdown... Was Yesterday

A Great Day for a Meltdown

Today was pretty bad. It was bad enough that Amanda had to tell me to leave work. I’m still trying to “make lemonade” out of the situation, although it’s getting harder to make the batches and the batches are getting smaller.

Perhaps the biggest “batch” of lemonade came when Amanda told me I could have half her wardrobe (almost literally). It was a nice moment, although it certainly didn’t help the sobbing that I was already doing.

Also, I have my nice computer and I’m sitting her in a nice, warm, safe house. My parents are visualizing all the bed bugs crawling out of my apartment. I’m trying to visualize that was well. There certainly is a lot of energy focused on my apartment at the moment.

What happened today? Well, I really thought yesterday was going to be the day I melted down. We’ll start there.

Around noon I got a call from the management company asking if I could have my unit ready for work to begin the same day around 3pm. It was a holiday for me (again, loving the high holidays) so I got straight to work and said they could come.

Right around 3:00 a nice looking young man came to my house to take everything cloth, textile, fabric or related out to get it treated. Did I mention I was literally wearing clothes I was about to throw away? So, my home hasn’t seen a handsome young man in some time and I look like trailer trash. The first thing he does is go straight for the underwear and bras. (That wasn’t even what would have caused the meltdown.)

So I left the apartment with three or four bags of my worldly possessions. I keep thinking of things I meant to take and didn’t. Contact lenses. Glasses. Checkbook. Everything I need to take to South Africa. Shoes. I wish I would have taken my air mattress. It’s not really cloth. I’m sure it didn’t have bugs. (Oh well, I’m sure Amanda is glad I was careful.)

Really trying to pack things I knew were safe and get out of there while some guy is going through everything I own was about to cause the meltdown. Did I mention I haven’t been sleeping well since I found this out on Monday night? That was not helping. So I called Amanda and begged for mercy. When I got here last night around rush hour, I went straight to sleep for a while. That was theraputic. Then I went to the gym. I didn’t really have the energy to exercise but I walked for a little while. Then I got Chipotle and beer and came home.

When I got in to work this morning I only had seven messages. I had been expecting high double digits so that was nice.

Then I called the management company. I learned that a board member who was unnamed stopped the whole process. They have my clothes. They have everything else I own that’s made of fabric. They have my curtains. There’s nothing on my windows and it’s quite easy to see into them to the empty unit with all the electronics and a brand new kitchen. But I was told that the management company assumed they were proceeding with my clothing.

I called the garment restoration company to apologize and let them know there are things I’ll need before my trip that I hadn’t put in the emergency bag which I was expecting to get back tomorrow but now won’t because someone on the board asked us to give everything we own to this company and then had second thoughts. The good news is they can get everything back to me quickly. The bad news is they can’t start while the board is dorking around so it’s not clear whether I’ll have my clothes when I need them.

Then I started thinking about how long it’s going to take them to get to the rest of my apartment like the papers, the rugs, the furniture, the mattress.

That’s about the time I lost it. I called Amanda (who was thankfully at home). I was instructed to leave work and come home. Thank goodness. Because I would have tried to stay at work. I really shouldn’t have been there.

The next batch of lemonade came from realizing that my boss is understanding and would be fine with my leaving early. It was really only about half hour early, and not even that because I hadn’t had much of a break all day.

I’ve told a few people at work what’s going on but not everyone. I’m not actually embarrassed by the situation. A few people’s response to problems is to ask me questions and to talk and talk and talk and talk and talk which I just can’t handle so I’ve been careful not to discuss it with them. I just don’t want to deal with that right now. That’s no way to pull me back from the edge.

Really now I’m just tired. I haven’t been this tired in a long time. Also, I keep not wanting to eat. No good ever comes of me not wanting to eat. Today the only meal I skipped was breakfast. I ate dinner only grudgingly.

I also watched the vice presidential debates tonight. It’s hard to be objective in a room full of people who have strong feelings about Gov. Palin. Now, their feelings were pretty much the same as my own but it did seem to impact our views. I did really wind up liking one of the candidates much more than I thought I was going to. I’m really excited to vote this fall.

We’ll just have to see what’s going to happen to me before the election. Maybe I’ll be staying on Amanda’s couch that whole time.