Wednesday, September 17, 2008

New Beginnings


A week from today I will start my Peace Corps training in Azerbaijan.  But before I get to my future, I guess I'll start with my past...

I am a 2003 Lafayette High graduate and a 2007 Scripps College alumna (Claremont, CA).  Majoring in anthropology, I decided to join the Peace Corps after discovering I have a burning passion for academic research.  However, as graduation from undergrad quickly approached, I knew my scholarly candle was burning from both ends.  I knew it was time for a break before I could commit to something as grand as grad school.  Applying to the Peace Corps seemed like the perfect blending of my anthropology interests and my desire to give something back.

So after a long application and an even longer waiting period, I finally received my service project: teaching English in Azerbaijan.  I'll admit it was not my first choice in countries, but the more I read about it the more excited I am to serve in this country that I did not know existed 6 months ago.

As my departure date approaches, my anxiety increases.  I do not know what the future will bring, but I cannot wait for this unique experience!

-Amy McManus

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

I have been teaching an English
class because knowing English
provides opportunities for better jobs.
In the beginning, some of my
students struggled to believe that
they could learn or that it would be
worth it. “Maybe you will be wasting
your time,” one said, “what if we
can’t learn?” Then one woman (the
one wearing cream and orange in
the photo) made a decision that she
could learn and took it upon herself
to encourage and challenge the
others. Because of her the class
completely changed. All of a
sudden students believed that they
could learn and that another life was
possible. That is the power of one
person’s hope.

Monday, September 8, 2008

The perks of working in a fly lab...

I've been working with Drosophila (aka common fruit flies) at the EPFL in Lausanne, Switzerland this summer, and I've really learned a lot. In no particular order, here are my top ten reasons for checking out Drosophila:

1. You get to enjoy such cutting-edge technology as paintbrushes for probing flies, a large plastic tube for sucking up and moving flies (yes, with your mouth...), old jam jars for holding autoclaved microcentrifuge tubes, and paper towels for just about any imaginable emergency scenario. Oh yes, and gotta love the carnivorous plants sitting on the window ledge to catch escapees in the fly room and the alternative wine bottle traps.

2. Wanna be a neurosurgeon one day? Dissecting fly guts teaches you all the finesse and dexterity you'll need for the task-- one tug too hard and gut bacteria explode everywhere! After working with tweezers on the same miniscule fly for half an hour, you'll have enough patience to deal with anything in the oh-so-large human body.

3. Unlike those crazy chemists/molecular biologists/biochemists, you can enjoy a nice coffee/tea anytime on your (reasonably safe), hood-less bench.

4. Flies don't need Viagra, and as any kitchen owner knows, they seem to multiply exponentially overnight.

5. With Drosophila gene names like Spatzle, RING (really interesting new gene), and Eater, who can resist joining the fun??

6. No stinky E. coli cultures, no rodent feces or fishwater aroma. Instead, relax in the nice ambient temperature and inhale the warm and homey smell of fly media.

7. Hungry or thirsty during work? No problem-- just grab some of the bananas/fruit juice slated for generating fly food.

8. You instantly gain free pets at home. A LOT of them. Party in your room, anyone?

9. Now you can tell whether that annoying fruit fly you just squished was male or female (and make a decent stab at its genotype).

10. Mwhahahaha. So much power over the swarming masses. An entire generation in your hands. Think Lord of the Flies, or Beelzebub.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

My host family! Ma and my bro Stephan. They’ve been so good to me, and sent me away last night with popcorn, beignets and cake for the long trip up to post! That is love :)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Flowers and Bees
Mrs. Godshall was my English teacher my junior year of high school. She’s still giving me descriptive writing assignments. But better yet, I’m still doing them. :)This one’s for her. If you don’t like flowery imagery go to the next blog! But feel free to let me know what you DO want to know about in my Cameroon! July 28, 2008As I’m walking down the hill, the sky is alight like on a post card. Never mind the fact that I have yet to see a post card for sale in Cameroon. The hard red dirt zig-zags in rivets and bumps under my thin shoes, and my legs brace themselves so as not to just glisse on down the hill. When it rains in Bangangté, it pours, and the mud becomes too wet to even be sticky. Any time after the rains, we walk into our training house with mud ringed around our feet, looking like red snow shoes. We’re supposed to pry the mud off before going inside, so mounds and mounds of scraped off goop sit forlornly rejected at the entrance of the house. Today though, the earth is dry, so I’m not carrying too much souvenir sludge on my shoes.*(glisse = slide) My very first impressions of our current town, Bangangté? Christmas. Red and green. On a beautiful day like today, it’s red earth, roads, and roofs; green fields; blue sky; and even yellow is lit up from somewhere inside the tall corn-stalks and grasses. Bangangté is a seemingly endless, spread-out village. Fields and houses are interspersed, and repeat themselves in red and green pattern as far as I can see over the hilltops. As I walk down the hill on the way home from town, my concentration on the dirt and colors is distracted by boys’ yelps.A crowd of boys is gathered in front of one of the houses. Two of them do a hopping dance around each other as though they’re about to start boxing. I can’t help but to slow down, smile, and watch the action. They catch me looking, and they giggle. The two boxers, each probably about 10 years old, start to take little hits and squeal and dodge each other. The eight or so spectators are also shrieking in delight. Walking past this same house yesterday morning, I had been taken off guard as a boy zinged out of a corn field, across the road in front of me, ran into this same front yard, catapulted himself off a two-foot ledge I previously hadn’t noticed, and cut a front flip! I’d had to clap, secretly pretty envious I was wearing a skirt and couldn’t even do a cartwheel in solidarity! So this house is definitely the neighborhood hot-bed for hyperactivity. Beautiful days and smiley kids make me happy, and I was doubly content because I was on my way back from going into town to discover a new bar/bakery with a couple of amigas. I get bored easily in any one place, so I’m always excited to just plop myself in new surroundings, if only to kill time and a dollar on weird pineapple-flavored soda. The girls and I had indulged our munchies at a local bakery with a loaf of warm chocolate-swirl bread. We’d found a bar with accommodating outdoor plastic tables and chairs, and settled in. My chair had only been partially rickety, and the table-top wasn’t filthy, always good. I had a view of the street, the main road through town, and the constant bustle of passers-by. A woman sold beans and beignets nearby from a make-shift stall on the side of the road. I never knew I liked deep-fry until I tried some of these Cameroonian beans and beignets. It’s a national staple, and that is just fine with my taste buds (yet-to-be-determined effects on my derriere.) The girls and I whipped out my fab-Africa-map book (reference previous blog) and talked about the places we want to travel post Peace Corps. As our first loaf of bread vanished, one of us hopped up without delay to retrieve another from the bakery around the corner. As I walked home from town, belly-full of bread and contented with the afternoon, I thought about how much fun it was to get Mrs. Godshall’s e-mail with blog writing assignment. Duly, I reminded myself to look up, look around, soak in, and notice the colors and boy squeals that have slipped by me almost every other day.
Kate Ristroph

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