The Olympics…Looking Back

I always feel nostalgic during the Olympics…I don’t know why, but they happen at regular intervals… so it makes it easy to think back to what I was doing at a given point.

So… Let’s go back in time

London Summer Olympics 2012

I was in Burkina Faso at Camp G2LOW Kaya. We actually went to a dancing/bar/resto to watch the opening ceremonies. We ended up watching it in the owner’s office because the Burkinabe music was too loud. Plenty of Brakinas and SoBBras were had including inventing an impromptu drinking game during the parade of nations. I remember dreading using the latrine at the establishment because the walls were covered with roaches…(Ew…I know!). I remember getting back to site and listening to some of the events on the BBC World Service. Unfortunately I had missed all of the swimming events but I was able to listen to the track and field competitions on the radio. I didn’t get to see the closing ceremony, but luckily my parents sent me an Olympic highlights DVD which showed 2 hours of coverage from the whole games.


Vancouver Winter Olympics 2010

I had just started my Peace Corps application and recently broke up with my boyfriend at the time. This was the first Olympics that I was able to DVR and watch it when I wanted to. I was a junior at UIUC and busy in my last semester before going off to student teach. I remember Figure Skating was the big sport to watch. I also remember that the US Speed Skating team had no sponsorship so Stephen Colbert and the Colbert Nation stepped up to the plate. I was really glued to the TV that Olympics, but I remember my roommate was not very interested.

Beijing Summer Olympics 2008

I was working at Interlochen Arts Camp and I did an Olympic themed cabin (because we were cabin 8!) complete with Olympic rings on the door and on the caper (chore) chart. That was the Olympics where Dara Torres, a 40 year old swimmer was competing against swimmers half her age. I remember that the opening ceremony was big and intense. I also remember David Beckham at the closing ceremony.

Torino Winter Olympics 2006

I was in France for part of this Olympiad. I was in high school and we did a 10 day trip to France including Paris and Pau. I was able to watch the women’s figure skating competition live, because Italy and France are on the same time zone.  I remember the icicle dresses that the sign bearers for the parade of nations wore. I also remember Shaun White and his ridiculous red hair.

Athens Summer Olympics 2004

I was a sophomore in high school. I remember watching the swimming and gymnastics events with my swim team on our fall bonding/training trip. We were all crowded around this small TV watching and hearing our coach point out important things that were going on.

Salt Lake City Winter Olympics 2002

I was in middle school and it was shortly after my Bat Mitzvah. One of my practice supervisors at Interlochen Arts Camp, Amber actually recorded the national anthems and played in the closing ceremonies. I remember briefly seeing her on TV.

I could go back farther but I don’t remember as much. I do distinctly remember Tara Lipinski’s gold medal performance at the 1998 Nagano games and how excited I was that she won.

The Olympics in Rio de Janeiro are going to be really exciting, and maybe Burkina will even win a medal…I can’t wait


A December Update

So it’s been a while since I last blogged. Things are going well. the semester is winding down, the majority of my grad school apps are in, and things are pretty good.

I do have a beef with a few things. Hopefully this won’t turn into a rant. Hopefully this will be a curious examination of pop culture.


PCVs are NOTORIOUS for oversharing person to person. The rumor mills are indeed legendary and we spend a lot of time talking about our bodily functions and being sick and other things. I got used to this after a while. I purposefully stayed out of the loop and tried to keep my bodily functions to myself.Now that I’m back in the United States, oversharing has gone to a different level. It seems like the vast majority of posts on facebook are oversharing. These may include the following.

1. “I just did <insert some sort of exercise here, some number of miles run, number of burpees>! Look at me! I’m so fit!

2. I just bought <insert something here>

3. I just checked in at <insert place name here>

4. I’m so sick/my child is sick/my SO is sick

5. I’m stuck at work/my coworkers are so mean/something else work related that i’m not happy about.

That’s great. Why is this on my newsfeed? Why do I need to know this? Is this just an attention grab?

I remember during training I was called an “attention whore” by one of my training mates. She was right. I think part of the problem was that PCVs are always trying to out-do each other, and one of my systems of being nervous/anxious means trying to get more attention when I probably should not. I think I’ve backed off a lot. I generally only post things on facebook that are witty/funny/informative/or a social issue that really moves me. I’m saying i’m holier than anyone. I just think that people need to think before they post. It could end up being dangerous. Posting that you’re going to be on vacation/going out end up being too much information.

I felt like my life was so much more complete when I only had phone calls and text messages to connect with the world outside of Burkina Faso. Every communication had some meaning, because we made the effort/paid the money/charged our battery to do it. Unfortunately I feel like we’ve developed into a narcisstic culture that is always constantly looking for instant feedback on everything, our hobbies, our bodies, our outfits, who we choose to go out with etc.

The Dating Game.

This is another thing I am frustrated with. I am not really actively seeking someone out, but if i’m out with friends and there’s a cute guy I’ve given him my number. Apparently this strategy doesn’t work. Case in point. (Names and exact details have been changed) I went out to a friend’s birthday and there was a cute guy who had a goatee. He was really sweet and really cute so I gave him my number. I looked him up on facebook and friended him, and I was instantly friended back. Ok, this seems like a good sign. He made some stupid facebook status about some girl (me) giving him her number due to his facial hair and was it negative or positive. I messaged him later to ask him out to coffee and never heard back. I’m just going to assume that he forgot or doesn’t pay attention to fb messages but whatever. I thought men liked confident women. I gave you my number, I guess that just ruins the thrill of the chase and just makes things less interesting.

For some reason I feel a great deal of pressure to be dating someone. I was chatting with some friends and they think that online dating is a good idea. I’d rather be set up with someone than do online dating. It also seems that many of the people who use free sites find guys with lots of deal breakers. I’m not unhappy that i’m single. Most of the time i’m super busy and don’t notice. The other problem is that there’s a good chance that I will have to move out of the area to go to graduate school, and although long-distance is easier than it ever has been before, It’s still not the best case relationship scenario.

I don’t want a pity party. Things will work out.

So Sara, what’s your point?

Oversharing is annoying and I really wish people would think before they post stuff online. If it really bothers me perhaps I shouldn’t be on facebook so much, and dating or just interacting with guys is still tough 4 months out of Peace Corps. *le sigh*

Happy to be in the D — a short update

So… I haven’t been posting in awhile. Not because nothing is happening but also because I don’t think absolutely everything that happens to me should be posted on my blog. I think it’s generally better to be reflective when posting then posting in the heat of the moment,

Anyway. I’m really glad to be back in Detroit. Now, I know most of you are thinking…but Sara, don’t you live in the suburbs, and that doesn’t count. This is true, but I do go to class in Midtown Detroit, 4 days a week, in the heart of the city.

I remember a conversation in our PCV transit house in Ouagadougou where we were sitting around the communal table and trying to decide what was the worst city in America. Almost everyone except me said Detroit. I asked had any of them actually traveled to Detroit? And of course, no one had. Sure, Detroit has had less than stellar moments, including the Kwame Kilpatrick scandal, bankruptcy and the auto bailouts,  But no city is perfect.

A few weeks ago I went to Chicago to visit a good friend from U of I who is currently an M4 at Northwestern Medical School. I kept marveling at how nice it was to walk around the city and see everything and walk down to the lake, and take in so many cultural things like the Shedd, the Field Museum, and Lincoln Park Zoo. I was able to take the L and the bus everywhere we wanted to go. I told her that she was always welcome to visit me in Detroit.

While I was in Chicago, I was constantly getting Facebook notifications about a potential G24 stage (training class) reunion on Facebook and arguing over whether to have it in NYC, Boston, and Chicago. I thought about suggesting Detroit, but after that conversation at the Transit House, I knew it would be met with a resounding no. “Oh yeah, let’s go to Detroit and look at all the Ruin Porn!” That whole concept of “Ruin Porn” makes me sick. If you are coming to Detroit just to look for Ruin Porn you are missing out on all that the city has to offer. The museum district is fantastic with many museums within walking distance of each other. And don’t forget Dearborn! Some of the best food in the city and the Henry Ford Museum with Greenfield Village. 

In general, whenever I welcome someone to the Detroit area they are generally less than enthusiastic at the offer. Sure, we don’t have mass transit (oh wait, it’s called the automobile), but things are picking up. Last weekend I went to Joe Louis Arena to see the ISU Skate America Men’s Free Skate and Ice Dancing Free Dance competition. We went to Greektown for dinner and it was HOPPING! There were a ton of people on the streets having a good time. The People Mover was super convenient and we were able to get right from Greektown to the Joe easily.

I am really glad to be in a metropolitan area for these post-bacc courses and not in a college-town bubble. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVED Champaign-Urbana, but things here seem more realistic. In my classes there are Nurses, Doctors, Genetic Counselors, (people who have actual jobs) and that motivates me even more to succeed in my classes. 

In other news, I have recently become an RPCV applicant mentor, advising a Peace Corps applicant during the application process, and become somewhat of an “informal recruiter” at my university, working with a Regional Recruiter in Chicago to set up Peace Corps information Sessions and a table at the Student Center, all in the Detroit area.

Detroit isn’t what you think, a city brimming with culture and life. Sure, we might not be like NYC, Boston, Chicago, or DC, but there are some gems that you cannot find anywhere else right in our backyard.

Why Technology is not always “The Answer” A Rant…

I don’t think I need a disclaimer for this post when It’s going to be a rant. You have been sufficiently informed.

Since getting back from Burkina I am honestly fed up with the reliance on technology at home. Everyone is plugged into the internet and with new regulations about the FAA now allowing electronic devices on flights it seems that you can be plugged in anywhere or anytime.

But what happens when that technology doesn’t work? In BF I was used to spotty phone network coverage, no internet, and no electricity. Even when I had power and electricity, it often cut out. There were many times when I went to Ouahigouya only to find that the internet was cut, or I was in the middle of doing work and there was an outage.

The thing is…I was used to it. That was my set of expectations. But here in the US, everyone expects things to work all the time, even me.

Last week in one of my classes we had an online quiz. This class uses a textbook with online activities, including quizzes, exams, videos, flash cards, and practice tests to help students learn. That’s all fun and good except when it doesn’t work. We were told to bring our laptops to class and to take the quiz online. None of us knew that we were supposed to watch videos as part of this quiz, and what happens when 100+ students are using a wireless connection to take a quiz and load videos? Technical difficulties occurred. We were quizzed on a majority of material from the online resources only, including videos that would not load because the wireless router was overloaded.

I really honestly don’t see what’s so great about online textbooks. I think that educationally speaking,videos are a nice addition to traditional instruction but should not be relied on for sole quiz material. The quiz is rescheduled due to the technical difficulties, and I plan to take it while plugged into an ethernet connection.

The frustrating thing is I am trying to use these videos and online materials to study and I cannot even get to the online textbook because the system is down. Why does everything have to be online? Our course website has a lot of useful tools already and is fairly easy to use, but this online textbook is a pain.

Sometimes I just wish that we as Americans were not as dependent on technology and could go off the grid. Being off the grid was one of the best parts of my Peace Corps experiences, and it is quite liberating.

I guess that you can’t always get what you want.

One month in the US…

So I’ve been back in the US for a month (!) and I’ve gotten into some sort of daily routine. I have class four days a week so that gives me some structure. It’s strange having classes that are later in the day. (Most of my university classes started at 8am, or I took an early lifeguarding shift on days when I didn’t have class). 

I’ve also started the grad school application process. I am really glad that I did not do this in BF because it’s complicated. 8 of the applications are on SOPHAS (the centralized public health school application) and 3 are not. One does not open until October because it’s abroad, and another is to be submitted by snail mail. 

How does this compare to the Peace Corps Application?  Er…I don’t know. I applied over three years ago (WOW!) and I don’t remember every aspect of the application. It seems to be as tedious as when I filled it out (this was before the new DOVE system came out last year). Sending transcripts was more complicated than usual because I had to scan a form, order the transcripts, and then have UIUC hold them until they got the scanned form and put both the form and the transcripts in a sealed envelope. 

One of the schools I am looking at is only 45 minutes away from my house, so I was thinking that I might go and visit on one of my free days and check it out and see if I can talk to students about their experiences. 

In other news, I am sort of unpacked…my old room is still disorganized and I need to take a good deal of time to fix that. Unpacking seems to be a very emotional experience for me. You think of all the memories when you are doing it and it takes more time than expected. 

I find that I do miss Burkina on a daily basis. I especially miss my fellow volunteers and those still serving. Most of my college friends are in Illinois, and only a few people who I kept up with since high school are still in Michigan. I try to hang out with people when I can, but it seems like I don’t really have much of a social life, and most of my time is spent doing homework, studying, doing grad school apps, or watching TV. There are exceptions though, when I came out of my cave and went to the Detroit Zoo with Waga Rob! 

In other other news, RPCVs are everywhere! I went to an RPCV dinner last week and met someone WHO IS IN MY NUTRITION CLASS! It’s a small world. I also am scheduled to give a guest lecture in a development class. Unfortunately Wayne State is not a Coverdell fellows program and they do not generally have RPCVs ready to give dog and pony shows about their experiences/development, so that should be fun.

Adventures in Power Outages

So last week I went through not one but THREE power outages. It started on Wednesday morning when I went back upstairs after eating breakfast and fell asleep. When I woke up there was no power. My Dad and I went to run some errands and saw that a power line was down a couple blocks away. When we got back to the house, the wireless router was still working (the phones were still on and it had a battery backup). A couple hours later the power came back on.

Later…my parents went down to work to teach and the power went out at the university. I was supposed to have Biostatistics lab later that night. My parents did not hear anything from the powers that be and went out to teach the afternoon classes at 3pm. At 3:05 a campus wide text went out saying that all evening classes were cancelled. Because students actually showed up to their classes my parents intended on holding them…until the university police came and kicked them out of their classes.

I was at home trying to figure out if I had Biostats lab or not. One of my classmates was on campus and frantically emailing the professor and the TA to get an answer. Biostats is held on the medical campus and they still had power…but the texts were saying that the university was closed.

With lab due to start at 5:30, I scanned my homework and emailed it to the TA. My classmate got back to me at 4:00 saying that we had class and that she just got an email from the TA. I frantically packed up my things, and hopped in my car to go to the university. Luckily I made it with some time to spare.

On the way home there was a torrential downpour and I arrived at my house to find that the power was out. Thanks to my two years in Burkina with no electricity at my house, I just grabbed my headlamp, ate dinner, and finished my epidemiology homework due the next day.

On Thursday, the university still had no power so my parents stayed home. My Nutrition and Health class got cancelled but I still had epidemiology because it’s held on the medical campus.

Apparently the outage on main campus was planned by the city’s electricity company..,But no one seemed to know anything about that.

In Burkina when the power cut people tended to expect it. This was very common in large cities during hot season because everyone was running their air conditioning. I remember times in the transit house when the power cut every hour or so. When something is expected to happen, it’s generally not a surprise. Thankfully the power came back on and everything was fine.

I’m glad I don’t take electricity for granted. That’s what happens when you don’t have it for two year.

A Brief Update

I know it’s been a while since I last posted. I’ve been in the US for two weeks now. So here are some answers to some frequently asked questions.

So Sara, how is your re-entry/reintegration going?

For the most part re-entry pretty easy. I started class the Thursday after I got back. I even went out with friends a couple of times. I do miss Burkina on a daily basis. I miss my neighbors, my cat, and my village friends. 

So what hasn’t gone so well?

As some of you may know I had a really bad ear wax problem/multiple ear infections when I was in BF. I thought I was starting to get another ear infection so I went to the doctor. My dad drove, and before I left I took my wallet out of my purse to find an address. When they asked me for ID I realized that I didn’t have my driver’s license with me. Good thing my dad was there to identify me :-)  Long story short they refused to take my PC insurance (i wasn’t on my parents’ plan yet), to treat me or irrigate my ear and refused to refer me to an ENT for further treatment. A week later I went to my normal primary care doctor and everything was taken care of. That was really frustrating.

How are your classes so far?

So far classes are good. I’ve only had two weeks so far and Biostatistics hasn’t even started yet…Nutrition is interesting. Our teacher seems really engaging. There was a slight controversy over the textbook for the class because it is the Canadian edition, and a different version than the E-Book which is written in Standard measurements and not metric. I really like Epidemiology so far. I think it’s cool to analyze health problems by population. It’s an intriguing class.

So what are you doing again?

I’m taking some post-baccalaureate classes at a local university where my parents work to make myself a more competitive candidate for MPH programs and apply for them to start in Fall 2014.

Last question: What was your first meal back?

Steak, rice pilaf, broccoli, and homemade chocolate mousse. Thanks Mom and Dad!