Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 Year in Review

This past year Sara spent an entire year as a grown up again. It had been a while. And Cale started the last year of his graduate degree.

January
We started the new year with our New Year's buddies, Josh and Charlotte. This year there was almost, so very close, another Rodenberg to join the fun. But not yet. We would have to wait for February.





February
It's not entirely clear that anything happened to the family Reeves in February.

March
March, for Sara, is Women's History Month. As usual, Sara was at the Luncheon and the Leadership Development event. They are put on by the Bloomington Commission for the Status of Women. Sara has been the volunteer secretary for the past three or four years.





April
Teresa had a birthday



And this happened.



May
In May, Cale officially became a college graduate and celebrated appropriately.



In preparation for what was going to be a very busy summer for Sara, we took an early vacation and headed down to NOLA. It was our first long-distance trip on the Goldwing.



We headed south for the change in temperature, as all we really want to do for vacation is sit outside and read. However, the real draw to New Orleans was the Clutch show.



On the way back north, we stopped off at the crossroads.



May ended with a big milestone for the family Reeves. Our 10th wedding anniversary. Talk about feeling old. We celebrated by bringing together friends from all over the world for a camp-out and picnic at the place it all started, Brown County State Park.



June
June was the beginning of the Working Summer that Never Ended. Over at Sara's work, the Institute for International Business, we welcomed the students from the first of three summer programs we hosted.

This was the Global Business Institute (GBI), a joint program with The Coca-Cola Company and the US Department of State. Almost 100 students from eight countries in the Middle East, North Africa, and Near Asia joined us on campus for just more than three weeks.



Cale kept himself busy too, working as a research assistant for a faculty member at SPEA. If you need a lit review done, he is your man.

Somewhere we found the time to celebrate the Grandparents Carusillo's 60th wedding anniversary.



Luckily Sara wasn't working on the GBI project full time, as she was preparing for the group of Europeans that were arriving in...

July
The Global Social Entrepreneurship Institute (GSEI), also in collaboration with the US Department of State, brought 20 undergraduates from 13 European countries to campus for a month.



Halfway through July, our next program began: Business is Global (BIG). BIG is a two-week program for US high school students. We introduced them to three less-commonly-taught languages (Portuguese, Arabic, and Swahili) and international business.



Despite working more than 150 hours of overtime in the month of July (not that Sara was counting or anything...or getting paid overtime...that's what you get for being salary), we still found some time for fun, including celebrating Mom's birthday.



August
Cale, Sara, and Sara's boss took the GSEI students to Washington, DC.

Cale headed back to Bloomington after the GSEIers headed home, but the boss and Sara remained in DC for several more days to attend the USAID Education Summit.

Cale and Sara then headed to northern Indiana to celebrate a very Fish-Kipfer wedding reception.


Created with flickr slideshow.

September
Sara was back in DC for another conference.

And of course, we headed out to Sacramento for the most hipster wedding of all!



Cale started the first semester of his final year of graduate school at SPEA. In addition to such fun classes as Applied Math, he was taking his capstone class as well. Quite possibly the smallest capstone on record, there were only four students in the class.

October
Finally, in October a chance to rest. Well, except for this...



but also this...



November
It was so very fall.



And this happened over the course of 10 days.



Sara was off on more action and adventure for work. This time an eight-day tour of four countries in the Middle East and North Africa. And it only involved one futile emergency drive to Chicago the day before her flight since the Algerian embassy waited until the last minute to return her passport.



Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you feel about it), Cale stayed in Bloomington tackling his capstone project analyzing hourly energy demand data from buildings on campus in order to create a retrofit prioritization plan.

December
Cale submitted his first batch of PhD program applications.

Sara could no longer stand Flickr's hideous new look and made the move to 500px.



We celebrated Solstice with Cale's mom and Milton.

Solstice

And then it was time for a Very Carusillo Christmas.

A Very Carusillo Christmas

Here's to 2014, when Cale will graduate with his masters, the summer will be just as crazy for Sara, and Cale will embark on becoming a doctor.

- Sara

Friday, November 22, 2013

Tidbit

While we were being led by our guide/hostage in Algeria, the boss pointed out a beautiful view ahead of us.

"Bella"

Our guide/hostage tried to explain to us what we were seeing. However, we couldn't understand the word she was using. She started to draw in the air with her fingers, so I handed her my note pad.


And then, we immediately knew what it was.

Cemetery!

Of course, doesn't that drawing just scream cemetery?

Of course, she had been saying a word that sounded a lot like cemetery all along: cimetière. We just couldn't make the connection.

Pictures

The pictures from my work travels are finally up on the flickr.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Return Trip: Leg Three Complete

MontrealChicagoMap

Return Trip: Leg Two Complete

Paris2MontrealMap

Tidbits


  • Moroccans all have very stylish glasses. Let me rephrase that, all Moroccans that wear glasses (and it seems to be so many) have very stylish ones.
  • You can smoke anywhere. And people will.
  • So it’s very common to walk down a street and see rows of guys all siting in a straight line (backs to the building, faces to the street) at little tables with little coffees (probably smoking a cigarette). It stood out to me because in the US, it is more common for people sitting together to sit facing each other, one across the table. However, here they are all sitting next each other staring out at the street.
  • Why is it so hard to get on a bus and then move out of the entry way so that others can get on? The students on campus fail to do this all the time. They step on the bus and then stop, right there in the entry way, making it impossible for others to get on and forcing them to push through to the empty spaces beyond. When we were boarding the bus in the Casa airport (in the pouring rain) one of the passengers did this. He stepped on the bus and planted his feet and his luggage right there in the middle. Trapping everyone else out in the rain as they tried to squeeze in around him to the copious amounts of empty space on the bus. For christ’s sake, move!
  • When the boss and I arrived in Tunis, we immediately got in line for the only bank to be seen to change our money. I immediately took note. We were clearly the wrong gender for this line. Ahead of us were 10-15 men. On either side sat women in head scarves (and one fully covered woman in all black), clearly waiting for the men.
  • Did I mention you could smoke anywhere? At the dinner in Tunis, the waiter (who clearly hated us) stood off to the side smoking a cigarette that he would reluctantly set aside to serve the table when required.
  • Speaking of things that are so very French, the guys in North Africa are very European. Scarves, fitted pants, fancy shoes, etc. 
  • I was going to lose my mind over the queuing. As much as I understand in theory the difference between American queuing culture and queuing cultures elsewhere, it doesn't make it easier for me to adapt. I swear every time I was in any sort of semblance of a line, someone was going to just walk right in front of me. First, I was able to rationalize it based on what I am calling the MENA Merge. Just as the lines painted on the roads are completely meaningless, so are the lines in a queue, everyone just sort of merges together rather naturally, fitting themselves into any available space until forced to narrow down to one behind the other in a more American queue. However, even in the clearly separate, distinct, far from each other, no merging going on lines at customs in the Tunis airport, I still had a woman step in front of me. TWICE! After she cut me in line, she seemed decide she wanted to be in another line. Cut into that line. Then decided she wanted to be back on my line and cut me again! It makes me irrationally angry. I am still going to get where I am going. It has not affected me in anyway, other than to make my blood boil of course.

Day Nine: Tunis

After our adventures arriving in Tunis, it was a relief to have a relatively productive day and an amazing evening with the students.

The boss, the sponsoring company rep, and I started our day at the US Embassy, where we discussed the program potential improvements for the coming summer, and the success of the alumni. An added bonus at the embassy in Tunisia, the ambassador himself stopped in for just a moment to share his interest in the program. It was sort of an awkward moment. When he entered the room, everyone stood up and then we all stood awkwardly as he spoke with the sponsor rep. All the while a photographer flitted about shooting pictures. I suppose I know what it is like to be on the other side of my lens now. Then we all stood for a group shot and the ambassador was off.

During our meeting with the embassy, they were able to arrange a meeting for us with a private business school just across the street. We had a meeting scheduled with a public business school later in the day, but it was nice to add another productive meeting to our timetable.

The meeting was great. Interestingly enough, I think all the people we spoke with from the school had studied in America, including a Fulbright scholar and an American who may be teaching history. While on campus we ran into a 2013 program participant who was studying for an exam. We gave her quick hugs and wished her well, as we would see her that evening for dinner.

After lunch we were off to find the public business school. Many of our program alumni attended that school, also the dean is a Purdue graduate (we forgive him) and one of the faculty is a Kelley graduate. On the way to the school, we got quite lost. None of us could believe we would find the business school anywhere near the industrial wasteland we were circling. However, after several failed phone calls, our driver finally had directions, and lo and behold, there was a business school campus (conveniently across the street from the police barracks). We had another productive meeting, toured the campus, and ran into several program alumni.

Then it was back to the hotel for a much needed nap.

At 6 pm we were picked up by a 2013 program participant for our dinner at the Plaza Corniche. The restaurant was wonderful and the students were just amazing. They reminisced of their time at IU. They shared their own going accomplishments and continuing connections with each other. The sponsor rep pointed out that he is building a list of names of people who are going to change the world. And after spending time with all these exceptional young people on their home turf, I whole-heartedly agree.

Towards the end of the evening they went around the table, individually toasting my boss and her influence on them.

“I thank God for meeting [boss]. She taught by example. She didn’t need words to show me the way. And always with a smile. Even when she was tired or angry, she was smiling.”

True to form my boss was smiling through her tears.

And with a final round of hugs, my trip had come to an end. I headed back to the hotel to prepare for my early morning departure for the airport. It’s back to Bloomington where I can begin planning for another group of exceptional youth from the Middle East, North Africa, and Near Asia to join us on campus this summer.

Return Trip: Leg One Complete

Tunis2ParisMap

Monday, November 18, 2013

Day Eight: In which the Boss and I Run through the Casablanca Airport

Remember back on day five when our flight from Casa to Rabat kept being pushed back and so we decided to cancel that leg and take the train?

Well that came back to bite us in the ass.

The boss and I got up early Sunday morning and took a cab to the Rabat airport for our 9 am flight to Casa. After waiting in line to check-in for a ridiculously long time (something appeared to be going on with literally the only other people in the airport at the time we formed the freaking line. it took so long that whole other lines formed and dispersed around us), the boss was finally able to check in. I was next, but the lady seemed be having an issue with me. Apparently, we were no longer booked on that flight. The lady had tried to override the system to force my boss on the flight, but realized it was not going to work when she needed to do it for me too (the boss's boarding pass didn't include a seat number, so it hadn't worked too well for her either).

Apparently, cancelling our flight to Rabat had also cancelled our flight from Rabat. Awesome.

The lady at the counter was less than helpful. At first she sort of shrugged and told us we were shit out of luck (she did not use those exact words, of course). Then she decided that we would have to call some number (it took me like four tries just to get her to adequately explain where I could find said number, rather than just pointing vaguely in a direction). After the boss and I had tried the public pay phones, three locals' cell phones, and my Google Voice, we determined the number did not work. I went back to the lady, who once again shrugged and gave me the equivalent to "you're shit out of luck." Her only solution was to go talk to the people in the Casa office about the fact that I didn't have a seat to Casa. She didn't seem to get the irony of her telling me that I needed to get to Casa to complain about the fact that I couldn't get to Casa. She also didn't seem to have any way of contacting the offices in Casa herself. Much like the visa department in the Algerian embassy in New York, it appears this airline's offices in Casa did not have a phone. Or something.

So the boss and I got another taxi to the train station and caught the train to Casa. This was largely uneventful.

We arrived at the end of the line, in the Casa airport, 45 minutes before our flight to Tunis was scheduled to take off. We still needed to get through security, get boarding passes, get through customs, and make it to the gate. Everyone on the train formed a crush at the entrance to the airport, where one x-ray line was processing one person at a time. We inched forward.

Once we were through security, I ran to the check-in desk. There were long lines at all the active desks, but I ran up to a woman who was clearly not open and demanded she determine if the boss and I even still had seats on the flight. She complied and then said that we should cut the line of the woman on the end, who was a manager and who could get us through (since check-in for our flight had closed). I cut the line and the woman, thankfully, expedited our check-in and told us to hurry.

Next, I took off running for the gate. In my mind, I would get there and hold them up, bodily if necessary, so that both the boss and I could get on the plane. Except, oh shit, customs. So I scooted under a barrier and cut the line to get into the customs area. The security guard was more than willing to let me go through, except I hadn't filled out the debarkment card. I grabbed two, completed mine and filled in everything I knew about my boss and then searched for her in vain. As it turns out, she had already made it to the line and went all the way through to that same security guard before discovering she hadn't filled in the card yet either. Finally, we found each other, completed the cards and cut the line again.

Only, of course, to find ourselves faced with multiple long lines at document control. Once again, I ran to the front, interrupted an agent handling another passenger's documents, explained I was late for my flight, and asked what I could do quickly. She sent me to a small police office, where we were second in line and had our papers dealt with quickly.

Once again, I take of running for the gate. Once again, with plans to throw myself in front of the plane if necessary. Of course our gate was as far away as humanly possible and halfway there I slowed to speed walk. I rushed down the stairs to discover a gate that simply opens to the tarmac and buses to take you to the plane, as well as a crush of people. Worried this was the flight to Riyadh listed on the board, I desperately asked the man at the bottom of the stairs if he was going to Tunisia. He was. And I rejoiced.

As I determined we had not missed our flight, the boss joined me, equally winded from her speed walk to the gate. We proceeded to act a fool, huffing and puffing, and fanning ourselves, and exclaiming loudly about our fears of missing the flight. After a French announcement, another man in the crowd turned to tell us that the flight had been delayed. At least we had not missed it, but it also meant all that running was for naught.

When it was finally time to board the bus, it was pouring cold rain outside. Damp, I finally took my seat on the flight and watched through the window as the bags were brought out to the tarmac and loaded on to the plane completely uncovered. I wasn't surprised when we landed and our bags were soaking wet. Once the boss and I made it to our hotel, we turned our rooms into makeshift clothes lines, hoping to have dry, wrinkle free clothes to wear to our meetings the next day. I also treated myself to two tiny Heineken's from the mini-bar in my room. And a Twix.

That evening we met up with an executive from the program sponsor and one of the students from 2013 for dinner in Sidi Bou Said. It was wonderful and delicious.

Tune in next time when we meet an ambassador and have our final student dinner.

Day Seven: Rabat Pt. 2

The most amazing thing about day seven was we didn't get on a plane. Up until now, the formula had been:

  1. Arrive in country late afternoon
  2. Meetings next morning
  3. Dinner with students that evening
  4. On plane to next country next morning
However, in Rabat instead of getting on a plane on Saturday, we went sightseeing. It would have almost been a day off, but we had dinner with the students that night. Not that dinner with the students is hard work. It is complete enjoyable.

We went to see the Chellah, which happened to be an example of one of my favorite things: ruins. This site is actually doubly ruins. It was originally a Roman city on a hill that later became an Arab city on a hill. The whole hill part of it made for a lovely view. As an added bonus, it is also home to a bunch of storks. I am not sure why. The storks were fascinating. As it turns out, they make a weird clacking noise. Who knew? As this blog mentions, it is also home to a lot of cats. Cats and storks, oh my. 

Some sort of big wig was touring the Chellah while we were there. Half a dozen men in suits with a security detail strolled the grounds. We left just ahead of that group and as we exited the gates a trio of men were performing a lively musical number it what I assume are some sort of traditional costume. The minute the big wigs piled into their black sedans though, the entertainment ended. It had clearly been for the big wigs' benefit.

As it happened to be sunny, and warm, and gorgeous outside, we next decided we wanted to sit outside, by the ocean and eat lunch. I had recently downloaded a French-English dictionary for my phone and constructed this grouping of words to try on on a taxi driver:

"Desir manger apres du le mar. Suggestion?"

Ignoring the lack of accent marks above, I was trying to convey that we wanted to eat next to the sea. The taxi driver asked about poissons and reastuarants and so we thought we were doing good. However, when he dropped us at a seafood restaurant with no ocean in sight and no outdoor seating, we knew I had failed. My Google maps told me the sea was still about a mile away.

Oh, well. The fish was tasty. I apparently ate this.

Next it was back to the medina to finish the souvenir shopping and then back to the hotel to get ready for dinner with the students. 

This was the largest group of students so far, with four or five from the 2012 group, as well as about 10 from 2013. They took us to a Moroccon restaurant, Dar Naji, and ordered for me. I am not sure the name of what I had, but there was beef and sauce and prunes. It was tasty. I had a long conversation with two students in particular during the dinner. One who already speaks Arabic, French, and English and just so happens to be studying Korean along with her Economics degree. The other who is looking to continue his studies in Human-Computer Interaction and was asking about the masters degree program.

Then it was off to see the marina, where it was surprisingly cold. Finally we visited the Hassan Tower and the royal mausoleum. Unfortunately, it was night, so they were closed, but we could still see them through the gates. Beautiful.

Hugs, good-byes, and back to the hotel. We would be off to Tunis (our last stop) in the morning. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Day Six: Rabat

We were treated to a late start today. Our first meeting wasn't until 1 pm, when we were scheduled to have lunch with a representative of the program sponsor. So I made it to the gym this morning. I did have some French-related mishaps to start the day:

  1. I tried to ask at the front desk if I was supposed to have coffee/tea making items in the box for such items in my room (next to the keurig-like thing). That box was empty. However, the ladies at the front desk just seemed to think I wanted to order tea from room service, so I gave up.
  2. Two bottles of water in the room. Two, different bottles of water in the room. Just assumed they were mismatched. Learned the hard way when I brought the bottle of fizzy mineral water with me to the gym.
Side note: all these French issues are also Arabic issues, as I would be able to function just fine here if I knew either language. I am just painfully aware of the French issues because, in theory, I once knew French.

Lunch meeting went great. Learned later that we had lunch with a local celebrity. The program sponsor brought a local radio personality with him, who is apparently quite popular.

Embassy meeting in the afternoon also went extremely well. Our main point of contact was out sick, but we still had a productive talk.

After our meetings we headed to the medina via taxi. The taxi driver seemed pretty pissed about our inability to communicate. I said we wanted to go to the medina and, when pressed further, said the Grand Mosque would be fine, as it was in the middle on the map. Twice he stopped in traffic to yell to passers-by to find someone that spoke "anglais." The second time he found someone to whom we told we wanted to shop and eat in the medina.

Side note: Taxis around here are often as not likely to stop and pick up another passenger even if they already have one in the car. The new passenger just determines if the car is already going in a direction they want and if they are willing to make this other stop first. As it turns out, it is also more appropriate for a potential passenger to check with a driver of even empty vehicles to see if the driver is going his or her way before getting in.

When our driver last stopped we thought he was picking up an extra passenger, but instead he was just kicking us out a little bit before our destination. Both he and the new passenger tried to convey to us where we should walk, and they must have been successful since we eventually found ourselves in the medina.

After some initial concern it was just narrow streets filled with plastic crap from China we were able to find some shopping opportunities. I was in search of prizes and other materials for the summer program and the boss was looking for gifts.

Two thing of note in the medina: 
  1. The surprising number of shops that had enormous pigs feet (seriously, how big must these pigs be?) hanging in the window given we were in what I assume is a predominately Muslim country. Ah, yes, I just confirmed with the internets, 99.9% Muslim. Even if pork wasn't haram, who the hell wants to eat all these giant feet?
  2. What appeared to be simmering or smoking or something cow heads seemed to be some sort of street food option that may or may not have involved making pita pockets from cow head meat.
More later.

Pictures

P.S. If you are wondering why I am not posting any pictures, I don't have Lightroom on my laptop here and the internets have been too slow to download it. I cannot bring myself to post unedited pictures, so I will just do it when I get home.

Algeria Tidbits

Security every where. Metal detectors every where. Checkpoints, cops on streets with weird devices (we are later told are to detect chemicals?).

We met an American in the hotel elevator (from Seattle). He was shocked to discover two American women alone in the country. Insisted that the U.S. consulate web site is just covered in warnings that American women should not come to Algeria alone. The boss checks the internet back in her room and finds no such warnings. We later decided that it was likely a really failed attempt to hit on us.

The Algerian banking system is a disaster. Using credit cards is difficult. Transferring money is impossible. The biggest issue for us though? Once you have dinar, you are stuck with them. They do not exchange back and no one else wants them. The boss and I were forced to spend our remaining dinar in the airport gift shops to get rid of them. So now I have about $40 USD in prizes for the summer high school program from Algeria.

Day Five: In Transit

Thursday we were on the road again. Luckily, our flight wasn't early in the morning again, but rather in the afternoon. Though I had planned to exercise Thursday morning before the flight, that totally didn't happen.

The day before we had an email from our travel agent telling us that our flight from Casablanca to Rabat (a short 45-minute hop) had been delayed from around 8 pm to 11 pm. Instead of a four-hour layover in Casablanca, we were practically there all day. I took to the internets to get recommendations on what could be done while we were there. Immediately, my Facebook feed filled with references to the movie. At least I think it did. I've never seen it myself.

However, when we got to the airport in Algiers our boarding passes let us know that the flight to Rabat had been delayed until 1 am the next day! What reason could we possibly have to spend that long in an airport waiting to get to a city that is only an hour away?

We were told that this couldn't be dealt with here, and we would have to get to Casablanca to see if it could be remedied. Once in Casablanca we headed to the check-in counter, only to be told we needed to go to a desk around the corner. But there was no one there. I headed to the other side of a terminal where someone in the "Ticket Office" (as the sign said), told me there were no other flights to Rabat that day. The boss and I had already determined that if we couldn't get on an earlier flight, we wanted to cancel this flight and take the train. However, the woman in the office could not help with that. I would need to go down to the check-in desk at another terminal. So the boss and I headed out that way. Through out this entire process, the boss is lugging around a 50 lb checked bag. For some reason, there are no down escalators in this world (or elevators), so she has to drag it down one step at a time. Luckily, there is always an extremely helpful guy around to give a hand.

The new check-in desk confirms there aren't other flights that day and we cancel. Next up, train station. Once again, I kick myself for not knowing French. Thankfully, we are able to ascertain we are on the right train and what stop we need relatively easily despite the language barrier.

When we finally arrive in Rabat Ville, we find the most broke down taxi in probably the entire country. The driver proceeds to break his sunglasses and drop his burning cigarette on his shirt trying to shove the bosses giant bag in the trunk of his car. Though the boss and I both agree later that it was clear from the beginning there was no way it would fit.

The taxi driver speaks French, but manages to convey to us that he is happy that we are Americans and that he likes Michael Tyson. He also tries to figure out my relationship to my boss. Unable to think of anything useful in French, I resort to "En espanol, trabajado?" which seems to do the trick. Later, I realize that the word I was looking for is in fact a French word in English even: colleague. Oops.

Once at the hotel, we check in and go in search of food. Thanks to trip adviser, we go in search of a Tex Mex restaurant, pass a Chicago-themed restaurant on the way, and ended up at La Bodega, a Spanish restaurant where everything is in French (oh the irony of what was near the hotel).

Tomorrow we will meet with the Embassy and a representative from the program sponsor. And, then, surprise, surprise, we do not get on a plane on Saturday. That's right, we are spending an extra day in one place! How luxurious!

More later

Day Four: Algiers Pt. 2

In the afternoon on Wednesday, we met up with a group of the 2013 students who took us to a show at the exhibition halls right by our hotel. It was a collection of mostly Algerian craftsmen (and women), as well as other African countries (and Pakistan for some reason). We had the opportunity to see a variety of different artists' wares, a majority of whom make traditional clothes, jewelry, pottery, etc. It was all very cool, but a little out of my price range.

The students were quite excited to share some local foods with us that were for sale at the exhibition. The big draw was the noga (this is how the students said it was spelled, but I am 100 percent sure we are talking about nougat), which was like marshmallows meet taffy. We also had a similar item the students said was Hlwa tork from Turkey. I am pretty sure it was this.

We also had two types of bread. One I am told is spelled "brag," but is not pronounced the way you think. I cannot find this one on the internet. It appeared to be made from cornmeal with a date paste in the middle, but I have no idea. The other is kasra and can be found on the internet.

Following the exhibition, we were joined by even more alumni, including one from the first year (2012) for dinner in the hotel. Before heading out on this trip, my boss had asked the students to arrange a dinner. Since we would be covering the bill, the location needed to accept MasterCard. As it turns out, that is more complicated than you might think. Visa seems to be more widely accepted in this part of the world, and Algeria in particular has a rather troubled banking system (more on that later). According to the students, the only restaurant that accepted MasterCard was in our hotel.

The students did an amazing job of arranging the meal and we were treated with an amazing selection of traditional foods. I was unable to get the names on all of these, but there was a kebab dish and two different couscous dishes. There were also two noodle dishes. In one the noodles were much like spaghetti. However, the second was made from pastry thin layers of dough and some sort of tomato-based sauce. It was pretty delicious. Breads, soups, salads. I thought I might explode. While we ate the students reminisced about their time in Bloomington. In particular they discussed the things they had missed doing that they wished they had time for. One in particular? The Cheesecake Factory.

After dinner, the students surprised us with dessert. We were given a pastry box that contained somewhere between six and 10 different Algerian pastries (though one was a baklava and they all insisted that one didn't count since it was Turkish). Either way, the boss and I had a bite of each one and pronounced our favorites. We were each gifted a pair of earrings. The students also had a special surprise for my boss. During culture night over the summer, she had told the students how much she had loved their Berber outfits. And so, on this evening they gifted her with a beautiful pink dress.

Visiting with the students on their home turf has been an amazing experience. First because they are all so happy to see us. But, more importantly, it is incredibly gratifying to see the students in their own environments where they feel confident and comfortable. It is also a pleasure to see how much they enjoy the opportunity to show us (my boss in particular, as she runs the program and got to know the students quite well) their homes. They enjoy taking a turn at being host, since they were guests while we knew them in the States.

Next we were off to see the harbor. The boss and I split off, her in one car of students and me in another. The student in the front seat turned a song up on the radio. "Do you recognize this?" At first I was confused, but then the lyrics started and we blasted "This is Indiana" on our way into town. Along the way, we passed the U.S. Embassy, where we had been earlier that day. One of the students in the car with me pointed out the embassy, "I remember that place. All my happiest moments were here."

After the harbor, we want to see Maqam Echahid (Monument des Martyrs) commemorating Algerian independence 61 years ago. It is an amazing structure.

I headed over to get a photograph of the amazing view of the city and the harbor and received a reprimand from the students. Though there is no sign, apparently you are not allowed on that part of the monument. "How do you know?" I asked. Apparently one of the many security guards at the monument had told them. "But why? The view is so lovely." Apparently, they are keeping people from throwing themselves over the edge. It was a great a example of Sara being an oblivious tourist. I thought the students were telling me not to go down there because I had accidentally stepped onto the grass and landscaping around the monument, rather than on the stairs. However, they were telling me not to go down there because the man with the gun would prefer that I didn't.

And then it was back to the hotel to get some sleep before heading to Morocco in the morning.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Still on the Move

Casablanca2RabatMap

On the Move, Yet Again

Algiers2CasablancaMap

Day Four: Algiers

We started the morning with a visit to the U.S. Embassy and ended the evening at the Maqam Echahid (Monument des Martyrs) commemorating Algerian independence.

The embassy visit went extremely well. As we ere leaving, we asked for recommendations on a place for lunch and one of the embassy staff provided some suggestions. He recommended we go to Sidi Yahia and said it was five minutes by taxi. Looking to see the city, we asked if it was possible to walk. Sure, it would take about 20 minutes on foot, just take the embassy road down to the fork and take a right over the bridge. The directions seemed to taper off after that, but I figured we could ask someone on the other side of the bridge.

We headed out, walking the white line on a road that butted directly up against a high, cement wall. Walking behind my boss, I comforted her by saying that if we were hit, she would have some advance warning, as I would get hit first.

Once we were on the other side of the bridge, there was no clear indication on where to go. I stopped a woman passing by and showed her the name of the road we were looking for to get directions. She had no English and we had no French, but she pointed us in the direction we were heading and we were happy to head off again. However, she seemed concerned for us. She indicated she wanted to get us a taxi, but with no Algerian dinars on us and an interest in exploring, we wanted to walk. It was this point that the helpful passer-by became our guide/hostage. With our guide leading the way, it appears we were heading for Sidi Yahia. Repeated attempts to communicate only confirmed that my boss's French is a bajillion times better than mine, and still not enough to convey ideas. We wanted to communicate that we were ok and that we just wanted to walk and that she was free to leave us. But repeatedly saying "nous c'est bon" was not solving the problem.

As we were walking, we spotted a bank. As we needed dinar anyway, we decided to stop there, thinking that this would free our guide/hostage from her self-imposed duties. Instead, she joined us and, as far as I could tell, helped us cut the line. During our time in the bank, she communicated through a bank employee with limited English skills that we shouldn't go to Sidi Yahia, that there were much nicer places to go. However, when we tried to communicate that she was free to go on her way, she stayed. So it looks like we both ignored each other.

With dinar in hand, we headed out again, our guide/hostage leading the way. As it turns out, there was no way we would have found this street on our own. She led us on a long, windy route that included what appeared to be some alleys, but eventually, we arrived. She was reluctant to leave us. She wanted us to not talk to men, to hold on to our bags, and I clearly understood "death," which she said in English. Though not entirely comforting, I was not too worried, as the U.S. Embassy had recommended the spot and it looked like a perfectly normal shopping district.

Speaking of shopping districts. Why is it when you are visiting another country and are looking to see the local sights or some culture or eat some authentic food, everyone wants to send you to the mall? The Jordanians took us to their new mall (thanks guys, but I have seen an H&M before) and the U.S. Embassy had also sent us to a Western shopping area. Once again, every restaurant we passed seemed to serve pizza.

When it was time to head back to the hotel to meet with the students, the boss and I headed out to the street to hail a taxi. I tried to hail the first car I saw with a sign on the roof. However, on closer inspection it was not a taxi at all, but a student driver. Oops.

More on our time with the students and the Monument des Martyrs when I return. We are heading to the airport now. It's time for yet another country.

Day Three: In Transit

Tuesday we were on the move again. I was up at 4 am to pack before our 5 am departure for the airport. Our flight from Amman to Algiers was via Istanbul on Turkish Air. It was a relatively uneventful day other than some confusion when we arrived in the Algiers airport that highlighted my complete lack of French skills.

Fun tidbits from the flights:

  1. There was no thirteen row on the airplane. Superstition?
  2. The airline safety video included instructions on loosening your collar and tie and removing your high-heeled shoes in case of an emergency.
  3. During the beverage service, milk was a common request. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Day Two: Amman

Our second day in Jordan didn't work out quite as planned. Despite advanced planning attempts, we discovered too late to alter our travel plans that we would be in Amman to meet with the U.S. Embassy on a federal holiday (Veterans' Day). As U.S. Embassies honor U.S.holidays, the offices were closed.

This worked out for the best, as my boss needed a day to recuperate from a cold that had left her completely voiceless for the entire trip to Jordan. Me? I had to suffer through a morning sitting in the sun by the pool trying to get work done while fighting with an uncooperative wireless connection. Things could have been worse.

That night we had the opportunity to meet up with some of the Jordanian alumni of our summer program. The students were amazing. They were so happy to see us and were so eager to share their country with us.

We started out with (non-alcoholic) drinks at Jafra. Some of the students also shared some shisha, an incredibly popular past time in the region. Next up, the students whisked us down the street to Hashem for falafel and hummus worthy of a king. No really, the king of Jordan had eaten there. After stuffing ourselves to the gills, it was time for a Jordanian dessert, kanafeh. Deep fried cheese with a crunchy, sugary crust? Yes please.

At this point in the evening, I was starting to lose steam. I had woken up at 3 am that day and wasn't able to get back to sleep. But the students were psyched to show us Roman ruins. On the way to the ruins, though, we had a flat tire instead. The consensus was that the ruins were closed anyway and instead we took a brief detour to the mall, the Taj Mall actually.

I would post some pictures of our visit with the students, but I was shooting in RAW on the camera and it appears I no longer have a RAW editor (read Lightroom) on my computer since it came back from the warranty fix. So those are going to have to wait.

The boss and I are in Algeria now. More action and adventure to come.

Still Moving

Istanbul2AlgiersMap

Monday, November 11, 2013

On the Move

Amman2IstanbulMap

Rookie Mistake (Update)

Typically, when I travel, I don't even bring a hair dryer with me. However, since this was a business trip, I figured I would bring it along and see if it would work.

I am not a total imbecile, though you would have thought so this morning. I know that hair dryers are the sort of appliance that don't work so well when you move between countries due to electricity voltage differences. Just plugging it in with an adapter won't work if the voltage (or is it amperage?) is off. What I didn't take into account is what happens when it doesn't work. I suppose I figured that if it was wrong, it would fry the dryer and I would move on. Well, it did do that, but it also blew a fuse in my room. Something that should not have surprised me.

After a trip to the lobby and a visit from a maintenance man, my room was back up and running. I abandoned the burnt hair dryer to the trash and considered myself lucky that my luggage had just gotten a little lighter.

Then, later this afternoon housekeeping stopped by. They had rescued my hair dryer from the trash and wanted to make sure I had not discarded it by mistake. How incredibly thoughtful of them I suppose. Though it was also a reminder that in addition to being stupid about electricity, I am also wasteful.

Update

Later in the day, one of the housekeepers who had stopped by earlier. Based on uniform and demeanor from my last exchange, I assume he was the housekeeper and the man who did all the talking last time was the manager.

He had returned with a different man and my hairdryer. He wanted me to write a note, but I had no Arabic and he had little English, so he wasn't able to communicate exactly what he was looking for. After an awkward exchange in which he conveyed to me that he wanted me to write a note and it had something to do with security, I assumed that they planned to take my broken hairdryer home and were going to need a note from me to get it past security at the hotel. I could be totally wrong on this, but I wrote a note to that effect.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Day One: Amman

The boss and I arrived in Jordan and at that point, I have no idea what time it was local. Somewhere along the way, I failed to realize that Jordan and Vienna are in different time zones and thought the flight from Vienna to Jordan was going to be like six hours (based on arrival time), but instead, it was about three.

We were, of course, immediately presented with confusing lines. You are not traveling internationally if you haven't been presented with a queue you don't know what to do with. The boss and I got into a line for visas and it dawned on us both that we hadn't really prepared for this trip.

"Do you know how much the visa costs?
"Nope."
"Me either."
"Do you think they take USD?"
"Sure, why not?"
"Is it strange that they didn't have us fill out any forms on the plane?"
"Who knows?"

We weren't in line too long when the consensus came that we in fact needed to pay for the visa in Jordanian dinar (JOD). So we left the line to go to the money changer, still not sure what the cost of the visa was and also unsure what the exchange rate was.

While the boss was still in line for the money exchange, I braved the toilet. Other than a brief queuing issue in which I failed to signal my intent to use an available stall when it came open by standing as close to it as humanly possible (I was standing off at an American distance forming what I thought was a queue and what that woman clearly thought was some sort of weird hobby of hanging out in bathrooms).

Next up, the boss and I got in line for the visas again, only to have two women immediately step in front of us. I was back on my queue A game at that point and refused to give in, standing right next to the woman and inching my way forward trying to insert myself back in. In the end I failed, and they successfully cut us.

We were picked up by one of our summer program students from the past summer. He is studying to become a civil engineer in Amman. His GPS was providing directions to the hotel that either (1) asked him to do impossible things (In one meter, take a sharp left. What, into that concrete barricade?) or (2) that he seemed to be comfortable ignoring. Once we reached the city and were stopped at a light, he announced it was time to use the old-fashioned GPS and leaned out his window to get directions from the driver next to us.

Once at the hotel, it was time for a much needed shower and then off to find some dinner. We immediately discovered we were in some sort of expat area. The first sit-down restaurant we came to was, I shit you not, a Buffalo Wild Wings. Ok, I shit you a little. It was a Buffalo Wings and Rings and had the color theme of bee-dubs. After walking for a little too long, we gave in and went to an expat cafe. I had chicken on a stick with some veggies (and I am pretty sure a vat of mayonnaise on the side). Luckily, we will have the opportunity to eat real Jordanian food tomorrow.

More later.

First Stop

Vienna2AmmanMap

Our first stop on this business trip is Jordan. Still waiting to see if we can meet with the Embassy. As it turns out, Monday is a federal holiday.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Action and Adventure

We're back on the move again. Well, half of us are. Cale will be at home in Bloomington for the next 10 days, but I (Sara) will be traveling for work.

Before I could even start the trip, I needed to have an emergency drive to Chicago. You may remember when we did that before our Thailand trip. This time it was less fruitful.

Thursday afternoon, my passport had still not returned from the Algerian embassy in New York. Oh, wait, I suppose I should mention why the Algerian embassy had my passport.

Work is sending me (along with my boss) to Jordan, Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia. With only two-week lead time, I needed to get an Algeria visa. I overnighted it on Oct. 26th. It arrived on the 28th at 11 am. It was supposed to take five business days to process. Thursday was day nine or seven (depending on who was counting) and it still had not been returned. I had tried calling to no avail and the only response to multiple emails had been the cryptic "Still processing" Thursday morning. The decision was made that if the tracking on the return package did not pop on USPS by the end of the day, I would drive to Chicago on Friday to get an emergency second passport. At 5 pm on Thursday, it still was not in the system.

Things got a little more complicated when it did appear in the system late that night as having left New York. But that was still no guarantee it would arrive. I decided I would check again when I got up at 5 am the next morning. I had to leave the house by 6 am to make my appointment in Chicago. At 5 am and 6 am, the status had not changed. So I headed out. Two hours later, as I was approaching the Indiana wind farm, the tracking told me it was in Indianapolis. No reason to turn around now though.

By the time I made it to Chicago, the tracking showed the package in Bloomington. This is more and more a wasted trip.

Stupidness entailed, I did not get my second passport, my original passport arrived in Bloomington while I was gone, and the office in Chicago still has my birth certificate.

So I drove for eight hours on Friday for no reason, and I made Cale and me late to a dinner party at his boss's house.

Next up, Sara goes to Jordan!