February 28, 2007

African Names

I believe I already mentionned how tough it was to recruit partners in African countries, when everyone seems to have a combination of 3 first and 5 last names. In West Africa for example, imagine having to keep track of Mamadou Diallo, Seydou Li, and Li Diallo's paperwork. Utter Nightmare.

Today, I am preparing paperwork for a lady called Jeanne d'Arc Atanganamadi*. Joan of Arc Atanganamadi. That's a tough name to carry!

*Not the real last name but a similar combination of vowels and consonants.

February 23, 2007

Washington DC is kicking my ass

I am getting increasingly depressed about my joblessness. OK so I work part-time in a good firm that has offered me a job. But filling-out recruitment paperwork and ordering supplies from Staples really isn’t what I want to do.

This last week I have had a few interviews but people are ehming and ahing about offering me anything concrete. I don’t understand it. I mean, I:

-have shown to be very competent at work
-have work references that only say good things about me
-interview well, am polite but driven when talking to recruiters
-have pretty good hygiene (I wear deodorant, wash my hair, clip my nails and wear tasteful make-up)
-have 3 years work experience, including 2 years abroad
-am bilingual French/English
-graduated with good marks from Hopkins University
-am actively networking to make job connections.

Could it be that I am making people jealous? Is it pure bad luck? Do I have a piece of spinach stuck between my front teeth?

I just don’t know. But Washington DC is kicking my ass. Big time.

February 22, 2007


Last night, a friend and I were listening to some music from a Malian guy with a little bit of guitar mixed into the usual drums and kora. It instantly transported me back to the Sahel, with its Muslim influences, smiling faces, and warm, orange, sandy breezes. My heart-rate slowed down and I was entranced by the moment.

February 18, 2007

Fair and Balanced (part 2)

If you haven't yet read the first "Fair and Balanced" post, please catch up on the latest Columbia Heights gossip here.

Two days ago, this was posted on our house door:

It reads:

"To Whomever shoveled the steps.
Please be aware that two people live on the ground floor and you shoveled the ice right onto the steps, effectively causing even more of a hazard"


February 17, 2007

It's my Birthday Today

So, I have the dissapointing obligation to tell you that it's my birthday today. And, as in all the years before, I try to forget about it because I always feel depressed on February the 17th (I know it's weird, but then again, one of my friends feels the same way about Christmas).

Unfortunately, I have nice friends and family that call me up and leave me emails of congratulations. Congratulations for having been born 29 years ago. For having successfully passed through the birth canal. Birthday celebrations are so weird.

So thank you all for your phone calls and emails, and I hope you can forgive me if I haven't replied to them yet. I still have to get over the shock of being a year older.

February 15, 2007

Fair and Balanced

So I've talked shit about my neighborhood for a little while now. But I feel I have to counter with positive things that are happening here too. To keep it fair and balanced.

I just came home from an interview (in black suit, winter jacket and tennis shoes) and optimitistically stopped at a hardware store to pick up a shovel and some de-icing salt. Now, I am getting pretty broke so I chose the smallest shovel and a few pounds of salt.

I get home, hoping to de-ice the thick layers that have solidified on our steep stairs (imagine me holding onto the railing with dear life every morning for work). Well, it seems like optimism got the better of me. No sooner had I finished sprinkling the stairs, that I run out of salt and notice that I haven't bought enough after all. I feel like I used table salt because I barely managed to make a dent in the ice.

I start using my trusty shovel but not amount of shoveling will budge that rock-like ice. Then I really start madly hitting the surface with the sharp sides of the shovel and soon enough, ice sprays are flying around my deranged face. I feel like Glen Close with her rabbit in the movie Fatal Attraction. After all that panting, I am ready to cry: very little has been dislodged.

Then some neighborhood kids run up to me and say "Miss, miss, can we do that for you?". A little taken aback, I say "well sure but let me check whether I have cash to give you". They respond "well that's alright, we'll still start shoveling". In a matter of minutes, the kids start discuss the problem, and get the stairs cleared in no time. I really can't afford to be spending any money right now, but they were so efficient and willing to help that I gave them $10. And took a picture too.

View from my window. The kids are discussing how to approach the problem

Still, I'm convinced they managed to shovel quickly because I "loosened" the ice.


I forgot to mention that I spent last weekend in sunny Mexico for my cousin's wedding. Please remind me to update my blog soon!

And I will try my best not to steal her thunder :)

February 14, 2007

Mentally Handicapped

My computer is being retard... is being mentally-handicapped. Ever since our computer guy has decided to "add memory, you'll see it'll go much faster*", it hums and haws and then freezes completely.

I have already stopped and started it three times manually (yes, even the CTRL + ALT + DEL feature does not work). This always happen. From now on, I'm just going to assume that computer guys say the exact opposite then they really mean.

*Real quote

A Wintery Mix

It's that time of year again the first snow of the season is falling and everyone is freaking out. To give credit to overly scared people, the roads have not been plowed and are very icy and wet, leading to a number of car accident and slips on the sidewalks. I cannot understand how the capital of the wealthiest country in the world is incapable of snowplowing.

Anyways, the news stations are loving the ensuing panick and describing the weather in dramatic terms. Except that you really need to work hard to make the weather an exciting topic of conversation.

So they've decided to throw around a new word: wintery mix. As in: "the weather this morning is treacherous, we are seeing a wintery mix on the highways. Be safe out there folks, it's an accident waiting to happen".

So, for your learning pleasure, here is wintery mix, defined by me: "A mix of snow, ice and slush that generally occur during winter".

Please use it at will, in panicky situation to create mayhem of dismay over normal winter conditions.

February 07, 2007

God Services

I was assisting an employee in filling out recruitment papers for staff on the field.

She went through a long list of people to hire:
-A Secretary in Benin,
-Business Development Officer and Driver in Mali,
-God Services in Senegal,
-Program Officer in Niger.

I dutifully write this down and do a double-take at the “God Services”. Rather idiotically, I reply “God Services? Is that even possible?”. Instinctively, I wonder how much we’ve budgeted for that.

She doesn’t flinch and repeats “Guards services, we need guard services”.


February 06, 2007

Trouble in the Heights

While I am in the living room sipping on my tea and checking my emails, a cop car knocks on my neighbor's house. While he is waiting for someone in the house, two more cop cars arrive in the street, followed by a cop van with metallic grates. This is when I decide to put my tea down and unashamedly gawk at the scene unraveling in front of my eyes.

The neighbor's son is being literally carried in shackles by the cops and placed into a cop van (one cop for the legs, the other for the trunk, and the last one for the shoulders and head). Over the sounds of the wailing man, the mom shouts at the remaining cop ladies in Spanish and they answer her calmly in fluent Spanish. Columbia Heights is so multicultural!

A lady passing by, unfazed by the scene (which she's probably witnessed a few times before), picks up one of his dropped Timberland shoes and hands it to one of the cops. He unlaces it and brings it over to the van.

Last night as well, while I was apparently sleeping like the dead, my roommate witnessed a cop chase in the parking lot in front of our house. She says that, in addition to the cops, metro guards were also recruited for the chase.

Man, I knew what I was getting myself into by living in this area, but I'm now realizing that my rent is waaaaay to high. This sure ain't 90210, so why am I paying Beverly Hills prices?