What I have been reading

I have somehow found more time in my day for reading the last few months, which is fantastic. I have not done a good job of keeping up with my reading here, so I wanted to share a list of what I have read in the last six months.

One Hand Does Not Catch a Buffalo, a collection of short stories about PCVs who served in Africa
Zulu Inspired Beadwork: Weaving Techniques and Projects by Diane Fitzgerald
The Complete Short Stories of Edgar Allan Poe by Edgar Allan Poe
Infamous Lady: The True Story of Countess Erzsebet Bathory by Kimberly L. Craft
The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon
Voyager by Diana Gabaldon
Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon
The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon
A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon
Lonely Planet’s Egypt guidebook
The Tutankhamun Deception by Gerald O’Farrell
Cairo Modern by Naguib Mahfouz
Midaq Alley by Naguib Mahfouz
Decoding Egyptian Hieroglyphics by Bridget McDermott
The Secret of the Great Pyramid: How One Man’s Obsession Led to the Solution of Ancient Egypt’s Greatest Mystery by Bob Brier and Jean-Pierre Houdin
Beyond the Sky and the Earth: A Journey into Bhutan by Jamie Zeppa
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Commentary on my reads

The PCV stories really show how the Peace Corps has changed since its inception. I can’t imagine fighting a lion during anyone’s service nowadays.

The beadwork book has been great for learning new styles of beading, and I have many projects from the book still on my list.

Erzsebet Bathory is a wholly fascinating person who may or may not have murdered a whole lot of women and girls.

Howe’s book about Deliverance Dane started my time travelling theme with travels between the Salem-area witch trials and modern times. I really enjoyed this one.

The Outlander books all blend together now, but the story has continued to be good enough and the characters still find plenty of trouble. It is hard to put down, even though each book nears 1,000 pages.

The book about King Tut was fascinating. I could neither confirm nor deny most of the commentary on my trip to Egypt. My guides hadn’t heard of most theories, but nothing in this book seemed implausible. On the other hand, I am 100 percent convinced that Houdin’s theory about pyramid construction is the right one, regardless of what my guides said.

Mahfouz’s books were disappointing.

Zeppa’s book about serving in Bhutan has so many comparisons to life as a PCV. Read it to understand a bit of what our life is like.

And The Alchemist. I easily understand why it is a classic. It was a great read.

What am I currently reading?

The seventh Outlander book, which introduces more characters into the first-person narrative style and helps with preventing the story from dragging.

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Wednesday photo: Indian food

About two months ago I told my newish neighbors that their food always smells so good.

This has started an exchange of Indian and American food that I have thoroughly enjoyed.

Chicken curry with roti

Deep-fried potato-filled deliciousness with mint chili sauce

It’s also nice that I can visit with the people next door instead of sitting at home alone all the time. Having a bit of a family here again is a welcome addition to my day, especially since it never includes loud music at dawn.

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Wednesday photo: Finished jewelry

After about a week and a half, I finished making the bracelet that I mentioned here.

I love the new stitch I learned and the piece grew quickly. I’ve worn it twice this week and I had multiple requests to buy it off my wrist. I hope to make something with the same stitch again soon so that I can perfect my method. I had a hard time keeping the taught-ness steady throughout.

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Wednesday photo: Egyptian street food

Falafel and sugar cane juice were highlights of my trip to Egypt. My guides were always directing us to clean restaurants, but street food often shows how the regular people eat, so I dug in. Everything was delicious, even with the horrible hand hygiene.

Egypt’s green falafel

Sugar cane juice

I made falafel at home and it was good but nothing like what I ate in Egypt. I’ll have to keep trying.

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Wednesday photo: A new beading project

Last night I started a new beading project to match a new shirt that I will wear at Bushfire. The music festival is the place where the PCVs all dress up to the nines, and it will be a great place to show off my jewelry.

All my supplies spread out to help me choose colors and a design.

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to make, and I considered a few patterns from my Zulu beading design book. Ultimately I chose a purportedly-African pattern and switched the three colors to match my shirt.

Of course, the pattern was made with a stitch I haven’t yet learned. I guessed correctly, and started learning even-count peyote. Between a video of the stitch and a document on how to read an even-count peyote pattern, I got started. Except after my first row I realized my pattern wasn’t even-count, but rather odd-count. So I learned the odd-count stitch, which is a bit trickier. The first few rows are a pain, but once I got going, it is quite easy.

The remaining problem will be if I can make enough time in my schedule to finish this before May 25th. Wish me luck!

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Updates on my monthly spending

I’ve been falling behind on all kinds of things here, including my monthly spending posts.

I came in under budget twice since July, which is 10 months. Not so good. Living in town has meant I can more easily find ways to spend money, like at the tailor, grocery store, home goods store, or restaurants. I have also traveled a lot, with 30 days of home leave and 26 vacation days. I also have much more money at my disposal, because my work pays for my utilities and I don’t spend much on transport.

Without further ado, here are my expense reports since July.

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So much food and so little time

When I went on home leave in December and January, sure there were people to see and things to do, but my longest list was of food to eat.

I started working on this list months in advance—I didn’t want to forget anything because I was in a hurry.

My list was broken into restaurants in Ohio and Salt Lake City, food that could be eaten at home, and food to bring back to eSwatini.

I ate nearly everything on my list, although I did actually eliminate one restaurant and never made the time to make buckeyes, and had I had more time in SLC, I could have easily eaten everything on my list there.

My first meal was at a Mexican restaurant in Akron, Ohio, near my parents’ house. For dinner that night we had pulled pork sandwiches with crinkle-cut potato chips and preserved banana peppers from my grandfather’s garden.

Here’s my list:

Ohio restaurants

Melt Bar and Grilled
Sand Bar
Ice cream: Toft’s, blizzard
Buena Vista chicken, jojos, mac and cheese

Food to eat in Ohio

Mozzarella sticks
Corn dog
Raisin bran
Bob’s Red Mill muesli
Aldi’s Nürnberg sausages
Buckeyes; I made a peanut butter pie, instead
Wheat Thins
Cheeze Its
Cheeze Its Ridges white cheddar
Chocolate almond milk
Pulled pork
Coney dog
Tater tot casserole
Beef stroganoff
Brown rice
Chex mix
Tortilla chips

Food in Utah

Red Iguana for both mole and enchiladas potosinas
Wasatch Pizza
Wing Coop
German restaurant
The Store tortilla chips

Food to take to eSwatini

Trail mix
Annie’s boxed mac and cheese
Pasta Sides
Pistachios, almonds, cashews
Cheeze Its Ridges white cheddar
Puppy chow
Corn tortillas

What food from home do you miss the most?

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Surprise in the bathroom

After nearly three years in country, there’s little that happens here that catches me off guard. There’s one problem, though, that always catches me off guard: Swazi women who don’t close the bathroom stall door.

You would think that if you had the option of doing your business behind a closed door, you would, and if it had a lock, you would lock the door shut. For some reason, the women of this country do not agree.

I have been walking in on women sitting on the toilet since I arrived in country. The doors here go all the way to the ground, so there’s no way to peek for feet. And when I use a stall without a lock, I hold it closed with a hand or foot while using the toilet. They don’t do that either!

This is such a big problem with this at work that I have started avoiding any stall in the bathroom that looks remotely closed (pushed closed and not locked, for instance) and go for one that is at least 50 percent open.

This just failed me too, as I walked in on a woman pulling up her undies!

Now that I have been scarred for life, and have scarred all of you (ncesi xem, a Swazi apology), I am hoping that someone has an answer to this or has experienced it somewhere else.

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There’s another Alison out there, and I get her emails all the time

For years I have received the emails of an Alison from the UK with the same last name as me. Her email address is slightly different from mine, and some email systems do not recognize the difference, which means her emails come to me.

Over the years I have learned all kinds of things about her, received her travel documents, been invited on trips, been informed of deaths, received family updates, and a myriad of other things. I think the best email of hers I have received was when she took a course on how to use a wheelchair as a member of the city council. My best responses definitely follow the vacation emails. I respond when I can, sometimes in humor while thanking the sender for the invitation, and sometimes just to let the sender know about the mistake.

In the last couple of weeks the English Alison signed up for UK’s eBay and started purchasing a Playstation2 and a plethora of games. The first one is being delivered today! I wonder if it is her husband, her son, her daughter, or herself who is the new owner of a used Playstation2.

Other Alison

Some of the games purchased this week.

It’s been too many years to keep this topic to myself and these eBay purchases were finally the perfect thing to post about.

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Wednesday photo: Mbabane bus rank

I walk past or through the bus rank here frequently as I go shopping. It can get busy, and transport drivers do many unpredictable things while driving.

I stopped to take this aerial photo from the stairs outside the second floor (or first floor here) entrance.

Fortunately I don’t have to use the bus rank very often thanks to the convenient location of my apartment. I don’t miss it.

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