Friday, January 7, 2011

New Year’s Resolutions

Ah…new year…fresh start. In case you’re still deciding just how you’re going to use the fairly Hallmark excuse to improve your life and become a better person, here are my New Year’s Resolutions:

1. No more cheese. This was brought on because:
     a. Gabby was on vacation all last week
     b. There were 2 1-pound bricks of Vermont cheddar cheese in the fridge
So, for about 9 days straight my meals consisted of: cheese omelet, grilled cheese, mac ‘n cheese. I ate altogether too much cheese to be considered a healthy person in any form. Also, Rwandan cheese is terrible – so there’s no reason for me to add unnecessarily ridiculous forms of fat into my diet if I don’t even enjoy it. I’ll have another avocado per day instead.

2. Tell myself every morning that “I volunteer in Africa” is no reason to live like a slob and to remind myself to “Dress for the job I want, not the job I have.” Okay…so maybe I won’t wear the suits that I’ll be wearing as a Fortune 500 CEO, but I really should stop trying to disguise yoga pants are proper work attire. And I’m aiming to shower at least 4 times a week. In an effort to supercharge this goal, I even shaved my legs today! Potentially for the first time in 3 months.

3. No more alcohol until I take the GMAT. Every hour drunk and every hour hungover in my bed are hours I could have spent studying. I am trying to set reasonable expectations for myself (I gave up on the goal of a perfect score when I found out that nobody at Tuck had received one), but I should really capitalize on the 8am – 5pm work schedule and do well.

4. Run a marathon. I’m an idiot. I know.

5. Thank God a little more in my prayers. Without grace, prayers seem to focus way too much on asking God for things: look after my family, give me strength, give me knowledge, give me guidance – and not enough on thanking Him for what we already have, which is…a lot.

So with that, I cheers (with my non-alcoholic beverage) to 2011 – may it be a good year!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Nerd Fail

My not-so-big confession about living with an MIT alum is that I am always conflicted between teasing him for being such a nerd and fighting feelings of inferiority for not being a nerd on nearly the same level. Example:
Perhaps you remember the story about my iPod blaster breaking ~5 seconds after I plugged it into the 240W outlet. Whoops. After telling Marvin of this sadness, he took it from me and told me that he’d fix it. A few weeks later, I saw parts of it lying on his bed. It looked impressive. I asked him how it was going.

“Oh yeah…I’m not sure I’m going to be able to fix this…I think my ammeter might be broken.”

External response: “You brought an ammeter with you from the US? …

Internal response: “That’s so cool! I can’t believe he has such confidence about fixing this! I can’t believe he thought ahead to bring an ammeter to Rwanda! I totally wish I thought it was fun to play with ammeters – then I might have similarly been heavily recruited by Goldman to work on their electronic trading systems! Marvin’s so cool!”

External response cont’d: … Nerd.”

Sometimes it’s too difficult for me to hide my jealousy or, rather, my competing nerdiness. Such as when Marvin starts discussing Macros and I can’t hold back: I just want to learn how to use them, so I start peppering him with questions while the rest of the staff, who got lost at “open Excel”, put their headphones back on.

Most recently, Marvin made a comment about the keyboard set-up that he uses: it’s designed to be more efficient than the standard QWERTY keyboard.

Here’s my moment of nerdiness: I HATE QWERTY keyboards! …and most other people don’t know what they are… (They’re standard keyboards that have “QWERTY” in the left of the top row…look down.) Talk about stupid inefficiencies and conforming to industry standards – did you know that QWERTY keyboards were PURPOSELY MADE TO BE INEFFICIENT? And yet here we are in the age of technology and efficiency…still using the damned things. Literally, they were designed to slow down typists by placing frequently used letters in awkward locations because typists were typing too quickly and kept on jamming up the type-writers. (On that topic…I also hate using 2 spaces between sentences, because that practice was initiated for the same reason.)

Back to the office…

So when Marvin mentioned his more efficient way of typing, I was quite ecstatic…even though this was obviously another example of how my JV nerdiness (knowledge of how inefficient QWERTY keyboards are) compares with his Varsity nerdiness (installing a more efficient keyboard on his computer to address the inefficiencies of the QWERTY keyboard). While everybody else passed us the judging looks that are usually associated with our conversations about decision trees and HTML script (check out – my newest pride is the “Our Model” section), I scrambled over to Marvin’s workspace (consists of 4 computers) to learn how to download this magical keyboard onto my computer.

Oversight: Despite being designed to be inherently more efficient, my new keyboard (the “Dvorak” – as compared to Marvin’s “Colemak” keyboard, which is designed to be more efficient for programmers who use symbol keys more frequently) forces me to write at about 10wpm because surprise-surprise I haven’t been using it for 10 years and don’t naturally know where the keys are. (Although it is a little fun to guess, based on how frequently the letter is used, where it should be on the keyboard – especially given that I didn’t re-label the keys when I made the switch.) Compare this with trying to pick up a new language, whose grammar rules make more sense than the crazy rules in English, in a day – expecting it to be natural because the language is supposedly easier. Yeah…I’m pretty stupid.

I struggled through one night of typing lessons, a few painful g-chat conversations, and one page of the 25 page Annual Report before giving up, giving in, and making the switch back to QWERTY.

Today, Marvin asked me how my Dvorak was going.

“Yeah…” I told him, “…I’m back to QWERTY…It was just kind of hard to make the switch when I had so much work to do.”

“Oh,” he said, “yeah…well I did do it while working 90+ hours a week at Goldman, but I guess I understand.”

Obviously, there was only one response for me to fall back on at this point: “Nerd.”

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Muzungu Dance

Around December 30th, I convinced Rene – essentially my only friend in Rwanda during the holidays – that he did not actually want to go to the (fucking) Congo for New Year’s Eve…that he actually wanted to spend it in Musanze WITH ME. Not only would New Year’s in the (fucking) Congo have been potentially the stupidest thing that I’ve done in my life (right up there with a few SAS adventures and 90% of my Senior Spring)(I could just see the headlines: “Stupid American Kidnapped in Congo over NYE” with the commentary “What was the girl doing in the Congo in the first place?”), but it would have been pretty difficult for me to get there in the first place. To prove that you’re not some journalist or photographer trying to get into the Congo, you have to prove residency in a neighboring country (including Resident Visa, Working Permit, and bank account records) and show an invitation letter from a Congolese citizen who would take responsibility for all your actions – to apply for the $120 one-month single-entry tourist Visa. In some ways, this does show improvement in the governing of the (fucking) Congo:

1. It actually had standards – 2 years ago when Zack first went to the Congo, he bribed the guy at border with $40.

2. It shows some sort of working bureaucratic system. Heck, these rules aren’t written anywhere on a Congolese website – I got them from the Kigali ex-pat web forum – but it does imply that Congo has some sort of functional embassy in at least some foreign countries.

I’m not sure which government (or mining company) these embassies report to, but that’s beside the point…what I see here is PROGRESS.

Moving on… I’m not sure I can credit my convincing skills as much as Rene’s 2 day hangover from his Christmas weekend in Burundi, but whatever the reason…he did decide to stay in Musanze with me. I was especially happy about this because, 4 months later, Kigali remains a miserable city that I associate with heat, bureaucracy, and nothing else.

9pm on New Year’s Eve, Rene and I cheersed each other with the nips that my mom sent over for Christmas. Rene couldn’t even finish one because it was “shitty girly shit.” I reminded him that he drank Banana Beer; but he did not understand the obvious parallel.

Then we headed to…of course…the local bar that I go to 2+ times a week. Because where else to bring in the New Year but a place where I’m served a Mutzig before I even sit down? (Btw – the “local bar” is actually called “Volcana Lounge” and, in an effort to make my life seem classier, I’ve decided to refer to it exclusively as “The Lounge” from now on.)

At first, we moved on to beer (Liquor before beer – you’re in the clear! I was making good decisions.), but then we decided to spice things up by spiking our beers with the nips that we had brought along.

It wasn’t long before I thought I was good at pool and challenged Rene to a game – which turned into 3 because I kept on insisting that he was winning by a fluke. I think to end my ridiculousness, he won the last game before I had even gotten A ball in. (I am categorically not good at pool – however, I actually have a winning record because of my ability (? boobs?) to get my opponents to scratch on the 8-ball.)

As if playing pool a sign enough of my drunkenness, I then thought I could and should dance.

Which was obviously hilarious to begin with, and just turned amazing when the performers for the evening came on stage.

One of them wanted to show off a new move…it was called the “Muzungu Dance.”(Ironically, on my Weeds binge, I had just finished “the brick dance” episode, where Nance dances for Guillermo.)

I got very excited about this, and informed the people standing around me that I was a muzungu – in case they didn’t already know – because I was so excited that he made a dance for/about ME.

And then…the shining moment of my life came: he asked for a muzungu to come up and demonstrate with him. I was on stage before he finished the request. He asked me to demonstrate the “Muzungu dance” and then they turned on the music. In the back of my mind, I knew that this was somehow making fun of me, so I decided to disappoint by showing off stellar dance moves. Unfortunately (obviously), in the moment, I couldn’t think of anything to do except alternately pump my fists in the air and kind of shake the rest of my body. Stellar. I bet, totally NOT what he was expecting. He then imitated my moves, but actually added some rhythm to it, and introduced the new “Muzungu dance” to the people at “The Lounge.” Still, I knew that this was making fun of me…but I couldn’t quite pinpoint how, so I just beamed with pride and looked for Rene in the audience to celebrate with me.

Rene was nowhere to be seen. All at once, my mind went on overdrive: Rene didn’t see my muzungu dance, Rene abandoned me, Rene had my money, Rene didn’t see my muzungu dance, Rene had my phone, Rene wouldn’t be able to ward off scary men who wanted to dance with me/marry me, Rene didn’t see my muzungu dance.

I went on a mission to find him, checking the kitchen first. They do love me at The Lounge, but not enough to let me act as a sous-chef on a whim. I was kicked out of the kitchen and told that Rene was outside. “Which outside??” I was very concerned. But not for long…because I did pretty quickly find Rene standing right outside the door, where he apparently PURPOSEFULLY went to AVOID watching my muzungu dance.

This put me in a sad mood.

But then it was midnight! Oddly, there was no announcement for this, Rene just showed me his phone. We super-awkwardly hugged, and started making plans for going home. After all, my night could only go downhill after some Rwandan rock-star coined a dance after me…