Friday, March 30, 2012

A Brief History Lesson: Carthage

Before we headed to Sousse, we spent a little time in Carthage, or at least what remains of it. Tunis surrounds these ruins and you can literally be filling your tank up with gas and have a 2000 year old building next to you. This always boggles my mind.

SIDE NOTE: If you have ever wanted to know what a Tunisian license plate looks like, here you go. And you're welcome.

As a brief history lesson (hey, it was my major, history lessons are what I live for. Well, those and double fudge brownies, but that is neither here nor there), Carthage was founded in 814 B.C. and quickly rose to power. However, centuries of war and power struggles saw Carthage ruined and defeated, only to have Rome rebuild the city and make it powerful once again. By 44 B.C., it became the capital of the Roman North Africa.

Not all was hunky dunky because idol worship and pagan gods were introduced to the society, making early Christians targets for persecution. Gladiators and lions, Christians and slaves, all took to numerous arenas to keep the masses entertained.

This is the amphitheater where Perpetua and her maidservant Felicity were executed. They are still regarded as two of the most beloved martyrs of all time. Their story is quite amazing, I would highly recommend reading it.

These are the remains of a cistern that was under the city. When Christianity was outlawed, Christians would come here to pray.

Vicki and I, just hanging out in the cistern.

These are the wildflowers around the top of the cistern. So pretty.

Only a few yards away, lie the ruins of one of the first Christians churches in all of North Africa. It is believed that this is where discussions on canonizing the New Testament began.

And here are the remains of the Carthage baths. This once great city was built right on the Mediterranean coast.

And next to the baths, inside that white wall, is the house of the ex-president Ben-Ali. It is surrounded by guards but is unoccupied.

Ruins, young and old. Men, once powerful, are nothing more than a blade of grass...trampled on by tourists in big, white tennis shoes.

State of Things

We are in the middle of Day 2 of our conference in Sousse. So far, it has been extremely informative and inspirational. There is so much potential in this country! It is on the brink of major change and there is a mix of expectation, skepticism and hesitant hope among the population. There are a lot of critical decisions that must be made in order for the country to embrace its potential and a lot of hard work awaits anyone who lives and works here.

In the matter of a few days, I feel like I have gotten an entire semester worth of history, politics, sociology and international relations. Graduate school is highly overrated.

Like any conference, these two days have consisted of a lot of sitting. I have become quite familiar with the view out of a certain window of the hotel. I can see a dilapidated building under construction, palm trees and a garden. However, the conference officially ends its sessions today and the next two days will be spent visiting the projects around the country.

The hotel is full of tourists from Europe, Australia and other North African countries so it is almost like being at the U.N. (not that I have ever been to the U.N., but whatever). At any given time, you can hear five languages being spoken and none of them are English. People are very surprised to hear that I am from the U.S. since there are so few Americans that come here to visit. And the Tunisians always ask if I live in California or New York. Apparently Denver is not in enough movies for it to be popular.

The hotel is also really great at serving french fries with almost every meal. But there is not a drop of ketchup to be found. You may want to bring your own when you come.


I realize that this is a very random post but I am trying to keep it real for you. Some days of my life are actually spent sitting, even if I am surrounded by foreign accents and french fries.

Almost Famous

One of the main speakers at this conference looks and sounds exactly like Bill Nighy from Love Actually. Every time he speaks, I laugh inside.

Seriously, the resemblance is uncanny.

I love my job.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

For the Love of a Shawarma

I love a good sharwma. Most Middle Eastern and North and West African countries have their own variation of them but they are basically shaved mutton or turkey, roasted and juicy, wrapped in handmade flat bread and often grilled or pressed. Many countries also include french fries and some kind of sauce, like hummus or tahini. They are our version of a burrito or wrap and they are might, mighty tasty.

Yesterday, we stopped at a small shop to grab a few shawarmas as we headed south out of Tunis to our conference in Sousse. And let me tell you something, they did not disappoint! They were warm, toasty and fabulous, stuffed with roasted turkey, cabbage, hummus and french fries.

These were our fearless cooks who patiently created my shawarma while I royally butchered my attempts at French and Arabic:

These girls were not shy! They asked me to take their picture over and over again. I was happy to oblige.

If I lived here, I would come here daily. And I'd probably hang out with these girls on a regular basis. I'm pretty sure I could role with them.


My Grandpa, my dad's dad, was a World War II hero. He was a bomber pilot who was shot down over Austria, captured and was held as a prisoner by the Germans until the war was over. He kept a diary of his time in prison and it contains some of the most powerful words I have ever read. My Grandpa was strong, stoic and so very brave.

During his service as a pilot, he at one time flew in and out of Tunis. Today we got to explore the only U.S.-owned property in Tunisia: the U.S. WW II Memorial. It is so beautiful and humbling.

There are over 2,800 graves on the property...

Some highly decorated...

Some completely unknown.

But all of them honored and remembered.

There is a wall that contains 3,724 names of soldiers who are missing, buried somewhere unknown. But they are each remembered by name, carved in stone for the world to see.

I never realized how great a role Tunisia and other parts of North Africa played in the war. But this mosaic shows just how involved they were:

This could be one of my favorite stops on this trip. I was so proud to walk on this piece of land, to see men and women honored for their courage and to see a country recognized for it's sacrifice.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The City of Blue

Greetings from the world's most comfortable bed in the heart of Tunis!

It's amazing what a plate a food and a hot shower can do to you when you haven't slept in a few days. To say that my friends/colleagues/tour guides have the gift of hospitality is an understatement. I think it should be an international law to serve homemade lasagna to people with jet lag. It just makes sense, doesn't it?

My colleague Vicki and I are traveling this trip together. She is originally from Nebraska but I try not to hold that against her. We had smooth flights from Denver to Minneapolis to Paris to Tunis and we even managed to squeeze in a chocolate croissant (or two) during our Parisian layover. Those and a Dixie cup of coffee only cost us $35.

On the flight over the pond, I sat next to a nice man name Ahmed, who has five kids and is originally from Syria but owns two Greek restaurants in Minneapolis, and was on his way to start a new franchise in Saudi Arabia. He invited me to come to his restaurant if I am ever in Minneapolis. You should too if you re ever out that way. I bet he makes a wicked tasty baklava.

Once we landed in Tunis, we unloaded our bags and hit the ground running, visiting the old part of the city. It is absolutely breathtaking. And they make a mean donut that may make you want to move here altogether. Here are few straight-out-of-the-camerashots of this beautiful city:

We enjoyed a cup of hot green mint tea with pine nuts. I know it sounds funky, but it is delicious!

Here is Vicki, me and Laina, our hostess and all-around fabulous new friend And here she is with her dad, our Regional Director for North Africa:

Gorgeous plates and mosaics...

A few shiny bangles...

And yet another mysterious blue door. Wouldn't you love to have one for yourself? The world needs more blue doors. They just make you happy.

Okay, the Ambien has hit and I must bid you good night. But I will be back tomorrow as we explore Carthage and head down the coast for our conference in Sousse. Thanks for being such great cheerleaders!

Enjoy your day...zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...

Monday, March 26, 2012

Leaving On A Jet Plane Courtesy of Delta

Hello friends.

Here I am, sitting at DIA, thinking about all the things I forgot and wondering how soon is too soon to take an Ambien. However, I do have a layover in Minnesota and I would really hate to be that girl they can't wake up and has drooled on the airplane window. That is not something I want to leave the next passenger nor do I want to end up on the news.

If you are headed to the airport today, please take note that it is ridiculously crowded. Apparently everyone thought it would be fun to hop on a plane today. You can't blame them, there is something incredibly exciting about traveling.

So hopefully this will be the first of many posts about this adventure. I promised Noah I would bring him a baby camel so there is at least a story or two there. Enjoy your Monday and pray that no drooling is involved in the next 24 hours.

You guys rock.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Great Set-Up: Part 2

Hello friends! I am here to report that I am still in Colorado. I know that I should be on the road driving through the nightmare that is Kansas right now, but apparently I am not Superwoman and could not get everything accomplished I needed to before Monday.

I hate when my limits and lack of ability slap me in the face. Apparently my expectations of myself greatly exceeded what I was actually capable of doing. And at the end of the day yesterday, I was disappointed that I couldn't be all and do all.

But then God reminded me that that was His job, not mine.

Forehead slap.

Apparently it takes me leaving the country to realize that. Stupid short-term memory. But I will say that I am thankful to have an extra three days to do laundry and sleep and maybe finish this grant proposal. And all of those things are important.

Now, on to other news...

I am sure you all are anxious to know about the blind date (or maybe not, I don't know). But after weeks of promoting, marketing, questioning, resumé-submitting, faxing and phone-calling, my Aunt Marge called me to say that...

...he has a girlfriend.

Yep. A girlfriend. And all I can say to that is PRAISE THE GOOD LORD for the vetting process because that could have been EXTREMELY AWKWARD. Even more than just a normal blind date and we all know how ridiculous those can be. So it turned out that postponing this trip had absolutely no impact on my love life, or lack there-of.



My Aunt Marge has not given up. She is a woman on a mission and I love her even more for it! She now has her sights (quite literally) set on her opthamologist. She has even sent me the link to see his work's website so I can see his picture, although I admit I have not had time to do this yet. But I plan to before I leave on Monday. And now that it looks like we will be going to Oklahoma in April, this gives her plenty of time to vet him properly. This is going to be good, I just know it!

So I promise I will keep you posted on this, my piles of laundry and my travels in the next few weeks! I don't know how reliable my internet connection will be but I will do my best to show you all the sights and sounds that North Africa has to offer. My peanut butter and I are looking forward to it.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

I Am Trying to Conserve My Energy

In an effort to try to conserve energy amidst my craziness, I have copied and pasted my blog post from yesterday along with an update. I realize I may have hit a new low in the blogging world with copying and pasting, but I do it to bring you closure because you all know how important closure is to me. It is darn important.

So, here we go. Prepare to be amazed.

1. Fix a zipper on one of my favorite pairs of shoes.
Thanks to my fabulous friend Melissa (more on her in a minute), I have taken said shoe to the repair people near Yogurtland and it should be ready on Saturday. However, since I will be in the great state of Oklahoma, my darling sister Claire will pick it up for me. I know getting a shoe fixed is really not that big of a deal, but I like this shoe, especially for travel. I can honestly tell you that my entire trip is based around shoe choices. They are crucial to a good travel experience.

2. Fix my car that is now leaking oil.
I took my car in to the repairman after work yesterday and they just called to say that it will be ready after 4:00 pm. Oh, this is really good news! I am not ashamed to admit that I am completely dependent on my car.

3. Pack for two trips.
Nope. Haven't started.

4. Write a grant proposal.
I am knee-deep into this process right now. I admit, grant proposals are not my fave but they are oh-so important. And there are some amazing fruit farmers in Central Asia who could really use this funding.

5. Get my foot x-rayed.
I did and I am happy to report that it is NOT BROKEN!! Bust out the good stuff because this is cause for celebration! It was a bit touch-and-go before the x-rays came back and my doc was throwing words around like "walking boot" and "cast" and it made me want to curl up into a ball and cry. But thankfully it is just a bad sprain and I have permission to hobble around Tunisia.

6. Finish making 30 enchiladas for friends that I love and adore.
People, I love to cook and bake. And since I was car-less last night, I spent the entire evening making enchiladas and these smack-yo-mama dessert bars that are out of this world. I have three amazing friends who are having babies and enchiladas are the perfect baby food. And to make my night even better, one of these sweet preggo friends (the aforementioned Melissa) texted me to say that her baby boy had entered this world just before midnight! I already love him with my whole heart. And once I get my car, I'm off to snuggle with him and smell his head.

7. Finalize a blind date.
My Aunt Marge just left me a voicemail about this so-called blind date. This makes me nervous. I'll have to call her and get back to you.

8. Scrub out my crock pot.
I did. It is sparkling. And thank you Sara for volunteering. You rock.

9. Buy a few shirts.
I literally limped quickly through Target yesterday and found two shirts but I am taking one of them back. The other one I am currently wearng because I feel like I have absolutely NO CLOTHES. Oh, the drama.

10. Pick up a prescription of Ambien.
This will hopefully happen after work once my car is ready to go. I plan on sleeping the entire width of the Atlantic Ocean. I may even snuggle with the person next to me. Let's hope he's cute.

11. Go to Oklahoma.
This will happen in T-minus 2 days.

12. Go to Tunisia.
This will happen in T-minus 5 days.

13. Eat.
This is an ongoing process. I ate cookie dough for dinner last night. True story. And it was delicious.

14. Sleep.
I could use more of this. I am hoping the Ambien will help.

15. Maybe cry.
This still eludes me. I am naturally not a crier but I may have to bust this out soon. A good cry is so cleansing, don't you think?

Hopefully you are still awake after reading this. Thank you to all who have volunteered to help me. Seriously, you are so wonderful. I know my life isn't the only one that is crazy right now, but it sure makes it better when people volunteer to clean your crock pot.

That could almost be a country song.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Chaos is Currently Reigning

Guys. I have some chaos happening right now. I don't know what to do first. Currently my to-do list looks like this:

1. Fix a zipper on one of my favorite pairs of shoes.

2. Fix my car that is now leaking oil.

3. Pack for two trips.

4. Write a grant proposal.

5. Get my foot x-rayed.

6. Finish making 30 enchiladas for friends that I love and adore.

7. Finalize a blind date.

8. Scrub out my crock pot.

9. Buy a few shirts.

10. Pick up a prescription of Ambien.

11. Go to Oklahoma.

12. Go to Tunisia.

13. Eat.

14. Sleep.

15. Maybe cry.

Any thoughts on where I should begin? Feel free to re-arrange my list for me. Or, better yet, feel free to do my list for me.

You are the absolute best.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Top Ten: My Thoughts on Ally McBeal

I have had some time on my hands lately. It's a season, I know, but it has forced me to sit still and be quiet. However, I am not always the best at just sitting so I decided that since I do not have a television, I would see what Hulu Plus could offer me.

And wouldn't you know it, it recommended Ally McBeal.

I never watched this show when it was actually on TV. I think I was finishing high school or maybe starting college and it just didn't seem relevant to my teenage angst. However, I just finished the first season and I am totally hooked! It is a literal goldmine of unique characters and horrible fashion choices. The plot lines are so ridiculous that they almost seem real.

It is really a very funny show.

So, without further ado, here are my thoughts:

1. Ally's lips drive me crazy. She looks like a sucker fish. I know this is part of her character, but seriously. Rein them in, sister.

2. The unisex bathroom is both awesome and disturbing. But I happen to love it for this show because so much of the good stuff happens in there. How would you feel about it? I am thinking that my bathroom phobia would grow exponentially.

3. WHAT IS WITH THE SHOES? Really? Did we actually wear those chunky loafer shoes with the ginormous heels? Was that the best we could do? Apparently it was. I am so sorry, fashion world.

4. The Biscuit is phenomenal. From his automatic toilet bowl flusher to his nose whistle to his isometrics in the bathroom stall, he could be my favorite character. He has such a good heart and knows how to make one killer closing argument.

5. I want to find a place where I can go and listen to live music every night and everyone there finds it perfectly acceptable to dance. C'mon Denver, let's do this.

6. Ally's love life could use my Aunt Marge.

7. Ally's skirts are completely ridiculous. They are barely wider than a belt. How did she sit down or bend over? I haven't quite figured out the logistics on that one.

8. Elaine's inventions are ingenious. My favorite is the face bra but the CD of man sounds is a close second.

9.  The Biscuit and Allys' therapist is superb! I love that she asks them to pick a theme song for their lives.We all need theme songs, don't you think? I am pretty sure mine would be "All the Single Ladies" or "I Will Survive." Either one.

10. Billy is a big wimpy weeny. I do not understand what all the fuss is about. Man up and stop being so dramatic!

Oh, there are so many more things I could write about, but I will stop there. So, have you watched the show? Did you love it or hate it? Or do you only wish that I would find a new hobby? Either way, I am all ears.

And Happy Friday.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

I Repeat: I Am Not Swimsuit Ready

I just got word today that this is where I will be staying for part of my time in Tunisia.


I can barely hobble down the sidewalk let alone strut around in a swimsuit. And for the record, I have never "strutted." I am more of a cowerer. I am sure everyone will thank me for this since I have practically eaten my way through this winter.

Well, the upside is that the Mediterranean does look especially appealing. And who knew Tunisia had water slides and paragliding? It's almost like I am taking a trip to Disneyland and not some post-revolutionary Arabic country.

These things truly boggle my mind.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Great Set-Up: Part I

I consider it a high form of flattery when people want to set me up with eligible men. For the most part, I trust these people who have taken time out of their day to think about me and my future marital bliss. They don't have to, you know. And really, I have nothing to lose, in less of course the eligible man is an ax murderer. But let's hope not.

So, when my Aunt Marge contacted me a few weeks ago to tell me she had just the fella for me, I immediately gave her my blessing because there is nothing quite as fun or interesting as seeing who your very own flesh and blood will pick out for you. It is one part terrifying and one part entertaining.

And my life could use a little of both these days, so bring it on.

However, this set-up has become a bit more involved than I anticipated. I am heading down to Oklahoma next weekend and this potential suitor/ax murderer and I are supposed to meet while I am there. However, my Aunt Marge is covering all of her bases, including faxing me a picture of him to my office and sending me his resumé. I kid you not, the fax should arrive any minute now.

And she has also vetted me out as well, which is funny since you would think my aunt would already know everything about me. But this time she is putting it all in writing so she can present me in the most accurate light possible. I do absolutely adore her for this. The process of this potential date is more fun than the actual date because we all know that blind dates can be the most awkward form of human interaction on the face of the planet.

So. Very. Awkward.

On Saturday, as I was buying a few things for my upcoming trip to Tunisia, I received a phone call from Aunt Marge and it went something like this:

Marge: "Hello Saree!" (She has always called me 'Saree.' No one else does and I love it.)

Me: "Hi Aunt Marge. How are you?"

Marge: "I am doing fine. Listen, I am calling to talk to you about this boy I want you to meet. I am going over to visit with his parents tonight and I am taking them your resumé and a 8x10 picture of you. Your hair looks so pretty in this picture."

Me: "Oh wow, thank you. Are you sure they want to know all of this stuff?"

Marge: "Well, it doesn't hurt. So, I had your cousin find out information on exactly what you do for a job and I have written down that you have traveled to many different countries. I am also mentioning that you salsa dance, or is it the rumba? And I will tell them you also like horses."

Me: "Thanks. Yeah, just tell them I work in international development. You don't need to read them our mission and vision statement. And yes, I do like to salsa dance and I do love horses."

Marge: "Now, what I am thinking is that his parents will give him all this information about you and show him your picture and if he is interested, he can call you. Is that okay if I give them your cell phone number?"

Me: "Oh sure, that's fine. You can also give him my email since that is slightly less intimidating."

Marge: "And do you want me to say anything else about your education or what you do for fun?"

Me: "Oh gosh. Well, just tell him that I have a good sense of humor and that I can make a mean cupcake."

Marge: "Okay, got it. Mean cupcake."

Me: You know what, Aunt Marge, I trust you. You will do great. You know me so just tell them what you want to tell them."

Marge: "Oh sweetie, thank you. I will do my very best."

And with that, she hung up.

But then she called two more times just to make sure she had her facts straight. I tell you, if this isn't love, then I don't know what is.

The next day we called her to see how the dinner went and she said it was absolutely wonderful. The parents love me and they are going to do all they can to have the son ask me out while I am there (which is only going to be for 48 hours). Of course I could be offended by the fact that four adults are practically begging this guy to ask me to grab a Dr. Pepper at the Pizza Hut, but I choose to look at this as an opportunity feel adored. And if nothing else, at least I know I am represented well.

So stay tuned! I have no idea how this will turn out. It may be a complete flop or I may just be 10 days away from meeting my soul mate. It's a total toss up.

The picture just arrived via fax and even though he is a bit blurry, he does not look like a murderer. Things are looking up.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

I'll Pretend I Have Swagger

I have sprained my foot, my right foot. The one that I broke four years ago and couldn't use for five months and was completely dependent on everyone to drive me everywhere all the time.

The only bonus was that I had ginormous triceps by the end of those five months. However, I haven't seen them since.

Good grief, this right foot has been through a lot.

As with the broken foot, I don't know how I sprained it this time. All I know was that I was on the treadmill and I was actually running and by the end of the run my foot was hurting. I thought it may be my running shoes so I loosened the laces and hobbled out of the gym looking forward to some ibuprofen. And by the time I had walked the aisles of Target after my workout, my hobble had turned into a severe limp and I almost asked someone to push me in my buggy.

After a few days of limping and moaning and buying new running shoes, I finally went to the doctor because I just wanted to know if I was going to need a walking boot in Tunisia. I have taken a walking boot to Africa before and let me tell you something: it is extremely hard to get through security quickly with those things. Thankfully, after the doc poked and prodded, he concluded that it is a sprain and that all I need is ice and Advil and try not to put too much weight on it, which is excactly why I was on the treadmill in the first place.

Everything is circular in my world.

So, if you see me hobbling, just pretend I have some swagger. It can only help my coolness factor.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Totally Epic at the Hi-Dive

Hey there, people that I love.

It's Friday! It's sunny outside! I found fresh raspberries on sale! Spring is in the air and I have on one of my fave pairs of high heels!

Life is good.

However, none of that has anything to do with what I am about to say. As I have mentioned before, I do not get paid for this, even though I should since I am flesh and blood and awesome. But next week Treehouse Sanctum (featuring Danya Lynn and Sam Rymer) is playing at the Hi-Dive! And you should totally come.


I'll be there. They will be there. What more do you need?

And to make it even better, my as-close-as-you-can-get-to-a-brother Jon Boland is headlining the show and releasing his new album!

It will be musically epic. I mean, how could you not want to hear from two guys who used to play little league football together in Oklahoma? And how could you not want to hear from the same two guys who played high school football together in Colorado? They may even wear their jerseys for you. 

But let's hope not.

Here is the latest blurb from these talented musicians:
"It has been a long time coming, but on Thursday,  March 15th, at 8:00pm, good friend Jon Boland will be hosting his debut solo album (Lightning In The Wires) release show at the Hi-Dive. We are honored to be one of the opening acts and would think it rad if you decide to come (come early). Our March personal goal is to have this place absolutely packed to the point where people are standing on the sidewalk, clamoring to get in, just to be a part of this scene. So tell everyone you've ever friend requested, tweeted, 2 AM texted, stalked, lied to, offended, dumped, pined for, or walked by on the side walk about this wild event. We want to heal your awkward relationships with good music."

Wow. How can you turn that down?


Here are the details:
When: March 15
Where: Hi-Dive
Time: Doors open at 8:00; show begins at 8:30.

I hear that tickets sell out soon so get yours today to guarantee your chance to hear some sweet tunes from some of my favorite people. I look forward to seeing you and all of your friends on Thursday! And because of my amazing PR skills, you can also sign my petition that I get 10% of all proceeds. It just seems fair.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Perils of Corn on the Cob

My brother posted this photo on Facebook this morning. Yesterday was Crazy Hair Day at school.

And to make the day even more awesome, Noah's other front tooth came out. I don't know how your day could get any better when you are six! He was pretty excited. And he has one killer smile, although corn on the cob could be difficult for a while.

Speaking of corn on the cob, the only time I ever got my name on the board for talking in school was when I asked the girl sitting next to me in kindergarten if she had a hard time eating corn on the cob when both of her front teeth fell out. This was obviously a very important question. It's serious business when you are five years old and you can no longer eat corn. However, the teacher did not think it was important and thus I got my name written on the board in big, giant neon letters.

Actually, no, not really, it was only written in white chalk. But it felt like big, giant neon letters. It felt like everyone was looking at me, wondering how I could have been so careless. And I remember sitting there, burning with embarrassment. I was a rule-follower, not a rule-breaker. But at that moment I was pretty sure my chances of being valedictorian had just been lost forever. Pretty soon my parents would know and then my cousins would know and then the entire world would know that I was a socially motivated and gastronomically interested kindergartner who had no regard for authority. My small, little world was crashing down around me all because of a stinking vegetable.

And then the next day came and my name was erased and all was forgotten.

Apparently I was a bit dramatic in my younger years.