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Illness, bounceback, fairs, and more

July 28, 2012

Well, this week seemed to go by kind of quickly. It started out with Yoga on Sunday morning, at the home of a woman who works for the embassy and generously offers classes on Sunday mornings.  After Yoga, I had intentions to go explore a bit, take some photos. I ended up not having a lot of energy and just resting, and working on my language.

I had been feeling little twangs of irritation in my abdomen, and was surprised because I mistook them for hunger, thinking how strange it was that I was wanting to eat so often in a warm climate. By the end of last week, though, I was getting terrible headaches, which I attributed to possibly dehydration, though I was drinking plenty of water. By Monday afternoon, though, I started getting some familiar feelings – cold sweat, a touch of nausea, more severe pain in my abdomen. At that time, my powers of deduction kicked back in and I called the doctor, who told me to take a cab to the office to see him. I must have shown how horrible I felt, because when I went to go ask the director to call me a cab, she looked shocked when she saw my face.

The doctor did not bother to do a blood or other kind of test, but started me on antibiotics. I knew the symptoms, he knows my file (this was just like what happened in Thailand), so he did not mess around. I took Tuesday off work, but managed to make it to my first Dutch lesson at Peace Corps that night. It is really nice, that Peace Corps is providing us with 30 hours of language lessons – more than I anticipated – and the language coordinator has also provided me with a wealth of materials for self-study.

So far, I am picking up on Dutch. It is interesting – having learned French, Danish, Russian (and Ukrainian), I find myself making connections and comparisons between them, whether it be for vocabulary or grammar. What can I say, I’m a language nerd. But I am liking that I already was able to use some of it when I went grocery shopping today.

I was also able to attend a couple of Embassy sponsored events this week – a really interesting HIV program (I left when they started the panel discussion – having JUST started to learn Dutch, I was not going to be able to understand scientific and sociological terms!) and a movie on Thursday evening. Unfortunately during the movie, I got eaten alive by mosquitoes – they are aiming for my legs and feet. By the end of it, I was in misery, and ended up taking an antihistamine when I got home, to stop the itching and burning. Guess my blood tastes good to them – perhaps because I am so sweet?

Trying out Surinamese “fast food”

Yesterday the director of the org where another Response Volunteer and I work took us to an Artisan/Entrepreneurs’ Fair. We saw all kinds of pangis (traditional Surinamese sarong/skirt/towel/cover), hand-made jewelry, and other artistic creations. We also tried Surinamese “fast food” in the form of a samosa (with potato inside) and something that looked like an egg roll and had dark leafy greens inside. Tasty!

Lovely Surinamese woman who let me photograph her

Luckily for me, the director is a local and a well-known one at that, so I was able to take photos with no one minding. I got a couple of really lovely shots of women – portraits. I love the diversity here – people have backgrounds that can be anything from Maroon (people who are descended from escaped slaves), Hindustani (people who are descended from immigrants from India), Creole (a mix of white, black, Indonesian…most anything, really), Javanese, and more. This makes for some really lovely people!

It was hard not to buy anything when we were there, but it was only the first of many of these we will see, including some that will be put on my our own organization. The artisans are so creative in what they make jewelry out of – seeds, pits, nuts, and other organic materials.

Today I once again had intentions to go explore, but after going out food shopping on my bike and then preparing my dinners for the next week, I wonder if I should go back out into the sun. I am still trying to get used to how strong the sun is. Because where I am is so close to the Equator, the Sun appears to go in a little circle in the sky, which means the sun is shining most of the time – something to which my white, white skin needs to adjust. I am also finding that even the smallest amount of exertion means I sweat – a lot! That’s fine – my body is cooling itself…I just need some time to get used to it all. So maybe the exploring will wait another week…maybe I’ll do some tomorrow, I never know.

To that end, I am finding that I am still living in the moment – something I had to learn to do in Ukraine. I am starting to enjoy it, not having so much structure (at work, structure is necessary, but at home, not as much), trying to get to know my new home and being able to take the time to do so. I am also processing as I go along – the rapid adjustment to living here combined with the processing I am still doing relating to my most recent experience (Ukraine) and the beginning thoughts of if I am only here for six months, what’s next. My mind seems to not want to take a break!

My little bird “friend”, who comes by nearly every day

And…I got a photo of the little bird who comes to my kitchen window. It’s not the best photo in the world, but I had to stand back, so as to not scare him off. He looks like some sort of little woodpecker…he pecked at the glass, which means either he thought he was pecking at another bird, or ???



13 Comments leave one →
  1. Stephen Comfort-Mason permalink
    July 28, 2012 1:52 pm

    Karin: It looks like your bird is a “Blood-colored Woodpecker”. Full information at, and also rather complete data on some 500+ birds for your new home.



  2. Mom permalink
    July 29, 2012 8:24 am

    Love your bird picture. By it’s development it looks like a young one, a woodpecker for sure, and yes, it’s pecking at it’s image in the glass possibly asking the bird it sees to feed it? Were it me I might be tempted to put some seeds or nuts on the sill, but that might not be a good idea in the long run. So glad you’re able to have this friendly experience.

  3. Stephen Comfort-Mason permalink
    July 29, 2012 9:33 am

    We feed birds the year-round in St. Louis (MIssouri, not Minnenoplace) and the only downside to leaving out a few seeds or such (siuet would be much more appreciated, if you can get some at the market) is the creation of an expectation, and perhaps other birds stopping by as well. But what is wrong with that?

    • July 30, 2012 3:54 pm

      Isn’t your calling Minnesota Minnenoplace the proverbial pot calling the kettle black?

      • Stephen Comfort-Mason permalink
        July 30, 2012 4:20 pm

        You have a point there…

  4. Stephen Comfort-Mason permalink
    July 29, 2012 9:36 am

    Would you believe “suet”?

  5. Jennifer Janis permalink
    July 29, 2012 12:13 pm

    Karin, it seems that you are much happier in this placement…sunny, warm weather must be the secret!

  6. Mom permalink
    July 30, 2012 3:43 pm

    Only a person from Missouri would think up the term “Minnenoplace.” The correct term is “Minneapolis” and, unlike Chicago, where I was born and raised, the people are too nice to call Missouri: “Missery.”
    It appears from the video provided above that your woodpecker visitor eats worms. But I imagine it would eat any seeds or nuts you care to provide as well.
    Of course we only have a dozen or so woodpecker varieties here, including the Piliated Woodpecker. But then this is not a forum for bird competition, is it?
    Love you.

    • Stephen Comfort-Mason permalink
      July 30, 2012 3:56 pm

      My heart goes out to folks who drink “pop” instead of “soda”, and can tell the difference between the Minneapolis and St. Paul skylines…

  7. July 30, 2012 3:55 pm

    There are plenty of things for the birds here to eat…I am not going to start trouble by leaving out any sort of food for them on the window sill…

  8. Mom permalink
    August 1, 2012 5:54 am

    Karin, so glad you know the difference between pop and soda and are polite enough not to engage in the kind of nonsense Mr. Mason seems to enjoy. Were he as traveled as we are he would know better than to insult any area in this wonderful country. I’m proud of you and know that whatever state we lived in at the time those experiences made you the well-rounded person you are. You go girl!!
    Love you,

    • Stephen Comfort-Mason permalink
      August 1, 2012 8:10 am

      I spent a summer in Brainerd some years ago. Found “Fargo” a perfect representation of Minnesota in general.

      In regards to traveling, I don’t believe there is a single state in the United States I have not either visited or worked in. Most provinces in Canada, as well. Four years in Saudi Arabia, four in Bosnia, about a year in Iraq, and six months in Afghanistan. About six months in Ukraine. Short-term assignments in Hong Kong, India, and Thailand. Visited Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro, England, France (where I also worked), Italy, Yemen, and I lectured at the Arab School of Science and Technology in Damacus, Syria. Egypt and East St. Louis, Illinois. The United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, Germany, Ireland, and Austria. Almost made it to Australia.

      I have found there is something of value, one way or another, in every culture, every country, every state. There is also most always something to dislike. Or to find humorous. Like the characterizations in “Fargo”.

      Late in 1964, my father decided he was sick of St. Louis, and moved deep into the Missouri Ozarks, near the Missouri-Arkansas state line to open a law office. I learned there was much to respect in the rugged individualism of the typical Ozark “hillbilly”, just as there is much that can be humorous, or even made fun of. The folks in Minnesota are no different. It just took a top-notch movie to bring it to the notice of the rest of America.


  9. August 2, 2012 5:58 am

    I would very much appreciate it if people did not use my blog as a means for debating non-relevant (to the blog, or post) issues. Thanks!

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