Saturday, January 5, 2013

Sights, Sounds, and Smells

How's that for a hodgepodge of topics?

Let's take them in turns.

Sounds:  I have been puttering around today with my iTunes playing in the background.  And I know it's a playlist of my favorite songs, but, man, is it really hitting the spot!  Every song brings great memories and associations.  Don't you love that?

Smells:  I came home the other day to a terrible smell in my apartment.  It smelled like something burning.  I assessed every outlet and appliance with no success.  I thought I had isolated the smell to the living room and opened windows to try and flush it out.  When I went to bed it was still not gone, so I let the cats into my room so they wouldn't spend all night with the awful smell.  They are not easy to sleep with.  So that meant I didn't sleep and was almost late for the shuttle for the next morning.  (I was almost late not so much because of the lack of sleep but because my hot water was nonexistent, and I spent the morning trying out each of three showers trying to get hot water to no avail.)  Before I left I hastily scribbled a note to my housekeeper to try and find the smell and eliminate it.  When I came home she told me it was from cleaning the oven.  Which made perfect sense!  I felt stupid for not thinking of it earlier.  She apologized for worrying me; it was not a huge deal so we laughed it off. 

In the good smells department, I have been getting fresh bouquets of flowers at the farmers' market on Fridays.  I pick out a weird assortment of flowers and have the vendor put them together prettily, and I am always amazed at how inexpensive the total is.  For such gorgeous flowers that would cost tens of dollars in the U.S. I pay a fraction of the cost because they're locally sourced.  This week I have an odd combination of fuchsia anthurium, gerbera daisies, lilies, and some purple baby's-breath-like thing.  It is making my house smell so amazing, particularly the lilies.  I love it!

As for sights, this is the really exciting one!  Way to bury the lede, I know.

I came home from work the other day and walked inside and starting putting things away.  My doorbell rang; it was a neighbor who had been a few steps behind me coming up the stairs.  She asked whether I'd seen the monkeys.  Umm, no!

Sure enough, I went back outside and found a whole troop of vervet monkeys in our backyard!!  I had only previously seen one monkey at a time, so this was super exciting.  The troop had one alpha male, several mature females, numerous juveniles, and two little babies.  There were about 15 in total.  They were inside the fence around our pool and on the stairs up to another neighbor's house and were having a grand old time!  They had absolutely no concern for us being there.  The juveniles jumped and played and fought and just were absolutely adorable.  The alpha male did some exploring, played a little hide-and-seek with us around a lamp post, and climbed up our building to get a better view.  The babies alternated between trying to play with the juveniles and cuddling with their moms.  At one point I ran inside to grab my camera and probably spent 30 minutes out there watching them until they finally moved on down the hill.  My favorite pics and videos were of the moms cuddling and grooming their babies.  The juveniles also provided some great comic relief by jumping into and promptly falling out of a very small tree.  A couple came close to us but never frighteningly close. 

My experiences in southern Africa with vervet monkeys was always overwhelmingly negative because they associated humans with food and made general pests out of themselves, knocking over garbage cans and literally stealing food out of people's hands at safari camps.  This troop in particular does not have that same association, thankfully, and none of our neighbors have any intention of doing anything to change this.  Our guards say they've never even tried to get into our garbage cans, thankfully. 

Anyway, I love these neighbors.  They only come around every now and then and are very self-sufficient and non-threatening.  People have come to find a monkey sitting on their porch furniture before, but that's about as invasive as they've been.  It's a nice little neighborhood :-).

Enjoy some of the pics below.  The videos won't upload with my slow internet, so these will have to do.  (Note: I reduced the files sizes to get them to upload, so the quality is not great.)

Juveniles playing in the yard

One of the more curious monkeys


The tree they liked to jump into.  And fall out of.

Trying to coax the juveniles to get a move on.

Momma and baby.

Contemplating a swim.  They did not swim, thankfully.

Foraging :-)

Monday, December 31, 2012

Top 12 for 2012

I am going to try and follow in Donna's and Zoe's footsteps with a Top 12 for 2012 blog.  They both did a great job of linking theirs to blog posts, but since I may have been a bit lax about posting some momentous occasions, mine will be less awesome that way. 

1.  My family is healthy.  The year started out with a pretty major health scare for my mother, but she (and we) weathered it well, and we've been lucky otherwise.

2.  Weddings!  I attended the civil ceremony of one of my best friends in London in April, a beautiful affair joining two wonderful families.  In August I officiated at the marriage of my brother and sister-in-law, an absolutely perfect event that also brought together two wonderful families.

3.  I finished my first tour in the Foreign Service, in Jeddah.  This went a long way in proving to myself that joining the FS was the right decision for me AND that I can live in a difficult place for two years.  I had a great tour in Jeddah, with some days being harder than others, and it was a great place for me to learn a lot, fast, about the FS. 

4.  I moved back to Africa!  I spent much of 2003-05 living in South Africa and traveled extensively in the southern countries of this awesome continent.  I was excited but a little cautious moving back to Africa, albeit a different region, wondering if I'd idealized these youthful years.  I hadn't.  I love it here.  It's a huge continent with dozens of countries and thousands of different experiences, so generalizing is always a bad thing, but I think AF is a bureau I'm happy to stick with.

5.  Travel - I visited and/or lived in seven different countries this year, including four new ones for my life list (UAE, Oman, Uganda, and Ghana). 

6.  Friends.  2012 has been a great year for meeting new friends and reconnecting with tried and true friends. 

7.  Family.  I got to spend time with lots of family members, including all my brothers and their SOs and children, and lots of extended family.  My youngest niece and nephew are learning about Africa and Uganda and sort of understand why I'm not around all that much.  My grandmother and I did a fun road trip in WV this fall and discovered some new spots to visit and gorgeous scenery. 

8.  My cats not only survived numerous overseas and domestic moves this year, but they've become decent travelers.  Not good, but not as horrible as I had feared.  They love Kampala and are happy in my apartment.  Griffin is convinced the small guest room is his and guards it fiercely against intruders.  Callaghan prefers the top of the bookshelves or the linen closet.

9.  Between home leave and training, I had a great time reacquainting myself with U.S. culture.  I especially loved my time in DC and revisiting some favorite spots and discovering new ones.  Seeing lots of FS friends was great fun, as was the training itself.  Bonus was meeting a plethora of FS bloggers - such an awesome group!

10.  Parrotfish Festival - this one kind of goes along with #s 3 and 5, but it was on my Saudi bucket list and so long-anticipated that it definitely qualifies as a top 12.  And, really, where else could I have participated in such a phenomenally fun and offbeat tradition?

11.  I turned 30 in 2012.  And the world didn't end.  The two aren't related, really, but it was an exercise in patience and forgiveness to fully embrace 30.  Though I still get excited when demographic surveys place me in the 18-34 or similar group :-). 

12.  This is sort of a cop-out, but I really enjoyed getting to do things like go see the Celtics play, see Lyle Lovett in concert (twice!), go to the movies, and the like.  That wasn't generally possible in Saudi, and even in Kampala I've been able to go to a pantomime, Christmas concert, and a ballet performance in my first weeks at post. 

All right.  That was slightly more difficult than I'd anticipated, perhaps because I lumped a lot of things into pretty broad categories.  And I did manage to do more blog links than I originally anticipated!  AND I got it done before 2012 ended!  Though I clearly need to do some updates dating back many months...

Here's to an awesome 2013 for all of us!  I'm not into resolutions, so I won't go there, but may 2013 be all that you want it to be, and more :-).

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Kittens in Kampala

I'm taking advantage of decent internet to post a few photos.  These are of my kittens in their various favorite spots in our new apartment.

Actually, this is the kitties in our NYC hotel during Hurricane Sandy.

Griffin finds the highest spot in the kitchen on our first night.

Content, isn't he?

That's more appropriate, ottoman in the living room.

Or chair in the master bedroom.

Callaghan playing with one of his favorite toys.

Griffin on top of the china cabinet.

Griffin in the (un)packing paper.

Callaghan on pillows on hangers on a chair.