Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Black Out: Studying by Lamplight in Guinea

This morning, while perusing my Google reader for articles of interest (i.e. Mali, Guinea, Virginia, international education), I stumbled upon this article on a documentary about kids studying by streetlight in Guinea.  The documentary, Black Out, follows students during exam time in Conakry, Guinea's capital.  The film has been featured at film festivals around the world and scooped up a number of awards.

What struck me in the trailer is how much these kids study and for what - there is no guarantee they will have a job, or go to college, following graduation.  I think of Abdoulaye, and all the studying he did by lamplight or with inconsistent electricity and of course of Zana, Mali where my host siblings similarly studied by kerosene lamp.

It's too bad there aren't any Guineans on the team who produced the film and I can't tell from the director and producers' blurbs how much experience they have in Guinea/West Africa/Africa.   Nonetheless, looks like an interesting piece, hopefully it will come to E street cinema.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


The painting crew for our little yellow house
We're making progress on updating things in our little bungalow as we slowly move in over the next month or so. This past weekend friends joined together for a painting party to freshen up the inside of our home and the week before, we hired painters to do the outside (Butter Up by Sherwin Williams if you're curious :)  I love the way it all turned out!

See below for some pictures of the before and after (we clearly still have some touch ups to do but we're getting there!).  We're also not totally moved in yet but will be by August.  So many thanks to the wonderful friends who made it out for the party; we truly couldn't have done it without you - I hope you liked the snacks!
Dining Room Before
I love our new curtains from Target!
Dining Room After

Master Bedroom Before
Master Bedroom After

Breakfast nook Before
Breakfast nook After
TV Room Before
TV Room After

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Outdoor film screenings in DC: Summer 2013

I saw a link to the outdoor film screenings going on in DC on the Huffington Post and it made me feel nostalgic.  After seeing the picture above, don't you just want to pack your picnic blanket and popcorn and head out to the movies?  I do!

I hope to see ET on July 22nd on the lawn and I'm having a hard time picking one from the NoMa list - do you think you'll go to any?

Monday, June 10, 2013

diaper cakes, banana cafe and grilling out

Last week, my department threw Abdoulaye and me a wedding shower in conjunction with a baby shower for another colleague due next month.  A friend of mine from work and I put together the diaper cake above following inspiration from my sister-in-law's baby shower.  We sourced our materials from the Honest Company (aren't the diapers - hippos & strawberries - precious??) and from around our desks (including my medal from last summer's office Olympics).

I think this cake is pretty incredible.  Such a treasure!
Another colleague made this beautiful cake for Abdoulaye and me to cut.  Since we didn't do a cake cutting at our wedding in May, this was a fun way to have one :)  Isn't it incredible?  She's so talented!
Reunion in the market
On Saturday we met up with Michelle and Alys (friends from Mali) in Eastern Market and headed to brunch/lunch at the Banana Cafe.  I had the Caribbean Benedict - delicious!  Looking forward to heading back for the piano bar.
Saturday night we headed to Cat and David's for some great BBQing and hanging.  Abdoulaye was loving on the chicken and rice (way to steal his heart you guys!) but more than anything, Auggie stole his attention.  Such a joyful child (as Abdoulaye noted) and fun to be around.  Made me feel like summer was really here to stay. 
Abdoulaye  with his aide-de-campe
Precious Auggie!

Hope you had a great weekend!  We're looking forward to slowly moving things into our new home as time marches on.  Any recommendations for home improvement techniques?? :)

Friday, June 7, 2013

Earth Matters: Land as Material and Metaphor in the Arts of Africa

Static Drift by Ingrid Mwangi

Batoul S'himi

Last weekend Abdoulaye and I made our way to the National Museum of African Art on the National Mall here in DC.  I heard about an exhibit there, Earth Matters: Land as Material and Metaphor in the Arts of Africa, on NPR and wanted to learn more.  Like I said before, after spending seven months (maybe a little more?) planning and waiting for our 'real' wedding, it was the first weekend in awhile where I felt like I could truly kick back and relax.

When we got to the museum, we caught the tail end of a dance performance by the Howard University Dancers and Theatre Ensemble.  I was sad to miss it but at least we got a little (see below for a taste of their talent - they presented African dances at the museum - so so talented!). 

The exhibit did not disappoint.  I am now hooked on Ingrid Mwangi.  Isn't the first piece above incredible?  Mwangi used stencils to create the shapes of her two home countries on her stomach (Kenya and Germany).  Abdoulaye made a good point though - Africa is not a country and while Mwangi insists on her two origins, it seems that's what her art is mainly about, she perpetuates the oneness (sameness?) of Africa by emblazoning the continent on her stomach instead of just Kenya.  Of course, I wouldn't know the shape of Kenya but I didn't know the outline of Germany, either. 

Ever since Abdoulaye arrived in the US, I've been (hyper?) aware of what it's like to be a couple from two different countries.  People say the darndest things when they learn he is African!  Thankfully for us, our encounters (to be documented another time here on the blog) have all been innocuous but have given us some food for thought.  Mwangi's piece reminds me of this awareness I carry with me now and, like a hangnail that you can't leave alone or perhaps more like a piece of hair you keep on twirling, her work will keep me thinking about what a dual existence is like (and will be like for our children).

Batoul S'himi's piece was similarly captivating.  His piece, like Mwangi's, transformed me from the National Museum of African Art to a thought bubble somewhere between Africa, women and perceptions of both. 

Owanto, Où Allons Nous?
Finally, Owanto's piece 'Où Allons Nous?' made me stop for a minute (and now many minutes afterwards), to think about where I am going.  The description of the piece stated that it was in a non-descript desert - it could be in the West of the US or a desert in Africa.  Made me think of the Hand of Fatima in Hombori and a desert I've never been to in Arizona that looks quite similar (less the troop of African children).  Universal questions, universal problems, universal joys, universal sorrows.  Universal!

Hombori, Mali
Arizona, USA

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Do More 24 and For Love of Children: 5 reasons to donate your money or time today!

This morning I received an email from Tim Payne, the Executive Director of For Love of Children (FLOC), which I wrote about last September (OK, it was a mass email but I still received it in my inbox).  FLOC "provides educational services beyond the classroom to help students succeed from first grade through college and career. FLOC brings together students, volunteers, families, and community partners in proven programs that teach, empower, and transform." (check out their site for more!)

Since September, I've volunteered with FLOC Tuesday nights from 6-8 tutoring a middle school student in reading and writing.  While the journey has not always been a smooth one as my student and I learned one another's boundaries and I remembered what it was like to be in middle school again, overall, it has been an incredibly rewarding experience and, like most volunteering, I feel like I've come away learning more than I've given.  I would recommend this organization to anyone in DC who is passionate about education and giving back to the DC community.

Following Tim's encouragement to share FLOC's story with 5 people, and in honor of Do More 24, I'd like to share 5 reasons you should donate your time or money to FLOC.
  1. You've got the time.  This past year was a little crazy for me as I welcomed my husband to the US from Guinea, worked on my Master of Arts in International Education and worked full-time. All that to say that even if you're busy - you've surely got a couple hours to hang with a cute kid who wants to do better in school (or a few minutes to donate some money!).  Volunteering with FLOC takes just a couple hours a week and it's flexible!  While I sometimes wanted to be doing something else before going to tutoring on Tuesdays, I always felt better afterwards and glad that I had come.  Do you work crazy long hours but are here on the weekends?  FLOC has programs on Saturday.  Are you away most weekends (like me) but have a weeknight free?  FLOC has after school and evening tutoring sessions.  Maybe you can just commit every now and again - FLOC has you covered there, too, with substitute tutoring.
  2. You've got the means.  Today, FLOC is asking for a minimum donation of $10 (read: one lunch out or a couple of fancy coffees).  See below for what your money can do!
  3. You've got the heart.  It's hard to argue with helping children get back to their grade level in reading, writing and math.  Check out FLOC's website to learn more about what they do!
  4. You've got the desire.  In casually talking with friends and co-workers, so many have expressed an interest in joining a volunteer organization in the area but they haven't found one that works for them.  Maybe FLOC is for you!
  5. You've got what it takes.  I know you and I know you're great!  If you're reading this we probably went to school, worked or served in the Peace Corps together, which means I think you're wonderful and you have a great heart!  I know you've got what it takes (mentally, physically, maybe financially?) to give back to an organization that is doing so much for the DC community.
Please don't hesitate to be in touch if you have questions (or leave your comments below!).  I'd love to share more about my experience with FLOC with you and hope you'll think today about contributing to their organization.

From Tim Payne's email: 

Follow FLOC on Facebook, Twitter, and read their  blog to help spread FLOC's key message:

In DC, poverty persists - over 75% of students qualify for free or reduced lunch.  The opportunity gap widens, barely 40% of secondary students are proficient in reading or math and average SAT scores put DC seniors in the lowest 20th percentile of their college-bound peers. For Love of Children (FLOC) is focused on closing this gap, 1 student at a time, and since 2006, 100% of FLOC's high school seniors have graduated on time and all been accepted into a postsecondary institution. FLOC's unique range of programming and curricula adapts to each student, providing consistent individualized support to over 600 students from the day they come through our doors to the day they earn their postsecondary degree.

Minimum donation is $10

$12: Fees for processing one volunteer at FLOC

$24: SAT prep study book for a FLOC Scholar

$48: Reading materials for one year for a student in FLOC's Neighborhood Tutoring Program

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

write my ticket

Wowsas what a couple of months!  While I'm disappointed I've let blogging slip, I'm thankful for everything else that's been taking up my time :)

In the past couple of months, I finished another term of school, we've been busy planning our wedding, which took place last weekend (see video at bottom of post and pictures to come!) and looking for, finding, making an offer, and closing, on a home in Maryland.  Whew.  Now the real fun begins as we move in and make this house a home!
Bachelorette shenanigans at the beginning of May
I loved visiting the Lavender Fields Farm with my girlfriends where there were lots of cute old ladies purchasing herbs and my beautiful friends seen above willing to take timed jumping photos.
Taken this past Friday, May 31, 2013
In April we embarked on the adventure of finding a more permanent place to live and found a treasure (we think!) of a home in Maryland.  We're looking forward to putting down some roots and being a part of a neat community.  Please get your bag packed and come to visit, we can't wait to host you (at least for dinner!!).
At the Art Museum of the Americas
This past weekend felt like the first relaxing one I've had in awhile (even with closing on the house and moving a load of things to our new place!).  On Saturday Abdoulaye and I made our way to the National Mall via Georgetown (we saw our first shoplifter in the US together at Zara) and stopped in at the Art Museum of the Americas.  I pass this building every day on my way to work but had never stopped in before.

While we only got a glimpse of the exhibits most recently up (since they were on their way out), it was enough of a teaser to make me want to come back for more.  The two exhibits were "On Common Ground"  and "A Place With No Rest" (where Abdoulaye is posed above).  The photographs in the latter exhibit were hauntingly beautiful.  I love thinking about how the ways we communicate with our bodies are so much more powerful than words.

Here we are on our way to the National Museum of African Art where we took in the latest exhibition, Earth Matters: Land as Material and Metaphor in the Arts of Africa.    I'd like to do a post about my favorites so I'll just hold onto them for now :)

My weekend ended with brunch at home and a BBQ chez Joe & Ashley.  Let summertime festivities commence!

Jennifer & Abdoulaye | Wedding Film | Music Video | Norfolk, Virginia | Virginia Zoological Park from The Girl Tyler on Vimeo.
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