11-07 - more smoke Pat is making sure I take my medicine -- she's a good nurse and knows I'm an ambivalent medicine taker. She can just smell it. It's a bad morning. The effect of the medicine is... unpleasant. I find myself for the first time of this trip not wanting to get out of bed. But I do, and while I'm much later getting to work than I'd like I'm still there around Malagasy starting time: 8:30am. I realize that I really don't know how to get to work. I can get home OK, and can get to SALFA from the church where I turn for Dr. Bebe, and can get to the shopping area near there, but there are a few blocks in between those points. So I resolve to take the "hardest path." Talking with Pat, I find that the steps are (possibly) not as bad Rivo says. [Or rather, exactly as Rivo says, at this point I misremembered Rivo's number!] "Four hundred eighty?" Pat reacts when she hears my description. "It's Four hundred thirty eight! I counted them one day." I resolve to do the same. I get a little lost right before the market area. I have to go out of my way, a little, to get where I'm going. In a city this poor, it's sometimes not a good idea to go the most direct way. There are little paths everywhere offering direct paths, but they're tiny, and they don't necessarily go all the way. Furthermore they're blind. If someone followed you, you could have trouble. Today I look less rob-able. Instead of a laptop bag, even one only holding toilet paper, as has been the case recently, I have a translucent plastic bag. Which holds toilet paper. Also it contains a cup to mix my medicine in. That and a bottle of water are only luggage. I don't bring the camera, as I've been this way before and I don't want to be flashing the camera anyway, when I'm all alone, and going up the semi-secluded "hardest path". Panting again, sweating like a pig would if pigs actually sweated, I make it to the top with only three stops on the way. I count three hundred fifty one, but I know I have trouble concentrating on the numbers and had to fudge them when I realized I had lost count. So I'll assume Pat is spot on. [And so is Rivo.] The number would be higher counting all steps your feet take, not all stairs. There are smooth parts of the path between the stairs where you do have to step forward. Generally, those parts slope up. I make it to SALFA and find, immediately, that the hub in the computer room (the cellule informatique) is down. Anatole is hunting the problem, and there's no room for me. Ultimately he decides it's a power issue, but my understanding is poor enough that I wind up duplicating his work. Then I go a little further. The UPS is shot or having trouble, as the batteries on it are caked with white corrosion. When we unplug the UPS, which the hub is connected to, the UPS makes a sad, quiet alarm. We plug it back in and the alarm dies. OK. So there's power to the UPS, but the UPS is dead. Meanwhile there are three power connector types in this office. Euro, which are the most common, and American, which are the most reasonable (in my humble estimation) and just a few of the big ass British ones. Lo, the UPS has British ones, as does the transformer for the hub. It's UPS or nothing, as it won't plug anywhere else. I find Martin, and he gets the UPS up by disconnecting the screwed up batteries. He suggests I scavenge some batteries from a huge bunch they had earlier scavenged from an X-ray machine. After he's gone, I do so. I have two nice batteries out and several other disconnected before I realize that this stuff is live. That these batteries are powering the email server for SALFA, and that these wires, if the touch around, will melt things. Martin returns, and sits down with some crude tools and some electrical tape to save my cookies. Thirty minutes later my embarrassing mistake is repaired, some good batteries are scavenged for the hub UPS, we've pruned some corroded batteries out of the big array for the server, and Martin has stolen some nice connectors off the big array to clean up the worst of the wiring on the smaller UPS. When life gives you big iron and copper nails jammed in some lemons, make metallic-tasting lemonade. I make no other massive mistakes that morning, other than asking Rene to bounce the server in my closet at home, when the real problem is the DSL. It's dropping 50% of all packets. I move over to gmail. I skip lunch and come home early to run a class for Hasine and Leon's son Nelson. Nelson's nickname is Bob. It's the most American name I've heard here hands down, beating out Pat, Doug and Ramona. Aside from those three, no other comes remotely close. Bob's English is good and he touch-types on QWERTY. I touch type, too. I didn't know it until recently. There are AZERTY keyboards here, and they make me crazy. I am forced the lie to the computer and tell it it's a QWERTY. Then I close my eyes and type. What do you know? I can touch type. The shift key on the left is extra small, though and has a <> (that's greater than and less than) key right next to it, between the shift and the Z of QWERTY (which is, I think, a W in AZERT). On the way home I bought a loaf of bread from the store and munched it. Both Pat and Dr. Olivier have advised me to get lots of fluid (check, knew that) and eat starchy food with no roughage. No fruit. Oops. Had fruit for breakfast. Actually Pat relaxes this a bit to include firm bananas, but certainly no mango. Damn. I really like mango. Especially here, where it's fresh and ripe and yummy. Well, I can't eat that for a while. Anyway the upshot of skipping lunch, having the bread, drinking three quarters of a liter of water, and just the passage of time is that I feel a lot better tonight. We'll see about tomorrow. For the second night in a row, the city is blanketed in white, pleasant-smelling smoke-fog. I can barely see the palace through it. I ask Honorine what's burning. She smiles wanly and, half shrugging, says "Trees."