Monthly Archives: August 2011

Recipes from the experimental kitchen

Upon arriving in Macha, I discovered that I am not, in fact, living in The Ark. I’m living in The Wooden House, which has a similar set-up, but is broken into smaller apartment-type units, has bigger rooms, and is closer to where I’ll be working. I share my unit with a guy from Zimbabwe named Moses and a woman named Claire, whose existance I have not personally verified. There are a number of boxes adorning the common area that are aparently Claire’s, and Moses says she’s around. She’s also possibly moving to Lusaka sometime in the near future, but since I haven’t yet seen her, this would have little direct impact on my life. Moses is very nice, and this morning he and Maritt (a dutch gal doing research at the ART clinic) showed me the market so I could get my bike tire fixed. I also managed to persuade him to tell me, after some prevarication, that yes, it would be a terrible thing to brush my teeth in the kitchen sink, and I should go out to the washhouse to do so. (There are flush toilets. There are not toilet seats.) My life would be easier if I could wash my teeth in the kitchen sink instead of trudging out in the dark to the washhouse, where the light isn’t working, but I don’t recall making my life easier to be one of the things motivating me to come to Zambia.

I got here yesterday morning, but we had lunch yesterday at the one restaurant, there was a sort of neighborhood potluck last night, and I concocted breakfast and lunch today from things that required little preparation, so tonight was my first night actually cooking for myself. I wore myself out this morning with the trip to the market, which involved some walking, a lot of sunlight (there are trees here, but no shade), and hellos to everyone — I mean EVERYONE. You greet people who bike past you as you’re walking to the market. It did help me learn more Tonga (“Mabuka botin” is “good day”, and then they say something vaguely like “Kabut mabuka botin,” and you say something that might be “kabut”), but also meant that it was late in the afternoon before I got around to one of my other chores for today: wiping out my dresser so that I can feel reasonably comfortable putting my clothes into it (and the water was FILTHY afterwards. I’m sure some of that was just dust from driving, but some of it was traces of previous inhabitants). So the sun had gone down, a great glowing red globe in a watercolor washed gradient of sky, by the time I got around to making my supper.

I wasn’t entirely sure what I was going to make for supper, but I knew that it needed to be in one pan, that it should use sausage and greens and tomatoes, because those are the perishables I have that should be eaten most pressingly, but not ALL of the sausage, greens, and tomatoes, because I won’t have much in the way of meat or vegetables after they’re gone. I also wanted it to be fairly easy, because as you might have guessed from the fact that I was only cleaning out my dresser this afternoon/evening, I am not remotely unpacked (I might be more unpacked, but I wanted to clean the dresser, and my shelf is infested with roaches and is currently sitting outside waiting to be sprayed on Monday, and there’s only so much unpacking one can do with a bed, a refrigerator, a desk, two chairs, two suitcases, and several boxes).

I had located rice, lentils, tomatoes, greens (maybe kale. If it’s not kale, it’s related), tumeric, sausage, and a pan, and was in the process of deciding how much water and how much time each of these things required when the electricity cut out. I fished out a candle and box of matches (two of the few things that I very intentionally unpacked to somewhere that I could find them) and made a makeshift candle holder out of a mug. So, I present:

No ZESCO Rice, Lentils, and Sausage

After you have finished fiddling with the candle, read your package of lentils and decide that the lentils and the rice probably need about the same amount of time.
(The electricity just cut out again, but only for a second or two before it came back, and now it’s properly back and the lights are no longer flickering, which is reassuring.)
Add one part rice, one part lentils, and four parts of water to your pan. Collect the other ingredients and go out to the kitchen, where you may light the second candle if desired.

Decide that the gas stove does not appear to work at all and wonder how you’re going to cook your supper, and how long it would take a fire to get from one candle and no wood to something capable of cooking your supper. As you are pondering this, notice that the light on the outlet on one wall is on, and wonder if the outlets are secretly attached to the generators when the lights clearly aren’t. When the lights start flickering, decide that the power is coming back and hurridly put your pan on the stove. Add about one part sausage, sliced open, and cover.

Wash greens and begin chopping the stems, then realize that you’ve neglected to flip the switch on the wall that powers the stove. Turn the stove on and finish chopping stems. The water should be coming to a boil. Add stems and poke at your supper with a wooden stirring stick that you found in the communal kitchen. Cover pan again and finish chopping the greens. Dump the greens into the pan, along with some turmeric. Chop two small tomatoes and add them too. Consider stirring again, decide that this is more like paella than like plain rice, and do so. Cook a few minutes more, salt, and serve.

For something I just made up, it was pretty good. It might have benefited from more spices, and the lentils either needed more water or more time or both, but I enjoyed it.

While I was waiting for the rice to cook, I installed a hook and a string to keep my door closed (it locks, but it doesn’t latch). I was going to just deal with it and maybe pick up some hardware in Choma next week, but after I saw the rat today, I decided that as long as the rats aren’t currently in my room, I would like to take available steps to keep it that way. I think the string bothers Moses, though; he says he’ll try to fix my door tomorrow. Probably I could have just asked him to fix the door, but that didn’t occur to me. I could fix it myself if I had some tools, and I didn’t know that anyone else has tools and is handy with such things, so I didn’t think to ask. Possibly thinking to ask is one of the cultural differences that I’m here to learn.



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Update from Lusaka

I was considering writing this post last night, but the electricity cut out, and with it the internet, so I didn’t. Eric and Kathy, the country reps, say that the electricity goes regularly here, but fairly infrequently; last night was the first time this month, and there was only once last month. It went tonight, too, but only for about ten minutes. Luckily we were having a hotdog roast outside last night, so we just finished preparing salads by candlelight and ate in the dark.

I’m told that the electricity will go out more frequently in Macha, and that when it does, I’ll cook outside. It will be an adventure. Speaking of Macha, Kathy showed me where I’ll be staying on Google Maps: The Ark. Possibly you’ll need to zoom in a bit; it doesn’t seem to want to load properly right now.

I mentioned in my last post that many, many things are blooming here. The flora reminds me somewhat of New Zealand, but not as lush. I’m told that it also looks like parts of California, but since I haven’t spent much time examining the greenery of California, I can’t really comment on that. I meant to take pictures in better light, but we’re leaving for the villages tomorrow (though we won’t get to Macha until Friday), so you’ll have to make do with these slightly-too-dark ones I took the other evening.

This is a truffula papaya tree. I’ve never seen papayas on the tree before, and certainly haven’t seen BIG papayas. There was one sitting on the kitchen counter when we arrived that was as big as my head. (It’s not there anymore; we ate it.)

That’s bougainvillea on the right, and a eucalyptus left-center — and I’ve seen bigger eucalyptus trees in our walks around town. What I would really like to get a picture of is one of the jacaranda trees.

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I have arrived

Lusaka is a city that glimmers from the air. From the ground, it is dusty and somewhat brownish (although with many more flowers than I expected), but from the air, it glitters, as if someone took an aerial photograph of a city and liberally sprinkled it with rectangular sequins. I assume that this is the effect of metal roofs.

So I am here, all right, but incredibly tired (I maybe got eight hours of sleep over the past two days. And that’s a generous estimate). I have met the country representatives. I have learned that I’m not actually staying with a host family, but rather in some sort of communal living situation (with Zambians) called “The Ark.” I will be cooking my own meals.

It is nearly 7pm here, and dark, and I’m going to go to bed. Goodnight.


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This has been a good week.

I’ve learned new songs, met new people, can do three new frisbee throws with varying degrees of success (the hammer, the air-bounce, and the reverse hammer), and have been much more continuously social than I am accustomed to.

I leave in two hours. I could be ready to go in two minutes, and would probably prefer that to continuing to sit around. Day-and-a-half travel marathon, here I come.


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This is a marvelous place for languages

I’ve been dragging out my far-too-rusty Portuguese, doing (semi-) simultaneous translation into and out of Spanish, vaguely following French conversations and translation, understanding occasional German words, and not remotely understanding Ndebele and Arabic and Korean and any number of other languages.

In addition, we have had fifteen minutes of global music every morning, which we organize ourselves. The first morning was Canadian and US music, both praise songs and hymns (which I led. I’ve never done that before, and I wasn’t intending to, but I volunteered to announce the songs, and the first one I announced felt like it needed someone to lead it, and no one else jumped up to volunteer, so I did. I didn’t do a particularly good job, but it was fun, and I’m sure I’ll get better if I keep doing it). And I have LOVED the music. I’m learning new songs, or new languages to songs I already know (“Lord I Lift Your Name on High” in French! And German!).

Here are a few of the songs I’ve learned:

“Gloria, Aleluya”
Rey de reyes, señor de señores, gloria, aleluya (x2)
Christo, principe de paz, gloria, aleluya (x2)
Men sing the bold, women sing the italics, and you stand up when you sing and sit when you don’t. This one reminds me of the “Praise Ye The Lord/Alelluia” that splits into gendered parts. Here’s a youtube video (ignore the weird background music).

“Hakuna Akaita” (I think this one is Ndebele; it’s from Zimbabwe. We also sang it in the language spoken in Lesotho (Basotho, maybe? Something with a prefix), but I don’t have the words for that.) Here’s a link, but we sang better. There are motions, too; you walk, turn, and search on the first three lines of the second stanza.
Hakuna akaita sa Jesu
Hakuna akaita sa ye
Hakuna akaita sa Jesu
Hakuna, Hakuna woooo

Tamhanya-mhanya kwese kwese
Tatenderera kwese kwese
Tatsvaga-tsvaga kwese kwese
Hakuna-kuna wooo.
There’s no one, there’s no one like Jesus
There’s no one, there’s no one like him
There’s no one, there’s no one like Jesus
There’s no one, there’s no one like him

I’ve walked, I’ve walked all over
I’ve turned, I’ve turned all over
I’ve searched, I’ve searched all over
There’s no one, there’s on one like Him.

“Salam Salam”
Salam salam le sha’eb EL-RAB fe koli makan (x2)
Peace peace for people of GOD everywhere (x2)

I don’t have music for that one, and I can’t sing it terribly well because the Arabic flows much better than the English, but it’s gorgeous.

“Te Alabare/Eu Te Louvarei” (Music and Spanish words, no portuguese, and only pay attention to the first three minutes; it gets weird after that)
Eres tú la única razón
De mi adoración, oh Jesus!
Eres tú la esperanza
que anhele tener, ah Jesus!

Confié en ti me has ayudado
Tu salvación me has regalado
Hoy hay gozo en mi corazón
Con mi canto te alabare

Te alabaré, te glorificaré
Te alabaré mi buen Jesus

En todo tiempo te alabaré
En todo tiempo te adoraré

És Tu única razão da minha adoração ó Jesus

És Tu única esperança que anelo ter ó Jesus

Confiei em ti fui ajudado, sua salvação tem me alegrado

Hoje há gozo em meu coração com meu canto te louvarei

Eu te louvarei, te glorificarei

Eu te louvarei meu bom Jesus

Em todo tempo te louva-rei, em todo tempo te adora-rei

Eu te louvarei, te glorificarei

Eu te louvarei meu bom Jesus

“In Jesus Christ, We Are One Family”
In Jesus Christ, we are one family
In Jesus Christ, we are one family
In Jesus Christ we are one family
From now on and forever more
In Jesus Christ, we are one family

We also sang that one in Kmai(?) and Chinese and maybe something else, but I didn’t catch any of those words well enough to find them (and I had trouble singing them, anyway). There’s an eight-beat clapping motion to this one, too. You start with your left hand palm up and your right hand palm down on your neighbor’s right hand, and the eight beats go:
clap/slap neighbor’s hand
slap right thigh with right hand
slap left thigh with right hand
slap back of left hand with right hand
snap (both hands)

And then you get faster.

Have a bonus video, too. We watched this talk, “The Danger of a Single Story,” in one of the sessions, and I found it really interesting. I think it’s worth 20 minutes.


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Did you know

That in Jordan, a guy you are sleeping with is your boyfriend, but someone you are merely dating is your lover? I certainly didn’t, and this puzzled us for a while until we figured out that we were having linguistic difficulties. I am currently much more informed about the state of affairs in Jordan than I was previously, although I’m still somewhat confused, because my informant’s English is less than perfect, and I catch fewer of the fine details the later it gets. But that is one of the fruits of this evening’s fireside chat. (I am constantly amazed by the way people are so impressed by my firestarting skills. I only used one match, but I also used two sheets of newspaper, and the wood was dry. And they were impressed before they knew about the one match.)

I have also learned that Korean ramen-noodles-from-a-package are better than American ramen noodles, but also MUCH spicier. Isaac would like them.

Today we played ultimate frisbee barefoot in the rain, except for the people who played soccer barefoot in the rain. This was, of course, after sessions about the SALT policies, culture shock and coping mechanisms, and living with a host family, and small groups with people going to and coming from regions, discussing questions about how people interact on a daily basis.


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So well-oriented I am dizzy

I’ve arrived in Akron and had a day and a half of orientation so far. My roommate is from Zimbabwe (which ajoins Zambia, for those of you not up on African geography), and we’ve had a number of really interesting conversations: “So Americans even wash their pants/underwear in the washing machine, too? We hand-wash it every night. Your underwear is very personal; you wouldn’t want someone else washing it.” “How much do groceries cost for a family for a week? And how many people is a family?” (She said ~$50 for a family of eight. I’m not sure if this is USD or Zimbabwean dollars, and if there is a notable difference, but it didn’t seem important enough to ask.) “Do you have [this particular brand of makeup] in the States?” That one was interesting because I had no idea what she was talking about, and even though we both speak English, if we aren’t careful, the words just glide off each others’ ears, the accents and stresses are so different. And the Ndebele accent aside, it’s British English (bath-ing, not bathe-ing; trousers, not pants (pants, not underwear); spectacles, not glasses, and so on.)

Perhaps I should back up a little for more explanation. SALT participants (me, among others), are oriented along with IVEP participants, who are young adults from other countries who will be serving in the US and Canada. So we have 96 young adults running around, about 2/5 international and 3/5 North American (I don’t know how many SALT people are from Canada, maybe 1/4?), which makes for a very interesting, vibrant, and exhausting mix. We all have name tags, but I still feel like I don’t know anyone’s name. And I know that I do recognize people, but for every person I recognize, there are three that I know I played frisbee with yesterday, or talked to for fifteen minutes about going to Indonesia two hours ago, or discussed Arabic names with over breakfast, whose names I don’t remember, which can be terribly frustrating if I’m not careful. I’m sure it’s good practice, though. And it feels like camp. Or my first week at Smith. Lots of meeting new people and informational sessions and an odd feeling of not-quite-the-real-world.

The sessions so far have been of varying interest, and I’m sure they are, on the whole, useful, but one only has so much attention in the day, and I’ll admit that it was a lot of work to continue listening to the program director go on about the early history of MCC . . .

I must dash.

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