africa

Waste Not, Want Not

If my Facebook news feed is any indication, food waste is a hot topic these days. Everyone’s talking about it, from John Oliver to NPR to the Washington Post. I first heard about it from Barbara Kingsolver in her excellent book that I would super-highly recommend to any human being who eats food: “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.” (Thanks, Lauren!) Basically, the story goes that in the United States, we waste between 30 and 40% of the food we produce. We trash 20 pounds of food per month per person. I imagine that’s more than a typical African eats! For sure, industrialized countries as a whole throw away almost as much food as sub-Saharan Africa produces. So your Mom was sort of right when she used logic such as “You’d better eat everything on your plate; there are starving kids in Africa” on you when you were a kid.

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Plantain Panoply

You would think plantains would be prolific here in Congo, where banana trees propagate by the side of practically every path. But somehow this paladin of Pan-African cooking perennially passes us by in the pandemonium of the public market here.

I have no idea why the plantain supply is so paltry, nor why I’m so partial to P’s. It’s been raining for three days straight now; I must be feeling a little pallid.

(Sorry. I’ll arrêt with the alliteration now.)

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I Give You Good Price

There must exist a handbook that every trinket-selling person across the globe has a copy of, and this must be its title. I’ve heard it from hawkers in South America, Mexico, China, India (oh my god, India!) and now, all different parts of Africa. In some cases it’s the only English some of these guys know, but they say it proudly and repetitively, despite the smirk it always elicits from me. As if all their competitors give me bad price.

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Give Peace a Glance

I was poking around online the other day when an article called “The 20 Most Peaceful Countries to Visit” caught my eye. It was one of those slide show-style type of articles… the kind where you must click “Next” for each new piece of information, and is badly written to boot. I’m generally against click-heavy articles, but every now and then with an interesting topic and pretty pictures, they suck me in.

Their top 20 was filled with Scandinavian countries, of course, and the usual European suspects along with Canada (#7), New Zealand (#4) and Australia (#9). I didn’t realize already-on-our-wish-list Japan was so peaceful at #8, and one really big surprise was Bhutan at #18, a Himalayan mountain kingdom that officially measures their “Gross National Happiness.” I think our travel wish list just grew a little bigger.

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Nerd Humor, and other Untranslatable Things

I wore this t-shirt yesterday in honor of NASA’s historic fly-by of our favorite dwarf planet. Something which I most likely would have missed in the weekly news over here if it weren’t for my super smart, scientifically-minded, space-news-following husband. I’m giving it a good try, though. Lately we’ve been settling down in the evenings for our second viewing of last year’s DVD purchase, Cosmos with Neil DeGrasse Tyson. Despite watching an entertaining host and a highly-produced extravaganza of color and special effects, complete with cartoon demonstrations for the imaginatively challenged, not to mention having learned some of these things in school once upon a time… I remain utterly, hopelessly lost. The music and graphics oddly put me in the mood to visit Epcot Center, make me hungry for funnel cake, and then put me right to sleep. This science stuff might as well be fiction to me.

Not to say I’m not a nerd; I totally am. Just a capital-memorizing, building-databases-in-my-spare-time kind of a nerd, not a nerd with, you know, the slightest ability to understand algebra or astrophysics. Yet even I can find this t-shirt funny.

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Let’s Talk About Boobs

One of my three amazing sisters-in-law posted an article on Facebook recently about the lingering shame of breastfeeding in public. I agree; I think it’s a strange society indeed who uses sex to sell nearly anything, who maintains a thriving porn industry, who worships scantily-clad celebrities and models and even tries to dress like them while shopping at Walmart… yet who gasps audibly when faced with a mother breastfeeding her child in public.

I think we’ve got it backwards. We’ve oversexualized breasts to such a point that it seems dirty for a baby to actually feed from them. We don’t want to know about it, and we certainly don’t want to see it.

Apparently even doing it behind closed doors is not far enough away. An office coworker of mine Continue reading

Embarrassing Embrasses

“Embrasse” is a great example of one of those French words that means roughly the opposite of what it looks like. A false friend, in linguist lingo. You would think an embrasse is an embrace… but that’s “serrer dans ses bras,” which translates literally as “holding tight in the arms” and doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue. Evidently, the French have trouble even translating the word for “hug.” They’re not so much the hugging type.

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Till You Find Your Dream

For my Mom, who loves loves loves the Sound of Music. And for Carolyn, who is expecting her first great-grandbaby any day now. Happy Mother’s Day to you both, and all you other fabulous moms out there!

Last month, just before leaving on our super-fantastic adventure to South Africa & Lesotho, my little lunchtime English class turned four years old. Four years, wow! There aren’t many jobs I’ve wanted to hold onto for four years in a row before. Who knew that the trick was making sure I worked for free?

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Callaloo (and a recipe, too!)

There are lots of random green leafy things for sale in the village market just outside our gates. Sweet potato leaves, squash leaves, bean leaves, cassava leaves, and more. Many things I wouldn’t have thought were edible (and my husband still insists aren’t). For us foreigners they can be intimidating to buy… not only do they look unfamiliar but they’re usually touted under unfamiliar Swahili names: Matembele, Kibwabwa, Sampou, Sombe. But after weeks or months of nothing green at the company store besides cabbage and frozen broccoli, they can start to look pretty interesting.

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