Monday, December 27, 2004

I am Uganda's Domestic Goddess

I am just so proud of myself!


That's right, you read it here first. I am actually creating yogourt, at home, with only my instincts and cunning ability to read instructions to guide me.

You see, I eat A LOT of yogourt (it is both healthy and magically delicious). And when you consider that one cannot buy fat-free yogourt in Uganda, and that most brands here specify that their yogourts do not need to be refridgerated, and that is VERY SUSPICIOUS, I decided that the my high-volume yogourt consumption either needed to be decreased or modified. (I mean, what the heck are they putting in that stuff so that you don't need to refridgerate it? Oh, and as a sidenote, most people here also don't refridgerate eggs. That's right, EGGS. Why the whole country isn't curled up around the toilet with salmonella poisoning is beyond me.)

So, anyways, back to the ever-fascinating yogourt. I checked on the internet, and discovered that making my own fat-free, refridgeration-necessary yogourt was super easy. (At this point, I would like it to be noted that I have just broken the record for the number of times one can use the word 'yogourt' in a blog post.) Now, okay, since i'm so enamored by this whole thing, i'm going to share the instructions with you, since I know that everyone who checks this blog is really just here for the odd recipes.

So, you need:
- A saucepan
- A thermos
- Your finger
- Skim milk
- A couple tablespoons of live-culture sugar-free yogourt
- Fat-free powdered milk (optional)

1)Heat the milk in the saucepan just until simmering, and immediately remove from heat, and cool until it is 100 degrees farenheit. (The recipe i read said you need a candy thermometer for this, but my alternate method is this: 100 degrees is very close to body temperature. Wash your hands, then stick your finger in the milk, and when it feels like its the same temperature as your finger, proceed to the next step. I swear that works.)
2) Mix in a tablespoon or two of the yogourt. (For your first batch, you need to buy some yogourt, after that you can just use yogourt from your previous batch.) Mix well!
3)Optional step: Mix in a couple tablespoons of powdered milk. Without it, your yogourt will be fine, but it will be quite runny. This thickens it up! (Store bought fat-free yogourts are thickened with gelatin or pectin or extra 'milk solids', which is what the powdered milk basically is.)
4)Pour the mixture into the thermos, and then put the thermos in a turned-off oven, or wrap it in towels, or do something else that will minimize thermos-heat loss.
5) 8 hours later (I leave it overnight) you will have ... Yogourt!

How much time did i just spend typing about yogourt? I need to get some work done....

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

I'm convinced it was just a bar that happened to have some Indian food menus lying around.

On friday night I went to this small random Indian restaurant for dinner. (I'd never heard of it, it was "behind Save The Children" which seemed to me like a pretty random place for a restaurant.) So anyways, myself and my three 'dinner companions' sit down, open the menu, marvel at the selection (about 30 0r 40 different items) and the very reasonable prices. We choose four items, carefully balancing veg and non-veg, saucy and non-saucy, as well as one order of rice, and two of naan. After much confusion, the waiter had everything written down properly, and we settled in to wait for our food.

We'd been waiting and chatting for about 15 minutes, when the waiter came over and said "I am very sorry, we don't have naan". We were pretty incredulous - an indian restaurant without any naan??? Crazy! So we ordered so more rice, and continued to wait.

About ten minutes later, the waiter again comes to our table, and says, "I'm sorry, but we don't have any of the chicken." We were pretty incredulous - no chicken? Crazy! After a very lengthy set of questioning, we concluded that it wasn't simply that they didn't have chicken tikka masala (the only chicken dish that we ordered), but that they didn't have chicken at all. Then we thought we'd confirm - but you do have the daal we ordered, right? No, actually Or anything else we had chosen. (This was only revealed as we asked about each dish, one at a time.)

So one of us said, "Okay, here is the menu, you show us what you DO have."

He looked at us, and said "We have rice!", to which we responded "okay, what else?" "We have weggie curry!" "What?" "Weggie curry. We have it." Sigh. "So all you have is veggie curry and rice?" "Yes yes we have it, we have weggie curry. And rice!"

So then we left.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Shouting at People is a Mental Fault

Or so it says in the headline of the article taped up in the window of my co-worker's office. I'd believe it.

Did you know that...

1) There is no Luganda word for 'please'?
2) Men hold hands here, just as an every day matter of course? It's sort of sweet seeing two big burly men walk along the street with a few fingers intertwined. (Oh, and "there are no gays in Uganda!", so that's not it.)
3) That i could fly, round-trip, from uganda to bangkok, for only $350 dollars? Crazy, huh?
4)That I frequently need hiking boots to navigate a parking lot?
5)That you can indeed carry the following with you as a passenger on a motorcycle:
- 28-24 small wicker stools/ottomans
- 6 x 20 foot piece of sheet metal
- 8 live chickens
- another motorcycle
6)That I had a sty in my left eye yesterday, and it really hurt, but today it is much better?

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Oh my god, another one?

I just got invited to a ugandan wedding. ANOTHER ugandan wedding. This will now be my fourth. good lord people, i barely know you, stop inviting me to your relatives weddings, who i don't know at all. (by the way, i'm at a computer with a sticky 'shift' key, so i'm avoiding unnecessary capitalization - it's just not worth the trouble.)

also, bizarrely, i just picked up a friend in a coffee shop. like the way you normally would 'pick up' someone of the opposite gender in a bar or nightclub. we shared a table because all the others were full, and started talking. sometimes the quirkiness of being an expat is really rather nice!

Sunday, December 05, 2004


I spent this past long weekend up at the supremely relaxing Nile Safari Camp with my friend Emily and her boss Zahid, who are, rather conveniently for me, the general manager and owner of the lodge. My oh my, it was lovely. Lovely and relaxing. There's something about sitting up in bed and seeing the
Nile river (photo) just feet from your tent to make the day start off right. I even didn't mind being woken up by the sound of monkeys hurling tamarind nuts at the balcony. Charming, really. Although, I must admit, awfully confusing when you're half-asleep. The camp, which is actually more of a semi-luxury lodge, is absolutely beautiful itself, and is designed to blend in with the nature around it as much as possible, and to provide river views from almost anywhere in the camp you might be, such as in a lounge (photo), or at the pool (photo).

Probably the highlight of the weekend, though, was our visit to the nearby village of Mobako, a couple of kilometers from the Nile Safari Camp. Emily and Zahid are working on supporting 'sustainable tourism' around their lodges, and part of that is ensuring that local residents are able to sustain their livelihood. So meetings were held and discussions were had, ideas debated. While we were there, they started to prepare food for lunch, came in from collecting cotton from the fields (they get paid 800 shillings - about 40 cents U.S. - for every kilo of cotton they collect) and showed off their homes and their few prized possessions. Rather than describe it all, i've decided instead to simply post some photos from the day.

This little girl was so absolutely scared of us, as small kids often are of muzungus. It feels a little awful to know that your alien skin colour is terrorizing a toddler!

It's not very often that you see men having anything to do with babies, so this seemed especially sweet.

Every day I see probably hundreds of women carrying their babies like this - and the babies always look as peaceful and snuggly as this one.

Preparing greens and edible flowers to be cooked for lunch. Oh, and that little boy in the green shorts? I'm packing him in my suitcase and bringing him home - by far the cutest kid i've met - he has a smile that could light up a hut!

About to prepare lunch.

Bringing in cotton from the fields, in a jerry can.

Showing off a prized wrap. The woman in the grey (her name is Grace) is one of two village women who speaks fairly good english, and she is also my new penpal. Our letters will be sent back and forth on Nile Safari supply trucks, so that she doesn't need to pay postage

Seeing their picture on my camera's screen seemed like an absolute joy for these kids!

By the way, I feel it is rather relevant to note, that in this region, one of the poorest in Uganda, that 45% of the population (which includes the residents of this village)lives on less than 5000 Uganda Shillings ($2.50 U.S.) per month. That kid in the green shorts? There's no fabric in the back of what is likely his only clothes, just the waistband and a few scraps hanging down. The girl in ripped white dress? There's no way her mother has money for a needle and thread.

It will be nice when the sustainability project get up and running and some of the tourists paying up to $100 a day at the lodge are given the chance to have some of their money channeled towards the village. Village-made crafts, village tours, or fresh vegetables, anyone?

That being said, I am never greeted with more genuine warmth and friendliness than when I visit a Ugandan village.