Food, Kenya

Pat came over today and we tried to bake brownies. I’ve tried it a few times before when Sara was here but we always missed some ingredients or had some other problems (oven doesn’t have degrees, only 1 -7!). The first batch was decent but I gave the second batch to the students because I wasn’t looking forward to eating OR cleaning that mess… I’m sure they loved all that chocolate and sugar, but that’s not a brownie, man! I’m getting a big discouraged because I’ve failed so many times. I even resorted to frying my cookie dough once because the pan was too big. I can get brownies in Nairobi at Java house, but it’s just not the same as a home-cooked Duncan Hines…

Food, Kenya

I just realized the other day that I only have eight months left here in Kenya. Not that I’m counting down, but because I arrived in October, 2007 I should be leaving in October, 2009 I guess. I haven’t decided if I will leave early or extend a bit. Since I came back from the evacuation after last year’s post-election violence I have steadily become a full-time lecturer at the college. That’s important to note because we will have a semester beginning in August/September or so, and if I leave in October I will leaving more-or-less in the middle of the semester. Not cool! So we’ll just have to play it by ear… whatever that means, haha.

Alan at Musau's chemist
Alan at Musau’s chemist
I’m very used to life in Tala these days. I walk around like a local and it shows. When I walk into any of the cafes I can just make some small talk and then say, “Kama kawaida” (“like usual” in Swahili) to get my tea and chapati. Even my afternoon students know that after class I’ll either be going to eat chai/chapati or Kisumu ndogo. Kisumu ndogo, which means “small Kisumu” in Swahili, is a place in Tala where you can eat delicious fried fish. It comes in small pieces, served with ugali (corn meal staple food) and some kachumbari (kinda like salsa fresca). Tala’s a funny place, a few months ago I noticed a new place called Kisumu kubwa (big Kisumu), which serves whole fish. Kisumu, by the way, is a town in Western Kenya on Lake Victoria, and the people there are known to eat a lot of fish.

I took some friends to eat samaki (“fish”) yesterday and it felt like I was a tour guide or a local resident, walking around greeting people in Kiswahili and Kikamba, taking my friends through the back streets to my favorite spots. They’re four young German volunteers who stay somewhere around Tala. I had been seeing them for some time, always waving from a distance but never really running into them. Last week I crossed paths with one and we exchanged numbers, so this week we made plans to get together in the market and hang out. They’re all in their early twenties and pretty funny, so we have a lot in common and had a lot to talk about. We ate a few rounds of fish and then had chai/chapati before they had to get going. I don’t know if I’ll see them much, but it was at least nice to laugh and talk with some other young people doing something similar to what I’m doing.

On another related note, I am going on a small trip to Fourteen Falls with Pat, the Peace Corps volunteer from the next town over, tomorrow. I saw that Mark, the previous VSO volunteer here, had gone there with one of his buddies in 2005, so I’ve been meaning to go but plans kept falling through.

So stay tuned for some more pictures. I’m off to drink some tea and finish my notes for Monday’s Unix class. Maybe I’ll also watch some “TV” on my laptop.

Food, Kenya, Rants

I had a funny experience in the market today: after work I went to buy some avocados and fresh corn for dinner. I found a group of mamas sitting near some vegetables so I greeted them and told them what I wanted. Just then it started raining so they invited me under their small shelter to sit on a bucket. I pointed to the maize, still in the husk, and said I wanted it but that I didn’t want to pick them off the cob. I struggled to explain this in Swahili, but I was getting close with the addition of some sounds and hand motions. I said I wanted mbili (“two”) corn and two avocados.

I again motioned that I didn’t want to pick the corn off the cob, and could she? When she understood she started laughing, then I started laughing. This attracted a small crowd of baby-carrying mamas, to whom the corn lady spoke some Kamba (the local language) and whose babies I greeted in said vernacular, and then broke the cobs in half and distributed them to the crowd for picking. As we were laughing and they were picking, I noticed there was quite a number of people eye balling our little corn-picking party. The team finished quickly and professionally (I tried it once a few months ago and I gave up, and roasted the corn instead). I gave them a bit of extra money for helping me pick the corn, and then we made some small talk and I said, “Thank you,” and, “see you later!”

These mamas are the backbone of Kenya. Kabisa (“completely”).