a taste of home

Canadians gathered last weekend with one goal in mind: eat to the point of physical discomfort. Being thousands of miles from home doesn’t mean we can shirk our responsibility to overindulge, so a little group of Canucks gathered in Nairobi last Sunday. Mission: accomplished.

oh my.

We started with pumpkin soup, then came turkey, stuffing, potatoes mashed and roasted, garlic green beans, roasted carrots, gravy, cran, and a steady flow of red wine. Then two pumpkin pies, a red wine chocolate cake, ice cream and banana bread. We had a lot to be thankful for.

these pies have equally fantastic back-stories: one was made from an actual pumpkin, and the other from a can of pumpkin pie filling transported all the way from Canada in a suitcase.

Meredith documented the saga of preparing the glorious feast, so head over there for more photos, commentary and general merriment.

la piece de resistance: an 11-kg turkey named Jalal. (thanks Meredith for this photo.)

Happy belated Thanksgiving to all my Canadian friends. I hope your celebrations were as memorable as mine.

let the wild rumpus begin

I had no idea that Maurice Sendak, author of my favourite book, also wrote the book that haunts me most from my childhood. (In a good way.) He recently gave a fabulous interview to the Guardian, where he airs his views on Gwenyth Paltrow (“I can’t stand her”) and Roald Dahl (“He’s dead, that’s what’s nice about him”)… you can read it here.

Also, new article in the Daily Nation today, about solar-powered water pumps in rural Kenya. Here.

tools of the trade.

day three and four in links and pictures

This has nothing to do with Kenya, but I think back on my crooked, heavy-handed writing on the blackboard in Grade 9, and I am blown away by this. (Someone once told me that the key to writing on a blackboard is originating your strokes from the shoulder.)

Hunter S., via Flavorwire.

This has nothing to do with Kenya either, except for the fact that I enjoyed reading it while lying in bed in Nairobi. I can’t say I’ve read much Hunter S. Thompson until now — the most I really knew about him for sure was that he looked pretty great in a swimsuit. I found the article here, which is an interesting collection, although I don’t think I would go as far as “best ever”.

And then there’s this. I think I am constantly operating in what they describe as a state of ego depletion – my default choice in any situation is whichever route will keep my options open. Fascinating article, although what I really took away from it is I should eat whenever I have to make a decision. Fine by me.

You wanted to hear more about Nairobi? Here’s what I can tell you: I took a bath so hot my skin was pink, the Internet’s fast enough to download This American Life, I get goosebumps if I go outside in short sleeves, and Dr. House is making witty wisecracks on cable TV. This is not an Africa I have experienced before.

Muindi Mbingu Street. Part of my morning commute, starting Monday.

I also can’t wait to go to this, which Dustin kindly told us about. Blankets and Wine? They’re appealing to the Montrealer in me.

Until that magical musical afternoon in September, we’ll have to settle for Thursday night karaoke in Westlands. Alex, Paige and I were just looking for a nightcap, and completely accidentally had a fantastic evening at the Santa Fe, complete with Bon Jovi and Coolio… but unfortunately no Journey. It was another side of Kenya I wasn’t expecting — a side where they ply you with free liquor to participate in karaoke night. Clearly I haven’t spent enough time in Africa’s big cities.

Our first nyamachoma.

We had our first nyama choma yesterday and I cannot say enough good things about it. A lot of people think of it as one of the few truly Kenyan dishes, as a lot of the fare here is common to the rest of East Africa, or is borrowed from India… and in the city, pizza, fried chicken and burgers also abound. Nyama choma is basically bbq’ed meat, almost always goat, cut into bite-sized pieces — greasy and a little salty and served with lots of toothpicks for afterwards. I’m doing a really bad job of selling it here, but it completely hit the spot. We had it with ugali (maize flour turned into a thick porridge, the white doughy-cakes you see on our plates) and a really delish tomato, red onion and cilantro salsa/salad. The best part? You eat it all with your hands, using the ugali as you’d use flatbread in the Middle East.

NOT our first Tuskers.

And of course, the meal wasn’t complete without a few cold Tuskers. (The “cold” part of the equation is important because room-temperature beer is an option here. Whenever you order a beer, the server asks “warm or cold?”) Fun fact: Tusker is named after the elephant that killed one of the company’s founders. It’s the most popular local brew from what I can tell, and it’s about a buck-fifty for a 500 ml bottle in a restaurant. I could get used to this.

We were lucky enough to share it all with Tony, a Kenyan friend of Dustin. He took us on a drive around the city, to meet his warm and welcoming mother and drink perhaps the best tea of my life. A little ginger goes a long way, apparently.

Today — Saturday — is the first sunny day so the plan is to get off the computer and out into the sunshine… at least to stock up on more bananas and mangoes, as I’m running low. Here’s hoping it will reset my body clock so I stop sleeping until noon, and that it’s warming the air enough that I can wear a t-shirt outdoors without shivering.

into the single digits

Today was my last day as a producer at CBC Radio in Ottawa, at least for now. I leave for Kenya in nine days, where a reporting job awaits. And I think Alice Bradley and I were separated at birth… this is exactly how I react/cope/deal with airports:

I’m really not a fan of flying. Not just the hurtling through the air in a screaming death machine part: the whole process. The packing. The boarding pass-getting (will I do it wrong? Probably.). The panicking on the way to the airport because the cab/train/subway is taking longer than I think it should take. The double and triple-checking that I’m in the right airport/terminal. The long, arduous security line. The possibility of being manhandled. The idiotic shoe-removal. The waiting around the gate for two hours because God forbid I don’t get there super early. The purchasing of overpriced snacks and magazines. The visiting of every restroom in the airport, because when I get anxious, my bladder goes into overdrive.

BUT! Then I see videos like this. And I remember why I can’t wait to lift off.

That one’s the best, but LEARN and EAT are pretty good too.

Anyway. Nine days. Less.

two blogs, one stone

Here are the newest additions to my Google Reader:

1) Suri’s burn book

2) Myths retold

And here is Matthew Baldwin of Defective Yeti telling a fabulous story from Back Fence PDX. A taste of what you can look forward to if you make the trek to Nairobi to visit me.

He has a post about Back Fence PDX, where you can find some other charming and hilarious storytellers. I may or may not have stayed up past my bedtime watching them.

Also, I promise this page will become less of a collection of random Internet curios once I flee the country on August 14. In the meantime, check out that browser address bar! Woah-ho! I’m a URL!

diversions

1. “As the situation descended into chaos, the researchers stood by and watched—until one of their colleagues finally spoke out.” (It was ethical at the time.)

2. This is totally disgusting, but not disgusting enough to change my habits:

3. “The end result of less diving is that watching women play soccer at the highest level is less encumbered by obvious cheating histrionics and more of a pure experience.”

4. It’s Wednesday. Hump day. Here is something to get you through the afternoon — 39 songs in one. Girl Talk, watch out, you’ve got company: