28 October 2008

Don't Got Milk

I was so excited on Sunday about the prospect of telling everyone about drinking fresh milk here. Last week one of Mike's coworkers pointed out a place where he buys fresh, local milk every Sunday. Two liters for 2,000 bufers (Burundian francs; about $1.70) and you have to bring your own container. It's one of those secret kiosks that are all over the place here -- a blank facade with no sign indicating what could be on the other side of the door. If you're not in the know... you'd never know.

I asked a Belgian nurse that I work with about any possible health risks from drinking the local milk. I think she thought I was crazy to try it, but she gave me instructions for pasteurizing it at home. Mike and I were willing to give it a shot. We miss milk so much!

So on Sunday morning we found some containers, our nalgene waterbottles, three of which amounted to 2.25 liters. Mike found the secret location again and we walked up to a little window, like at a bank. The woman was very nice, and surprisingly asked us if we wanted pasteurized or unpasteurized. We weren't sure if we should trust the local pastuerization process and decided we'd stick with the original plan of doing it ourselves. She filled up our bottles and we were on our way. (We got the muzungu price, though, 2,500 bufers -- $2.09 -- for our 2.25 liters.)

The milk was so thick and heavy! And it smelled so good. Mmmm, cream. We poured it into a large pot and started warming it up. We slowly got it up to what we'd been told -- 80 Celcius -- and let it simmer at about that temperature for 15 minutes.

It started to smell less like milk and more like yogurt. We thought maybe once it cooled down it would be okay. So we waited and waited... and it still smelled and tasted like yogurt. We cannot put this in our coffee or enjoy it on our cereal. We have curded milk now.

We were pretty disappointed. We're going to go back next Sunday and try the pastuerized milk. We gave the curdled milk to our cook to try and salvage by making yogurt or paneer.

I hate the word curdled. And I keep thinking of Little Miss Muffett, sitting on a tuffet, eating her curds and whey. Bleck. I don't want curds. I want cream for my coffee!

16 October 2008

At least I wore closed-toe shoes today

I don't have long pants, a rain coat, or an umbrella with me though. We had a wicked downpour last night followed by some serious thunder and lightning. This morning, though, the air was so hot and dry it seemed like it would never rain again. A few minutes ago I jumped out of my skin when a loud crack of thunder startled me. It was extra surprsing because the view outside my office window was puffy clouds in the background, but mostly blue sky. Nothing seemed threatening at all.

Now I think it's raining heavier than I've ever seen it rain before. I said that to Mike last night and I think today's is even heavier. Luckily I brought a lunch today so I can hunker down for a rainy afternoon and hope the sun is out by the time I go home. I'm sitting in my office, watching water blow in from under the door, hoping it doesn't blow in through the windows. I'm praying to the gods of Uninterrupted Power Supply, which will keep my computer running for about 20 minutes if the lights go out (and they are blinking on and off).

I love my job. Today I'm researching umuganuro, a Burundian planting festival. I'm looking for harvest-type festivals to write about in conjunction with Halloween / Samhain / Thanksgiving, what-have-you. But it's technically spring here, not fall, and since it's pretty much the same temperature year-round, I haven't quite figured out the growing and harvest seasons yet. I think umuganuro is later in the year, in December. Whenever it is, isn't it great that I get to do this sort of thing all day long?

10 October 2008

Mmm, it smells like Rhode Island

The shipment of nonperishable food that we packed up and sent in the beginning of August arrived yesterday. Yay! We were getting low on some supplies and had been putting off ordering more knowing this huge shipment would be arriving soon. We received a big bag of Dunkin' Donuts coffee that I tore into this morning. I love Peets, but DD smells like home. We also have a gallon of coffee syrup.

I've been touring hospitals here this week. I hope I don't need serious medical attention any time soon. Doctors are optimistic that the ICU equipment will be arriving in a few weeks. There are no elevators or ramps. Stretchers get dragged up two or three flights of stairs if the patient can't walk. At one clinic, the doctor proudly pointed out the "fortress"-like construction of the building, a big square with all the windows facing a courtyard in the center rather than having windows facing the street. That way if there's a blast, glass won't go flying into the clinic. Things we don't really think about in the U.S.

I also visited the top three European schools in the city this week and if I had kids I'd send them to any of them in a heartbeat. I was pleasantly surprised with the facilities and quality of education. Of course, only the most well-to-do can afford to send their kids there, but there's still a huge mix of children there. They have over 20 nationalities represented at each school. The kids get a well-rounded education just from being exposed to so many different kinds of people. One school is all English with French as a second language; one is all French with English as a second language; and one is 50/50 French and English, but it currently only goes up to 2nd grade.

Yay long weekend and Mike's birthday!

08 October 2008

Voting and Stuff

Something I've been sweating for a while now: our absentee ballots. We applied for them within seconds of arriving in Bujumbura back in August. They finally arrived today! Who knows if they'll make it back to the U.S. in time for the election, but I'm going to fill mine out today and mail it back. No one can say I didn't try. There's a failsafe though. If you're living overseas and your local ballot doesn't arrive, you can write-in your vote for president to be counted in the federal election. (For more info go here.)

We did not wake up at 3:00 am this morning to watch the debate but we're going to try and go home for an early lunch to watch the re-run of it this morning. We get CNN International, which keeps us up to speed with the elections and all the terrible financial news. Did you know banks are failing all over the world? I don't know what regular CNN reports, but on International it's all England, Iceland, the Netherlands. What do these little countries do when the banks that are failing need more money than the country's GDP? The governments don't have enough money to bail them out.

In fun news: Photos! We went to a national preserve and saw hippos napping in the river. It was too rainy for crocodiles though. Maybe next time.

01 October 2008

Hippo Sighting 2

It's bigger and better than last time!

One night last week we went for sunset drinks and snacks at a popular waterfront hippo-watching spot, Circle Nautique. We saw a lot of birds and bugs but no hippos. Last night we tried a different spot, Ubuntu Residence. We got one of the small tables along the road. Trafficky, but worth it for the view of the lake and the giant hippo that wallowed there munching for nearly as long as we sat there munching, too. This thing was huge! It kept going underwater and resurfacing, each time a little closer. It looked big when it was far out. By its third resurface we could tell it was gigantic. He opened his mouth wide a couple times. He was close enough we could see the silouette of his little ears. It was so cool. Dinner wasn't that great, but at least we had a magnificent hippo sighting.

In other animal news, there's a new noise outside our house in the evenings. It's a very loud frog or toad sound. I've seen some large toads hopping around, but this sound is so loud I expect to see a guy in a frog costume standing in our driveway yelling "Rawk! Rawk!" into a megaphone.

Chapter Six: The Shoemaker: A Tale of Two Cities with Women

For background on the project and to see all the chapters at once, go to the tag A Tale of Two Cities Project . Chapter Six: The Shoemak...