29 March 2011

The Best Coffee in the World

Here's a little note to let you know that the best coffee in the world, Peet's Burundi, is back for a limited time, online only. I'm not just saying it's the best because we lived there and I'm happy when Burundi has great economic opportunities. This really is great-tasting coffee.

Image from Peets.com. I was not compensated in any way for this post. Product was purchased by me for personal consumption.

27 March 2011

Weekly SD Blog RoundUp Call for Entries

Meow, the cat's out of the bag now. I'm a State Department blogger, for those readers who know I'm overseas but don't know why. I try to play it cool, focusing on being overseas rather than why we are overseas. But many other SD bloggers have been kind enough to link to me and comment so now it's my turn to repay the favor. I'm hosting the State Department Blog RoundUp this week.

I like the "optional talking point" idea from last week. Here it is: International Bathrooms. Not necessarily in our housing, since housing has been discussed quite a bit lately (although you're certainly free to discuss it some more). I'm thinking more along the lines of the best and worst at the airports and hotels we tend to pass through regularly, funny misunderstandings, etc., and not necessarily limited to your post. Vacation destination bathrooms count too.

For example:
In Poland the bathroom doors are marked with circles and triangles. I used the men's room once and walked into a second men's room before I realized this.

The bathroom stalls in Brussels airport are narrow. At 32 weeks pregnant with my carry-on bag in tow I could not turn around!

The Tribe hotel in Nairobi has an open floor plan, which means the bathtub is in the room and the toilet and shower are behind a glass partition. The Raddisson in Delhi also has glass wall on one side of the bathroom. You have to be really comfortable with your roomie to stay there.

At a particularly nice restaurant in Burundi, I was not startled by the unisex bathroom stall. What startled me was that the men's urinal was installed directly outside that door, with nothing partitioning it from view. I had to walk past a man using it to enter that bathroom. He didn't seem to mind.

Don't get me started on some of the less-than-ideal conditions we faced in Tanzania. My first experience with a hole-in-the-ground bathroom was at a gas station/convenient store outside Moshi. It wasn't until several rest stops later that I realized what the raised blocks on either side of the hole were for.
As noted before, the theme is optional. If you have anything else to share this week, leave me a comment or send me an email. Please let me know by midnight Thursday, U.S. eastern time.

The next few weeks are open for hosting. If you're interested, check out the calendar.

20 March 2011

Color Me Holi

This weekend was Holi, a Hindu holiday in celebration of triumph over evil spirits. If you've seen the Incredible India! commercials on CNN, the part where boys are throwing paint on each other, that's Holi.

We ventured out to a Holi party with Muffin and some friends today.

As you can see, Muffin actually stayed fairly clean until we got home and started washing ourselves up. She's fine, but Mike and I are going to be pink for days. We look like we have terrible sunburns. And who remembers when my hair was pink? The pink hair has returned for a few days. (I like it!)

Happy Holi!

19 March 2011

13 March 2011

The Littlest Grasshopper and Other Critters

I think it's well known and well documented that I love all animals, even the creepy crawly ones, with just a few exceptions. I don't want them in my hair and I'm waging a constant battle against mosquitoes. Some of them should stay outside. But for the most part, I'm the first person to run up to a bug to check it out, except when Mike beats me to it. India has provided us with many opportunities so far to instill in Muffin a love and appreciation for even the smallest critters.

Here's is the littlest grasshopper, who was hanging out in the laundry room this week:
It was about one centimeter long.

This week we also saw what some people call a water bug or palm bug, but what I refer to as a giant cockroach:
Luckily it was outside, per my verbal contract with some bugs.

And finally this week,what I think is a yellow grass butterfly:
They have been showing up dead all over the street lately. I don't know if it's a seasonal thing or an environmental thing. It's been a few degrees warmer lately than it's supposed to be this time of year so maybe that's affecting their life cycle.

And here's my favorite bug of the week:
She's been known to hover at mealtimes trying for any scrap of food that she can get.

09 March 2011

One More Big Day

So, as far as I can tell, the Telenganu people have decided that the best way to show they deserve independent statehood from the rest of Andra Pradesh is to hold rallies and strikes every now and then. They get a bunch of students together, they make shopkeepers close down, they get the police all riled up, they cause traffic jams. But they're very nice about announcing these actions several days ahead of time so you can run out to get groceries before the bandh (strike) and plan your day around avoiding the traffic jam areas. It was exciting and felt so revolutionary when we first got here. Now it's more ho-hum, making arrangements for our housekeeper to take an auto to work because the bus isn't running through her neighborhood, but otherwise business as usual for me. There are always some unfortunate protesters who have run-ins with the police, but it's always foggy as to who was in the wrong in those situations.

For a couple of weeks rumors have been floating around about a Million Telenganu March, inspired by the protests in Egypt. Tomorrow is supposed to be the big day and it's supposed to be the final protest before the statehood decision is made (I think). I don't think they have a million people, but what they apparently don't have is permission to hold a march or rally. The police seem to think they need permission. The protesters seem to think that they don't if they promise to remain peaceful. And student exams are tomorrow so a parents' group has pressured the march organizers to hold the rally in the afternoon, after exams are finished.

I'm curious to see what happens. Either it will fizzle out and be just another day on the protest lines here, or it will be a day of massive protester vs. police clashes and we'll make CNN as the latest regional hot spot.

To all parents and other concerned readers who panic at the phrase "Egypt-inspired": We live no where near the march site and we are staying home all day watching events unfold online. (And hoping the electricity doesn't go out while we run our air conditioner, because afternoon temps are already reaching 100 degrees and it's barely the start of the hot season.)

07 March 2011

At the Steak House

Yes, you heard me correctly. Steak in Hyderabad. Tender, juicy, perfectly seasoned grilled tenderloin. Decent, and even passable, steak is difficult to find here. Hindus and Muslims don't eat a lot of beef and the cows aren't raised for eating purposes. The few times we've bought beef to roast or grill ourselves it's been tough and no amount of pounding or marinating has made it tender enough to be enjoyable. And for some reason I always think of buying a steak for Friday night dinner, but you can't buy beef on Fridays (all the Muslim butcher shops are closed).

Since we arrived our driver has been pointing out Chef Inam's Steak House to me every time we pass it and one night Mike and our neighbor stopped there on the way home from work to pick up some take-away. Mike met Chef Inam, tried the steak, and has been insisting we get back there right away. Inam lived in the United States and took culinary classes at Johnson and Whales (Yay Rhode Island!) and has brought his American steak-grilling skills back to India. On Friday night I packed up Muffin, we went to pick up Mike at work, and we went at Chef Inam's for a steak.

This is not a steak house like you'll find in the United States and I can see why so many expats get their steak for take-away. It's a little hole-in-the-wall with a couple tables and plastic chairs. Inam grills on the street in front of the facade. There's a cooler full of sodas and water. It's a dive. But we pulled out our hand sanitizer and ate there anyway.

It was worth it. Mike got a French-style peppercorn-encrusted steak and I had what Inam calls his Boston steak, covered with herbs and English mustard. They were perfectly cooked (rare for Mike, medium rare for me), tender, and deliciously seasoned.

We took Muffin outside to watch the grilling. She was fascinated. We even gave her a few bits of meat to chew on. She loved it until she got a peppercorn. She was getting tired by then, so instead of her spitting-out yucky face, she screamed. Luckily the place was getting full of men talking and laughing loudly so no one else could hear her. We paid the bill and made a quick getaway.

Speaking of the bill, the steaks were about five or six dollars each and the serving was big enough to fill Mike and for me to eat half and bring the rest home.

Don't let Muffin's reaction deter you from Chef Inam's Steak House. She's just a baby. And we're the stupid parents who gave her spicy peppercorns, then stopped to take a picture of it.