Saturday, November 21, 2009

Attack of the Fifty-Foot Grasshopper! Or, How To Deal with Bugs

Or at least 50 million. Two nights I woke up at one point in the night having to pee (considering the 3 liters of water I drink per day, a fairly common occurrence.) I heard a loud, penetrating hum and, remembering the short circuit in our building earlier in the day, thought something was up with the electricity again. Oh, was I wrong.

The walls outside my room were covered with these little fellows, grasshoppers climbing and flying around. I ran the gauntlet to what I imagined was the relative safety of the toilet, only to find more on the door and even a couple waving at me from the toilet. A terrifying experience for one half-asleep. I re-tucked my net extra tight.

In the morning, while appreciating my mosquito net for keeping out spiders and now grasshoppers, I realized this meant fried grasshoppers would now be available; sure enough, people were out early in the morning, harvesting the bugs from buildings; trees; grass; and the sky was full of birds - crows and sparrows, mainly - gluttonously flying around.

How to fry grasshoppers? It's amazing in it's simplicity:

1. Collect
When the sound of grasshoppers' (let's call them Jiminys) wings rubbing together makes someone think there is a major electrical malfunction, this only takes a few minutes.

2. Clean

As in, remove legs and wings, even as you watch the Jiminys reach for your fingers with their remaining legs - or stumps - and turn their heads left and right, trying to bite you with their pincers. It would be sad, but only if you mistook their behavior for actual intelligence and not the simply life-saving instinct it truly is. Remember: they're just bugs.

It is still creepy, though.

3. Fry

Just dry pan-fry.

Jiminys are so greasy they cook in their own fat; 100% protein my ass.

4. Eat

See? Eating already. Maybe we should consider this for the next locust swarm. We still have 14 years or so to come up with some recipes, right?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Another post, another failure at a catchy title

What's that in the picture? A cake? A strawberry cake? Who the hell cares about a stupid strawberry cake, you may be wondering? I do. That's right, because that cake was baked in a charcoal oven, like this one.

How many cakes have you baked in a charcoal oven? Yeah, that's what I thought.

Seth arrives in Kigali next week, which means the week after that I leave for a month-long vacation. I suppose some would say that 4 (actually 5) weeks off from work is a bit much considering I have been at the job for three months - well, no, I don't know many people who would complain like that but I know they exist. This school term has been exhausting and educative, leaving me with many ideas to use when crafting workshop plans for next year. I have also made some personal revelations:

1) I will never get used to African time. In fact, it takes a lot of deep breathing for me to even be patient with African time. However, I do enjoy it when I use it as my excuse, though locals never do. How come I am supposed to accept their being late but they don't accept mine?

2) I can't stomach black instant coffee. When I first came I was drinking my coffee - the fine, dust-like powder it is - almost straight, with an occasional spoon of purloined sugar from the kitchen, simply because I didn't want to spend money on my own sugar. I know - how cheap can you be? At this point I drink my coffee with sugar, Nido and cocoa powder and if one is missing I suffer pitiably. Yes, life in central African is that hard.

3) I know more about teaching than I realized. I had guessed for some time that, having been in school for so long something had to have rubbed off on me, and it seems it did. More than pedagogical knowledge, however, I also enjoy teaching. This doesn't mean that I never wish I could smack a couple of those punk-ass P5 students across the face, just that I should consider the education field more seriously in the future.

4) Aubergines (to distinguish them form the nasty, bitter green eggplants also found here) have become a favorite of mine; I used to fling these bulbs os nastiness to the floor in disgust. Seriously, who thought that such a spongy, ugly little thing could be tasty? Not me - until now; I've eaten the things 5 times in the past two weeks.

5) This has occurred to me before but has recently become a stark realization: the desperate need for evaluative research into education programs here in Africa. How much of an impact has Smiles had on the live of children here - other than swimming skills, which are easily observed? How many years will a viable program need to be in place before it has any effect, if it has any effect? Is this the right way to go about spreading education? Those typical questions of, "What's the point?" smacking me straight in the face. It's relevant, though: Smiles has been working with Bufuka Primary School since 2004, which means the majority of P7 students had experienced Smiles workshops for 5 years - yet half of them can't understand English. What was achieved?

6) It is hard being away from Seth. Yes, we both knew it would be difficult but had no idea - no fucking idea - just how hard it would be. I hadn't realized the essentiality of that man in my life but it's there, deep and strong. Serendipity struck strong that day in the airport.

7) Finally - I hate foam mattresses. But charcoal ovens? Bring it.