Monthly Archives: May 2010

Guest Blogger Alexi: tea time

Any country that was once a colonial state has a rich history of tea-drinking and Mozambique is no different. The varieties offered here aren’t especially extensive, usually the basic Five-Roses variety or if you’re real fancy, then maybe you can splurge on Roibos. If you’re Mozambican, tea drinking involves 4 or 5 spoonfuls of sugar and plenty of condensed milk. By the time you’re done sprucing it up, it’s more like sugar water with a hint of color in it.

Now, coming from the Georgia you’d think that I’d have a real liking for bona fide, porch sittin’, Southern, sweet iced tea, but I never developed that taste. However, recently I decided that iced tea combines so many great factors that I enjoy, so heck – I was gonna give it another try. So this weekend, I made my first batch of peppermint iced tea and don’t you know, it’s delicious and refreshing. How did it take me so long to come around to this drink?!

Tea, be it iced or steaming hot, seems to have been on the mind quite all over the world this weekend. While I was busy brewing my pot over here, Alexi sent me her next guest-post about tea as well:

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For Merced de Papel

I want to take a moment to extend two big thank yous:

First is to Liza Corr for sending me a book entitled The People of Paper.  Her package arrived last December but the book just sat beside my bed for months. Tempting but only briefly skimmed through.  I don’t know why I delayed, but I’m glad I did. I feel like I picked it up at just the right moment and mood.

Second is to Salvador Plascencia the author of The People of Paper. I would like to tell you Mr. Plascencia how much I am enjoying your writing and characters. I have spent the last few days enraptured and daydreaming about little Merced, Baby Nostradamus and origami capillaries. Your writing is even more enticing than the great cover.

I carried you with me to the field yesterday where we were to lead an “exchange of experience” between two groups of weavers. Just after settling into the training, the skies opened up and poured down. After standing under a tree for 15 minutes there was no sign of it letting up, so I made a mad dash to the car. There I sat, behind the wheel of a parked African Landrover, windows fogging over the view of a rural village, and me engulfed in pity and hope that Smiley would eventually be acknowledged and given due credit for his theoretical mathematics and rejection of the war. 

Maybe somewhere in this crazy world and 6 degrees of separation, you’ll hear my compliments Salvador. Perhaps though, it’s enough to just send my gratitude out to the universe and say thank you for beautiful prose and compelling literature.

 

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Ewwwww!

Let me just start this post by openly admitting that I have a fungus…growing on me.

I definitely considered not writing about this gross development, but then I thought about the purpose of this blog. I want to keep all you Dear Readers up to date and in the loop on the happenings and events of my Mozambican life. And frankly, who isn’t mildly curious about the exotic infectious diseases and macabre health risks that one might encounter on this dark continent over here. 

Skipping propriety, let me delve into the juicy details of my fungus-infection. It’s called Tinea Versicolor – basically a yeast infection on my skin. Gross, huh!?

I looked it up online and WebMd says: “It is quite common in tropical areas that have high temperatures and humidity. More prevalent amongst young adults (do I still count), and on areas of the body that tend to be oily, such as arms, shoulders, back, or neck.” 

I’ve got classic textbook Tinea Versicolor if I’ve ever seen it. 

The infection effects pigmentation and prevents certain areas of the skin from tanning, causing uneven skin coloring and white spots to show up against tan skin. 

Here’s the good news:

  1. It’s treatable with a fungal cream. I just have to slather it on my arms twice a day.  
  2. It’s not permanent skin discoloration. The yeast will die and the spots will retan, though it might take weeks or months for my arm to look normal again. 

I only have discoloration on my right arm and a few spots on my left, so it’s certainly not terrible. It doesn’t itch or hurt – it just looks strange. I also get quite a lot of sun here. Even though I am good about putting on sunscreen, I expose my shoulders to a lot of rays making the spots more visible.  The most likely cause of this yeasty-imbalance is my Doxycycline that I take as an antimalarial. Perhaps it’s not the sole reason I got it, but I bet it’s played it’s little part. 

So there it is. My big bad infectious secret, announced to the world. As unsightly as it is, certainly I could do worse… say, a Buruli Ulcer or any type of worm. Yep, when considering that this is the worst foreign infection I’ve gotten during my 7 months in Mozambique, I think I’m pretty grateful for my health and curable fungus. 

 

*Thank you also to Dr. Wise, the CUSO-VSO doctor, who offered his diagnosis via email. 

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Exotic Fruit


I’ve made a habit of posting images of me holding wonderfully random objects that have come into my life here; a jar of honey, a cashew fruit and nut, now this. It’s called a custard apple. I’ve also heard it be referred to as an Amazon apple and Annona fruit. 

There is one blossoming tree in the compound and I’ve only been able to snag one or two before the guards get to picking them. They don’t exactly taste like apples, but they are delcious and have a great texture – somewhere between custard (appropriately) and a granular pear. Each segment has a single, hard, black, oblong, smooth seed.

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Did you know?… guest blogger

Big News!!!! I want to introduce my first guest blogger, Alexi Piasecki. You might recognize her name from my recent Visitors posting, since she and Andrea recently came to visit me here in Mozambique.  Alexi is a great artist and a constant source of inspiration and creativity. It’s been years since we actually lived in the same city, but even before we moved to different places we were avid pen pals. Ever since, our mailing tradition has continued.

I’m so pleased that Alexi has offered to contribute a series of illustrated factoids to Okay? Okay. Who doesn’t like a good fact? Her first of hopefully many contributions seems quite appropriate, since it fits in with the past few weeks’ encounter with a variety of creatures that share my cabana with me.

So let me just ask, did you know….

 

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what’s cookin’

Fejªo Nhemba

(also known as Matsau ati Nhaua in the local language Xitswe)

One of my goals for this year was to learn and actually make a local dish. So, while Andrea and Lexi were visiting in March, Hamida gave us a hands on lesson on how to cook Mozambique-style. From buying bean leaves in the back of the local market to prepping fresh crabs and cracking coconuts, we participated in making the meal from market to plate. 

Fejao means beans. In this case, green beans. The main ingredient to this dish is green bean leaves. Most components of this dish could probably be found or substituted with something similar in your local garden if you want to try this out. I offer substituions based on vague assumptions and not on culinary wisdom. 

 

Ingredients:

  • large bag of fejao leaves, plus a few green beans
  • crabs, 8 to 10 
  • onion, chopped
  • coconut, freshly grated
  • peanuts, about 2 cups 

 

– Finely chop the fejao leaves and beans. Put in a small pot and cook on med. high with no added water. (Collard greens may be a good substitution since I’m not so sure the local grocer in the US will offer bean leaves).  Cook down for about 20 to 30 minutes while you do the next few steps.

– Grate coconut, then “milk” it with hot water. Squeeze handfuls of the soaked coconut, drain the liquid into another bowl for “first milk”. Then add more water to the coconut, re-squeeze and drain for “second milk”. Keep coconut milk but discard grated coconut meat.

 

 – “Pillao” the peanuts. This basically means pound into semi-fine flour.  (Women here all have large wooden mortars and giant 5 foot wood pestles, they use to pound different materials into smithereens. I think a smaller mortar and pestle will work elsewhere. It just might take more time and be less impressive to watch.)  Add a bit of dry rice to peanuts while pounding to absorb the peanut oil. Separate out rice after done pillao-ing (rice will be visibly unsmushed). 

– Clean the crabs and take off the legs and gill bits. Boil crabs in a bit of water until pink, then take out.

– In a big pot, boil coconut milk, add pounded peanuts, stir and bring to a boil. Add crabs and chopped onion. 

– Squeeze liquid out of bean leaves. Then stir into coconut crab mix. 

Serve with rice or chima

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