Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Aw crap.

Man, talk about bad news. Swine flu, the economy's in the dumps, I put on five pounds in South Africa...and our car just died.

Poor Jorge, he was on the way home from Milo's playgroup when it happened. Fortunately a friend passed by and gave him and Milo a lift home. We got the car towed, now we just have to see if it's salvageable. We never should have sold The Wanker. That was a big mistake. Our friends who bought it are still driving around happily in it, never having had a problem.

So now I have to leave work on time for a change so that I can walk home. In heels.

Dang it.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Speaking of packing

One of the things that every expatriate does is stockpile food from home. We’re all guilty of it. I have a 3-month old package of Philadelphia cream cheese sitting in my fridge right now that I can’t bear to open. It is so precious, so rare! I just like to open the refrigerator door and see it twinkling back at me in all its foil-wrapped glory.

A lot of the foods that we take for granted are difficult to find in many African countries. In Eritrea, the only cheese I ate for 5 months came packaged in little foil triangles. In Sudan, they follow Sharia law, meaning no pork. One time I returned to Darfur from home leave, toting a 50-pound backpack of food, stuffed with pepperoni, prosciutto, and pre-cooked bacon. I felt a little guilty cooking the stuff around the housekeepers, but it was so good.

Malawi is better than most countries I’ve worked in, in that we can get quite a lot of good imported foods from South Africa, so for the most part I don’t feel deprived. But there are a few things from home that every American likes to bring, so that on a rough day we can whip up some of our favorite comfort food. Each time we travel from a developed country, we push the limits of our baggage allowance, then hoard our precious commodities like crazy once we get over here. For me, those items are:

Bakers chocolate for making brownies (This makes me very popular)
Parmesan cheese (the real stuff and the fake. It’s all good.)
Tony Chachere’s
Refried beans
Wonton wrappers
Chocolate chips
Marinated artichoke hearts
Creole mustard
Andouille sausage (the real stuff, from Louisiana)
Cheese of all kinds. It stinks up the plane, but who cares!

This is actually pretty restrained. I know people who work for the US government here who get free shipping from the states, and they have olive oil and salsa sent over by the gallon. I once went into a friend’s house and saw, stacked high up in the pantry, packages and packages of American toilet paper, shipped over on Uncle Sam’s dime. I mean, I would understand if we only got the scratchy brown stuff here, but the toilet paper here is great – triple-ply, little patterns stamped on – that’s luxury, folks. You wouldn’t get toilet paper like that in Chad, let me tell you.

Monday, April 20, 2009

What is it about us and luggage?

We have clearly ticked off some sort of travel deity or something, because honestly, more often than not something goes wrong with our bags. We arrived back home from South Africa on Sunday. Unfortunately, all four of our bags, PLUS the stroller and carseat that we checked at the gate did not arrive with us.

How did South African airlines manage to lose SIX bags? That weren't even checked in together? The other passengers from Cape Town managed to get their bags. Why were we singled out, yet again? Sigh.

Five of the bags turned up yesterday. The baggage handlers only managed to break one wine bottle, although it turned out to be the most expensive one. And it spilled all over our clothes. At least nothing seems to have been stolen this time.

I am still waiting for my favorite backpack to turn up, the one that has been across 5 continents with me. The one containing the fondue mix and the gnocchi. (Why? Why the gnocchi? Why not Jorge's fig jam?).

*Breaking news*

I just got a text from the airport! The last bag is in!

I have been trying to upload photos from the trip, but the internet is not cooperating. Soon, I promise!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Happy Birthday, Milo!

I've only got a few minutes in between putting Milo down for a nap, picking up our picnic lunch, and collecting his birthday cake to hop on and post an entry.

We're having a nice time in South Africa. Right now we're in Franschhoek, culinary capital of the country, and I've picked up a stomach bug, naturally. Yesterday I couldn't eat anything. Today I've managed a couple sips of wine and a good breakfast. Jorge, always the supportive (and not at all melodramatic) husband, keeps saying "I can't believe you ruined the vacation."

Jorge did well in the race on Saturday - he had some leg cramps, so he wasn't as fast as he'd hoped, but he came in only about 20-30 minutes behind target. I had my video camera all set to record him crossing the finish line, and kept checking it every 30 seconds or so to make sure it didn't turn off automatically. Right after checkign it the last time I heard the announcer say, "And here we have our only runner from COLOMBIA!" I whipped up the camera, hit record...and it was turned off. $&%#!!! So there will be no footage on YouTube, I'm sorry to say. You'll just have to trust me tha he looked great.

Today we're celebrating little Milo's big milestone. One whole year already...! Yes, it's cliche and everyone says it, but it's true: I can't believe how fast he's growing up!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Off to Cape Town tomorrow!

Vacation starts tomorrow - I am so excited to get out of town!

So our plans are to spend the weekend in Cape Town with a group of friends. Jorge is running in the Two Oceans race on Saturday, a 35-mile ultramarathon that is supposed to have stunning views of the coast. On Monday we're driving up to Franschhoek in the Winelands for a few days of wine-tasting and gourmet restaurants, and where we'll celebrate Milo's FIRST BIRTHDAY! Then we're going to spend a couple days in Hermanus, an ocean-side town, where hopefully we'll catch some whale sightings. We've been to Cape Town and Franschhoek before, so we're just going to take it easy and relax on this trip. I'll post if I get a chance, but otherwise we'll be back on the 20th.

It's a strange day in Lilongwe today. There is a big campaign rally for the current president at the stadium near our house, so there are police everywhere, and throngs of people wearing identical blue t-shirts with President Bingu's face emblazoned on the chest. It seems to have everyone all astir. My office is in the main market area, and throughout the day there have been periodic bursts of people running past my office window, yelling and chanting. No idea where they're going, but they seem to be in a good mood, at least. You always have to be careful when you see groups of people running in Africa. After all, maybe there's an elephant after them or something.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Madge & Co

I feel like I am incredibly lucky have such smart, kind, talented friends around me. Today I thought I would give a couple of them a little blog shout-out.

Today is World Autism Awareness Day. I have a close friend whose son was diagnosed with autism about a year ago. She is really an inspiration to me - not only does she work full time, but she takes care of her two kids with love, humor, and as much grace as she can muster under the trying circumstances.

She is also an amazing writer. She puts me to shame. Check out her blog, Rooster Calls. And if you're inspired, you can learn more about autism at Autism Speaks.

Another good friend of mine, Amy, also has an incredible talent - photography. On Saturday, she and I took a drive out of town, and ended up in a compound of farm-worker's homes. The people there were so welcoming and friendly, and generously allowed us to photograph their lives and children.

You can see some of Amy's photos (including one of me, with Milo in his chitenje) at Hers are a heckuva lot better then mine. I guess I will have to keep practicing.

Amy also writes in her blog about the big news item of the week - Madonna is in Malawi again! Thanks Madonna for marginally increasing the percentage of Americans who have ever heard of this little country! You are a credit to your pop-star people. You are the Bono of small-African-nation geography.

Madonna is trying to adopt a little 4-year old girl. Why she would want another baby at her age is a whole 'nother issue, but hey, to each their own. (Rawr.)

There's a bit of controversy, as Malawian law requires foreigners to stay in the country for 18 to 24 months for assessment when adopting a child here. Madonna's wealth and status seem to allow her to circumvent this law. But most Malawians believe that this child would be better off, so there's not much animosity from the people here.

At the moment she's off traveling the country, which is a little incomprehensible in and of itself. Jorge and I have been speculating where on Earth a millionaire would want to spend a few days in Malawi. My guess is Pumulani, the fancy new lakeside resort. Jorge is speculating Mvuu Lodge, the only high-end safari lodge. After that, it's backpacker haunts and business hotels, so if you're Madonna-hunting, those are really your only two options.