Saturday, November 24, 2012

The sweetest things

Some darkroom days are more exciting than others.  This darkroom day was awesome.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Again, THREE BIG CHEERS for another amazing adventure into unknown culinary territory for our polucky Thanksgiving menu.  So far we've had 2 'traditional' (if unconventional) Thanksgiving holidays here in the Southern Hemisphere which at the time, we welcomed.  The first year was great to have familiar food for once.  The next year we hosted a house-full of foreigners and it was fun to show them share with them some new things.  But since deciding to branch out, covered the middle-east (amazing), Cuba (holy smokes), and tonight, we went back to America but....travelled deep into the bayou with a full-on Creole menu.  Three American families and 5 chefs with ZERO Creole cooking or even TASTING experience put an unbelievable spread.  Who knows what jambalaya is supposed to taste like?  If we even came close I'll say I"m ready for the 'real' thing if anyone wants to show me b/c what came to our table was so amazing.

Our Kariba/Kafue crawfish did not come through, but in the end this was fine.  I am half glad it didn't b/c as much as I wanted to EAT crawfish I really did not want to FIX the crawfish. Here it really is louisiana crawfish --it's an invasive species and there is no market for it... the crawfish are having the time of their lives on a never-ending zambian safari.  I am assuming the crawfish originally came as part of a fisheries development project?  Officially sanctioned or not, I'd say it was a total bust. I'll see if I can find out more.

Instead we enjoyed: Joburg Jambalaya (w/ chicken, haddock and boerwors), creole-rubbed-village-chicken, and cajun calamari poppers...the kids had what I thought was a gigantic platter of panko-friend chicken (it looked giant but 6 kids scarfed it down in about 3 mintues), an anaemic watermelon, a bag of granny smith apples, green herb salad, sweet tea...and dessert - a pear pumpkin tarte, a Chipata sweet potato pie and creme caramel.

Next year?  Mediterranian? Chinese? Hawaiian? I already can't wait. 

Sadly, so very sadly, we are soon saying goodbye to our bestest LSK friends and the bestest family who have been with us for these Thanksgiving cooking adventures -  maybe we'll have to have Thanksgiving in Uganda and share our Thanksgiving feast on the shores of LakeVictoria next year.

Road Trip!

PS Thanksgiving Thursdays mean...strangely the kids have school and their normal school day.... the kids finished their homework and swam for an hour before dinner.... and will be up and off to school at 7.....but the best part....Someone will sneak into the kitchen at 8am and finish up ALL THE DISHES.  Sweeeeeet.

This has nothing to do with our thanksgiving dinner.  But I suppose it does have everything to do with being thankful, living life and just accepting that sometimes things happen for just no reason.  Good things, bad things, good reasons, bad reasons, and no reason at all.  Sometimes we ask WHY -- like: why in the WORLD are there 4 men on 4 horses coming down the walk on Independence Avenue?!? Sometimes we get answers. Sometimes we just should sit back see what comes our way.

Howdy, Madam.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

ma, we're 'a going on a hunt

The kids have by now gotten into the idea of giving and getting ‘experiences’ for presents -- they love their gigantic stash of legos, toys, sports equipment, and books but when it comes to buying presents, it’s tricky anywhere but especially here.  And so...we introduced “the voucher.”

Our friends approached us first with an idea of giving a Bow Hunting voucher to FPFJ for his birthday and I think he was surprised at how quickly we agreed!  And so....Uncle Benjo and Thing got up at 4:30 the other Saturday morning and the two went off bow-hunting for impala.  The grown ups weren’t sure how it would go, neither did the little guy and so I went along as a chaperone/photographer.  FPFJ was totally awesome and cool as a cucumber and once I had the ‘lay of the land’ I was able to hang back and let the boys be boys. My concern was what kind of things they could encounter while tracking...since most of hunting is creeping around and trying to get close to one of the most skittish animals on the planet.  Creeping thru the tall grass in the bush is not high on my list of things I want the kids doing here in the land of fire ants, puff adders and black mambas.  Thankfully, the kid-friendly plan for the morning involved mostly creeping along open sandy paths with minimal stalking.  The grass and everything else is dry and crunchy and there is no step that could be taken thru the grass by clumsy humanoids, no matter how sneaky, that can possibly escape notice. ....CRUNCH CRUNCH CRUNCH, CRACK, (swearing), CRUNCH... is kinda how 'sneaking' goes this time of year.  This was great from a mother's perspective and I was happy to have some time as the sun came up to again disappear into the little tiny creative space I have carved out for myself and play with the new camera -- again confirming my complete lack of natural ability to photograph animals or, as you’ll soon understand the above photo, predict animal behaviour. 

The best part of any adventure is the clothes and the gear.  This adventure was no excpetion.


After a few frustrating exchanges "Can you see...?  Do you notice...?" Ben realizes that his hunting companion actually cannot see a thing! The grass is taller than him. he could be a foot away from a zebra and not notice until he got a hoof in the face. (he didn't, by the way!)   (It was amazing to see that the camouflage strategy for zebra actually is VERY effective in this setting.

On the right 'track' 

Off they go.....sneaking.....

This was when I had my close encounter with the sable.  The boys went off and I thought to myself.  "Let's see how close I can get to these Sable." Uh, crap.  I did NOT know that there was in this herd one semi-domestic sable: "Natalie."  this is the sequence I shot while I looked for something, ANYTHING to put between me and the sable.  And the photos I took before wondering where was ole Uncle Ben anyway? How loud would I have to yell for him to come running?  And...was he in fact just on the other side of this herd, peeing his pants while laughing hysterically at me running around a puny 5-inch diameter tree being pursued by an entuhiastic antelope with meter-long horns?  Thankfully after a few turns around the tree she lost interest and returned to her morning grazing.  I got my heart rate back to a reasonable level and backed myself right outta there. Good lesson. This property has on it a fully domesticated young sable, Rachael, and this darling, Natalie.  She is obviously NOT skittish around people but hangs with the herd.  Anyway, I was happy to re-join the boys who were just setting up to take a shot.  The shot missed and they headed over to see if they could find the arrow.  Because it hit a tree branch on the way, the trajectory was deflected, the animal was 'warned' and the arrow was easy to find.  By then, our friend Dan had arrived and they carried on together.  Here they are hatching a plan to head off the trail and into the long grass in hopes of the two hunters being able to flush out one particular animal toward Hunter #3.

The plan worked but not until we had to abandon the hunt and reunite with the the home-team.  This turned out to be a good thing because the shot that got off and that hit the animal was not a good one and the tracking was long and the death and 'dressing' of the impala was a bit gruesome. We escaped the gorey part of the hunting 'experience' and Ben has successfully recruited another young boy to his club. For now we are sticking to home-made stick and rubber-tubing 'gear' but I do anticipate the purchase of something 'proper' in our future.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

"There's a lot more work to do!"

A photo from the archives. Taken at Seattle Center Feb 2008 with my mom and 'the baby' who is now  7 and is no longer a baby and who today watched the news sitting on the floor with his breakfast on his lap in his little green and blue school uniform asking again about the electoral college....with big brother sitting next to him (with no breakfast and no shirt on and hair STILL unbrushed) calculating when he will be able to cast his OWN vote for president, 2016.  I can tell that Thing 2 is instead thinking of when he can RUN for president.

That was a damn fine speech.  Where did that come from?  Where has THAT guy been hiding? 


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Residential Field Trip

This morning the kids helped with creating this design, made from the target that was used for Thing One's shooting practice during a school field trip in October. We're planning to make it into a shirt for the Y6 class. (shhh, it's a surprise!)  By now we have sent out a batch of photos from the camp (the same ones here) but with my explanations.  I thought it would be good for the boy to tell you about the week himself. (I know it's a bit annoying but I kept the kids name out.)

This is the mud slide which is part of the obstacle course. There were more than a dozen obstacles and the race through the course was timed. We had two teams and the fastest team to get their whole team through the course would win. Our team, the LIONS had 12 kids. For this obstacle, Four Lions were at the top of the mud slide and the rest of the team was at the bottom.  At the bottom of the slide there was a bucket with water and some cups. At the top of the slide was an empty bucket.  The goal was to fill the top bucket using the cups and without moving the buckets.  We had to take a cup, fill it with water go to the slide and wait for a Lion at the top to pull us up.  It was very slippery and we needed the help to get to the top.  Once we were at the top we poured the cup of water into the top bucket and go back down the slide to do it again until the top bucket was full.

R's birthday was during camp. The camp cooks made him a cake and we celebrated after lunch!

A section of the Nkanga River was dammed up and there were fishing ponds below the dam.  We fished with bamboo poles and porcupine quill floats.  We hooked live worms for bait and caught bream and yellow bellied somethings.  There was a contest between teams to see who caught the most, the biggest and the smallest.  I got second place for the smallest.  K and J (above) caught the most fish -- 40 and 36.  Most of us caught around 10.  For the final count I had 7 -- 4 fish went missing!  I don't know where I put them! We turned all the fish over to the staff.

MAKING OUR OWN BREAKFAST!  We did this for two mornings. Our group (we spilt up into 6 cooking groups) had bacon and eggs for breakfast. Another morning we made french toast (sort of). Each group was given some matches and a bit of straw.  We collected small sticks and big sticks and lit the fires ourselves. No problem. Bacon is my favourite thing for breakfast. The french toast....was blleeehhhhCHHhhh.  No one really liked it.  I wasn't in charge of the french toast.  We have a recipe at home that I love but we did not have all these ingredients.

The dissection of the puku was really fun.  One of the camp staff shot a puku and hung it up for our lesson. The camp director started by cutting kind of have to start by cutting the testicles to get a starting point, from there you get a tool that looks like a bottle of the girls put this tool in the hole and pulled down so it cut the skin down to the neck. From there we skinned the whole puku.

This is the puku's heart.  F has his finger in the aorta, which brings blood into the heart.  I did not touch the heart.  We got to see and (if we wanted to) touch the different organs -- stomachs, teeth, brain, eyes, lungs, intestines, bladder, etc.  The eyes have a reflective part at the back - if you shine a light at night into the darkness and if there are animals....the eyes shine back because of this. (You can sometimes even tell what kind of animal is hiding in the darkness from the colour of the reflection). The dissection was COOL!  I had never seen a body's insides.  Some things were a bit gross but was AWESOME!

Shooting was by far my favourite activity.  Using an air rifle, we shot at hyena and wildebeest targets, balloons, and tin cans.  Some kids went out shooting animals and shot common birds like guinea aren't allowed to shoot any old animal you see!

Again!  The obstacle course.  There were 4 boats in the camp: the Jacana (it was the tippiest), Kingfisher, Otter, and Nkwazi; each holds 6.

Another obstacle in the course was the tunnel....

Last in the obstacle course was the rope bridge over the river.  Someone in the other team fell off. The Lions' best time was 22 minutes for the whole course, the Puff Adders best time was 37 minutes.  We beat them by a lot!  The canoeing was the worst for them....they just kept going from bank to bank instead of up river.  Plus they thought it would help to have swimmers in the river but that made them go slow.  The canoeing was our fastest obstacle!

AHHHHHHHH!!!! The zip line ends in the river - SPLASH!

The camp has a cattle and sheep ranch. We watched the sheep and cattle go thru the 'dip'....they get treated for tics when they go thru it and THEY DON'T LIKE IT! The baby cattle needed help with swimming.  There were stairs getting out of the dip.  The camps water crazy dog wanted to go into the dip.  At the ranch we got to hold lambs (the lambs didn't go through the dip).  This is NOT how you are supposed to hold a a baby??

A getting his shot gun aim checked before going out shooting.  His finger is OFF the trigger.

The camp has 8 dogs:  Maple, Sydney (the water crazy one), Ciah and Jet (who looks like mini-Ruby and Ruby), Dipstick, Millie and her pup Rufus (who got a porcupine quill in his eye), and my favourite (above) Bobo.

Tug of War!  The Puff Adders won!

Water, water, everywhere! This was an activity separate from the obstacle course.  The winning team was the team whose hole-y blue water can had the most water in it after 5 minutes.  Each team starts with 5 buckets and 50 corks.  You can trade a bucket in for 25 corks.  The Lion team won - our water was about waist-high after 5 minutes.  We traded in FOUR at at time...when we needed more corks, we traded another bucket.  Not all the corks fit properly so even the corked holes leaked.

 Here is one of the camp staff with Sydney - we flipped their canoe for fun during our free time!  We got to do the zipline, swimming, the rope bridge, and canoeing during free time.

We went net fishing AND pole fishing. We are all fish-kissing for this photo!

(back to mom) this was taken straight off the bus.  All the kids were in various states of disarray but this particular child was FILTHY and totally in a daze; he had food and leaves in his hair and dirt and mud all over his face.  The funny thing is that when he packed his toilet kit, he made a point of packing this travel pack of Pond's Hand and Face wipes. At the last minute, he took it OUT of the toilet kit and put it in the outside pocket of his backpack instead so he could get to it easily.  Apparently...not easily enough!  After the hugs, hellos and welcome backs we had this exchange:

MOM: Did you brush your hair at all this week??!
O:  I tried to.  Once.
MOM:  Really.
O: But I washed it every day!

Seeing how my good friend in college met her future husband on a beach in Fiji because of his hair, I'm  this way I am not sure how to respond to this usually messy and annoying fashion statement of my own child.....(which isn't meant as a statement of any sort).  My friend met her future-hubby while she was visiting me; they got to know eachother while she brushed the knots and unintentional dreds from his sunbleached nest of shoulder-length surfer locks. He was at the end of a round-the world surf trip and needed some tidying up before re-entering society and reuniting with his family in London.  Maybe this is why I have a soft spot for O and his own nest/bed-head?  You never know how it could come in handy.

Anyway, one last insight into camp life, a journal entry from day 4:

"Thursday 11th October 2012:  We were ready for inspection at 6 hrs.  We got 9/10.  We were out of the tent in no time at all.  We started to do exersizes.  Next we had the running race again.  This time I came second.  The water balloon game was so hard.  No team did it. 
AAHHH, BACON! Nice cooked bacon for breakfast.
The anatomy lesson was so cool.  They cut up a puku. 
The canoe race was hard.  We got stuck TWICE!
SHOOTING!  It was more fun this time because we shot balloons. 
At last, lunch.  I was SO HUNGRY.
Again, we did the obstacle course.  The mud slide was the hardest. 
Fishing was my 2nd favourite activity.  We had to trap fish in a net.  "HA HA - Got you, Fishes!"

Friday, November 2, 2012

School news and views

From my facebook post:  Give it up for the JENNINGS BOYS! Achievement awards! Team swimming! House Captain! It's amazing what slipping a few packets of TJ's freshly-baked-salted-chocolate chip cookies can do for your children's success at school!

At our most awesome school* (my extreme fondness for which is only matched by Sanislo, the little school with big ideas) they give a monthly academic award per year/grade -- This month the boys BOTH got awards!  O for his tropical grassland savannah project and presentation and PFPJ for being HELPFUL.  They both competed Wednesday in the inter-school swim gala. AND O got his official House Captain pin.  He's supposed to pin it on his uniform every day.  I sure hope they have a dozen of them tucked away for every time he loses, breaks or forgets it. (or all three)

PFPJ on the starting block in lane 2 next to his buddy from our rival school, Liam.  These two just wanted to swim against eachother.  Liam's dad is a great swimmer (not that PFPJ's is not, ahem....) and coaches their school's team.  The kids were 1-1...PFPJ won this race but Liam won the freestyle race.  But stay tuned b/c we watched the video of that race and have a new strategy....just do what Liam does!

Here is O with his most awesome diving skills.  The race ended with a photo finish -- we don't know what place he got - 1, 2, or 3. There were 8 schools competing...two heats per race per age year. O competes with all the kids born in 2002, PFPJ with all the 2005 (and under -- we send some 6 year olds/2006 kids just to fill the lanes...they are so tiny and even 25m is a LONG race!)

You'd never know these two were serious students.  PFPJ and his Dutch buddy/classmate Senne

Senne, finishing his freestyle race.  (am I loving the new camera? just a little bit.)

O, up late, putting the finishing touches on his grassland savannah model.
The beginning of the rainy season is also gecko-hatching season.  This little guy (an extreme closeup of the previous photo) was enjoying the grassland habitat all day long.  It even took a ride on the giraffe before making a quick getaway via the ping pong net.  O used some 'real' elements -- a twig became the tree, some dried roots were fallen logs, and some pebbles became boulders.  He 'made' the beach out of paper that was spread with glue and buried in the sandbox and the watering hold is a scrap of blue fabric -- it's got cool, circular, wavy ripples even.

The model was 1:50 (except the paper mache birds - they are too cool, made by a local birder -- they are usually hanging from the light in our dining room).  The scale was based on the size of the one plastic animal we had on hand, Twiga the giraffe. the cheetah was only 1.6 cm tall and required some incredible effort on the part of this scientist-artist.

Here is the front of the cheetah...stalking a herd of paper-doll 1.8 cm impala who are happily munching on the hand-dyed and painted piece of towel -- which is actually a (new) terry cloth diaper.

And a quick PS:  When our schedule gets busy...things around the house get a little...chaotic.  Just look at this mess! This is one of a thousand messes at the Maison du ville Poulet.  It's beyond embarrassing but if you need to know why I am months behind in updating Village Chicken.... look no further than my desk:

I took a few minutes (OK, hours) off today; the ole officio is looking much better.  Do you see the newest addition to our tech family? Shiny, silver, it even SPEAKS english to me -- not that I have had the time yet to do anything but plug it in and open the lid.  It started talking to us and we all got kind of freaked out so we closed the lid and there she sits....waiting. next week. or the week after. we'll see how the US elections go.  I may very well be curled up in a little ball in the corner.