Wednesday, 17 June 2009


Today is Wednesday. English speakers call today 'hump day' or 'mid week.' I prefer the Swahili: jumatano -- 'fifthday.' It suggests accomplishment, progress: 5 days, that's pretty good!

I don't feel like making a real post, so I'm gonna do something requiring less effort: spitting out random things in my brain. Kinda like freestyle rap, except it doesn't rhyme.

The answer is trivial
Dar's expat scene is remarkably well organized. There's a giant party every Saturday night that rotates locations each week, and salsa dancing on Thursdays, karaoke on Wednesday, Mexican food on Fridays, yoga on Monday afternoons... you get the idea. Squeezed into the Monday-night slot of Dar's social calendar is the quiz night at Irish Bar. A few of us went to try our luck.

Those of you who have joined me at Newtowne back in Cambridge know that I don't have the strongest track record when it comes to pub trivia nights. (Of course, this is only because the racist question writers don't include enough questions about Canada.) I thought I could start my trivia career afresh in Africa. Irish's trivia night was pretty short and sweet -- the whole thing is MC'ed by the bar owner, who read all the questions in about half an hour. We came in first and won a bottle of Jameson's. Definitely not my favorite drink, but it's something. Time to defend the title next week.

Bajaji fun
My friend Sekhar did something awesome this week: he rented a Bajaji (an Indian-brand auto-rickshaw -- described in earlier post: I guess he thought it would be funny, which it was. The going day-rate for Bajajis is about $12, but you can recoup a lot of that if you can speak Swahili, know the city, and are willing to work as a taxi. He didn't take the taxi route, but he's been driving around the northern part of the city doing various odds and ends for the past couple of days.

Yesterday, six of us piled into the Bajaji to go to lunch. It was a large load for a machine that runs on a scooter engine. It made the trip just fine, though. Those things are sturdy. Afterwards, Sekhar gave me a lesson on how to drive the thing. I never learned how to drive with a manual transmission [hangs head] so the whole clutching idea was kinda new. Bajajis are a bit easier than stick-shift cars since the operate like motorcycles: the clutch and throttle are on the handles. I only drove it up the street and back, but it was a ton of fun. I'm seriously considering renting one myself at some point...

I'm not Emeril
I've starting cooking for myself again in Dar. Long ago (in Cambridge, UK), I used to cook all the time, and I was pretty good at it. Unfortunately, 2 years of traveling for work + 1 year of living 75 yards from a cafteria = decayed cooking skills. For most meals, I've just gotten in the habit of buying food instead of making it. I'm a go-big-or-go-home type of cook: either I'm going to make some multi-course extravaganza or I'm not going to cook at all. I love making big, fancy meals and I get really into them. But I don't do small stuff. It's not that I look down on simple food. It just doesn't seem worth it to spend 40 minutes cooking just to get a mediocre pasta dish.

This summer, though, I have a lot of free time to make my own fodder. And now that I've resumed doing basic stuff, I'm discovering just how bad I have gotten at this type of cooking. Take tonight's meal for instance. I wanted to make vegetables and rice. I bought some carrots and peppers two days ago and chopped them up. I boiled some rice, but put in too much water and I forgot to add salt. Then I was trying to wok-fry the vegetables. They were burning, so I decided to add sauces and spices to make it like a sauce. I settled on white vinegar and red-chilli powder. The vegetables didn't burn, but they came out a bit soggy (cooked, but soggy), spicy, and very vinegary. The resulting vinegary-veg-and-rice dish wasn't awesome, I have to say. Chris took pity on me and gave me a frozen chapati to heat up, though, so it wasn't a total loss.

That's all I got. Looks like a trip to Zanzibar is in the cards this weekend. Will keep you posted.

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