I'm currently writing my blog from my cottage in the Drakensberg, Champagne Valley, Kwa-Zulu Natal; South Africa
Sunday, January 31, 2010
Missing our Mum
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Saturday, January 30, 2010
Khartoum Baking Banana Bread
When we arrived there we walked directly to the household appliances. There were rows of shelves displaying the most modern kettles, irons, coffee machines, blenders, milkshake- and ice cream makers. There was every type of food processor there were electric meat mincers, bread machines, deep fat fryers and electric frying pans. But alas, no electric cake mixers. I looked for a hand-held model, thinking that anything was better than what I had back at the flat (an ancient wooden spoon!) No joy. Not an electric cake mixer to be had in the whole of Afra. Some day soon, we will make a foray into the city one day and track down said electric cake mixer.
It was a totally new experience to cream the butter and sugar with a wooden spoon
When we got home, I took out the softened margarine, added sugar and began to mix it all together vigorously (with the wooden spoon!) Soon I had what looked like a creamy consistency but I could still feel sugar granules which is never a good sign in a batter like this. I continued to make the banana bread according to a recipe I'd downloaded from the Internet and duly poured it into a foil-lined loaf pan. As I only have a gas stove here with no visible markings left on the dial, I turned the oven on to what I imagined was a reasonably hot stove. (180°C/350°F) and popped the loaf inside.
Below is the recipe which I'm sure would turn out perfectly with the correct utensils and oven temperatures.
Banana Bread (downloaded off the Internet)
50g margarine or butter (I used butter)
1 large egg, separated
1 large egg white
5ml (1t) lemon juice
300ml cake flour
10ml (2t) baking powder
10ml (2t) bicarbonate of soda
250ml (1 cup) bran
125ml (½ cup) buttermilk
1. Cream the margarine and sugar together; add the egg yolk and beat well. Beat the egg whites until just stiff and fold into mixture.
2. Peel and mash the bananas and add the lemon juice. Combine mashed bananas with creamed margarine mixture.
Friday, January 29, 2010
Winter Sunrise over Khartoum
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Curry the Dog Dewormed
The next day the night-watchman came to work and said the vet wanted to take blood from the dog before he could hand out the tablets. (Doh! No-one can come near Curry yet, so how would we catch him to take him to the vet?) Then the nightwatchman gave my husband an address of a shop which sells veterinarian products. Eventually after many stops and driving around the backstreets of the city,(I wish I had been with hubby; I'd have taken photos!) he arrived at the vet's shop. The man behind the counter spoke perfect English and knew exactly what was required. He placed a HUGE oblong tablet on the counter and told my husband that it should be cut into four pieces and administered every two weeks.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Sunrise, a sprain, air traffic, a kiss and cleanliness
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
The Surprise: e-Baaisikele
When John and Debbie arrived back from their holiday at the sea, I showed John the bicycle. I also voiced my concern that, in retrospect, I thought the model I'd bought, was too big for the six-year-old lad. We subsequently asked my six-year-old granddaugther (who, as can be seen in the above photo, is taller than Siphiwe) to "test drive" it. Sure enough, it was definitely too big. As he'd never ridden a bicycle before, Siphiwe would also need one with trainer wheels.
I arranged with the dealer whom I'd bought it from the dealer I'd bought it from, who was quite happy to exchange it for a suitable model. A week into the New Year, Debbie had an opportunity to go to town with the pick-up. She took the bicycle, and brought home the perfect size for this gentle little boy.
Here I need to add that Siphiwe had spent most of his Christmas school holidays at my home becoming firm friends with both my older grandchildren. Before his mum arrived from the city for her biannual visit, he slept over at my home a few times as well.
Debbie explained to Siphiwe what she was doing while she blindfolded him. My two grandchildren stood by, almost bursting with excitement. I just LOVED that my grandson covered his eyes as well. Don't children just love surprises. These two knew about the bicycle but had kept the secret well. Meanwhile, John opened the garage door behind the litte group and quietly brought the bicycle out.
He placed it on the patio and when Debbie took the blindfold off Siphiwe's eyes, and he saw the bicycle, he first clapped his hands over his mouth, then he clapped his hands. I heard Emily say: "Bua leboha, me" (Say thank you to mama- note; the word "me" = madam/mama is pronounced "mare") Siphiwe thanked me, thanked Tatemaholo (Granddad - my husband was thanked in his absence) and John and Debbie. Then I told him to "palama e-baaisikele" to which he mounted the bicycle with great enthusiasm. Oh how children, especially boys love their first bikes! A real guy thing! (lol)
Catching a bit of a speed-wobble at first, Debbie ran forward to guide him. She also turned him back onto the patio and within minutes he was pedalling furiously up the driveway with granddaughter and grandson leading the way.
I'm pleased we waited for the right bicycle.
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Monday, January 25, 2010
Commit everything to the Lord
Above is the front view of our home in South Africa. I took this photo the morning I left to fly up to North Africa. Even though it is heart-wrenching to leave all your "home" comforts, family, friends and pets, it is my place to be at my husband's side.
The Word tells us in Genesis 2:18
"And the Lord said, it is not good for man to be alone. I will make a companion who will help him."
For those women who live normal lives with their husbands coming home after a day's work, this may not seem real. But it is. There are expat wives all over the world who are not able to join their husbands who work away from home. Often these are young women who raise their families on their own. They deal with the household bills, the car problems, the school head's summons. Everything.
In February 2004, I was blessed with a job on the gold mines of Guinea where my husband was managing the contracting company's plant division. I spent three blissful years on an exploration camp with my husband and sixty other expats. At first we were only a few women on site. Gradually more men were encouraged to bring their spouses over to live with them. I made many friends and even ran a health/weight-loss club every Saturday morning at my home. Not only did the club member's weigh-in at my home, but I gave a motivational talk on how to maintain a healthy life-style. It was also part of my job to edify and uplift the women who stayed on camp all day. This took the form of intra-active discussions around the table on my veranda.
In 2006, my contract ended (the company changed hands and I, along with a number of other expats, were not part of their future). My husband's company also did not renew their contract with this new mining concern and his site was in the throes of breaking up their workshop. I flew home alone and spent the following three years in South Africa. During this period I spent many precious hours with my children and their children (we all lived in the same town then) and really got into my passion of gardening.
In August 2009, exactly three years since I'd left West Africa, I flew up to the Sudan to be with my husband. Back here in Khartoum, in North Africa, life is very different. Different to my life in South Africa and very different to the expat life I lived in Guinea, West Africa. My husband is the only expat working for his company so we know no-one at this stage. However, I am with my husband (as my dear friend Betsy commented yesterday) and with a little innovation, am settling in to life in an African city.
I hold onto God's promise in the Psalms:
Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust Him and He will help you. Psalm 37:5
Amen, Lord, amen!
Sunday, January 24, 2010
The Golden Gate
Saturday, January 23, 2010
However, when I made that recipe, I used eggs which is quite normal (and I do eat eggs; no problem there) Personally though, I didn't enjoy the eggy taste in the bread and searched the Internet for an "eggless" Challah.
Vegan Challah (http://lakitchen.blogspot.com/2005/07/vegan-challah.html)
2 1/2 Tbsp dry active yeast
1/3 cup warm water ("wrist" temperature)
6 cups flour
1 Tbsp salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup cold water
another half cup of boiling water for brushing braids
sesame seeds, poppy seeds, or sea salt to top
3. In large bowl mix: oil, sugar, salt, and boiling water, stirring so it's all mostly dissolved.
4. Add the cold water to the large bowl (the mix should be warmish now but not hot). Stir in yeast mix.
5. Add bananas.
6. Add flour, one cup at a time.
7. Turn out onto lightly floured surface. Knead for 5-10 min, dough should be smooth, not too stiff or too runny.
8. Lightly coat the large mixing bowl in oil, turn the dough in it to just coat it with oil, place a towel over the dough in the bowl and let it rise for about 1 hr, till double in volume.
9. Punch dough down, turn out and knead again 2-3 min. Divide dough into 2 balls, divide each ball into 3 sections, roll each section into long ropes and make 2 braids. Preheat the oven to 350.
10. Let the braids rise 45 min. Boil a little more water. Just before putting braids in the oven, brush them with boiling water, then sprinkle with sesame seeds, poppy seeds, or sea salt.
Bake 30 min. You'll know they're done when you tap them on the bottom and they sound hollow. Allow to cool on a drying rack for 10 minutes before slicing. Enjoy!
Friday, January 22, 2010
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Thursday, January 21, 2010
Passing the local bakery almost daily when in the landcruiser with my husband, I was keen to go inside and if possible, take some photos. We stop there often but my husband always runs in and emerges with the hottest, most delicious pitas on the planet. When I mentioned wanting to see the bakery again, he said why not take a rickshaw - a popular mode of transport around the streets.
As I picked up my purse and the door keys, I casually mentioned to hubby that I hoped the rickshaw driver returned with me. He looked up from his computer and with something like panic in his eyes, said, "Ask Achmed to go with you in the rickshaw." (LOL!)
I went downstairs, called Achmed and explained what I wanted to do. At first he said: "My friend, Mohamed, he have fresh khobuz (bread)" Mohamed runs a little spaza shop across the road from the flat. I said I always support Mohamed but I wanted to go to the bakery to take photos.
Once we were out in the street, standing in front of Mohamed's shop, Achmed hailed the next rickshaw that came along. (there is one every minute or so) When he relayed my request, the driver beckoned for me to get in. Pointing to my camera, I told Achmed I'd like to take photos first, would the driver mind? Achmed said: "No problem" and once I'd shown him how to use my camera, he took the above photo. I boarded the rickshaw and off we went up the street. (Somehow I forgot to take a photo of Achmed. I'll do so soon; I'm sure he'll be helping me again in the near future.)
The rickshaw, a 3-wheeled motorcycle, which resembles the infamous tuk-tuk in Thailand, is a common mode of transportation in Khartoum. Popular with the locals and those desperate enough, the fare on the rakshaw is pricier than the local bus but cheaper than a taxi. to explain
Bear in mind that rickshaw drivers are fearless, often driving against traffic and cutting in front of other vehicles when trying to cross a junction. If you are a foreigner, expect to be charged higher and don't be surprised the engine breaks down in mid-journey. I was blessed; this trip was short and in the residential area, so traffic was minimal.
The baker was very keen for me to photograph the pitas in the oven and beckoned me closer
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
A Memorable Journey
There was a considerable amount of interest, especially in the instrument, that I decided to post another this week. The reason for John and Debbie going up the mountains is that they take groups of people hiking.
The mountain experience is a never-to-be-forgotten one. You hike along gentle contour paths breathing in the freshest air imaginable. You stop often for tea breaks which has a unique taste because it's made with water from the mountain streams where you stop for a rest. It is the place to rejuvenate your soul by exercising your body in the most rewarding manner ever.
If anyone reading this, is interested in liaising with John and Debbie with regards to joining a group under their guidance, you can email me and I will pass you onto them.
And God said: 'Let the waters beneath the sky be gathered into one place so dry ground may appear.' And so it was. God named the dry ground "land" and the water "seas". And God saw that it was good. Genesis 1:9-10
Photo Credit: Debbie Hedges
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
At 9.30am I thought I heard my maid arrive and that Achmed, the nightwatchman was letting her in through the security gate. As he doesn't have keys to my flat door, I ran down the stairs and opened the door. Nobody there. I leaned out - nobody. I stepped out onto the porch and going to the gate, tried to peep out. Then I heard the flat door slam behind me. I dashed back and tried the door. Sure enough. I had left the yale lock on and it was locked. I was locked out of my flat. Not only that, I was also locked in the porch area. You guessed it: I had not brought my keys or cell phone with me...
I began to yell for Achmed. After calling for what seemed like an eternity, he emerged sleepily from a door just visible through the bars. Wearing a long nightgown and rubbing his eyes, he approaced the gate. Greeting him, in a tone about four octaves lower, and apologizing for waking him, I asked if he could unlock the gate. I don't know how that would help me, but already I was feeling claustrophobic stuck between two locked entrances. He replied, wagging his forefinger; "La-la" (no-no) . No key - the boss man he take my key." The "boss man" is the general manager and he is in the USA until 6th February. I felt my panic levels rise another degree.
He asked if I'd like to phone my husband who was at work. (Praise God that cell phones have come to Africa. Everyone has one and Achmed was no exception) I knew it was hopeless asking my hubby to come home and unlock the door with his key, as he was having the vehicle's steering box serviced. When I nodded, Achmed dialled my husband's number and handed the phone to me. I explained my predicament to my significant other, and detecting a chuckle in his voice, I was just about to tell him not to make fun of the situation, when he said,
"No problem," (Why is everything in Africa "no problem" when here I obviously had a very big problem?) he said, "Ask Achmed to bring you a knife or a screwdriver. If you look at the door, you will see a damaged area around the lock. You are not the first person to lock themselves out of the flat. You can jimmy the lock with ease" He went on to explain how I should insert the knife blade into the gap between the door and the jamb and push it away from myself.
I passed the request onto Achmed who duly ambled off out of my line of sight. After this experience, I really sympathise with prisoners who cannot see any further than just in front of their cells. Once again I waited for what seemed like ages, when Achmed appeared through the street gate of the property. He was gleefully brandishing a knife. When he passed it to me through the bars, I noticed that it had some sort of congealed matter on it.
I approached the door and inserting the knife, turned it. Nothing. I jiggled the door handle, while I tried to turn the knife the way my husband had told me to. Nothing. (I need to explain here that I cannot fix a thing. I don't repair wall plugs, replace ceiling bulbs or change tires. My husband has always done all the maintenance in and around the house and in his absence, I've had two sons helping me when I needed it.)
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Achmed disappear again. A fresh wave of panic swept over me. I slid the knife blade into the slot again, turned it and still nothing moved.
Just when I thought that Achmed had perhaps gone back to bed, he appeared from around another corner, grinning from ear to ear, waving a HUGE flat screwdriver in the air. (See, I do know a little bit about maintenance tools: I know you get a star screwdriver and a flat screwdriver - this was a flat screwdriver.) Achmed passed me the screwdriver and I attacked the door with renewed vigor. This time, however, I added a little pressure by placing my foot against the door. (Ladies, especially mature ladies don't kick things. LOL) It opened with such a force, that with me standing on one leg, I had to scramble to keep my balance.
Behind the gate, Achmed called: "OK-OK, madam?" I looked back and asked him to wait while I fetched my key. Coming down again, I opened the gate and told him to come inside. I had a small cash gift for him upstairs. When I pressed SDG4/US$1.60, he said: "La-la madam, you my friend, no pay." But I insisted and he eventually accepted the money. Without this gentleman, who knows how long I would have been stuck on the porch?
At the same time, a huge sandstorm had built up during the night. The weather in Khartoum often turns from absolutely beautiful blue skies to blowing the Nubian desert into the city.
I went up onto the roof to capture the sandstorm but the photos don't do the storm justice. You have to live through a haboob to really experience it
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Monday, January 18, 2010
On Wednesday we drove across town to the very upmarket Afra Merkez (Afra Supermarket) Once we'd made our purchase and loaded it onto the back of the Landcruiser, my husband stopped off at the dealer where he'd been buying the 12-packs. That day he bought the appropriate 19 litre bottle of water. Cost of this large refill bottle? SDG8/ US$3.20.
Now, who can argue with math figures like these?
Sunday, January 17, 2010
Man's Best Friend?
When I arrived in Khartoum in August last year, my husband told me that he and his technician, Marcell, were feeding a dog their leftover sandwiches. This pathetically starving and terrified stray lived in the alley at the back of the workshop.
As soon as I knew about the dog, I began to keep table scraps flavoured with leftover oil or gravy in a plastic container. The dog had no name until one day I used a container which had previously stored curry(vindaloo). I had written the word "Curry" on the lid with a black marker. When my husband took the container from the fridge that morning, he said: "Love, I've taken Curry's food" The name stuck.
My husband took the photos (two above and two below) at my request a day before we went out on break in mid-September. We didn't have to ask Marcell to continue to feed Curry in his absence. He just carried on doing it. He had seen what I had saved from the dinner table and followed suit. The company night-watchman also fed Curry scraps of bread when Marcell was off for the weekend.
Curry was terribly nervous and would only creep along to the container of food if all the humans stood stock still.
The men still only get within arms length of Curry; as they put their hands out, he shies away. Meanwhile, they continue to feed him and hopefully will, in time, gain his confidence.