Thursday, January 20, 2011

Tis the Season for Egg Rolls

Christmas Eve: 24 December 2010

First and foremost, Happy GOLDEN 24th Birthday Ashley.

This was the first Christmas, no, let’s say the FIRST HOLIDAY away from home and I will say it wasn’t nor hasn’t been too tragic. I miss my family and miss the comforts of home, the cold weather, busy streets, Christmas lights, comfort food – but mostly I miss just sitting at home on the sofa with my mom and watching pointless TV shows or Christmas films, having dad in the other room on his computer, and the animals all sprawled out over the house.

So today Ashley and I head out from Sapouy on the 7:00 bus to Ouaga. Once we get to the city we shop for groceries: her family has a tradition of making egg rolls for her on her birthday – and she wasn’t about to let being in West Africa stop it – and I was hungry for Zuppa Tuscana! I will just state we succeeded! She found (at the very last minute) egg roll paper and I substituted Italian sausage for regular, kale for spinach and bacon for weird dried ham stuff. After grocery shopping I gave myself a nice present: soft serve ice-cream in front of Marina, then Josh finally showed up and we all left for the bus stop to catch a bush taxi to Josh’s village. We waited for about an hour and a half to two hours just waiting on the bus to fill up and then left an hour later than anticipated (not at all out of the ordinary) and we were on our way to feast at Josh’s house. We arrived 4 & 1/2 hours later after traversing through the "bush" which means bumpy, scary roads and then we biked for about 45 minutes on sandy deathtrap roads. No big deal. Now! Let the festivities BEGIN!

Okay - we arrive after the sun has begun to set and Ashley's front tire decided it wanted to be completely and utterly and simply not rideable... so we had to stop and fix it (in the dark) and then be on our way across the sand-pit roads - *note to all readers: I dispise sand while I'm riding my bike. You slip and fall and skid all over the place, and it's definitely not permittable when you have large bags strapped onto the back of your bike* - so finally, we get to Josh's site and his house is wonderful! He has a closed in [private] courtyard and a roomy house. It is really nice in comparison to what I've been exposed to here in Burkina. Alright, we're all uber dirty from the bush taxi, exhausted from a long day of travel and would all love to just crash and cook tomorrow morning - but we are HUNGRY and we bought meat in Ouaga and we fear it's on the verge of spoiling already from the drive and bike ride. So what do we do? Get to cooking!

I start chopping potatoes (real potatoes, not sweet potatoes or yams), onions, garlic and heat up this ginormous marmite for the soup. I'm trying to conserve oil because Ashley needs quite a bit for the eggrolls. Gotta brown the sausage without italian seasoning - I realize it's just like regular sausage (low quality) and the original recipe asks for italian, being resourceful, I add a butt load of basil and red pepper flakes. Check. Done. Remove and cook the onions, garlic and "bacon." Check. Done. Add 10 heaping cups of water (filtered of course) and 5 maggi cubes (chicken bouillion cubes). Allow to come to a boil, now I have chicken broth! Done. Add potatoes and cook until you can puncture it with a fork with no force; takes about 30 to 45 minutes. All the while, Ashley is slaving away cooking pork, celery and cabbage and then rolling those contents within eggroll-dough paper. We think the dough got a little too dry (they were breaking and ripping) so we add a damp paper towel over them - it helps. I tend to my soup: taste the potatoes and decide to add one more cube of maggi and lots more red pepper flakes to kick it up a bit. Check! Almost done. Add sausage and allow to head up and cook a wee bit more (just to be safe). Ashley is now in the process of frying her eggrolls - looks good so far. Add cream to soup. Check. Looks delicious!! and smells even better. mmmmm. Last step: add spinach as a substitute to kale. Finished with SOUP. Now we wait on Ashley: almost done with frying her eggrolls; the only thing left to do is to make a sauce. The sauce consisted of sugar, ketchup, water and (flour?). Okay - FINALLY - we are able to feast.

It's probably around 9pm by the time we get around to eating - but it was well worth the wait. My soup tasted exactly like when I make it back home - or maybe my tastebugs are a wee bit tainted and I was consumed with the memory of the soup. Ashley and Josh were quite pleased. Josh really liked it - so much so that he got a huge second bowl and proceeded to chow down. YAY. The eggrolls came out pretty good too. I actually don't really like eggrolls - but I had two or three to be polite. I almost feel bad for "stealing the show" with y soup tonight since Ashley's birthday tradition is making eggrolls... but at least we had something really delicious to eat.

I'll be sleeping outside under Josh's hanger, with a mosquito net, on a lipicot (that's essentially like a lounge chair for a pool)... pretty cold out here - but I'm sure I'll be fine when I wrap myself in my blue blanky!

Rat Soup and Beans

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Back at site and I will admit: seeing everyone in my family compound and people at the CSPS made me smile. They (the villagers who know me) seemed happy that I’m back – so that’s actually something that makes being here a little easier. I was greeted by smiles, surprise, questions and demands of gifts…okay – 3 out of 4 is a good start. I should reply with “I brought you back a smile! CHEESE!” That way, they might catch on that I’m not made out of money and I will rarely bring back gifts. && Speaking of money, I have realized that I spend way too much of it when I’m away from site. I need to start a daily budget for when I’m away.

  • Breakfast: 500-550CFA
  • Lunch: 550-800CFA
  • Dinner: 1.000CFA

For a grand total of 2.050-2.350CFA and 16.450 per week I’m away. That seems a lot, and if I stay at it for a month, it’s 65.800CFA. That’s more than double what I spend while saving money. Point is I gotta watch what I spend when I’m not in ville. Write it down. So I can see how much money I’m spending, and on what!

On a side note (not so side after the title of the entry), rat is gross. I bike over to Agathe’s house and she’s preparing dinner for tonight as usual: onions, tomatoes, some kind of carb (rice, mac, tô or potatoes) and then I see what protein we’ll be consuming tonight. It looks a little funny at first; I can’t figure out if it’s part of a goat or if it’s chicken…Okay, fine – but then I look a little closer and I see this long tail. Wait… What? Then I examine it in a more detailed manner and identify it as a small mammal… better known as a rodent… oh no… that’s a rat. I promise you – it’s the biggest rat I have ever seen and then Agathe starts cutting up a second one. She leaves the feet, tail and skin attached… but, thoughtfully, she chunks the head and very tip of the tail – so gracious. I am trying to squirm my way out of being invited to dinner – but she beats me to the punch and tells me she’s preparing a soup tonight and I’m cordially invited. I’m obligated to RSVP on the spot…so I accept and she tells me ready at 19:30. Alright, I suppose I’ll be trying rat meat tonight. I did. I didn’t like it one bit. Maybe it was because I knew it was a rodent, but I could have sworn it tasted dirty. It was very soft, and the skin just didn’t sit well on my tongue. I will say the beans (black eyed peas…Burkinabe don’t realize there are other varieties of beans) she served were delicious, and the sauce that was the “soup” was tasty – just the meat… oh the meat.

Good news: I have mail at the post in Sapouy! This could be anything from Peace Corps “junk mail,” to a letter or a package from Americaland! YAY

Going to Sapouy tomorrow and then off to Ouaga and another village for Christmas… then home again.