Saturday, June 28, 2008

You are what you share

Writer’s block.

Almost one year ago, I was packing my bags in Edmonton in preparation for this wild journey. I was getting ready for one month of intense but fun-tastic pre-departure training in Toronto, and I was in giddy anticipation of what was awaiting me in Zambia…

Now, one year later, I’ve been doing some serious reflection about the time that’s passed oh so quickly. My reflective head-space, and a timely (and lovely) visit with my parents, pulled me up – waaaaaay up – from the day-to-day of the project and allowed me to take a much needed look around (and a welcome breath of fresh Capetonian air!) It also, unfortunately, brought on a crippling case of writer’s block, hence my long silence. What was so crippling?

On safari (and hiatus) with Amma and Appa

There was just so much on my mind and so much in my heart that couldn’t possibly put into words. The increasingly somber tone of my posts worried me, as they both accurately described the internal challenges I was battling but inaccurately implied that I was no longer excited or having any fun.

During this time, I also read a book that introduced me to an idea that I suppose I’ve always intuited but never really put into practice. The idea – You are what you share. How very true. This blog was my attempt to share my experience in Zambia with my friends and family.

But I think I could have done better…my desire to fully immerse myself in Zambian life, my insecurity in writing and sharing with a wide audience, and not least of all, my lack of access to a speedy internet connection, all impeded my ability to share.

Sharing anyone??
(I wish I could’ve shared this
peanut butter with you!)

But since, as some of you know, I’ve decided to say on for another year, I’ve taken on a personal commitment to share more and share better. In doing this, I’m hoping to take advantage of all that Web 2.0 has to offer (internet allowing!) I’ve started by adding an RSS feed for my blog, including some social bookmarking links at the bottom of each post, and (gasp!) joining Facebook (feel free to ridicule me…but I still stand by all previous Facebook related sentiments!)

In the spirit of sharing (errr...self promotion?), here are links to a couple of articles I helped write:

Bright Ideas EWB-ISG Canada's e-newsletter May 2008:
The unpredictability of development

APEGGA's The PEGG June 2008:
EWB Builds Sorghum Crop in Zambia

As for this post, I will share some fun photos I should’ve shared a long ago.

Cooking with Ba George

I've mentioned my co-worker and friend George's mad story telling skillz in a previous post. Little did I know that he had some more mad skillz up his sleeve...

What follows is a play-by-play of an eventful morning I spent with George, as he shared with me his passion for cookery and horticulture.

George may seem like an everyday, ordinary Zambian guy...but George likes doing what no other Zambian guy likes doing...

George LOVES to cook!

After discovering this about George, I did what any other disbelieving person would do...I invited myself over for lunch. I needed evidence.

Worried that the program would be canceled due to a power outage, I tentatively entered George's yard only the find him already busy tending to some beans (my favorite!) on a charcoal stove.

He was NOT going to let me down.

George jumped up and immediately started with what I soon realized was a tutorial.

He started by deftly cutting a pumpkin into bite-size pieces, readied it for some solid steaming, then moved onto his personal favorite, kalembula (sweet potato leaves).

George says the key to preparing kalembula is to dry the leaves in the sun before frying them in a little bit of cooking oil.

"Zambian women have forgotten how to cook traditional meals," George explains, "They think cooking means cooking oil!"

"Most daughters just do what their mothers do, they add the tomatoes at the end. But I found that it makes the dish too watery, so I started adding them in the middle, so that the water boils off."

"Even after telling my wife this, she still doesn't know why my kalembula is better than hers!"

George's comments provide an insight to the strict norms that guide Zambia's food culture. People rarely stray from what's always been done, let alone experiment and innovate.

George, however, is far from normal.

When George was young, he spent hours toiling away in his uncle's garden. This was where he learned how to plant okra and beans, how to cultivate pumpkins and sweet potatoes, how to nurture tomatoes and onions.

He LOVES gardening.

"It requires dedication, passion, and ingenuity," he says as he shows off his most prized item...a young pumpkin with sprawling leaves that are often used in cooking.

George moved onto to the chicken next, which he had seasoned and left to dry in the sun before deep frying to perfection.

It soon became time to prepare the nshima, the thick porridge made of maize flour that is the core of every meal.

George showed me how to avoid making lumpy nshima. "This is important," he says, "to impressive the in-laws."Apparently lumpy nshima does not show well.

Before I knew it, it was time to eat the feast!

On the menu: Nshima with beans, kalembula, and fried chicken

For dessert: Steamed pumpkin and baked potato served with gooseberry jam

As we sat down to enjoy the fruits of George's labour, he told me how his aspiration is to own a restaurant, where he can serve traditional meals made with garden-fresh ingredients.

In his spare time, he wants to write. His dream is to see his stories, the ones I LOVE to hear, in print.

I think George is a rare individual, not just here in Zambia, but anywhere really. And I consider myself lucky to have him as one of my friends. He's living proof that you are what you share, for George will always be what he's shared with me - a dedicated gardener, a passionate chef, and a riveting story-teller.

T :)