Sunday, April 20, 2008

Week 2: Cooking

4/6/08 to 4/9/08

The major events of Monday and Tuesday were cooking and finding a lid for our water tank. Most of Monday was dedicated to finally settling in to our apartment in a serious way. Lily, of course, produced several exacting lists for us to complete, and we checked off items with great success. There were two items that were proving impossible, however: a jiko (small stove), and a lid for the 800 L water tank on our roof that we draw our tap water from.

One of our major goals here is to not get sick. To this end, we intend to cook much of our own food. To cook, we need a stove. We went to every little stove-mart, giant mega-mart, and petro station (they sell stoves, for some reason…) in Mombasa, but none had the model that we had arbitrarily decided was the ideal.

Having made a list containing the item, “jiko,” we were so confident of our success that we invited a friend over for dinner. At mid day, we reluctantly decided that we should inform him that we may not be able to cook dinner, because we likely won’t find a stove in time. His response was perfect: Oh, I have an extra one—why don’t I meet you to help you shop for ingredients?

So, we cooked. Or more precisely, Lily and Mohammed—the friend with the jikco—cooked, and I cleaned. We had boiled potatoes with onions and a stir-fryish arrangement of vegetables (with lots of garlic, in honor of our Executive Director). Cooking is a bit more of a process here than it is in the States. To start with, it’s about a million degrees out, even after dark. Also, our kitchen is tiny. Our jiko is tiny, too, but not so much so that it can fit in the kitchen with two people and two cutting boards. So the jiko’s new home has (temporarily, I hope) become the living room.
We turned all of the fans down to let the space heater do its work while dishes and scraps began piling. This leads to the next major issue, which is ants. There are lots of them. Rather, there were lots of them. After heating the living room to over 90 degrees at ten o’clock at night we were delirious enough (both nights) to forget to turn the fans back up to eat. Eventually, we realized and we pealed ourselves off of the couches to start cleaning, which is a process. If you don’t get every scrap of food that might have ever fallen anywhere, the ants attack—this means scrubbing, wiping and mopping about 1/3 of the apartment (which is actually pretty spacious—I’ll probably write about that later).

I am proud to report that, after 1 ½ hours (each night), we defeated the ants. We got home today from a two day trip to find only two scouts in our kitchen, with not a single train anywhere in the house.

Wednesday, we ate out….

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