Thursday, June 24, 2010

Home Sweet Home!

Tomorrow we leave Dakar at 5 am and will arrive in Maine around 8 pm... We are counting the minutes.

Here goes to traveling with two infants on our laps! I did pack yarn to start a new project on the plane just in case one of the boys will sleep in my lap and I just so happen to have 2 hands free! (dream on).

Here is a pic of my new project from Berroco... I have a beautiful white, soft, lightweight bamboo yarn to knit this up with. The pattern is called Anhinga and is by one of my favorite designers, Norah Gaughan.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Pizza Nightmare

Entrepreneurship is not well in Dakar. I base this sweeping generalization on my recent attempt to order pizza (from one of the few places that make pizza) for delivery. Here's a short play I call "Pizza Nightmare":

(Enter ME and Kelly, tired after a day of work and a rough time putting the babies to bed. The heat is stifling in the room despite the fact the windows are open and the sun went down more than an hour ago. A hint of a mosquito flitting in the shadows. the couple is keen to relax and opts for the easy dinner option of pizza, ordered in.)

ME: (dials number for Blue Note Pizza, lady answers) Hi, I'd like to order a pizza for delivery, please.

LADY: OK, but our delivery man is new and he starts tomorrow.

ME: (pause) OK, does that mean I can't order a pizza for delivery tonight?

LADY: Well, he starts tomorrow, I'm not sure if he'll want to work today.

ME: (double pause) OK, so what does that mean for me? Can you check?

LADY: (slightly annoyed) He's right here. Why don't you talk to him. (hands phone to delivery man)


ME: Hi. I'd like to order a pizza for delivery, please.

DELIVERY MAN: Where do you live?

ME: (swats at mosquito, a bead of sweat rolls down forehead, remembers there are no street addresses in Dakar) I live in Almadies. If you're going toward Mamelles, take the left onto the dirt road just before the BICIS bank, take your first right and go to the end of the road. I'm in a white house with a grey car out front, directly across from Hissene Habre's villa.

DELIVERY MAN: In front of Habre's villa?

ME: Yes

DELIVERY MAN: Yes, I know where that is.

ME: Excellent, wonderful. (thinks this ordeal may be over soon, excited about looming pizza)

DELIVERY MAN: OK (puts down phone)

ME: (waiting... )

LADY: (speaking to delivery man, without picking up the phone...) So you know where he lives?


LADY: (muffled sounds) What kind of pizza did he want?

DELIVERY MAN: I don't now.

LADY: Ah well.

ME: (into the phone) Hello? Hello?

Lady: (continuing to chat with colleagues, not picking up phone, muffled sounds of music in the background)

Me: (slowly raises voice... realizes they think they hung up) Hello!? I'm here! Pick me up!! (minutes go by, losing hope, babies start crying in the other room, a mosquito lands on ankle unnoticed)

(After five minutes ME, drenched in sweat, hangs up furious and dials again, assuming they have more than one phone line. gets a busy signal. waits as sweat soaks shirt, dials again, still busy. waits another five minutes, dials again, still busy. waits another five minutes, dials again, babies screaming now, still busy. giving up hope.

KELLY: (as lights dim) How did that go?

(curtains falls amid amplified sounds of screamining babies and buzzing mosquitoes) END

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A Photographic Commute

I've always been lucky with commutes. For a while it was a bike ride through central park -- 50 blocks of trees, racoons, eagles, and ponds full of turtles, swans and giant carp. Then it was along the Hudson River bike path -- 100 blocks with views on the ferries an tugs working one of America's biggest waterways and with the cliffs and hills ofNew Jersey in the background. I once saw a seal in the Hudson, about 10 yards off the path around 100th Street. Guess he wanted to see Harlem. Now that we're in Dakar, I get a stretch of ocean road along the westernmost tip of Africa. Here are some of the sights:

Dirt road out of my hood.

Up the hill past the lighthouse.

Behind the African Renaissance Monument

Along the cliffs

That overlook the Ouakam mosque

And the fishing village

Down the Corniche

Past the Machete Man

And some other odd roadside items

Into the 'leafy suburb' of Point E

To the traffic jam

Dodge the bus that says 'Praise be to God' on the front

And to the street my office is on.

Fathers Day and Sweet Potato Pancakes

Well, today was Father's Day #2 here in the Valdmanis household. Yes, that's right...#2. And it wasn't because we have 2 boys, it is because I thought LAST Sunday was Father's Day. Where are all those Hallmark advertisements when you need them?!

Last Sunday, Rich got a candle light breakfast with wine spritzers, french toast, bacon, and african potato onion pancakes.

This Sunday, Rich got a candle light breakfast (oops, I forgot to light the candles) with eggs, bacon, and african pancakes. (No wine spritzers today as he his working from home).

I must share with you this delicious Sweet Potato, Onion, and Thyme pancake recipe. It is my new obsession... It's almost like a pancake with hash browns inside, but better. It's from the African Kitchen cookbook:

3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup milk
2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/4 cup flour
12 oz sweet potatoes, peeled and coarsely grated
2 onions, diced
2 tsp dried thyme (you MUST have thyme for this's awesome!)
whatever type of oil you want to use for frying, I use sunflower oil

Combine eggs, milk and olive oil in a small bowl. Place the flour in a large bowl and slowly stir in the egg mixture until a smooth batter is formed. Add the sweet potatoes, onions, thyme, season and mix well. Pour a little oil into a frying pan and heat until very hot but not smoking. Place a small ladle of the pancake mixture into the frying pan and press into shape, then repeat until pan is full. Fry about 2 minutes on each side until pancakes are golden brown. Remove and let sit on paper towel before serving. Mmmmmmmmmmm.

Who did it?


Grandma Yvonne with Dylan

Friday, June 4, 2010

Oh that? That's just a witch.

After a nice morning snoozing under a sun umbrella on N'Gor Island, followed by a very tasty lunch at an Italian restaurant, Kelly and I started to stroll back to the beach for the boat ride home. But our progress was halted by a strange sound.

"EEEEEeeeeeeee..... EEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeee..... EEEEEEEEEeeeeeeee....." came the sound. It was quite high-pitched and alarming and stopped us in our tracks.

A gentleman named Ben Moussa selling T-shirts nearby noticed our worried faces.

"Don't worry," he said. "That's just one of the women of the island who has fallen under a spell. It happens out here. She'll be fine soon."

I had to take a peek. She was in the kitchen of the Italian restaurant where we'd just eaten. She was flat on her belly and a man was holding her down. About five other men and women were milling about, watching her and chatting.

"EEEEEEeeeeeeeee," she said.

She didn't look upset or hurt or scared. She almost looked amused. So we left.

When we got home, Yvonne explained that the Lebou -- the tribe of fishermen that has for centuries populated the peninsula upon which Dakar was built -- often fall victim to the spirits of their ancestors. Apparently if they fail to pay respect to the dead and adhere to traditional values, they become haunted, and sometimes fall into bizarre trances. A good solution to a trance is to make a sacrifice.

"They will have to kill a cow," Yvonne said.

I asked a local if he believed that ancestors can really make women say "EEEEEEEeeeee".

"When you see it all around you since you were a child, you grow up believing it, yes. You can't help but believe it. The Lebou are people of the sea and there are many spirits," he said. "It is just normal."

It might also be a good excuse to have a nice steak?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Random Pics

Dad reading to the boys about 'Thing 1 and Thing 2'

Sonko 'taking care of our trash'.

Dylan and I taking an early morning nap.

Laird snoozing