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Preview: 007 in Africa

007 in Africa



A girl's adventure in Africa, then back to the States, then back to Africa again



Updated: 2017-11-18T16:10:19.464-05:00

 



Wow-termelons and Sacred Arch

2015-09-20T12:11:07.812-04:00

Dear Family,It's nearing the end of September in Bamako, and the weather is staying relatively cool (upper 80s) with some days of intense heat.  We’ve been here nearly 8 months, and our air conditioners have stayed on for that whole period.The rains come every other day, falling torrentially for about 30 mins.  Since the sewers are open, and overflowing with flip flops, plastic bags, remains of rice and bean dinners, broken chairs etc, the rains flow along the roads which become like rivers, and the trash is spread out further and further into people’s dwellings.  Mosquitoes are also pretty bad at this time – we feel bad for our guards who bear the brunt of the stings -- and we try to provide them small relief by buying them anti-mosquito creams, coils and insect-zapping lamps.  Alas, nothing seems to stop those voracious bugs...A few nights ago, we participated in a fancy dinner hosted by an American and his Malagasy (from Madagascar) wife.  We sat in a beautiful garden, at tables with white table clothes, enjoying Samosas, calamari in ginger curry paste, Coco Chicken, and vanilla ice cream.  It was unusual, and lot of fun to get a flavor of that distant, exotic island.  We were also entertained by dancers performing typically Malagasy dances and wearing Malagasy clothes with weaved baskets. Two weekends ago, we got a group together and hiked to see a huge arch rock formation about an hour's drive from Bamako.  It is a sacred place where the king of the city of Siby would predict the futures to warriors wishing to determine the outcomes of their battles.  Our group consisted of our friends, their small children and our pregnant colleague, so we took our time.  Along the way, Malian children held our hand, cleared the pathway from vegetation and kept us company as we sat to eat our picnic.  We didn’t make it to the waterfall, but will organize another outing to see it soon.A few days before that, we took a 2-hour trip in a covered pirogue around Bamako, and got to see huge mounds of trash burning along the river banks, fishermen drying their nets on bushes, women washing their clothes and children with the same batch of soapy water, and a large wooden boats dragging sand from the river’s bottom to make cement.We’re definitely adapting little by little.  Dorothee tries to separate work and personal life, though some of her American colleagues are not as successful.  She recently made cardamom ice cream and chocolate ice cream, and is looking forward to making coconut ice cream soon.Adeel is teaching himself how to swim in our tiny pool, and developing a website to display items for sale from the expat community.  We’re hoping this project will make us Billionaires one day, but in the meantime, it’s been fun to learn a new coding language.We miss you all.  Dorothee will spend a quick week in October, but otherwise, we plan to spend a couple of weeks in DC over December and January.Dorothee & Adeel  Adeel contemplates life as we drift along the Niger river in Bamako (please note the indigo shirt he got tailor made) Arch of Siby, sacred places where warriors got their futures told There's nothing better than home-made ice cream in Malian weather Hashing in a beautiful place close to our house.  Double bonus for a small waterfall, and practically no trash bags around Our friend Sekou making us cavity-inducing sweet Hibiscus tea Another fancy tailor-made Indigo shirt Starfruits are in season, and grow just outside my office windowObstacle course to overcome before arriving at a fancy resort/restaurant.  Thank god for Landcruisers --- other cars would be swallowed aliveTrash burning and nets drying on the side of the Niger RiverWow-termelons are also in season and grow to the size of small toddlersA girl's adventures in Africa, then back in the United States, then back to Africa again[...]



Eid in Bamako, South Africa and Future Visits

2015-09-20T11:57:50.133-04:00

Dear Families,It's been a while since we've sent you an update, so here it is! Dorothee and I have been doing well, and are getting well acclimated to Mali at this point. We've made lots of friends, and are continually involved in many routine activities such as trivia nights, hashing, brunches, getting tailor-made clothes, and so on.Last month (June) we spent a week in South Africa, and a week in Namibia, and then Adeel a few days in Kenya (due to a canceled flight). South Africa was great. Dorothee's aunt, Penny, was gracious enough to allow us to stay for a week at her place, and she even lent us her car for the week! Adeel was happy to meet the rest of the Bonds, and felt welcomed to the family. Penny hosted a Braii (a South African BBQ) for us, which was spectacular. Adeel went to the hospital because he was increasingly becoming deaf, and after getting his ears de-waxed, could miraculously hear again - Johannesburg seems to have good healthcare. Otherwise we explored Johannesburg and the surrounding areas. We shopped (we missed going to proper shopping malls), visited the Lion And Rhino Park, saw the cave of human kind (where some of the world's earliest hominids are found), completed a bike tour of Sowetto, visited Satyagara house (where Gandhi used to live), saw the apartheid museums (which shocked Adeel because the events were so recent), had a lot of good South African Cuisine, and much more.Namibia was great as well.  Along the Skeleton Coast there are sand dunes as far as the eye can see. We saw tons of critters in the dunes, and were surprised that the desert hosted so much life! Adeel climbed and coursed around the dune in dune buggies, while Dorothee met with her colleagues from Peace Corps. There was a lot of eating, working and socializing there as well, and it has taken us nearly a month to get back to our pre-vacation weight! Namibia and South Africa both reminded Adeel of America or Europe. He was surprised to find parts of Africa so developed.Last week was Eid. We first celebrated with a colleague of Dorothee, and ate riz gras, french fries, goat meat and locally made yogurt. We then went to visit friends who own a restaurant. The Malian husband built a smoker in the front of the restaurant, and after feeding a fire for hours with wood, we had wonderful roast lamb with 20 other people as our Eid dinner!Next week Maman/Christine is arriving to spend a week with us, and we are both thrilled. We've planned out lots of activities for her (Dorothee has a long list in her phone). We'll be sure to send you all some updates and photos of what we'll be doing! We're also hoping that Ammi/Abida will come visit us soon as well. We'll plan out lots of good things for then too!Anyway, we are both arguing about how long or short the email should be. Dorothee thinks it should be much shorter, but Adeel thinks it should be longer. So we will compromise and stop here :)Hope everyone is doing well, and we look forward to hearing from you too!Lots of love,Adeel & Dorothee A girl's adventures in Africa, then back in the United States, then back to Africa again[...]



Shopreate and Other Wonders of Bamako

2015-09-20T11:54:16.897-04:00

Dear Family,Hope all is well. We decided to take our Sunday to do our monthly update on our blogs, Facebook, and with our families. So here's our monthly update! We have been doing well. Dorothee has adjusted a little better now, and is getting more sleep. Her work has calmed down a bunch, though she is expecting about 30 volunteers in June. Adeel has taken to Mali like fish takes to water. He is enjoying it thoroughly. His work is going well, and he keeps himself busy socializing with Malians and expats, and working out. He is learning French, and Bambara. All the neighborhood Malians know us well and always greet us, and go out of their way to teach Adeel Bambara.It is hot here right now! We are at the peak of the hot season. Even mosquitoes don't survive the heat and are few in number. Most noteworthy consequence of the heat is that the chicken eggs that Adeel eats daily have shrunken in size. We keep ourselves cool by hiding under the AC, or taking a dip in the pool.A couple of weeks ago we ran out of gas for cooking in our kitchen. Dorothee was wondering if this was a common issue with the gas company... until she realized there are no gas companies and our kitchen is supplied with little gas tanks by the side of the house! We had just run out of gas, and couldn't cook for a couple of days until we got them refilled.Adeel has been growing his hair out. It is currently the longest it has ever been in his life. He is striving to tie it into a "man-bun". That is his greatest ambition at this time. It is at an awkward phase right now where it cannot be tied, and is just all over the place unless copious amounts of gel is used.Dorothee's ambition has been to grow edible plants. She recently purchased some at a community event sponsored by the US embassy. She has basil, citronella, green onions, and spinach, and hopes to acquire more. The gardener has planted them and tends to them well.We have been to many Malian concerts recently, usually at the French Institute. We're generally enjoying life, but missing you all very much,Please send us some news!Adeel and Dorothee Hmmm, papayas...Carrying stuff seems to be the lot of many women here.  The little kid on the back peeks from behind his mother to see what's happening ahead Amazing Malian music concerts at the French Institute Taxis give themselves inspirational names.  This one chose the dubious name of Adof (sic) HitlerShopreate is an amazing food store where we can find many of our familiar foods,  It's just opened a second floor and we're able to find even more products...A girl's adventures in Africa, then back in the United States, then back to Africa again[...]



Fresh Chairs

2015-06-06T10:07:32.672-04:00

Getting chairs recovered in Africa.  Fast and cost effective.

Step 1: dismantle chairs with son on porch

Step 2: sew fabric and piping for chair seat

Step 3: bask in results

Step 4: arrange around the table and invite friends over for brunch



Fresh Lettuce

2015-06-06T09:26:34.891-04:00

I was craving fresh lettuce for weeks, and complaining to Adeel about it.  So he went straight to the source -- a lettuce field...

And he bought three humongous bags.  Which, if we ate lettuce exclusively, could feed the both of us for weeks.

(image)
From Adeel's Facebook Page




Bouillie, Dried Mangoes, and Cashew Apples

2015-05-17T11:43:51.634-04:00

BouilleMalian dishes vary from region to region, but the staples are normally rice, millet, sorghum and fonio (a fine-grained cereal found in Africa). These are served with sauces of fish, meat or vegetables. Grains are often used to make porridges; for example, many Malian’s eat bouille for breakfast, a sweet milk and cereal dish which is a little like runny rice pudding.Source Tiny balls made from a mixture of different grains, drying in the sunWhen the grains are dried, they are gathered and...... packed in various plastic bags for easy shipping It is then cooked with water, and sugar and powdered milk (if available) by the women, and presented to the men for eating, for special occasionsDried MangoesWhen produced on a large scale, mangoes are desiccated in large ovens.  Steps are illustrated here: Achat/Recolte --> Transport --> Murissement --> Triage --> Lavage --> Epluchage --> Tranchage/Coupe --> Mise en Claie --> Sechage --> Claieage --> Triage/pesage --> Conditionnement Drying OvensThe finished product (ginger powder on the left, dried mangoes on the right)Cashew ApplesDid you know that cashews actually came in this form?  People in the village tend to eat the fruit, and throw out the top part, which is the cashew...  Given how labor intensive it is to have to harvest cashews, I now understand why they are so expensive!A girl's adventures in Africa, then back in the United States, then back to Africa again[...]



Chickens and Heat in Mali

2015-05-17T05:51:42.299-04:00

We've been here nearly 6 weeks in the height of the hot season.  It's been a bit rough to go from -10c in Washington DC to almost 110c in Bamako.

Apparently, it's rough on the local chickens here too.  The price of chicken (whole, breasts etc) is a lot higher than beef.  This is something we were not expecting, especially since we expected cows to be more difficult to take care of than a few chickens running in the dusty side streets of neighborhoods.

People tell us that the chickens just don't do well in this intense heat.  As a result, there's less of them around than during the rain season.  Adeel also buys a lot of eggs on a weekly basis.  Every morning when he makes his omelette or hard boiled eggs, he exclaims with great surprise "these are the smallest eggs I've ever seen!"

(image)
Our eggs are colored with what we hope are speckles of mud (or chicken poo?)



Evolution of a Man Bun

2015-05-17T11:10:19.416-04:00

I told Adeel early on upon our arrival that I really like Man Buns.  This is a prime specimen for example:SourceAdeel has been a great sport and indulged me in my preference.  He's been working diligently on growing his own man bun.Back in January 2015, with our niece ZoeMarch 2015, the hard Middle PeriodThe only way to deal with this hair is to slick it back, Used-Car Salesman StyleNow it's long enough to wear with a headband, basking in the glorious rays of the afternoon sunI cant wait to see what next phase awaits us!A girl's adventures in Africa, then back in the United States, then back to Africa again[...]



Finding Our Way Around Bamako

2015-04-12T10:36:59.740-04:00

 Adeel, being cool Mobile hand-washing stations set up in nearly all restaurant, following the Ebola oubreak Our eggs come with extra chicken goo and feathers Goats and donkeys roam free in the city Hashing (a running and walking group) is a great way to visit those rarely visited places in Bamako A cute little Malian child.  He was excited to see us.  He even offered his hand to Adeel for a handshake About 45 minutes from Bamako is Le Campement, a simple but elegant "resort" in a remote neighborhood Plastic bags and trash litter the Bamako landscape everywhereWe found a neat little marketplace close to our house. Although hygiene wasn't the best, and the vegetables have to be bleached and washed several times over. Pirogue along the Niger River A typical menu at a Malian Restaurant Our local Chinese restaurant.  The Chinese have really settled into Africa (where they were non-existent 10 years ago), giving us more dinner-time choicesLive chickens for saleDorothee and Adeel enjoying sodas after a hard walkA girl's adventures in Africa, then back in the United States, then back to Africa again[...]



Dairy in Africa

2015-04-06T14:53:41.491-04:00

One of the things I was dreading about going to Mali, was the lack of dairy products.  Being 1/2 French, cheese, milk, crème fraiche and all derivatives thereof are nectars of the Gods to me. 

In Senegal and Congo, I remember not being able to get fresh milk, and the cheese seemed to be way beyond my budget...

Though I haven't yet attempted to buy the milk in plastic bags yet, I have been surprised by the quality of yogurt "Mali Lait" makes.  Frankly, they are good -- in fact, they are much nicer than the ones in the States.  Lightly sweetened with sugar, strawberry, vanilla, or plain, they have a nice rich texture to them, and taste fresh.



Today, I bought Nido Powdered Milk and experimented with making dairy products at home.  Daunted by the task at hand (I had a pretty unsuccessful try about 10 years ago in Senegal), my Father-in-Law makes his own Greek-style yogurt and has assured me several times that it couldn't be simpler.

 

I will post my attempts at making various dairies with recipes, but in the meantime, check out this Palak Paneer I concocted using powdered milk:


Straining the curds and whey through a coffee filter (I didn't even know what those where and why Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet, eating and seemingly enjoying them)


Tada, Palak Paneer (although, in the interest of honesty, this is an Indian dish, so you know there's 23 steps with hard-to-to-find spices before it gets to the completion stage...Fortunately, our air shipment with spices, arrived about a week ago)



Things to do in Bamako: Les Mercredis du Patio (Concerts at the French Institute)

2015-04-06T14:55:05.330-04:00

Every Wednesday evenings, the Institut Francais holds concerts in its little restaurant.  Yesterday, we went to listen to Djeneba et Fousco, a group from Kayes, a city in Western Mali.

Even though I was exhausted (I have been averaging about 5 hours per night for the last three weeks -- the antimalarial gives me bad insomnia), it was great to be back listening to West African music.

This is a panorama of the evening.








Update from Bamako, Week 3

2015-04-05T15:06:21.109-04:00

Dear Family,Hope you all are doing well. We wanted to send you an update about our life in Bamako. This is our third week here, and we are starting to discover the lay of the land. Though we live in a pretty sheltered neighborhood, with a small pool, we often have to venture out to super markets located in crowded neighborhoods. More than once, we've gotten lost on tiny side roads full of broken down cars, goats, and kids playing. We cannot do all our grocery shopping in one place. We usually have to go to a couple different small supermarkets to find everything, which takes a lot of time every week. Luckily, we find fresh fruits and vegetables at outdoor stands at very good prices. Right now mangoes and mandarins are in season, so they're plentiful and delicious. Adeel cannot find chicken breasts all the time, so he's learning to snap them up and freeze them if they're ever available.We bleach our vegetables in one gallon of water and one capful of bleach--and have learned not to wear our best clothes when doing that (see picture of Dorothee's ruined shirt).Bleaching our fruits and vegetablesDorothee's shirtThe fruit stand where Adeel shopsOur poolAdeel soaking in the pool after a hot dayA palm tree with coconuts in our back yardIn the dusty streets (whether paved or not), we frequently get accosted by people trying to sell us scents, toys, kleenexes, and plant hammocksUnpaved roads are plentifulWomen dressed in boubous riding motos are a common sight in BamakoThankfully, we do find chocolate croissants and other sweets at local patisseries and boulangeriesSome sweets at a bakery that also serves excellent Lebanese food (Le Relax)Adeel trying to play an African musical instrument at Mali Chic storeStreets are littered with trash--this is a really deep sewer that is completely filled. Where will the torrential rains of the wet season go?Even if it takes a lot more time to source and prepare the ingredients, we are still able to cook the way we like.Miss you all,Adeel and DorotheeA girl's adventures in Africa, then back in the United States, then back to Africa again[...]



You Got Mail!

2015-03-26T04:33:10.840-04:00

The nice thing about being in Africa this time around is that:

1) I'm not an intern and thus receiving a real salary
2) I've moved here with my husband so I have an instant friend
3) I have access to mail services at the Embassy!



We have access to a military post office here in Mali...  It essential works exactly like a post office back home, but with delivery by plane to the Embassy mail room.  Amazon.com here I come!

The drawback is that sometime, addresses get muddled.  Take for example a medication that my husband bought online.  He ordered it about 3 weeks ago, and it seemed to have gotten lost somewhere along the way.  Until today.

We found out it got delivered by accident... at the USS Bonhomme Richard!  An amphibious Assault ship!

Ya, that was definitely the wrong address.





We've Moved to Mali!

2015-04-05T14:41:52.104-04:00

My husband and I recently moved to Mali!  Here's our first email to the families:First ImpressionsIt's been a week and we like Bamako so far. Bamako is a bustling small city, full of motor cycles, women in Boubous, road-side vegetable stands, and kids trying to sell you prepaid cell phone cards. We are getting situated and have found some local grocery stores, which all seem to be owned by the Lebanese. Though costs are relatively low, our groceries have been double what they are in the States. We will get used to it soon!HouseOur house is very nice, but it is a little too big for us. We have two floors consisting of 3 full bathrooms, a master bedroom, 3 guest rooms, 2 lounges, a dining room, and a small pool. We have already gotten a gardener and maid, whom we pay out of our own expenses. But the house comes with around the clock guards that Dorothee's employee covers [husband Adeel is teleworking from Mali with a tech company based in Virgina.]Security SituationAs you may have heard, in the early morning of March 7th, heavily armed assailants attacked a popular nightclub (not near our house fortunately), killing and injuring several Malians and 2 expatriates (a Frenchman and a Belgian). This is very unusual for Bamako. Dorothee is used to these types of incidents from her time in Congo, but is a little out of touch on safety and security issues, having spent the major of the last 8-10 years in the United States.Daily LifeDorothee walks to her office from our house every day, which is a total of 8 minutes by foot...  Adeel works at home, and has been able to do his work so far without issues. He is waiting on getting better Internet installed at the house, but it may not be all that much better! We went to a taco dinner just last night, and we look forward to trying more local food in weeks to come.---Some Photos---Our second day in town, we went to a great restaurant by the Niger RiverAdeel was greatly relieved to find many different forms of recognizable meat This is Dorothee's Office...... Just kidding!  This is Dorothee's Office (with Dorothee hard at work)                                    The street that leads to our houseWe have a dryer, but our maid insists on drying our clothes this wayCrossing a bridge over the Niger riverA very big lizard (behind the chair) - Adeel insisted on including this photo.Stuck in a traffic jam!A girl's adventures in Africa, then back in the United States, then back to Africa again[...]



Watching Turtles Nest

2014-09-27T09:27:38.575-04:00

The village of Tortugero is renowned for its 22 km of beach where turtles from Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama come to give birth every year. The season for birthing is nearly over, but we took a tour and managed to see a few of them "doing their thing."The village has become really good at ensuring that humans don't disrupt the process too much.  Groups of 8 to 10 people follow a guide to the beach, and a spotter will show them various turtles at different stages:Walking from the sea to the beach (we are not allowed during this process as humans can easily spook out turtles who will rush back to the sea without laying their eggs)Digging a deep hole in the sand (same restriction as above)When the turtle is ready to lay, she will go into a sort of trance and concentrate on nothing else but pushing her eggs out (that's where we can start observing the process.)  A turtle can lay up to 150 eggs, depending on her age. Our guide Gina, mentioned that at times, she'd observe a turtle that would only lay 2 eggs: "plop plop it goes -- and it's a bit disappointing to witness" she saidThen the turtle will cover the hole with her back flippers, dipping her tail in the nest to check for completeness.  When that's done, she will use her powerful front flippers to throw sand over her head and to land behind her, forming a soft mound of sand.  This is to camouflage the nest, and misdirect predators (humans, dogs, jaguars, birds) away from the real source of eggsExhausted, the turtle will then go back to sea She will do this 7 to 8 times in the season, laying upwards of 1,200 eggs -- which is actually an evolutionary mechanism to insure that at least a few baby turtles make it to adulthood.  In fact, only1% of eggs will survive to be full grown adults.Here's a great video about the whole arduous process of making baby turtles, from Brad Nahill: allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/2w5PANyqgnU" width="560">Turtle watching starts at around 8:00 pm and can go until midnight depending on the recommendations of the guides and turtle spottersWe weren't allowed to use cameras (even the flashlights emitted a soft red light to be less invasive to turtles), but in the morning, I could see hundreds of turtle tracks from the sea to the vegetation along the beach.  Sadly, many of the nests seemed dug out, the turtles shells were either split open or surrounded by flies.  A girl's adventures in Africa, then back in the United States, then back to Africa again[...]



Tortugero - Between Canals and the Sea

2014-09-26T09:54:56.957-04:00

Tortugero is a small village, renowned for its beaches where 3 different kinds of turtle lay their eggs from the May to August period.  At this time, some of the baby turtles have hatched and are moving between the sea and their nests daily.Tortugero is fairly isolated, so to get there, we took a bus from our last place to the Port of Moin in Limon for 1.5 hours.  Then we hopped on a small boat and rode along the canals of the National Park for 4 hours to the village.  Here are some of the scenes we saw along the way...We got stuck in a shallow bed of the canals.  This cow made us feel a bit silly sitting in 6 inches of water. A rather large crocodile A small and less aggressive caimenOur lil' boatOur hotel room contained a much nicer type of crocodileIn a mix of capital and lower case letters, this nicely penned sign says "Free information about tours.  My name is Caster Hunter Thomas this name is onto the Lonely Planet I ofer canoe tour tortle walk in the trail going to Moin Cawita E.X" The road to the National Park.  There are no cars in this town.  This is the only paved road there, and it's less than 1 mile longA vinegar solution of carrots, cucumbers and a hot, sweet pepper from Panama.  Great for spooning over rice!A girl's adventures in Africa, then back in the United States, then back to Africa again[...]



Our Costa Rica Trip Map so Far

2014-09-25T17:55:55.941-04:00




Day 5 - Jaguar Rescue Center

2014-09-24T21:28:34.328-04:00

Here's a review of the highlight of our day (left on Trip Advisor):5 out of 5 starsYou should first know that it is unlikely you will see Jaguars at the Rescue Center. It is owned by a Spanish couple who are Biologists, settled in the area, and began to take in sick and injured animals. One of their first was a jaguar, who has since been rehabilitated and released into nature.Depending on the month, you might see toucans, birds of prey, owls, ocelots, anteaters, snakes (bred in captivity to repopulate dwindling species in the wild), caimans, deer, frogs and you'll get to interact with young monkeys. The tour is delivered by volunteers (ours spoke wonderful English) for 1.5 hour, who give you a history of the animal, how it came to reside in the Center and what the specific plans for reintegrating it into the wild are. Some are unable to leave the Center due to life-long disabilities. A fun time overall, and allows you to connect to the specific animals there. I recommend renting bikes to get there from Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, but beware, there is no sign to indicate where this is, so we missed it a couple of times (ended up riding for 6 or so miles more than we had to.) If you have a phone with gps, turn it on :) It is about 4 miles from Talamanca. The GPS coordinates are listed on their website. (Note to owners: the website is difficult to read on a smartphone, most of the text on the directions page is in light lime green with a white background. We had to select the text to be able to read it!).  Caution: 04:00 a.m. - 07:00 a.m.Free running wild cats in reintroduction processAnd for a bonus: these are the salt shakers they use everywhere here.  Don't they look just kind of like Daleks?A girl's adventures in Africa, then back in the United States, then back to Africa again[...]



Day 4 - Puerto Viejo de Talamanca

2014-09-23T19:41:37.246-04:00

Aaaaand it's another early morning start to get a bus to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca.  Evidently, the 6:15 a.m. bus ride is not a terribly popular time (as evidenced by the absence of people at the stop).Upon our arrival to the hotel, we embark immediately on a dolphin watching tour along to Coast, and come quite close to the very tip of Costa Rica -- as a matter of fact, my phone cheeringly welcomes me to Panama!Well this is a rather awkward bus stop.  Life is like a box o' chocolates...Our hotel! Monkey Island close to ManzanilloTrying to avoid the sun at all cost, on a two-hour dolphin spotting tour.  Sadly, the dolphins were so fleeting, our cameras didn't catch pictures of themOur guide kindly stops to prepare Pipa (a kind of coconut from which coconut water comes -- but not the coconut milk), which we drink and eatWe must be close to Panama 'cause my phone says so For the rest of the day, we chill in our hotel, revealing in the fact that the next day won't be another early rise.  And of course, find the only French place in town for a crepe au Nutella.A girl's adventures in Africa, then back in the United States, then back to Africa again[...]



Day 3 - Cahuita

2014-09-23T19:40:43.764-04:00

We wake again at dawn to take a 4-hour ride to the Caribbean Coast to the small beach town of Cahuita.  After a heart-stopping mistake in bus terminals, and rushing through the streets of San Jose, we get to the right place, board the bus, and experience a plush ride through a National Park, and on to the Coast.



 Cahuita at Dawn

 With a serious backpack, a lady's umbrella and a little hipster hat

With two smaller backpacks, a child's umbrella and a little hipster hat



The small National Park along the Beach.  We saw two sloths!









Day Two - Ziplining near Miramar

2014-09-21T22:11:17.254-04:00

The next day, we got picked up bright and early (again, sigh) for a two hour ride to Adventure Park near Miramar for a day of ziplining.  After a zigzagging road, we embark on the adventure.  It's best left to what's said on the lodge's description:There is no fun participating in zip line and canopy tours in artificial conditions. At Adventure Park Canopy Tour you enjoy your zip line flights inside real forests, over real waterfalls. And not just a couple of waterfalls, you will cross 11 waterfalls in Costa Rica during your canopy tour. While travelling from one zip line to another, you cross the famous Costa Rican mountains and water falls that adorn the ancient rain forests.  A girl's adventures in Africa, then back in the United States, then back to Africa again[...]



Our (hopefully) Exotic Costa Rica Vacation

2014-09-21T07:58:24.234-04:00

We decided to go to a new country for vacation!  We'd heard so much about Costa Rica that we decided to give it a shot for a week.All packed and ready to go at 3:00 a.m. for our 6:00 a.m. flight.  Oh what a joy...And though we seem all bright eyed and bushy tailed...Coffees were needed to stay functional.We finally arrived in Hotel Le Bergerac in San Jose and had a quick lunch of carbs and more carbsI wouldn't say that San Jose is a spectacular city, but it has its charms, despite the non-stop rain in the afternoon.After a local meal of beans, rice, plantains, fried onions and tough (but flavorful) beef, we walked home in the dark, coming upon an impromptu gay dance routine in a bar.  We got a free eyeful. Fun times were had by all!A girl's adventures in Africa, then back in the United States, then back to Africa again[...]



Mandarin Cake

2014-06-14T08:06:15.234-04:00

Ever since watching The Wonderful Life of Walter Mitty, I've been craving Mandarin Cake. Finding none anywhere and being particularly desperate, I started preparing one as soon as I woke up on Saturday (sadly at about 6:30 am.)

Now you must understand that I NEVER bake. I cook rather often,  but baking is a whole other beast, necessitating special cookware and at times elusive ingredients.

While I was mixing the olive oil, milk, vanilla, and mandarin zest portion, I called my sister in Australia.  Getting her on the phone can sometimes be a crusade, given that she lives in Australia so is about 12-14 hours ahead,  she's an ER doctor, and her schedule changes from working nights to days more often than I change my underwear. ANYWAYS, I managed to connect to her this morning.  And get this.  She was just about to sit down to eat the fresh Orange Cake she just baked!

If I believed in a cosmic connection, this would be a strong contender for one!

(image)
http://www.marthastewart.com/sites/files/marthastewart.com/imagecache/wmax-520/images/content/pub/ms_living/2009Q1/mld103941_0109_mandarin_hd.jpg




Ephesus

2013-10-17T14:38:25.062-04:00

Sigh.  There were so many interesting sights last weekend, when traveling down the Western Coast of Turkey, that if I tried to write them all here, I would be discouraged before even starting.So let me talk about the best sight near Izmir, and mostly post photos :)Ephesus, within the Province of Izmir ("the Ibiza of Turkey") was one of the most famous cities of antiquity. Its beginning of human settlement occured at the Neolithic period, around 6,000 B.C. With the waves of migrations it became a larger city until Alexander the Great conquered it in 334 B.C. and it experienced a period of prosperity for 50 years. After hundreds of years of conquerings and lootings, earthquakes and being silted up from river deposits, Ephesus was abandoned in the 14th century.  In its heyday, it had:- government buildings, - a hospital and pharmacy, - fountains, latrines (doing your collective business with 48 other men) and public baths, - a sewage system with clay pipes, - shops lining the various walks, - the 3rd biggest library in the world (at the time), - a Greco-Roman amphitheather with stage for 25,000 seating capacity (used for festivals until 2001),  and - a posh city center for aristocrats with frescos adorning walls and constant water even during dry periods.The site is now mostly ruins with painstaking reconstructions, but it leaves visitors in awe of what an amazing city this was... Ephesus Library was once the 3rd largest in the Empire Frescos in what was once a neighborhood for wealthy families Cats own the ruins of Ephesus Men were lucky to have clean latrines... But you'd better be comfortable doing your business with up to 48 other people. The smaller site of Bergama, with its intricate columns... Amphitheater built into the side of a hill... Breathtaking view... And obligatory rug seller, was no less impressive!  In the afternoon, we finished by visiting the House of Mary (apparently, Mary ended up in Southwestern Turkey after her son Jesus died -- don't ask me for the geographical logical of that one), and we added our wishes to the Prayer Wall We ended up the town of Sirinc, with its 900 people, but seemingly overrun by tourists (and yes I was one of them)A girl's adventures in Africa, then back in the United States, then back to Africa again[...]



Gaziantep

2013-10-13T14:44:49.194-04:00

On October 6, 2013, I spent a good part of the week in Gaziantep, a city of about 1.8 million, located not too far from the Syrian border.  I walked in the old city market, full of tin spice grinders; dried red peppers on a string (looking like enormous cranberry garlands we hang on Christmas trees); hand carved wooden brushes; and ubiquitous cheap Chinese plastic goods. Turkey was on the Silk road, and today there are still barrels and barrels of whole and ground spices, many of which I’ve never seen before. Alauddevie Came (Mosque) under Construction The city is renowned for having the best Baklava in the country (that dessert with a crispy pastry top, a gooey honey base, topped off with a delicate dusting of green pistachio powder), so of course, it was my duty to have at least one per day. Then every day, I had minced meat, flat bread, and my fill of peppers, cucumbers, and tomatoes. Though the food is simple and always good, I could easily tire of the repetitious ingredients here.Who ever thought that a mosaic museum would be interesting? But it really was. During excavations in 2000, archeologists uncovered amazing mosaics in the city of Zap that lined the floors of pools, hamams (spas), churches and courtyards in Roman and Late Antique Periods. They carefully excavated them, working around the large missing pieces stolen by looters, and brought them out for public display. With a strange feeling of cognitive dissonance, I suddenly finally understood what my history teacher told me all those years ago: the Romans had more lavish lifestyles than most people today.  People in Gaziantep living in half-built cement houses on dusty sand floors, with spotting access to water or a good sewage system.  Mosaic Museum Finishing the day with tea in the open-air courtyard of Tutun Hani A girl's adventures in Africa, then back in the United States, then back to Africa again[...]