Saturday, February 27, 2010


A favorite food of Nigerians....skewered chicken or beef cooked over an open BBQ and sprinkled with spices, then wrapped are served in a piece of newspaper....all for only 200 naira. A great deal!

On a quiet Tuesday in January, Dan and I jump into our car with 3 other friends and drive down the street to a favorite suya hot spot. It is located at the end of a quiet, dead-end street behind a big unmarked gate. There we turn into a driveway and sneak into a parking spot. The renovated suya stand is quite impressive and very popular. (much bigger and better than it used to be) It is a large brick structure with a built in grill. There is a tall stack of newspaper sitting on the counter.

Our friend, who is a regular customer here, orders a variety of suya including a suya spiced fish and her favorite: suya gizzards. She send us upstairs to the "dining area" to find a table. So Dan and I head in that direction, climb the tight spiral staircase and start looking for a table. This is harder than it may seem: there are no lights and only enough room for 6 small tables. (this is more of a take-out establishment) We grab the only table that is open and start hunting up 5 chairs.

The food arrives, wrapped in newspaper, with several toothpicks as our only utensils. We do our best to stab the meat (and not each other) with the toothpicks as we begin to dig in. Luckily, there is a waiter on hand who can bring out beer and other beverages to "put out the fire" from the suya spices.

It was a great night; and no one was sick the next day!! (that is always a good thing)

My Dance Recital

How wild and crazy is this? I am 40+ and participating in my first dance recital!!

Last December, I was asked to volunteer and participate in the American dance portion of "Small World"; along with several others ladies in the Consulate.

Small World is a charity event in which several International Women's Groups come together and raise money for charity by sponsoring an International Night. Each participating country donates time, energy and resources to the event in the way of food, costumes, dance and music. From what I have heard, it is the event of the year ~ one that should not be missed.

Back in January, a group of 8 of us met at a friend's house to begin practice. Two of the girls has already volunteered to be part of the dance and they agreed to teach the "new recruits" what they had learned. It all started off well~ then we came to the twirling spin! As one of our coaches demonstrated the move, she landed badly on her foot. Practice halted and we helped her as best we could until the doctor could arrive. Practice had not gone according to plan; our coach had broken her foot!!

The rest of us continued working with the choreographers for the jazz and tap portions of the dance. We were having fun, but as February approached, tensions were getting high. It was during one practice late in January, that we finally felt stronger and more confident.

With Small World just a week and a half away, practices were now scheduled for the stage at the venue for the event. We were critiqued and given the "thumbs up" for our routine. Yeah us! Now with only 4 practices until the performance we are fine tuning a few details, but overall we are good to go.

To be continued......

Monday, December 14, 2009

Our Next Post

Half way through our tour in Lagos we were sent a list of all the possible positions for our next post.

Thus the bidding process started.

Dan began by whittling down the list of posts that fit the criteria we needed to meet. (no small feat….as the list began with hundreds of possibilities) There were many choices that interested us , but we had to comprise our list of only 20 different positions.

We wrote those 20 positions/locations on index cards and color coded our choices. Then we sat on the floor – on several different occasions - and arranged the cards into an order that we liked best. We submitted the list early in September.

Then the hard part…. we had to wait. Our next assignment would not be posted until the end of that week.

That Friday we sat at home and waited for the close of business in the States, hoping that the list would be sent with the new assignments. With hopeful hearts we checked Dan’s email.. one more time… the list was in his inbox.

With shaking hands we clicked the mouse and opened the email to read our new assignment. BRUSSELS!!!

We were elated. There was much hugging and yelling as well as jumping and fist pumping!!! It was a good night. We called our families and shared the news.

We are still enjoying our time in Lagos, but know that when we arrive in Brussels (summer of 2011) our doors will be open to anyone who would like to visit.

Sour Cream

Hello all ~

There are times when one misses the modern conveniences of refrigeration – especially refrigerated trucks that make their way happily up and down the paved freeways and highways for the distribution of their tasty goods to consumers everywhere.

But when a door is closed, somewhere a window opens.

So begins my quest to find the directions and materials needed to make SOUR CREAM.

Never in my life would I have thought I would need this bit of knowledge, but now I am a master. I can make sour cream from the simplest of ingredients without having to pay $7.00 for a pint!! Some yogurt, a bit of cheese cloth, a strainer, and lemon juice ~ along with time~ are the key ingredients to making sour cream just like mom used to make –or in this case Breakstone.

Other creative variations utilize a new (preferably washed) pillow case to hang from the cupboards and drip into the sink for the better part of the day. And still others will make the most of those pantyhose that were packed for “special occasions” because they are just TOO HOT to wear on those toasty 90 degree days.

Either way, taste and texture are just perfect for those Tex-Mex nights. (We won’t mention the difficulty or cost involved in procuring taco shells or tortillas – a story for another time!!) But I do have Mesa flour – maybe I will have to try my hand.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Our Travels Through Africa….Part 4

Kambaku Lodge in Timbavati Game Reserve: now this is what I call camping!!!!

Kambaku Lodge doesn’t hold anything back when it comes to pampering its guests. We had beautiful, spacious accommodations during our stay at Kambaku. It is a small lodge that can accommodate up to 18 guests. Each cabin has a large sleeping area, with mosquito netting artfully draped around the four-poster bed, a gigantic bathroom with large shower and big claw foot tub.

We arrived at Kambaku shortly before lunch. We had enough time to view the grounds, see our rooms, and freshen up before we heard the drums sound. It was our call to lunch. There was a delicious buffet of salads, fruit, cheese and other local fares. We were treated to a scrumptious meal served outside, under the shade of the canopy. Quiet time in the afternoon gave us a chance to read and relax before we were called to tea.

Tea was followed by our evening safari. We were escorted to an open air, elongated jeep with elevated seats to allow for the best viewing. Blankets were stacked on the seats to see to our every comfort. We started along a worn trail looking for the local wildlife. Before long we were off-roading and driving in the bush. We came across a quiet clearing where 4 lions slept; two males and two females. We were told that there were new cubs, but the female had them hidden away; she would bring them out once they were older. We sat for a short time just marveling at the large beasts that seemed so peaceful while/as they slept less than 6 feet away from our vehicle.

We left the lions in search of rhino we were told were in the area. Along the way we saw kudu, impala, warthogs and buffalo. As the sun set, our guide found a quiet grassy area where we stopped the car for an evening’s cocktail. It was perfect: a storybook experience. When we returned to the lodge, the table was set and dinner was served by the fire. The staff joined us for dinner making it very personable and intimate. Lanterns lined the paths for the walk back to our cabins.

An early start had us bundling under the blankets during our morning drive. Again we were on the hunt for the rhino. There were fresh tracks marking his domain. Our guide, Aaron, felt confident that we would find the rhino this morning. Along our path we found leopard tracks, but sadly no leopard. At dawn, we stopped for tea, coffee and rusks. (a kind of biscotti) We were fortunate to be joined by a herd of giraffe who circled our picnic spot happily eating leaves from the acacia trees. How amazing!!!

After leaving our picnic spot we abandoned our quest for rhino and turned along another path. This led to several elephants snacking on the trees along the side of the trail. As we sat, admiring their size and beauty we were surrounded by 30 to 40 more elephants that just came back from their early morning bath. It was fascinating to see so many elephants, both young and old.

The day followed a simple routine of breakfast, quiet rest and relaxation time, lunch, afternoon tea and our sunset drive. This drive treated us to waterbuck and impala grazing just off in the distance. At a waterhole, we found a stork walking along its banks and a hippo submerged except for his eyes, ears and nostrils. He did not seem to like us watching him for he opened his mouth wide, showing us his enormous teeth. We drove on to a quieter spot for our sunset toast. With the help of a spotlight we came across a barn owl perched in a tree, a porcupine walking along the path and a chameleon climbing a tree.

We were leaving the following morning. So in one final attempt we went searching for the rhino on our sunrise drive. Alas, the elusive rhino was not to be found during our time at Timbavati.

We left later that morning, but with sheer delight in all that we were able to see during the time we had on safari. There is something known as “The Big Five”. These are five of the big animals who live in the savannah that are the most popular. They are the lion, the leopard, the rhino, the buffalo and the elephant. We considered ourselves very fortunate to have seen four of “the big 5”. The mysterious leopard was not to be seen on this trip. I guess that means we will need to try again!!!

Our Travels Through Africa….Part 3

After a week in Uganda, we jumped on a plane and headed to South Africa and Kruger Park where we would take our first African safari.

Lions and Leopards and Jackals, Oh my!!!!

Next our journey took us to Kruger Park, located on the eastern border of South Africa. We crowded into a van with our guide, Daniel, and then we were off. He drove us into Kruger Park through the Orpen Gate. As soon as we were through the gate, we spotted zebras, giraffe, impala, wildebeest, waterbucks, warthogs, and baboons…just to name a few. Daniel drove slowly to help us catch sight of all the wildlife that surrounded us. He had a great knowledge of the area and all the flora and fauna.

We arrived at Satara Camp site with just enough time to sign up for a night drive through the park. We boarded a large open-sided vehicle that held 4 huge spot-lights. (better to see the animals in the dark) We drove along the paved and unpaved roads of Kruger National Park with a guide from the campsite. The drive was slow, but the wildlife was amazing. We saw herds of zebra and impala. Kudu, wildebeest, and steamback (a kind of antelope) were grazing in the fields. Baboons roamed throughout the park.

As dusk fell the animals were harder to find. But with the use of the spotlights we were able to see many of the nocturnal animals of the park. There were hippos feeding just off the side of the road. (They only come out of the water at night because their skin is so sensitive to the sunlight.) We also saw jackals, hyenas, an African wild cat, white rhinos and a civet. But the biggest treat was to come across two lionesses with 4-5 cubs. The lionesses had just killed a zebra and they were feeding the young. It was fascinating to see.

We were back at the campsite by 7; and just in time for dinner. There was “venison” on the menu. We learned that venison is the generic term for wild meat. Later I found that kudu was prepared and served for dinner. It tasted good. But it was tough.

We woke early the next morning and took another drive with Daniel. We were out on the road by 6 am in hopes of finding more animals. We saw many of the same hoofed animals like impala, wildebeest, waterbuck, and zebra. But we were fortunate enough to spot 4 giraffe eating near the road and one elephant munching on a tree (amazing to say but we almost drove right past him) There were birds: grand hornbill, yellow hornbill, kite, fish eagle, long-tale strikes, and starlings perched in the trees along the way.

After breakfast we packed up the car. We left Satara that morning and drove to Timbavati, a private game reserve that borders Kruger National Park.

And the safari continues!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Our travels through Africa….Part 2

So we left Bwindi and traveled back to Kampala where we were met by a shuttle that drove us to Jinja and the Nile River. Our plan: White Water Rafting on the Nile!

Yikes and away!

Another early start had us arriving in the city of Jinja. There we met at a backpackers’ lodge where the excitement began. After a simple breakfast we were ushered to the lawn for an overview of the day and our “safety and security” talk. We were given our life jackets and helmets and then herded onto trucks that would take us to the starting location. The trip took us through small villages where children waved and shouted as we passed.

Finally we reached the water’s edge. The rafts were unloaded and we began to jump on board. Four rafts of adventurers went out that day along with one “safety” raft which carried supplies, and 4 kayakers who were with us to help “if” any of the rafts should tip. (Let me just say that the kayakers were very busy that day!)

Our first 15 minutes in the water had us practicing: paddling forward and back, ducking down in the raft to prepare for the rapids, tipping – just to practice holding on. Then we were off. In the distance we could hear the roughness of the water. We sat on the edge of the raft, poised and ready to follow our guide’s instructions, “Paddle forward!”
We began to paddle then he shouted, “Down!” The current took us, turned our raft sideways, and flipped the raft. We all went down the river (without the raft). The men in the kayaks were ready and waiting for us at the bottom of the rapids. They scooped us up and plopped us back into our raft. Not a good start to the day.

Rapids: 1 Us: 0

The next rapid was bigger. But we were ready for it. We had already tipped and we knew how to prevent that from happening again. (or so I thought) We paddled to the start of the rapid; we were then instructed to squat down, grab on and enjoy the ride. And we did…. until one of the waves came on board swept me up and threw me over board. (no one else!) Luckily I popped up and found the guide’s oar within my reach. I was pulled on board. Safe and sound! (No more sitting in the front of the boat for me!)

The next set of rapids kept us on our toes. Again the rapids were winning. But we had fun trying to stay in the raft. Our group became very good at holding on when the raft tipped.
We then had a long stretch of calm waters where we ate a light snack of pineapple and biscuits (cookies). Many rafters jumped overboard to enjoy a swim in the Nile. NICE!

Then “the big one”, we were going over a 12 foot waterfall. Again our guide prepped us for the ride and what we should do to prepare for the class 5 rapid. We paddled right, we paddled left then we ducked down and held on. Over the falls we went, crashing at the bottom, but still upright. We made it!!! What a rush!

We still had several more rapids to face before the day was done! In the end we tipped a total of 5 times but had the time of our lives. Another fantastic adventure!