Food Makes Me Happy

Mtoriro! I staple green here that Hasina grows in our back yard. She cooks it with onion, tomato and coconut milk....Delicious and Nutritious!

Whenever I’m feeling a little down and out, you know what I like to do? Talk about food….and eat if of course! So my apologies to those who are disinterested in dietary consumption, but food is where this blog post must start.

Seasonality has a whole new meaning for me after coming here. Here, you REALLY can’t get anything when it’s not in season, which adds a whole new exciting dynamic to the task of buying food. Word on the street is that mango season is a-comin’, but aside from the small green and very sour ones that Hasina uses for cooking fish, I still haven’t seen any. According to Shaaban there are at least 15 different varieties on the island, and man oh man I just can’t wait! I think late November and early December will really be their season.

Ok, you caught me, I didn't take this pic, but it's a great example of what jack fruit looks like inside.

Now jack fruit is popping up every now and then on roadside stands. These massively large and awkwardly shaped fruits are usually cut up and sold by the piece, and come to find out fenesi (jack fruit in Kiswahili) is Shaaban’s favorite. Because Hasina has a fenesi tree at her house, she’s shared a couple of pieces with us over the last couple of weeks and it is really amazing. Also, thanks to Shaaban, we learned that you can boil the large seeds, which are roundish and a little bit larger than a marble, and eat them. They have a meat similar to chestnuts and they are really, really tasty. Apparently little children LOVE them because they tend to make you fart a lot, and farting always makes for a good laugh.

Another fantastic thing that I’ve tried this days in juice made from tamarind and ginger. Aside from the fact that it is suppose to lower blood pressure, it’s freaking fantastic. It reminds me of my Kombucha drinking days, although the process of making it is very, very different.

But when things get really, really tough, I turn to dates. This little dried sugar-filled pockets of goodness are what keep me going. The last ones I bought are amazing, almost a caramel-like flavor. Although occasionally I have to shoo some little bugs out of my stash, apparently they like them just as much as I do, it’s well worth it.

Rooster among the banana trees. They definitely like crowing at ALL hours of the day and night.

Oh and I ever mentioned how ugly the chickens are here? Well, they are pretty darn ugly. Raising of chickens isn’t common at all here, and usually you just find them running around free. Often they are missing feathers and have 6-10 chicks running after them. Sorry for the vegetarians out there, but I have to say that the meat is really good though. It’s tough, probably due to their “free-range” lifestyles, but the flavor is really great. One good thing is that not a piece gets wasted, the head, free and all edible organs are consumed. Oh my goodness, speaking of free-range and chicken just walked into my office!

Ok, my urge to talk about food has past, and I thank you for your patience. As far as my work here, I have officially finished the observation time at the hospital. Which feels really great. Two full months of seeing the ins and out, the ups and downs, etc. Now I’m ready to write. I have to admit it’s a little difficult to know where to start, but I hope that what I present will start some discussion and be a good platform for this new management team that the hospital.

I also managed to visit the Pemba Island Museum this week, which is housed in an old fortress near the hospital. It’s simple, but full of information. It has one room about the archeological history of the island and the ancient communities that have been studied. There is a second room which talks about the maritime history and then a third room gives a time line of the post-revolutionary history, which began in 1964. The fortress was originally built by the Portuguese and then added onto during Arabian rule. Under this rule the fortress was actually used as a jail. Finally, the museum also has an exhibit of a “typical” Pemban home where common house hold tools and goods are on display.

random photo of millipedes that you find commonly here. Kinda creepy, but super cool!

Last week I finally began Kiswahili lessons with an older woman, Moza, who is also a primary school teacher. Although I had received many offers of free Kiswahili lessons in the past, they were usually by men who were looking for something in return, often marriage or sexual services, for there efforts. Although I am currently paying for the lessons, it is WELL worth it.


5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Mike on October 29, 2011 at 18:51

    I’m pretty sure I saw some millipedes just as big (i.e., horrific) as the one in that photo in Dolliver Park near Fort Dodge. I’ve never seen anything like them since, which is just as well with me. 🙂


    • Wow, the Midwest is full of surprises isn’t it? Seeing them here is one thing, but I think if I saw them back in the US I would really be terrified!


  2. What an adventure you are in the midst Marissa! I love your description of the foods, and your previous blog on something as simple as handwashing that CAN make a big difference for these people. How hard it is to change customs. We are constantly reminding all helath workers to wash their hands….doctors can be the worst!


    • Thanks Walter! I’m really trying to enjoy every moment as much as possible. It really is important to focus on the small changes that can be made, sometimes they can make the most difference. I hope to see you all in January :-).


  3. Thank you for these great insights into another part of the world.


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