Saturday, April 30, 2011

Thank You for Smoking

(Written on 3/28/2011 from Tunis, Tunisia)

There is very little that humbles you like being completely alone in a place where you absolutely don’t speak the language and even the characters in writing are different so there’s no chance in recognizing a word.

There is also very little that thrills you as much as stumbling through a sentence in a foreign language to the point that somebody can understand you.  I only know the waiter understood me because I asked for a cup of tea….and it appeared!  My Arabic was like a magic trick – the equivalent to pulling a rabbit out of a hat. 

On my last night in Tunisia, I sat peacefully sipping my hot tea and watching the sun set over the zoo in Tunis.  Then Sarra came and picked me up from her work meeting and we headed to Sidi Bou Said one more time for an evening that will last in my history books. 
It all started with my search for a bracelet to remember Tunisia.  Because my host forbade me to pay for anything in her country, it was actually my first purchase.  Sarra and I had discussed the intricacies of bargaining and I was shocked to hear that sometimes you should really divide the price by five to start your bargaining. 
So...when the guy at the shop told me my coveted bracelet was 70 dinar, Sarra and I simultaneously interjected with our own numbers.  Unfortunately, they were not the same.  She had said 20 and I had said 10.  She laughed in amusement that I tried to really gouge him.  What ensued was one of the most hilarious banters I’ve ever witnessed.  It went something like this:
Guy: “Okay fine, 60 dinar.”
Sarra: “No…she said 10.”
Guy: “Yeah, but you said 20.”
…more banter, more banter, more banter…
Guy: “Okay, fine…18 dinar.”
I start to pull out my money.
Guy: “Great…that will be 30 dinar.”
Sarra (in disbelief): “What??? You said 18 dinar!”
Guy (ignoring Sarra, to me): “What is your name?  Where are you from?”
Me: “America.”
Guy: “Ahhhhhh….you must be Britney.  I engrave your name in bracelet for free.  It’s a gift.”
Sarra and I bust into hysterics. 
After about 10 minutes of back and forth, the guy finally caves to Sarra’s bargaining talents and I end up paying 15 dinar for a bracelet he swears is coral (and I swear is pink beads).  Even though I know I was still probably “had”….I trot off happy that at least I have a Tunisian bracelet to add to my collection!  We head up the street to a wonderful café where we order some Tunisian teas, coffees, and apple shisha (not to be confused with hashish!).

Tunisian tea with mint and pine nuts
Let me just start this by saying that besides maybe puffing on 2 cigars at my brother’s house to prove I could “roll with the big boys”…I haven’t smoked anything in my life.  So Sarra gave me my first lesson in smoking shisha Tunisian style.  I’m not a fan of any type of smoking, but “when in Rome”…

It really wasn’t too bad though.  It had an apple flavor and I quite enjoyed the experience of being a local.  Tunisians commonly go to cafes and sit for hours sipping coffee and smoking shisha.  It’s a communal experience – something you can share with others and come together over.  I was surprised by the number of restaurants and cafes that had shisha.  It was like ordering a basket of bread in the U.S.  Nobody wouldn’t have it.
Taking a lesson from the pro!

Serious concentration...
Got it!  And Tunisian coffee too!
After shisha we stopped for my last food item in Tunisia – Malawi.  This delicious thin bread is topped with whatever you like and then rolled like a wrap.  I was a fan of the soft cheese, omelette, hard boiled egg, harisa, and lettuce.  I will return for the Malawi!

My thought for you today....sometimes while traveling you have to try new things.  If you truly want to immerse yourself in somebody else’s culture I urge you to experience it as they would (within reason).  My motto is “I will eat almost anything at least once.”  And that goes for experiences too.  Go out on a limb and try something different – you never know what you might learn.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Come, Mr. Tally Man, Tally Me Banana

(Written on 3/27/2011 from Tunis, Tunisia)

Apparently when I left South Africa I took more than just a flesh eating bacteria with me. (No worries, it’s now mostly under control thanks to a round of antibiotics coursing through my body). 
I told Katie before I left I was mad at her for “putting thoughts in my head.”  For somebody who doesn’t enjoy coffee that much, after spending 3 weeks with my best friend who constantly sought out the next iced latte (difficult to a treasure hunt) I have acquired a strange addiction.  Grrrr.  I guess I'm a Seattleite after all.

Although I haven’t kept track of the number of coffees I've had as of late, I have kept tally of some other fun facts from “my journey thus far”…
  • Countries visited (including layovers): 7
  • Beds slept in: Total of 20
    • Beds (including blow up mattress): 14
    • Buses: 2
    • Planes: 3
    • Couches: 1
  • Hours traveled: 151
  • Shoes bought: 2 pairs (really??? Only 2?!?!)
  • Miles flown: Total of 19,294
    • SEA - YYZ 2,060
    • YYZ - SCL 5,366
    • SCL - EZE 709
    • EZE - JNB 5,051
    • CPT - JNB 789
    • JNB - CAI 3,875
    • CAI - ATH 694
    • ATH - TUN 750
  • Meals eaten: 158
I really wish I had weighed myself before I left so I could track “pounds gained” but I’m certain that by the sheer fact that even my LEGGINGS are tight now, it has been a sufficient amount.  For the men out there – leggings are stretchy, and therefore it should not be a struggle to get them on.  Think “one size fits all”….or in my case, “one size fits most.” 
It’s interesting to tally my adventure in this way.  Even though I’ve been overwhelmed by this “be present” mentality, it still seems like the time is flying by.  And as I recount how MANY meals I’ve eaten I am in awe that already 158 of them have passed.  And as I think of all those 158, it gives me the opportunity to reflect on my highs (asados, braais and barbeques – no matter what the language, I love my meat!), and lows (I’m seriously traumatized by the broccoli fake out/actually cow stomach incident).  And as I relive these moments, I always appreciate them in a new way – whether insightful or comedic, it brings a smile to my face.

My thought for you today...when I write things down I usually think about them more.  It reminds me of high school health class when they had us keep a food journal for a week (there's nothing quite like realizing how many bags of potato chips you eat in that timeframe).  Try writing something down today...the best thing that happened to you, the name of somebody you met, or the number of people you've had meals with in the last week, etc.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Bieber Fever

(Written on 3/26/2011 from Monastir, Tunisia)

Images of Wedding Crashers flashed in my mind as Sarra and I waltzed up to a celebration in our jeans while everyone else was dressed to the nines.  Originally her intention was just to show me the venue where marriage papers are signed in Tunis, but as she was blessed with ‘the gift of gab’, she managed to snag me some Tunisian pastries and Baklava at a ceremony that was happening at the same time.

As we explained to each other our cultural traditions about marriage and weddings, she tried to convince me that she could ‘pick’ me a nice Tunisian man to marry – and that way I could stay here forever and become fluent in Arabic. J
When we stopped for lunch today on the way to her parent’s house a few hours away, I saw a gorgeous man – tall, dark and handsome with sunning green eyes.  In my mind I was thinking “pick him, pick him, pick him!”  And then he passed by me and said, “Excuse me.”  English?!  Bonus points!  Apparently after spending 3 weeks with Katie her standards for men have worn off on me.

Soaking my feet in the hot springs on the way to Monastir
After tours through beautiful cities on the coast of the Mediterranean we arrived at the Touzi house in Monastir just in time for a couscous dinner!  (My parents say I have perfect timing – always showing up when dinner is about to be served.)  I was greeted at the door with a serious sucker punch in the gut by Sarra’s 3 year old nephew – apparently he felt a threat to his food.

Sarra and 2 of her nephews
Sarra’s brother, sister and her husband and their 4 kids were over for dinner.  Meals are definitely a family affair – especially when mom has been slaving away all day on a delicious meal.

Sarra's mom preparing dinner

You already know what this is....

Sarra patiently and kindly translated for me while I stumbled through my few Arabic words over dinner.  Her family was clearly concerned that I wasn’t eating enough – obviously they didn’t know me 2 months ago (and 2 pant sizes ago).  They were nearly force feeding me the couscous which was cooked with peppers, garbanzo beans, carrots, yams and potatoes.  Not to mention Sarra’s mom had graciously prepared an entire bowl of tripe and intestines for me that wasn’t spicy (they know foreigners can’t handle the spice like Tunisians.)
Unfortunately, this being my first tripe experience since SA, I can fairly safely say I think the Zulu dish has ruined it for me.  Even though the Tunisian version is very well prepared and would have previously been delicious to me, the same taste from SA kept creeping up and reminding me of the ‘tripe of terror’ at 9 AM.  I’ve been scarred for life.
The only person defending me in not over-eating was Sarra’s 12 year old niece.  She said I didn’t need to gain kilos (back handed compliment?).  Other than that the language barrier kept us apart – until she realized I was from the States, and therefore had to know Just Bieber.  I started laughing…Bieber Fever in Tunisia.  She’s even taught his songs to her 3 year old brother (yes….the sucker puncher).
After Sarra told her the Beebs and I were neighbors, she was ALL about me.  I felt bad – like she would be hugely disappointed when Sarra tells her that Beebs isn’t my BFF.

My how U.S. pop culture has affected the entire world...that even a 12 year old girl in Tunisia is singing "baby, baby, baby oooooooh."  My question for you today - do you think this quick spread of Western (and more specifically U.S.) culture is bridging the gap between different cultures and creating more understanding?  Or is it creating a deeper rift between us?

The Touzi home

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Country United

(Written on 3/24/2011 from Tunis, Tunisia)
As soon as the plane touched down people were shuffling about the aisles, preparing to get off in Athens, Greece (while the flight attendants were yelling to sit).  Apparently the short jaunt from Cairo, Egypt left people anxious to exit the aircraft.  But after my final flight (of 4 during that long trip from Cape Town, South Africa to Tunis, Tunisia) I realized that that’s just the way it is in this part of the world.  Dorothy...we’re not in Kansas anymore.
This is my first time in an Arab country, and even with my short stay (one week) I’m certain I will learn and grow a lot.  I’m feeling very lucky to be in Tunisia at this time, shortly after their revolution.  The atmosphere is lively and liberated.  Citizens are excited for a new era of freedom and democracy as they shape the future of their beloved country.
I was invited to Tunisia by Sarra, who has been a gracious and welcoming hostess.  From day one she told me to prepare myself for fresh squeezed orange juice every morning.  I don’t know if there could have been any better opening statement.  Sarra is enthusiastically sharing with me about her culture, food, and traditions.
Although this part of the world has been recently “unstable” and there are many warnings from the U.S. and travel sites of “political unrest”, I feel completely safe.  Even though it’s not good for the country’s economy that tourism has declined due to these “threats,” I for one am pleased that I get to experience this country in all its authentic glory without the tainted view of loads of tourists.
On my first day in Tunisia I was able to sleep in (thankkkkk goodnesss) and as Sarra works from home, she joined me in the morning (okay, afternoon) for breakfast…tea, bread, cakes, fresh o.j. (of course!), jams, and spreads.  One of which was a sweet sesame took us writing down the word to actually realize that it was “sesame.”  Although it is spelled the same in French, it sounds completely me.

Tunisian dates
After work Sarra took me down to the Tunis City Center where we walked through the “door” of the city – where the Mediterranean Sea used to meet the city.  At that point there was a touching display of art created in memorandum for the martyrs of the recent revolution.  Sarra explained to me that “the straw that broke the camel’s back” was a young, educated man who couldn't find work.  So using his entrepreneurial spirit he started selling fruits and vegetables from a cart.  The corrupt police forbade him to continue selling, and in protest he lit himself on fire.  The community was outraged because of the inability to find work without having connections or money.  Regardless of your education or upbringing, if you weren’t born into a wealthy family it was difficult to find a job.
And thus the revolution began.  I found it interesting that Sarra explained during the 3 most intense days, people came together in the streets as their own police force.  Each city had citizens that created check points and enforced curfews.  The poorly trained army was helping citizens but with a lack of resources it was difficult to defend against the police which was trained and sided with the previous regime.
And now as Sarra looks back to that time (3 months ago), she says it feels like it's been years.  Even now, as we drive down the streets there are people gathered, discussing politics and voicing their opinions, which would never have happened before the revolution.  We talked a lot about the events that shape a country and their identity.  I related it to Apartheid in South Africa – and the unity and solidarity that a country feels when their citizens come together to overcome something they don’t believe in.  Sarra said it was an incredible feeling when both young and old, rich and poor, came together to fight the injustices of the previous regime.

People discussing politics in the streets
Tunisians supporting Libyans
Downtown Tunis
We went to the harbor for dinner and we indulged in some delicious seafood, and traditional Tunisian food like a carrot salsa, and some harissa (spicy Tunisian sauce).  The food was once again abundant, and definitely appreciated after a lingering airplane food taste in my mouth.

Before: pick your fish

My lovely hostess Sarra!

After: eat your fish
Today (my second day in Tunisia) we were invited to Sarra’s friends house where we ate a typical Tunisian dish.  It was traditionally for the poor people and fisherman because it was inexpensive and easy to make.  Call me a fisherman then because I quite enjoyed it!  There was bread that was ripped into chunks, and then they boiled garbanzo beans in water with salt and cow fat.  After placing the bread in a bowl they poured the soup over the bread until it was a soggy consistency.  They added a soft boiled egg, cumin, salt, oil, and harissa and then mashed it up.  Delish!

In addition to the meal, we did a sort of language exchange - French and Arabic lessons for me, and English lessons for the younger girls (18, 14, and 9).  It’s fascinating for me to learn these languages and see what I can pick up when listening to others.  Surprisingly, there are quite a few words I can understand because of the Spanish roots in Arabic. 
Although I’m not going to be fluent in Arabic before I leave, it’s great to attempt to learn their language.  I think much like Zulu culture, just trying shows an appreciation for their culture.  My thought for you today is the same...try putting a little effort into your appreciation and see what kind of a response you get.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Letter to My Best Friend

(Written 3/21/2011 en route to Tunis, Tunisia)

Goodbyes are not my strong suit – especially when they’re emotional.  I came to South Africa with very few expectations…to see my best friend and hang out for a month.  I walked away with so much more.  I’ve been welcomed into so many homes and families and it’s hard to walk away now. 

On the way to the airport

I experienced Katie’s village through her eyes, and was blessed with turning my best friend into my best travel buddy as well (Katie says “as well” is a very South African term – I guess I picked that up along the way as well).
Because I’m so rooted in relationships, it’s difficult to feel like I’m leaving part of my family behind.  I remember when my family came to visit me in Chile in 2006 and my dad gave me a quick, unemotional goodbye.  He later told me he had to make it "quick and painless" because it was the first time he had to leave a child somewhere that wasn't home.  I get it now.  When I left Katie as she said goodbye to me at the airport, I walked away and started crying.  I tried to stay strong but it was an emotional moment.  I’m so proud of everything she has already accomplished in the Peace Corps, and I want to share with you "a letter to my best friend.”
Dear Katie,
This letter may get a little sappy/corny but since I know you’re pretty much in love with me I thought the least I could do is return a similar (but not equal) sentiment.  :)
Anyway, despite the ‘thoughts you put in my head’ – mainly men & coffee – I wanted you to know this trip was far greater than I even imagined.  Being able to visit you in your new home and experience your day to day life was incredible.  You are a catalyst for change in Isandlwana and you should be very proud of all you’ve accomplished in just the short time you’ve been there.  Your passion for people and helping others is shining through – and when I look at you with your village as the back drop for your life I see that you are totally in your element.  God has given you these special talents and you are sharing that gift with others.  I’m amazed at your ability to experience such a different culture, but still maintain your same personality and character.  Your blessing to others is truly being yourself.
Now, as your best friend I should be able to both praise you, and come down on you.  And as such… I’m coming down on you for coming down on yourself!!!  KAY-TEE PEE-TER-SEN…are you LISTENING to me?!?!?!  You are doing things that take courage, heart, patience, tolerance, an open-mind, love, caring, charisma, bravery and so much more.  You have all of those things that other people only DREAM to have.  So when you’re doubting yourself or belittling yourself, I want you to remember that not only are you a DREAMER, but you’re also a DOER.  You’re a LEADER and a force to be reckoned with.  I want you to stop, think, and tell yourself “I AM THE SHIT!”  And if you don’t believe what you’re saying to yourself – you need to know that I DO.  And so do a million other people who could only dream about what you’re doing but might not ever do it.  You’re a hero to many.
I’m so happy that you’re surrounded by so many good people in Zulu land and that you’ve let them into your heart and soul.  Learn from them as you give back and you will carry that with you for life.  Just remember in the times of difficulty (when you’re hating washing your clothes, or a fly lands on your butt in the outhouse, etc.) that:
A.    It’s about the journey and not the destination.  “Getting to” Sept. 2012 is not nearly as important as the days leading up to it. [Side note: Katie finishes her Peace Corps duty at this time.]
B.    You should probably call medical before you think you need to.  :)  [Side note: reference infections. ew.]
C.    I’m impressed with you and proud of all your accomplishments.
D.    I’m ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS here for you.  A short SMS away and I’ll dial you from the nearest phone.
I love you so much!

Annie a.k.a. Your best friend

There are so many people in my life who I admire and appreciate.  I don’t know the last time I took time to express my gratitude for those people.  When was the last time you wrote an unsolicited letter or card to somebody?  Not for their birthday, or Christmas, or some event…but just a note to say thanks, or I love you, or "you are so cool because blah blah blah"?
Today I ask you to take the time.  Pick at least one person.  Write a hand written note or card or letter.  And send it to them.  It never hurts to let somebody know how loved they are.
I guarantee they'll appreciate it...and I thank you in advance on their behalf.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Chewbacca and the Wicked Witch

(Written on 3/20/2011 from Cape Town, South Africa)
Pinch me!  I wasn't wearing green on St. Patrick's Day - but that didn't stop Katie and me from heading out to experience some Cape Town night life at it's finest.  We ended up at a small bar/dance club near the hostel - showing our true colors as we boogied all night.  I guess you can take Annie and Katie out of the high school dance team, but you can't take the high school dance team out of Annie and Katie.
After a slow morning (I mean, come on….it was St. Patrick’s Day!) Katie and I went to return the rental car and as we were hiking back to the hostel we discussed our plan for the day, which was quickly and swiftly "ruined" when we were tempted by a bakery on the street.  It felt so urban and fancy (mind you, we just came from the bush) to grab a sandwich on fresh bread as we camped outside on their tall tables.  We loved, loved, loved this place and I kept plotting how to open my own bakery/cafe in Seattle, meanwhile scoffing down my delish Chicken Caeser Ciabatta like I was mauling my prey (poor had no chance of survival).

My version of the little pigs - I huffed and I puffed and I blew this house down
Our next adventure was the Cape Malay Cooking Safari.  Now, before I give you the scoop on cooking with Falula (our fabulous and witty teacher), I am forewarning you that if your immediate reaction is to book a flight to Cape Town and then take the cooking class for yourself....then you can totally blame me because I'll take the credit for what might be the best decision of your life.  :)

The day started out with a walking tour and a pit stop at one of the oldest Mosques in the city...and then we met Falula.  She's like a little ball of fire.  I knew I would like her when she told us we weren't allowed to enter her house unless we brought a sense of humor.  Good thing too because she has no problem poking fun at you or your cooking skills (or maybe just my cooking skills).

Tomato and onion sambal


Chicken curry

We tried our hand at samoosas, roti, tomato and onion sambal and chicken curry (which I don't normally like but obviously since I devoured it, Falula's recipe is an exception).  Although this type of food isn’t typical “South African” food, the Bo-Kaap neighborhood of Cape Town has a large Malay influence.  As Katie and I (once again) plowed through a table full of exquisite dishes, we chatted with Falula and her daughters.  We left happy, full, content and smelling like curry.

The bright and cheery Bo-Kaap neighborhood
That night we were lucky enough (maybe because Katie has Irish blood?) to be in Cape Town during one of their Carnival celebrations.  We walked down to the parade and I encountered my first rude person (or 3 people) in South Africa.  They had camped out in the front row against an angled fence in lawn chairs.  Nobody else waiting for the parade had lawn chairs so people started standing behind them waiting.  The parade was 2 hours late and when it started the streets were lined and packed.  People were standing on benches, sitting under the angled fence and trying to get a better look at the action.  The 3 people who were sitting stood up and blocked the view for everybody behind them that had ‘strategically’ set their position. 

Not only that – but the guy was like Sasquatch.  Another bystander sweetly asked if he wouldn’t mind either sitting back down or moving over a bit (since they had used their chairs to block off a good section of the parade and everybody else was crammed like sardines).  He looked at her, then looked away without responding.  Then his girlfriend (better known as "Bitch girlfriend") turned around and said, “I’m not even funny, we have the freedom to stand where we want.”  She was right....she was not even funny.

Since Katie and I couldn’t see a darn thing behind the Wicked Witch of the West and Chewbacca, another kind local asked us if we would like to sit in front of them under the fence.  It worked much better, and my faith in friendly South Africans was restored.  Whew.

It's funny that in my normal life I probably would have sided with the "rude" people...that they were there first and it was there space.  But obviously being exposed to such strong communities where everybody looks out for everybody else like they are their own has changed my perspective.  My thought for you today...when is it that you are unnecessarily selfish?  What small thing could you give up to help somebody else today?

Chicken Curry (from South Africa)

Compliments of Falula at the Cape Malay Cooking Safari  – Serves 6

1 large onion
45 ml (3 tbsp) vegetable oil
3 cardamom pods slit
1 large chicken (1.5 kg) – cut into cubes or chunks
5 cloves garlic
2 cm fresh ginger root
1 green chili
5 ml (1 tsp) ground cumin
5 ml (1 tsp) ground coriander
15 ml (1 tbsp) masala mix
2 ml (1/2 tsp) tumeric
A few curry leaves
Fresh coriander leaves

In a large pot, fry onion and cardamom pods until onion is soft.  Add chicken and simmer for 10 minutes.  Crush garlic, ginger and chili and add to chicken.  Add cumin, coriander, masala and tumeric spices.  Simmer for15 minutes over low heat.  Stir occasionally and add water as necessary if mixture begins to get too dry or makes sizzling sound.  Add curry leaves and simmer for 5-10 minutes.  Garnish with fresh chopped coriander leaves and serve with sambal or “slaatjie”.  Service with rice or with roti as well.  And as always… enjoy!

Tomato and Onion Sambal (from South Africa)

Compliments of Falula at the Cape Malay Cooking Safari

1 large tomato
1 large carrot
1 large onion
50 ml (4 tbsp) vinegar
10 ml (2 tsp) sugar
2 green chilies
Fresh coriander leaves
Mix vinegar and sugar together.  Remove seeds from tomato, chop finely and remove excess juice.  Chop onion and coriander leaves finely.  Shred the carrot.  Add tomato, carrot, onion and coriander to the vinegar and sugar mixture.  Serve with chicken curry and enjoy!

Samoosas (from South Africa)

Compliments of Falula at the Cape Malay Cooking Safari - filling for samoosas makes 50

Samoosa leaves – must be purchased fresh and can be stored for a maximum of 24 hours in fridge before using.  Spring roll pastry can be used as a substitute.
1 kg minced beef
2 medium onions
Fresh coriander leaves
3 tsp salt
3 tsp masala
2 tsp curry powder
2 tsp tumeric
2 tsp chili powder or crushed chilies
1 tsp fresh crushed ginger
1 tsp fresh crushed garlic
Fresh curry leaves (optional)
Greed or red pepper (optional)
Braise and separate the minced beef in a big open pan until crumbly – cooked with all ingredients except the onion and coriander.  Leave to cool.  Chop onions and fresh coriander very finely using a very sharp knife so as not to mash or create water onion bits.  Mix together in a bowl with mince.
Mix some flour and water together to make a paste to seal the samoosas.  Starting with one long leaf, turn over one edge to create a cone with a little extra space.

Using the left hand to hold the samosa leaf, stuff the cone with the meat mixture.  Then slowly fold the leaf repeatedly into a triangle shape and seal the last edge by dabbing finger in flour and water mixture and apply to the leaf.

Fry samoosas until golden brown and serve warm with tomato and onion sambal. Enjoy!

Falula substituted chicken for meat and added some feta cheese as well.

Roti (from South Africa)

Compliments of Falula at the Cape Malay Cooking Safari


750 ml (3 cups) flour
2 tsp baking powder
5 ml (1 tsp) salt
50 ml (4 tbsp) vegetable oil
Enough water to form soft elastic dough
250 g soft butter
Vegetable oil for frying
Mix flour, salt & baking powder in a large bowl.  Add oil and rub in with fingertips until fine breadcrumbs form.  Add water gradually and mix with hands until creating a soft elastic dough.  Cover and leave in a warm spot for a few minutes.  Roll out all of the dough together into a long piece, and cut the dough into pieces about the size of tennis balls. 

Roll the pieces into a ball and flatten with your hand.  Starting from the center moving outward, roll the dough on a floured surface to form a disc the size of a dinner plate. 

Spread butter on the dough. And then starting from one edge, roll it up.  Using your hands, roll the dough into one long piece.  Then hold on to each out while stretching (thumping the dough on the table) out. 

Starting from each side, roll the dough like a Swiss roll into a figure 8 style. 

Flip one side up and on top of the other side and then flatten with your palm. 

Cover with tea towel and leave to stand for 30 minutes.  Roll out each disc starting from the center outward to a thin shit.  Fry in hot oil until golden brown (approximately 2 minutes each side).  Serve warm with chicken curry and enjoy!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Beautiful People

(Written on 3/20/2011 from Cape Town, South Africa)

I sunk my teeth into the third pizza I'd had in about 12 hours....sublime happiness.  We started our 2nd day in Plett Bay with lunch at a small café we found in the quaint, cute town.  We drowned ourselves in the luxurious pizza - with chicken, bacon (yum...pig), brie, cranberry, mozzarella, and Italian spices.  And a salad that I will have to recreate - let's just call it the "Plett Bay Salad" [recipe]. 
The "Plett Bay Salad"

We left Plett Bay in search of ellies (a.k.a. elefantes, a.k.a. elephants) and then decided to skip Mossel Bay and drive straight through to Cape Town that night.  We paused for a beautiful sunset along the drive, and then again for KFC (hey…it’s all we could find out there) before getting turned around in Cape Town at the wee hours of the morning.  Stephan, the owner of the hostel we were staying at, helped navigate us by phone until we finally pulled up to Amber Tree Lodge.  We knew we were in the right place when Stephan jumped out of the gate waving and excited that we had finally arrived.  I like his enthusiasm.

Riding ellies
Feeding ellies

Ellie snout!

Pettng ellies

Playing with ellies!
After a long, restful sleep Katie and I decided we (and our waistbands) were in desperate need of a little exercise.  We heard that the hike up Lion’s Head was a quick 45 minute jaunt up the hill to a spectacular view so we headed out at 2:00 PM in the 90+ degree weather.  We must have been the only idiots on the mountain picking the hottest time of day to hike up one of the tallest peaks in Cape Town.  45 minutes my ass.  Maybe for a marathon runner, or a cheetah...not for Annie Cheng and Katie Petersen. 
I’m not exactly sure how long it took us to hike – but I do know that Katie nearly passing out half way up the mountain definitely extended our trip.  I told her that since we were obviously not expecting such a challenging hike (seriously – I felt like I was trying to summit Everest without any preparation) maybe we should come back when we were well hydrated, had more water and food (and perhaps tents and sleeping bags) and when it was less hot.
She told me she felt fine and she could go on.  I reminded her that this was her opportunity to go back down and that I was being a good friend.  But if she kept going, and pushing her body beyond what it wanted, and then passed out, that she should remember that I would be the person who would have to figure out how to get her off of this monstrosity of a mountain without a cell phone or proper human carrying device.  And that when she woke up in the hospital she better not be upset when I’m staring down at her with evil eyes – ticked off that she didn’t take the opportunity to go down when she could.  Once again...a testament to how great of a friend I am.

We made it!
 Despite my stern warnings, slowly but surely we made it to the peak and had a good laugh on our way down about our extreme thirst.  Our first order of business was stopping at a gas station – where Katie bought a 2 liter Sprite Zero….for herself.  And she sipped it through a straw with the content of a child eating their first ice cream cone.

Showers were becoming more necessary with every consecutive day of blistering heat.  And especially after we defeated (or more accurately - were deafeated by) the mountain.  Later we posted up in the hostel for an amazing Braai.  Stephan showed us some great hospitality and after a full dinner of salad, meat, seafood, potatoes, and pasta, we were sold on the fact that Amber Tree Lodge was by far the best hostel either of us had ever stayed at.

Full and content, we went to sleep only to prepare ourselves for our reunion with the “FireLambs” and a day full of luxurious wine tasting and superb company.  The highlight of the day was lunch at DelAire...what I can only describe as a jaw dropping experience.  A gorgeous setting, with gorgeous food and gorgeous people...I couldn’t have asked for a better day. I was on Cloud 9 surrounded by people who gave me strength, courage, and an overwhelming feeling of joy.

Lunch at DelAire

My thought for you today...before embarking on my "rough day" of wine tasting I could have predicted a happy ending.  Not merely because of the wine, but because I knew that I would be surrounded by special people with an astounding energy and positive spirit.  I was by no means in a bad mood, but I knew that even if I was, the presence of those people would have lifted me out of my funk.  I call it "energy osmosis" when I surround myself by people with great enthusiasm.  I encourage you to think about who those people are in your life - and draw on them when you need it.
And, last but not least 2 little stories for the fun of it:
STORY #1: One night in our hostel I was talking to some cute French guy in the common room when Katie came over to tell me we should get a move on.  He didn’t speak very good English, but his accent made him sound like some sort of chivalrous knight.  Or at least that’s what Katie must have thought when she cut into our conversation by saying “Good Sir…”
While we were walking away I paused and said, “Did you really just say ‘Good Sir’ back there???!  And was it because he was French??”
I couldn't tell her answer because she was laughing hysterically – but I’m pretty sure that meant the answer was yes.
STORY #2: Katie and I were having a moment of self loathing while once again stuffing our faces and discussing that we had, in fact, been beefed up to “marrying weight” as they call it in the village.  And we kept saying the girls in Cape Town are so gorgeous – tall, skinny, beautiful, and with great style.  I started to think they must have created some sort of super human breed there.  This pocket of the world that only has beautiful people.  Katie and I decided it would be impossible to find a man in Cape Town because they would either: A) have a better offer, or B) be looking for a better offer. 
While we continued the conversation (and self loathing) at the hostel, Stephan broke in with… “You know it’s model season, right?” 
Us: “What??? Model season?  What’s that?” 
Stephan: “Yeah, a lot of companies from Europe come here to shoot commercials and stuff because it’s way cheaper….so it’s model season.”
Us: “Oooooooohhhhhhh……whewwwwww.  So Cape Town ISN’T a breeding ground for beautiful people.”
Stephan: “Well….there are still a lot of beautiful people here.”
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