Let me walk you through an evening in the life of Anna. Given that I live in a town in Rwanda with no more than 50,000 people but all of whom are spread out and so it feels like a village, and given that I live in a country where my knowledge of the local language – though improving – is limited to numbers, foods and greetings, and given that there isn’t much to do ‘round here after the sun goes down at 6 o’clock, it can feel pretty isolated and I need to do things to amuse myself. Of course, this blog is highly censored (lest the powers that be get offended by something I might say or worse, my family and friends find out that I do have down days!) so I come up with little things to write about that are about as mundane as the floor your feet are on right now or that colour of wall in your office at work. But it amuses me and so, for the next few moments, it may amuse you as well.
I got a package from home. Again – so thrilled that my parents parceled up some goodies for me. Let me give you a snapshot of its contents, albeit an incomplete one. There were a few more Canadian pins that you can get from your local MP, some SunRype candies to give me some much needed vitamins, some mud masks for my grimy face, some school supplies to help me with work and some newspaper clippings about everyone’s favourite impersonating former Tory MP – Rahim Jaffer. Apparently Mr. Jaffer got himself into trouble last month by drinking and driving and being in possession of illegal drugs. The articles were from September and he was supposed to appear in court around now – so we’ll see what happens. Regardless, I would just like to take this opportunity to thank Mr. Jaffer for once again given us yet another (as if we needed one) reason to not vote for your highly respected party. (That is assuming, after all, that it was Rahim Jaffer driving the car and not an aide pretending to be him). But I digress….
What was in my parcel was a packaged food – a Sidekick – processed food to the extreme. This was whole wheat fetticcine with Alfredo Sauce. OMG I have not had Italian food in like, forever, so I was so excited to open this baby up. I should be honest and tell you that I have not had a Sidekick since, let me think, 2000. Yes folks – NINE YEARS. You may wonder why I have avoided said instant food. The main reason is the chemicals and the high sodium but there is another, more memorable reason. I remember very clearly the last time I made a Sidekicks in Alfredo Sauce. It was a Thursday. I lived in HUB Mall and was in my third year at the University of Alberta. Anyone who went to the U of A will know that Thursday nights meant RATT night and so, I made a quick dinner (Sidekicks – Alfredo Sauce) and then headed out. RATT meant a few things: drinking beer, dancing to Garth Brooks, staying up way too late and hoping to get to your Friday morning class. It’s possible that this Thursday was even Holy Thursday because I know I was headed to Calgary the next day. Hmmmm…. Either way, the night was long, the beer was plentiful and the next morning my roommate, Laurel, and I headed – hung over - to the Greyhound bus station. That’s not before I finished off my leftovers (Sidekicks – Alfredo) from the night before. (Can you see where this story is going?) Well, there we were in the south side bus station in Edmonton waiting for the bus when a wave of nausea came over me. The next thing I knew I was being re-visited by the Sidekicks Alfredo in the grungy washroom of the south side bus station. Laurel asked me if I needed water and I could barely muffle a yes before she was off in search of something to make it all stop. Well, apparently there is nothing nearby and she practically ran all the way to Calgary and back just to bring me something to drink. Ahh….that felt better.
And since then, I haven’t touched the stuff. But now, in Rwanda – anything is possible!
I came home from my first French lesson – which was great! – and all geared up to cook. I was starving so I was happy to see that this Sidekick only took 15 minutes to prepare and because it came from Canada, I could practice my French while reading the package. 15 minutes it definitely DID NOT take. Let me walk you through the directions (in English) just for a laugh:
Stove Top instructions.
Pause for a moment to remember that I have neither a stove, nor the top of one. Just two little kerosene stoves that sit of the floor.
1. In a medium saucepan combine 1 and ¼ cup of water, 1 cup of milk; bring to a boil.
I also don’t have a medium sauce pan, measuring cups or milk! So…in a large soup pot I combined 1 small tea cup of water, with a little more water, and then another tea cup of water with a heaping spoonful of powdered milk. It eventually came to a boil.
2. Stir in package contents. Reduce heat, continue boiling over medium het, stirring frequently for 8 minutes or until past is tender.
Once stirring packets in I reduced the size of the flame from “holy crap that could like the house on fire” to “flame that might do some damage in the kitchen but the sitting room will be fine” (there is no dial on my stove) and continued to boil. 8 minutes quickly turned into 9, 10, 11….
3. Remove from heat, stir in margarine. Cover, let stand until sauce thickens.
I removed from heat and (even though this was conveniently left out of the instructions, God knows why) blew out my kerosene stove. I don’t have margerine but I do have Blue Band. (When asked how to say ‘butter’ in Kinyarwanda, our instructor during training just said “Blue Band.”) Is this margerine? I’m not sure. It doesn’t require refrigeration and doesn’t quite look like margerine. I think the jury is still out. But I can tell you that it is a “spread that is high in vitamin A and good for baking, cooking and spreading.”
Voila! I had dinner. I also threw in some tomatoes for a little more vitimins than Blue Band could offer me, and it did take a little bit longer than 15 minutes. All in all, though, definitely worth it! So good, that I think I will go on the hunt for them in Kigali. Maybe next time, I’ll try to follow the instructions for making it in the Microwave. That should be a real laugh.