Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Ba na son ƙadangaru ba!

ƙadangare (lizard) is one of the first words I learned in Hausa class. We had just learned how to say things in the past tense as well as few household words. We were talking about what we had done the night before, and I said "Na yi wanke-wanke, or at least I tried to." I knew enough to say that "I washed dishes" but couldn't say more than that!

Mama B. asked what I meant that I had tried to wash dishes--had we run out of water? I said no, but there was a lizard in my sink! I had stacked a number of dishes in the sink, intending to get to them later, and when I reached in to put the sink stopper in, I felt something squishy and cold. It was a gecko that had decided to die in my sink on top of my dishes. How dare he!

These are what house geckos look like here. (It's a stock photo because there is no way that I would ever get this close to one intentionally!) They're almost transparent and have these tiny brown and black specks all over their bodies.

In other news, Nigeria has some of the prettiest lizards I've ever seen! Hausa doesn't have words for both "gecko" and "lizard." They're all ƙadangare (singular) or ƙadangaru (plural). These guys can be up to a foot long and they like to sit on the steps outside the apartment building sunning themselves. Thankfully, they're scared of us and scurry off in you get within about 10 feet of them. And as long as they don't dare come inside my apartment, we'll be friends.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

When moving to Africa, bring a sewing machine...

They're still talking about it. The SIM drivers are still talking about my 61 lb. carry-on bag. About how it nearly took both of them to carry it up the stairs to my apartment. About how they thought the bag was loaded with medical textbooks (because what else could possibly be that heavy!), but then they found out it contained a sewing machine.

This is my grandmother's all-metal Pfaff sewing machine originally purchased in Hong Kong in 1955 (per the originally receipt we found). My grandfather was in the US Navy and the family was stationed in the Philippines during that time, so he must have purchased during his tour of duty. This lovely machine has been sitting in our attic through several moves, but with some TLC at the local sewing machine store and some persistence to find repair parts, it has a new life with a new generation of the Farr family.

Who would bring a sewing machine to Africa? And who would bring one that weighs 27 lb. (with an additional 6 lb. of accessories and cords and an 8 lb. transformer to allow it to run on 220V)?

Me. That's who.

American Airlines doesn't weigh carry-on bags. So on the day I left for Africa, I checked in my other bags at the counter in the DFW airport, strolled through security with this heavy bag, hoisted it up on the scanner belt... and I can't possibly imagine why this hunk of metal set off the alarm or why the TSA officers wanted me to open my bag up so they could check it and verify it really was a sewing machine!

When I got to the gate and asked the gate agent if I could courtesy check my carry-on all the way through to Abuja, Nigeria, he said, "that'll fit in the overhead compartment." I replied that I knew it would fit, but I didn't think I could get it up there. He gave me a funny look like it doesn't look that big and you're tall enough to put it up there. Then I told him "It weighs 61 lbs" and followed it with "I'm moving to Africa, so I stuffed my luggage!" He laughed and happily agreed to check it for me, making sure to add not one, but two orange "HEAVY LUGGAGE" tags as he wheeled my bag down the jet bridge.

The porter who assisted me at baggage claim in Abuja and wheeled the cart with all of my luggage through customs and immigration also struggled with this particular carry-on bag. I didn't feel like explaining to him, but I think he probably chocked it up to me being a crazy baturiya (white female).

I'm so glad I brought the sewing machine. I've had a zipper on a skirt break and another skirt's elastic bust. And over the last two weeks I made this dress.

Did you know that you can find free dress patterns online? But beware, it may print out on 46 sheets of A4 paper, requiring you to piece them together with tape (Nigerian scotch tape is pretty crummy), then cut out each pattern piece. This process may take upwards of three hours.

Also, beware of picking a pattern that has 12 gores! It will take a very long time to sew and you will go through an entire spool of thread, requiring you to walk the 1.5miles to the market to buy another spool of thread for 500N ($1.40USD).

Also, beware that you might put the whole dress together including the 18" zipper (which you shortened from the 26" zipper that you originally bought because it was the only size available), and that you might try it on before adding the sleeves and the facings, and that you might not be able to even get it past your knees because the pattern sizes were completely wrong.

So you go back to market to buy another zipper because when you tried to reuse the other one, it completely shredded (Nigerian zippers aren't great quality), you cut out another strip to insert in the side seam and another two black triangle gores so now the dress has 14 pieces and 13 flare pieces. And now the dress finally fits, and you even had enough for a head tie (required in any Nigerian church, although I don't have to wear a head tie for my daily work.)

Was it mean to ask my house helper to iron the dress instead of taking the time to iron each seam flat?  By the time the dress was finished, I was tired of looking at it!

So yes, I'm glad I brought a 61 lb. carry-on, and I'm glad I brought my grandmother's vintage sewing machine.

Friday, May 19, 2017

When it rains, it pours!

I'm loving rainy season! Right now, it rains almost every other day, and when it rains it absolutely pours! My apartment building has a corrugated steel roof (as do 90% of the buildings here), so it gets pretty loud. I was at dinner with a family last week and it started raining so hard we couldn't even talk at the dinner table!

This is what it looks like before it rains. The sky gets all ominous looking and these huge clouds roll across the sky. Last week the sky turned green, kind of like what we get in Texas during tornado weather. (Oh, and the traffic noise in the background is pretty normal! We hear honking and squealing brakes from about 5:30am until after 10pm sometimes. Welcome to living just a few blocks from the main market!)


Then when the rain starts, it makes these tiny drip drip drip sounds on the roof. Give it a minute or two and it starts pouring off the roof like this:

See, my mangoes are STILL green! *shakes angry fist at said mango tree*

View from the front door of my apartment. The other building is a Christian publishing house and Christian bookstore that we share the compound with.

And then it proceeds to rain sometimes for several hours! All of my windows are 4" slats of glass and I usually keep the lever in the "open" position to allow airflow through my apartment, but I've discovered that the wind can drive the rain right through and then I end up with a puddle on the floor. :)

I love the rain, but as we say here, "When the rain comes, NEPA (electricty) goes." Sadly, it's usually true that within 5 minutes of a really good rain starting, the power will go off and stay off for several hours. Thankfully, the cool rainy breeze means that I don't need my ceiling fans, and I can survive with a few lights run by my battery & inverter system. And when it's dark outside, the rain makes for really good sleeping weather!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

More Green Mango Goodness

I'm still waiting. The tree still taunts me. All the mangoes that are ripe are also out of reach.

Green Mango Bread
Recipe originally from The Nigerien Common Pot American Women's Club Cookbook via my friend J__ who is also serving with SIM

Makes one loaf

1 C. sugar
1/2 C. shortening
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 C. flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 C. green mango, grated
1 T. sugar mixed with 1/4 tsp cinnamon

Mix sugar, shortening, eggs, and vanilla. Stir in dry ingredients until smooth. Stir in green mango.

Heat oven to 350°. Grease and flour 9” x 5” x 3" loaf pan. Spread in loaf pan. Top with cinnamon sugar. Bake for 50 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from pan immediately.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Green Mango Recipe 1

It's just starting to be mango season, but the tree at the back of our compound is about a week behind the tree at the front. Every day I walk up to my apartment and see this tree taunting me.

Aren't these hanging gems so tempting!
Last week I was getting impatient, so I Googled recipes using green mango. Turns out, I'm not the only one that has this problem since I found hundreds of recipes!

This is one of my favorites right now. If you can't get green mango, you can use unripe papaya or even jicama (although you'll be missing the tartness if you use jicama)

Green Mango Salad
Recipe from Bon Appétit

Makes 8 Servings

2 red or green Thai chiles, with seeds, chopped
1 clove garlic chopped
½ cup fresh lime juice
¼ cup fish sauce (I used oyster sauce)
2 tablespoons oil
2 teaspoons brown sugar
4 green mangoes or 1 green papaya, julienned on a mandoline
2 medium shallots, thinly sliced
½ cup unsalted, dry-roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
½ cup fresh cilantro leaves
¼ cup fresh mint leaves
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

Purée chiles, garlic, lime juice, fish sauce, oil, and brown sugar in a blender until smooth.

Toss mangoes, shallots, peanuts, cilantro, mint, sesame seeds, and dressing in a large bowl; season with salt.

Dressing can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.