Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Water Cycle

Let me tell you a little story about my life using numbers. Just because.

One day, earlier this month, the water in my apartment went out again. This is a normal occurrence that doesn't seem to affect many other people in the building. Just me. 

Fortunately, I have four jerry cans that I keep around. Usually at least two of them are full, so I can be prepared when water goes out. Like the time it turned off just as I had put shampoo in my hair... 
Each can holds twenty liters and weighs forty pounds when full.

When I'm without water in my apartment, I put one basin in each of my two sinks. One holds water for hand-washing; the other holds dirty dishes until I tote them over to my amazing neighbor's place.

Meet my amazing neighbor, Bron. She is simply the best! Seriously. 
And she doesn't have water issues in the same way I do. So she graciously lets me fill my jerry cans, wash my dishes, and even shower at her place. She lives approximately three steps away, which is really great when I'm carrying full jerry cans or sneaking from her place to mine in a culturally-inappropriate bathrobe.  

For fourteen days this month (So far. The month isn't over yet...), this has been my routine. This has been my reality. It's not so bad (because of Bron), but it's also not so great.

This morning I decided to call my landlord for the millionth time. I asked him to send the plumber again. By five o'clock this evening, these two pairs of shoes outside my door were the most wonderful symbol of hope.

These two men brought in their one long hose, like they always do. This is probably the seventh time they've come to work this ridiculous magic on my pipes. The more times they do this, the less I understand what's going on.
They connect the hose to this pipe in my kitchen, run it through my apartment, out my bathroom window, down the two stories, and connect it to a spigot outside. I believe they turn the spigot on and then force water into my pipes...? I actually have no idea how this process works or the physics behind it, but somehow it brings my water back and causes the tank that I get my water from to re-fill. It's only a temporary fix, but it works!

It's also an incredibly messy process. When they finished today, there was a quarter inch of water on my kitchen floor. And one giant basin full of very dirty water. But guess what. 

There was one giant basin full of very dirty water! That came out of my apartment! 
That's good news, folks.

 And this is one beautiful sight that I haven't seen in two weeks.

So how did I celebrate? By happily washing a big load of dishes at my own sink.

And by hanging the five most darling Christmas decorations sent by a dear supporter. 
...So many reasons to celebrate and be thankful.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

DIY All-Purpose Cheese*

Last week, my neighbor, Bron, and I attempted to make cream cheese.** This "recipe" has been passed around in the missionary community, and we're a population that's learning to get creative and make due with what we have available. Cream cheese isn't something you can normally find here, so when we heard about a way to make it on our own, of course we had to try. I thought I'd share the process with you in case you'd also like to give it a try.

1. Pour five liters of fresh milk into a large pot and bring to a boil. (Our milk came from a local supplier and needed to be pasteurized.) Allow milk to cool completely.

2. Once cool, scrape the cream from the top of the milk and remove.***

3. Reheat the milk to the point where you can only leave your pinky finger in for two seconds. It's super technical and precise, I know.

4. Then add one tablespoon of plain yogurt for every liter of milk. In our case, this was five tablespoons of yogurt. Stir.

5. Cover the pot, and incubate overnight. We wrapped ours in four bath towels and placed it in the oven. Others have wrapped it and left it in a cooler.

6. In the morning, pour the contents of the pot into a cheese cloth. Or an old t-shirt... Just whatever.

7. Tie it closed, and hang it over a container to catch the whey. Yes, this is the stuff people now pay big bucks for so they can add it to smoothies and protein shakes. (Don't worry about the fact that this draining took place in the bathroom...I've been without water for 11 days now, so the bathroom wasn't being used for much else last week.)

8. After 24 hours, it will have reduced in volume by about half. The longer it hangs, the drier it will become. We took ours down after 26 hours, and... ta-da!

...What it is, you ask?

You're not alone. We asked the same thing. Is this yogurt? Is this cream cheese? It doesn't look quite like either one. What in the world did we just make? Because now we have a lot of it... and it's kind of unrecognizable. And smells funny.

After some further research, it turns out that we made something called strained yogurt or "yogurt cheese." Because of course we did.

Basically, steps 1-5 are how to make yogurt. Continuing with steps 6-8 will leave with you drained, thicker yogurt.

Or as I now like to call it...all-purpose cheese.

It seems strange at first, but this cheesy-yogurty spread works well for all sorts of dishes. So far it's been swirled and baked into a chocolate cake, used as a creamy topping for scones and jam, sprinkled with chives, and mixed with mustard to spread on fresh bread with basil and a poached egg. It could also work well as a baked cheesecake filling, in cream cheese frosting, or in mashed potatoes.

It can be sweet. It can be savory. It doesn't discriminate.
(And it loses its funny smell after spending some time in the fridge.)

In the end, we decided we were pleased with the outcome. Just don't go into this hoping to make something resembling Philadelphia cream cheese.
Because you won't.

Oh yeah. Feel free to Pin that.

You're welcome.

*If that title doesn't get me a million re-pins in Pinterest, I don't know what will.
**Disclaimer: This recipe will not actually provide you with cream cheese in the end.
*** That was our first clue... Why is there no cream in this "cream cheese"?

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Actions Speak Louder

You've heard it said many times that "actions speak louder than words." Most people have the ability to easily pick up on subtle body language and social gestures used in their home cultures. They understand the deeper meanings and implications behind the action itself. But what happens when you enter into a different culture? Sometimes our actions are misinterpreted, and we totally miss important cues from others simply because we're speaking different body languages.

This is a video I found about common gestures used to communicate in Haiti. While I've never been to Haiti, I've heard that it's very similar to Uganda in some ways. The majority of these gestures used in Haiti (apart from #1 and #2) also communicate the same things in Uganda.

For example, if someone offers out their fisted arm to you, they don't want you to "pound it." Watch this video to find out what it really means:

Some other common non-verbal communications in Uganda include:
  • raising your eyebrows once in response to a question or statement... signifies "yes" or "okay"
  • pointing to something with your lips and chin... serves the same purpose as pointing with your finger
  • overhand, cupped hand wave, palm facing away from you (like the way you normally wave to babies)... means "come here"