Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Learning a New Language

I'm only going to be in Malawi for a few months.  Well, maybe more, since they've asked if I'd be open to extending after the first three months.  That decision will come after I've been there for six weeks.

In any case, I plan to learn to say "hello", "please", "thank you" and a few other basics.  But I may need more.

Tonight I was perusing sites to check out restaurants and shopping in Blantyre (pronounced Blahntire). I was excited to discover that there's a grocery store in the city.  It's called Shoprite and is based in South Africa.  I'd read that most of the "western" imports are from South Africa so that wasn't surprising.

I was checking out their site and found this in their description of their butchery department:  " Smart shoppers can enjoy a wide range of fresh portions, whole chickens, marinated delights and famously South African products like Karoo lamb, boerewors, sosaties, oepsies, and more."

I get "whole chicken".  But boerewors?  Sosaties?  Oepsies?  What the heck are those?

I'll be leaving for Africa in about 2 1/2 weeks.  I'm about equal parts over the moon excited and terrified.  But I can't wait to find out if I like sosaties.  I'll let you know.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A New Adventure

Tired of reading my whining about heat, humidity and other stuff from the South Pacific?  Great news! I'm starting a new adventure in February that will enable you to read my whining about my new adventure in Malawi, Africa.

Seriously, I'm tremendously excited about this new opportunity.  I'll be a volunteer for a non-profit based in Scotland for a 2 1/2 to 3 month assignment.  Aside from the geographical and cultural differences, I anticipate a number of other contrasts.

First, my stint will take roughly the time it took it took for Peace Corps training.  Second, I'll be living and working as an expat in the second largest city in the country, rather than trying to integrate in a rural village.  Third, I'll be working with adults, using my business consulting and training skills, rather than teaching English to children.

The time from application to acceptance took less than a week.  I had a great Skype interview this morning, during which I felt like I really "clicked" with the interviewer.  We have similar professional backgrounds and it was fun to talk about approaches to a variety of training and consulting situations.

My work will be to assist in training, mentoring and supporting local trainees who are being trained and certified to consult with small and mid-sized companies.  My part in this effort is just one piece of a three year long project to enable locals to help develop businesses and improve the economy in one of the poorest countries in the world.

Part of me is excited about the opportunity to volunteer in helping others to improve their lives and the lives of others in their country.

Part of me is excited about learning about another culture and meeting new people.  I'm hoping that since Peace Corps has volunteers in Malawi, I'll be able to meet some of them and experience their lives in a rural village.  And I really, really want to go on a safari, which has been on my top five list for a very long time.

Part of me is excited about using my experience and skills to help others while adding to my resume.

I wish I could say my motives are totally altruistically, but they're not.  I want to help.  I want to learn. I want to have fun.

I can't wait for the trip, which will likely involve four layovers, to start.  I hope you'll come along.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Love These "New" Definitions

Once again The Washington Post has published the winning submissions to its annual neologism contest, in which readers are asked to supply alternative meanings for common words.

The winners are:

1. Coffee (n.), the person upon whom one coughs.

2. Flabbergasted (adj.), appalled over how much weight you have gained.

3. Abdicate (v.), to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.

4. Esplanade (v.), to attempt an explanation while drunk.

5. Willy-nilly (adj.), impotent.

6. Negligent (adj.), describes a condition in which you absentmindedly answer the door in your nightgown.

7. Lymph (v.), to walk with a lisp.

8. Gargoyle (n), olive-flavored mouthwash.

9. Flatulence (n.), emergency vehicle that picks you up after you are run over by a steamroller.

10. Balderdash (n.), a rapidly receding hairline.

11. Testicle (n.), a humorous question on an exam.

12. Rectitude (n.), the formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.

13. Pokemon (n), a Rastafarian proctologist.

14. Oyster (n.), a person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms.

15. Frisbeetarianism (n.), (back by popular demand): The belief that, when you die, your soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Missing Samoa

I'm settled back into my home in Florida and it feels great.  I'm reconnecting with friends and starting to look forward to the next adventure.  It seems that I should stop spending money and start earning some.

While I'm excited about the future, I'm nostalgic about the past and my time in Samoa.  I DVR'd Bizarre Foods the other day and started to watch it last night.  What a surprise - it was about Samoa.  I didn't watch but instead saved it so I can watch it with friends this weekend.

Instead, I looked at some photos I took before I left the village last November.  It seems so long ago in many ways.

One thing I DON'T miss is the almost always packed bus to the wharf.  

There's no "p" in the Samoan alphabet, so they have trouble discerning the difference between a "p" and a "b".

I brought some candy back from Apia for the teachers.  As with all food, it was carefully divided.  

Tulouna and Tivoli - two of my favorite Year 8 boys.  They made me smile every day and were always willing to help.

The view from where I usually sat during interval.  

I introduced the kids to the idea of Halloween and trick or treating. They had fun with it and wore the masks for weeks after.

Two of my friend Mafa's granddaughters.  The older girl is smart, cheeky and has such potential. She has an irrepressible spirit and was my faithful companion.

One of Mafa's only grandsons, Lua.  He's a master tree climber and frequently climbed the tree next to the school to fetch me tipolo (lemons).

This is Mafa and the beautiful mat she made for me as a going away gift.


Years ago I became friends with my dinner companions on a holiday cruise in the Caribbean.  One of the women told me about her family Christmas traditions and said I should join her family the next year.

I did and I've been heading to Boston to join their family for Christmas every year ever since - except the two years I was in Samoa.

It was great to be back with them this year.  I hadn't seen most of the family for three years and the change in the kids was startling.  So grown up!  Some things though, were exactly as I remembered.  Here are some photos:

My contribution to dinner was this cake. Chocolate fudge with butter cream frosting and a chocolate ganache glaze. Although I'm more of a cooker than a baker, it was declared a success. 

Prime rib is the traditional main course and Cindy did an amazing job with this one. Perfectly seasoned and done. Throughout the entire day I kept mentally comparing it to Samoa.  The number of gifts, the variety and types of food.  The only thing that was the same was that extended family was together, laughing and celebrating.

Another tradition is that two of the siblings (and me) attack the ribs before dinner is served. I was chewing a chunk of rare prime rib as I took this photo.

Lots of gifts, lots of activity, lots of laughing.  This was before dinner. After we ate, we rested and caught up and discussed where the two graduating seniors will go to college next year.  It was a great day.

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Return Photos, Continued - Tucson

As I was saying...

Before leaving for Tucson, we hit the mall in FL to get some new glasses for me. Mine gave up the ghost my last week in Samoa.  On the way to Lenscrafters we tried on hats.  I missed my friends.

Nothing says home for me like a taco truck that's open for breakfast. This one was next to the hotel where I stayed near the Tucson airport.

Breakfast - tacos made with carne asada.  Muy bueno!  All this food cost me $5.00. I saved half for breakfast the next day.

San Xavier del Bac is one of the oldeset mission churches still actively serving the community. It is beautiful. I spent a lot of time here with my family when I was a kid.

The church had this creche set up for Christmas.  There's one animal in the display that I don't think they planned on. Can you spot which animal is out of place?  Answer at end of post.

My friend Paula flew in from Las Vegas so we could catch up. She, my high school buddy Aletha, and I hit an  art fair.  I had to take a time out to just sit with my eyes closed a couple of times.  The number of people, the volume, the sights were a bit too much sensory overload.  But it was so fun!

My favorite meal.  From El Molinito in Tucson (22nd St. and Craycroft) - cheese enchilada and green corn tamale (made with fresh sweet corn, green chiles and cheese).  Beans on the side.  Heaven.  I've been enjoying this meal, at this restaurant for about 40 years.  When my brother was terminally ill in FL, I went to visit my dad in Tucson.  He was also terminally ill.  It was a tough year.  My brother asked me to bring back some of these tamales, from this restaurant.  When I said goodbye to my dad to come back to FL, he said "I love you - don't forget the tamales!"  Those were his last words to me.

Our appetizer at El Molinito was another of my favorites - a cheese crisp with green chiles. Imagine a deep-fried, very thin flour tortilla which is covered with cheese and green chiles and then broiled.  So unhealthy.  So good.

Aletha is a realtor in Tucson.  She and I have been friends since 1966. Good heavens I'm old. That's a salad in front of her with a decorative green onion sticking up.

What's in the creche which doesn't belong?  Check out the cat on the right who had crawled in for a snooze.

Life Since Samoa - in Photos

I finally am completely unpacked and settled back in my house in Florida.  It feels good.  It also means I found the cable that enables me to connect my camera to my computer.

Here is a somewhat random photo documentary of my time since I left Samoa.

My last dinner in Samoa was at the Yacht Club in Apia.  Good food, good friends and a great view.

The Honolulu airport is tropical.  It made the transition away from Samoa a bit easier.

I left Samoa at 12:40 a.m. on Nov. 17.  I arrived in Honolulu on the morning of Nov. 16.

For years, I've started and ended every trip/vacation with a shot of tequila. I had one before I got on the plane in Los Angeles on my way to Samoa and I had one the morning I arrived back in the USA (Honolulu).


Back home in Florida, where we have some big birds.  It was the morning of Nov. 17, two days after I'd left Samoa.

My friends treated me to luxury:  Mary Lou, me, Donna and Ralph, who was down for a pedicure but passed on the manicure.

Thursday, January 10, 2013


I've never been the queen of technology.  I can use a computer for more than internet and email and have been my own help department on computer issues for years.  Not cutting edge but I get by.

But telephone and tablet technology passed me by over the past two years.  I've been working on catching up.  I know now that an Android was not a character in Star Wars.  I'm up on the basics but the application still sometimes fails me.

Like today, for example.  I talked to a young (high school age) woman who responded to my add on to give away all the packing boxes I used.  As I started to give her directions to my house , she asked me to just give her my address and she could use the GPS on her phone.  Duh.  The duh was implied on her part.

How things have changed.  I don't know any of my best friends' phone numbers because I just depend on my phone.  Basic math is a challenge because I've used a calculator for years.  As bad as I am, I had to laugh when I was at dinner a few years ago with some very smart friends who whipped out their phones to calculate a 20% tip on a $100 meal.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


"You're wearing palagi clothes!"  Those were the first words my BFF from Group 83 in Samoa said to me.  I had the same reaction to her palagi attire.  But since we were at Disney World, pulatasis and lavalavas just didn't seem appropriate.

We met when we were assigned to be roommates our first night at staging in L.A.  We remained roommates for our first three weeks in Samoa.  Although I'm about 40 years older, we bonded.

It was wonderful to see "Sesa" again while she was here with her younger brother to visit Orlando's theme parks.  It was also great to spend time with her brother, who she loves dearly and talked about constantly while we were in Samoa.  I felt as if I knew him before we actually met.

We talked a bit about transitioning back to the U.S.  We both agreed that because there are so many options and so much "stuff" to choose from, decision making is hard.  We also commented on how food seems so filling.  We agreed that it isn't just the volume (because Samoans can pile on the food) but the fact that there's more "food" in the food - more ingredients.

In Samoa, you just have taro.  Or bananas.  Or chicken.  While we were having this discussion I was eating a sandwich that involved turkey, stuffing, gravy and cranberry sauce all on freshly baked bread.  That's a lot of goodness packed into the kind of artisanal bread that I never saw in Samoa.

I brought up the fact the people seem to be either texting, facebooking or talking on the phone constantly - and frequently doing it to people who are sitting in the same room.  Sesa'd had the same experience when at dinner with a few friends she realized two of them. who were sitting across the table to each other, were texting ... each other.

We agreed that we both miss Samoa.  As we strolled through the crowded shops and sidewalks of Downtown Disney, I just kept thinking about how my Samoan kids would respond at Disney.  And how much I could have used all the games and activities while I was teaching.

It was hard to hug goodbye but I know it was just "See you soon." not "Goodbye."

Thursday, January 3, 2013


I've lost my grill skills!  I was a grill master before I left for Samoa.  Not for crowds or for contests, but I grilled for myself almost every night and could put out an amazing chicken or pork or beef or fish grilled dish.

I bought a new grill this week.  Thanks to Home Depot for giving me a grill at twice the value I asked for because they didn't have the one I wanted in stock.

Last night, I grilled a pork chop.  I brought it in and had to take it back out.  Too rare.  What?

Tonight, I'm grilling a boneless chicken thigh.  I'm struggling to figure out the timing with the timing of the side dishes (ranch style beans, salad and baked onion).

Part of it is the new grill, which is the fanciest I've ever owned.  Part is due to the lack of grilling for the last couple of years.

One thing I learned in New Zealand is that grilling is not just for dinner.  In Tokeroa I learned that you can grill bacon just as easily as steak.

My timing may be a bit rusty but I expect to be back to maven level soon.

Too Busy to Blog!

Excuses, excuses.  I know.  But really, there's a lot more going on here than when I was living in the village in Samoa.

First, Christmas.  I flew to Boston to spend Christmas with friends who have been like family for years.  It was a perfect combination of togetherness and parties and downtime.  I did my friend a "favor" by baking a cake for Christmas dinner dessert.  She is a master baker but had to work Christmas Eve so I volunteered.  Yup, throw me into the briar patch, Br're Fox! Make me spend a relaxed day doing something I love.

I had her kitchen to myself as I baked.  I made a chocolate fudge layer cake with butter cream frosting and a chocolate ganache glaze.  Just part of the reason I've gained ten pounds since coming home.

We had just enough snow on Christmas to make it festive without making driving a problem.  It was really wonderful to spend time with old friends.  I especially enjoyed the "kids" who grew up so much while I was gone.  The last time I saw two of them, they were freshmen in high school.  Now they're seniors and we were discussing university plans.

And the babies?  Grown up little girls now who were funny and friendly and a pleasure to be with.

Back home I prepared to move back into my own home.  Moving day was officially New Year's Eve.  Between then and now I've been unpacking and getting settled.  Thankfully, friends have been helping enormously.

It's great to be home and in some ways feels as if I never left.  But then a second later I'll realize something that is so different from Samoa.  I love sleeping in my own bed.  I LOVE the luxury of my over-sized shower that comes with lots of hot water.  Washing clothes is a treat.  Preparing meals in a fully equipped kitchen is fabulous.

That doesn't mean I don't miss Samoa, though.  My home in Faga doesn't compare to the luxury I have in Florida.  But it was my home.  On Christmas, I thought about the church service I was missing.  I constantly think about the kids.  I miss their smiles, laughter and hugs.

My friends will be getting ready for the new school year soon.  I wish I was there.  But I want to be here.  Brings to mind that saying about having your cake and eating it, too.