Monday, October 31, 2011

Sugar and Spice

“Picked up a package yesterday and I was happy!

It was some boxes full o’ goodies from my Pappy!”

- “1-Luv” by E-40 (In A Major Way, 1995)

Tonight we will celebrating Halloween in style. And although there won’t be any trick or treating, I’ll be fine because I am finally stocked up on my favorite candy. After over a month of waiting, I finally got almost all of the packages that have sent to me since September. Just to be on the safe side, I requested an shipment of Sour Patch Kids from multiple sources. I can happily report that those sources came through, and now me belly full. Special shout out to my cuz, Quineen!

In addition to the teeth-rotters, Fauntie* came through with a massive and crucial cornucopia of tasty spices for the kitchen. Here’s the updated of the third shelf in our pantry, which just might put Pont d’Agua to shame:

Not bad, considering I live in on a tiny island with hardly in any rain in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Wait, did I just say “hardly any rain?” Yeah, about that...

So, apparently it does rain on São Vicente. We just get a year’s worth of rain compressed into two days. Last Monday, I woke up around 5am to take Mia out to xi-xi ("shee-shee"). I got about half a step outside of my room before realizing that I was splashing about in water half an inch deep. I thought it was just our toilet leaking (again!), but as I rounded the corner of the hallway I saw that our whole apartment was on its way to becoming a fishbowl. So much for Posh Corps**.

After a few hours of scooping, pushing, mopping and bailing, I managed to get most of the water out (thank the Lord for tiled floors). Unfortunately, that night found my roommate and I at war against the elements yet again—this time the water was coming in through windows in the kitchen. Both of us are Small Enterprise Development Volunteers—not civil engineers—so we were a little short of brilliant ideas to prevent a repeat of the previous night. The best we could do was slap some duct tape over windows, get to mopping, and pray for a break in the rain. We both agreed that what we really needed was some sandbags. Unfortunately, my shipment of Sour Patch Kids had not arrived yet, so we were short in that department. Next time I promise we will be ready with a candy-grade levee that will be the envy of FEMA.

There is a silver lining to every cloud, and this week’s storm was no exception. The heavy rains left the ground ripe for cultivation, so we got to work in the garden at the Centro de Juventude (CEJ). A previous Peace Corps Volunteer on this island ranja’d a whole bunch of seeds from the Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds company in Mansfield, Missouri, so now we have a nice selection to work with. After weeding and breaking up the ground, we planted three sets of seeds in paper egg cartons: sweet red peppers, squash, and watermelons. In honor of Halloween we also sowed a few pumpkin seeds directly into the ground. Maybe next year we can do a little jack-o'-lantern, pumpkin seed roasting cross cultural exchange activity.

When I got home I was still feeling the green thumb, so I kept on rolling. We’ve been saving our 1 liter juice containers, so I cut a bunch of those in half and filled them with some terra sabi (“borrowed” from the CEJ). In the coming months, inshallah, we should be harvesting at least some of the following goodies:

  • Pink Accordion Tomatoes
  • Williams Striped Tomatoes
  • Arkansas Traveler Tomatoes
  • Lettuce Leaf Basil
  • Licorice Basil
  • Serrano Tampequino Peppers
  • Golden Treasure Sweet Peppers
  • Bull Nose Sweet Peppers
  • Chinese Yellow Cucumbers
  • Ground Cherries

So, consider this your invitation to dinner. The food will be spiced to perfection, the veggies will be homegrown, and dessert will be sour and chewy. All you have to do is book the ticket. See you soon,

Pura Vida,


* Fauntie = The Fun Auntie = Carmen Anthony

** Volunteers that serve in Continental Africa like to poke fun at those of us who are lucky to land an assignment in Cape Verde, where most of us have electricity, running water, and a functioning government. Therefore, Peace Corps Cape Verde is sometimes to referred to as “Posh Corps.”

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Now We´re Cooking

The other day I looked up and I realized that I have been living in Cape Verde for more than three months now. I cannot exactly say that time has flown by, especially when I consider the nine weeks hard time in Pre-Service Training. At times those minutes felt like hours. Even now, as I settle into my new home on the island of São Vicente, I would have to say that the last three months has felt like… well… three months.

The only thing that really shocks me is the thought that I have been here in Cape Verde for a longer period of time than I spent in South Africa last summer. It isn't a question of how fast or slow the time has passed. Instead, I find myself comparing everything I did in South Africa with everything I have done so far here, and honestly, there is no comparison. The good news is: that puts me right on track with the Peace Corps' expectations of a new Volunteer. Let me explain.

Much of the Peace Corps approach to development work grows out of a process known as PACA—that is, Participatory Analysis for Community Action. I'll skip the seminar and settle for giving you a snapshot of what this actually means. Basically, instead of showing up as an “expert”—presumably fresh off the boat from a faraway land and culture—and prescribing remedies for the development of a given community, PACA is a strategy for immersion and research, with the goal of eventually being in a position to actually help. The key word is “eventually.” For example, before you pitch an idea to a community leader about building a cool new community center, you might spend a few weeks compiling a “seasonal calendar” or a “daily calendar” that would help you to understand the patterns of life of different people or groups within that community. Why is that so important? Well, it would help you figure out when the best time to schedule a planning meeting would be. Or, who might actually use the community center, and when might they use it.

The good thing about PACA is that it works. The tough thing is that so many of us volunteer-types want to jump right in and get our hands dirty. We want to feel like we are actually making a difference and changing the world (wait, did I say that out loud?). But when you combine the training phase with the emphasis on easing into our actual assignments, you are left with three months that feel worthwhile, yet not exactly game-changing. Sure, I got to roll up my sleeves a little during my first three months here, but only in the last week or so have I really started cooking.

In the literal sense, I have been helping to teach a culinary class, and after two weeks of theory in the classroom we took our first trip to the kitchen. The lead instructor of the class is the General Manager of Ponte d'Agua, one of the classier establishments in our city. This week's visit to their kitchen—where the practical sessions will be held—brought me back in time to my first “real job” at the Burlingame Country Club. Now you know your boy can burn, but I am hardly qualified to train fifteen students who are looking to land a actual job in a professional kitchen. Instead, my role as a an instructor is to address elements of professionalism and entrepreneurship to add value to the training. My work experience in the industry is just a plus.

Things are also heating up in terms of my other responsibilities at work. This week, Rory and I started teaching an English class for the staff and volunteer leaders of the Centro da Juventude. We also just submitted plans for two more classes that we will start teaching in November: Aula de Profissionalismo and Aula de Microsoft Excel.

Feeling productive is not just about doing development work and changing the world. Sometimes it’s just a question of feeling like you're living right. For some it may mean going to church, for others it means spending quality time with the kids. In my life there has always been a correlation between living right and cooking. If I haven't cooked a meal for a week then I know there is something wrong. In other words, something (psychological or situational?) is stopping me from making time for the right things in my life.

Fortunately, as the title of this post suggest, the kitchen is officially open. Rory and I have been piecing it together over the last four weeks—a cutting board here, a can opener there. We've sourced our favorite spices (or at least the ones that are available), and now we know who’s got if for cheap. But last week I knew the final piece had fallen into place when I got a phone call from DHL* saying a package had arrived for me… MY KNIVES! Thank you Big Brother Jaime-san for making that happen, and I hope they served you well over the last two years.

We wasted no time getting to work in the kitchen at home. We recently hosted “family dinner” for the seven Peace Corps Volunteers that live on this island. We’ve also knocked out some tasty spaghetti (a little too often), sweet curry chicken with sautéed greens, rosemary pork chops with mashed potatoes, spicy popcorn chicken, sweet and sour chicken, sweet and sour pork, and fried rice. If you are wondering about the last three dishes, the answer is yes: there are plenty of Chinese people in Cape Verde. But they just can’t burn like the Chinese people back home in the States, so we decided to take matters into our own hands.

As I wrap up this family-sized portion of a post, I have to give a quick shout-out. Since I started Live From Tomorrow I have had a couple of friends tell me that they have been inspired to start their own blogs. Since we’ve been talking about cooking, I want to take a moment to plug one of those. “A Vu on Food” is the work of my littlest friend with the biggest heart (and appetite). After studying at Le Cordon Bleu in London, Christina Vu launched her blog as a way to share her foodie adventures from around the world. Whether you’re looking for a creative new recipe, or just want to sit, read, and salivate, I highly recommend you take a trip (by clicking on the link above). Until the next meal…

Pura Vida,


*If you are sending me a care package (you are, aren't you?)... DO NOT USE DHL!!! It is stupid expensive. I recommend International Flat Rate Shipping from the good 'ol USPS. Also, do not declare some ridiculous inflated value, because I will have to pay customs on my end.