Friday, March 2, 2012

Andrea Wickham - Domestic Goddess?

Well not quite. Nigella doesn't have to worry about having a pretender to her throne just yet. But I am rather proud of how my new-found domestic abilities will now make an adequate housewife some day.

As well as cutting out (most of) my clothes shopping here, I've also become a really efficient grocery shopper here. Nicole and I now do one epic shop a month. This involves a very long list, many shopping bags, and a taxi home afterwards (as we'd never make it on and off the Starbus with all of our purchases) This is when I buy all my cosmetic stuff - shampoo and the like - house cleaning-y stuff and food that will last for a few weeks. Like, for example tins and jars of things. On our first trip I *may* have gone a little overboard on the tins and jars. In the second picture below those cans are three deep. Suffice to say I have still not gotten through all of that food.

The heart-warming (and slightly hunger-inducing)
 sight of a fully stocked pantry.

Jars (and tins) of joy.

The rest of the shopping is done in Kangemi market and in the small but perfectly formed Three Ways Supermarket in Kangemi. At the supermarket I pick up juice, milk, bread that sort of thing. And then I make my way into the heart of Kangemi market for my fruits and vegetables (or produce as my delightful American/British housemate Nicole would say). 

Kangemi market is a maze in the truest sense of the word.It's almost impossible to describe without showing it to you. And I wouldn't feel comfortable whipping out my camera around Kangemi, it would definitely lower my street cred. For those of you who will be out in the summer a trip to the market is on your itinerary. You enter the market through one row of semi-covered and then make your way past stalls selling various combinations of new and second-hand clothes, household goods, clocks, electronics... The first time I went to the market by myself I missed the left-turn to get to the fruit and vegetable section (which is just after a stall selling new jeans) and spent a good five minutes wandering around like an eejit, trying in vain to look like I knew where I was going. Once you make the correct turn, a bit more weaving down the make-shift alleys and you're in an open air square with market stalls on all four sides, as well as rows of women sitting in the middle selling potatoes, corn, spinach and other vegetables. 

I really enjoy our weekend trips to the market. Despite having done it almost every week for the past few months our shipping trip still elicits bemused stares (the grown-ups) and cries of 'mzungu, mzungu, how are you?' (the children). I now have a pretty good routine, I know which stall will have good courgettes or tomatoes. I know around which corner to look for coriander. I know where to pick up the best looking mangoes in all of East Africa. The great thing about Kangemi is most of the prices are displayed on the stalls so I never need to worry about getting charged mzungu prices, or having to haggle. The whole trip makes me feel part of the community, even if it's just in a very small way.

God I miss washing machines. Not a sentence I'd ever imagine I would write down but it's heart-breakingly true. After hand-washing a double duvet cover I will never, ever, take washing machines for granted again. Oh Indesit at home in Navan, you are a wonder. I am almost surprised there aren't more country and western songs, or ballads perhaps, which touch on this theme.

Our detergent of choice here is called Toss. All good
puns/innuendos greatly appreciated.

The hand-washing of clothes has been a bit of a try and error process. I've obviously hand-washed bits and pieces in the past, but maxi dresses and trousers? Where does one even begin? And then there's the issue of detergent, too much and the clothes take forever to rinse, too little and they're not clean. Sigh. I think I have the ratio down now though, for the time being. And so, part of every weekend is spent kneeling in the yard having a good aul scrub of my blouses and cardis and the like. 

Tis grand weather for drying.

On the plus side Nairobi in the dry season is perfect drying weather. Every day 'is a grand day for drying', warm, sunny and a bit windy - perfect. However with the long rains season practically upon us this is soon to change. Major sadface.

As those of you who've met me will already know I'm not a natural cook. I don't mind the process but I don't enjoy it the way other people seem to. I thought I might as I got older. So far, nothing. But I do it out of necessity, for I am still a woman on a budget.

Every weekend (usually on Sunday) I make a massive meal which then becomes my lunch for 3-4 days of the following week. I would love to eat one of the restaurants at the UN but they charge Western prices so I only eat there if I'm feeling flash (which is rare) or if I get someone to take me for lunch (I'm getting pretty good at accepting a free lunch). So every Sunday I whip up a (normally veggie) pasta dish, or curry, or cous cous-y dish of some sort. I am eating, or at least cooking very little meat here. Again, it's expensive when you compare it to the price of good fruits and veggies. Though, sometimes the urge for a bit of red meat does take over. There appears to be no danger of me going full on vegetarian anytime soon (although on that, I recently came across a TED talk of a guy who espouses a 'weekday vegetarian' theory but I digress)

Spaghetti bolognese, this week's lunch.
All of this preparedness is made possible by two things 1) the ridiculously large amount of tupperware we have in our house and 2) our beauty of a fridge. VSO volunteers rarely have fridges. However I was fortunate enough to move into a fully kitted out house so I put a chunk of my furnishings allowance into a kitty and we invested in the beauty of a machine you see below. We are very, very lucky volunteers.

A small sample of our extensive range of tupperware.

Isn't she a beauty? Name suggestions welcome!

To say that I've taken up or learned to sew while I'm here would, in fact, be a lie. But I had you going there for a second, didn't I?

Apologies if you think this the world's most boring post but these activities take up a lot of my time and therefore, I think, warrant inclusion. It's not all MTV premieres, and acting presidential you know?
Next time I'll get back to discussing matters of national political importance and the like.

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