For those of you living in the Dartmouth/Upper Valley/American/Mosque-in-NYC/Lilo-in-jail bubble, Rwanda’s second democratic election since the 1994 genocide was today. Out of fear that the*barbed wire and security guard protecting our “Americaland” compound won’t hold up against mysterious stray bullets, I’ll just refer you to an article if you’re interested in reading up about the election: http://bit.ly/cDhAes. (I chose this one because it has pictures.)
Newest Apples to Apples perfect match: Predictable à Elections
(This actually happened on Friday night when we were playing Apples to Apples. It beat out the Expendable à Albus Dumbledore match.)
Most notably, because we didn’t want to leave the compound, the election gave us an opportunity to have a completely muzungu workday. I was excited to be able to wear shorts to work. Lauren similarly took advantage of the opportunity to wear a sundress.
I also enjoyed the English conversation. Don’t get me wrong, the Rwandans on the staff do their best to involve us uni-lingular people, but sometimes they just slip into Kinyrwandan and next thing I know everybody in the room is laughing. (And then they update me that one of the staff members kicked his new bride while he was sleeping on their wedding night.)
In fact…I was enjoying the day so much that I shouldn’t have been surprised when suddenly it was 6:30 and there was no dinner prepared…because there had to be a downside to Americaland truly being Americaland. One of the hungrier boys quickly volunteered to make dinner and, I don’t know why, but for some reason I volunteered too. I think that his confidence gave me confidence…at least that I could cut the vegetables while he did the actual cooking.
It wasn’t long before we both realized that neither of us could cook – we kind of grabbed the pasta, and then both stood in the kitchen staring at each other. And then he just walked away, leaving the girl to figure it out. Real nice Travis, real nice.
Here’s what I know about cooking: how to follow a recipe step by step, how to properly measure flour, and how to use the microwave. We have none of these in Rwanda. And no Isabelle Schless either! (This is getting too easy.) But I did have an appetite and blind confidence (of course). So before long, I was boiling water, simmering milk, melting butter, grating cheese, chopping peppers, and peeling carrots. I was also a mad chef – bossing others around the kitchen with my butcher knife (that I was using on the carrots) and sprinkling spices on top of all the dishes “to taste.” I laughed when asked how to test if the pasta was done, and pretended to know what I was doing as I lifted a spoon to my mouth (result: burnt tongue). All the while, I was wondering when was the last time I turned on a stove…and figured that maybe I helped stir something during Thanksgiving? But that didn’t stop me from lighting a match to start the gas stove when the flicker-thingy wasn’t working.
In short, I literally shocked myself with my ability to cook and improvise when driven by pure hunger. Thank you Mommy…I’m now thinking that all the years when I sat watching you in the kitchen, but never offered to help, did somehow pay off.
And if I may be so humble to say: I think the meal turned out brilliantly. There’s something in the combination of mushy pasta with burnt vegetables, overcooked milk, enormous amounts of crushed red peppers, and too much (I said it) cheddar cheese to compensate for the watery cheese sauce…that just works.
*At this point while writing this update (8:52pm), it was announced on the radio that August 10 (tomorrow) will be a national holiday to celebrate Kagame’s win. Another muzungu only work day tomorrow! Maybe/hopefully/definitely we’ll be going out to dinner.