Masterchef Australia Here I Come

30 Day Writing Challenge

Those of you who know me outside of this labyrinth know that for a long time I steered clear of anything that seemed too domestic. Being from the third world where women have a stereotype we have to live up to, my daily routine included slapping said demands with a trout. Which meant I steered clear of the kitchen. When I was in Africa though, I had to learn to cook. If I had a choice, I’d live off cereals but I was living sometimes in the middle of a National Park, sometimes on the foothills of Kili, sometimes in little huts in the arid villages near Dodoma . It meant I had to be fit and fed. The luxury of a take away meal – non-existent!

If there’s one thing I’m known to be, it’s methodical. While the task of preparing a meal seemed daunting, I was determined to take baby steps till I made something that would make me feel like Nigella Lawson, more specifically, Nigella Lawson in this GIF.

Nigella Lawson

And would you know it, I did manage my first pinterest worthy dish. Stay with me for the big reveal at the end of this post. But for now, this is how it happened.

Step One – Empty the pantry on to the kitchen platform

Step Two – Arrange the items according to their type, size and colour. Be a complete OCD freak about it

Step Three – Stare at the utensils and then the vegetables and then the utensils and then the vegetables and then the utensils and then the vegetables. They are bound to become what they needed to be. If there’s anything Disney movies has taught me, it is to believe

Step Four – Start to panic. It’s close to midnight and you haven’t got anything done yet. Resort to munching on raw veggies and wondering why the god damn food won’t cook itself like mum promised they would.

Step Five – Lose your shit

Never say no to Panda

Step Six – Go through the five stages of grief.

Step Seven – A light bulb goes off in your head. Last minute panic is the best source of inspiration. I promise.

Step Seven Point Five –  Find bread. But it in the toaster and stare at it without break so that you don’t burn the toast. When it’s a nice golden brown, take it out, slather it with a generous knob of butter. 

Step Seven Point Six – Time to unleash the top secret ingredient – it’s what takes a normal dish extraordinary.

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I swear this is how my face looked that evening

Step Eight – Devour said masterpiece! NOM NOM NOM!

I couldn’t believe my luck. I think staring at the ingredients I had helped my creative mind put together some of the most simple ingredients to make one of the best dishes I have ever tasted. Of course, I could be biased but all it takes is 3 ingredients and you can purr with satisfaction once you’re done savouring it.

TADAAA!
TADAAA! Disaster cook to Masterchef in less than 3 minutes! You can thank me later!

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And here is the Buzzfeed link for the article!

Who you gonna call? GHOST BUSTERS!

We decided to camp out because as warm nights usually go, this one was beautiful. The stars stretched infinitely above us like we were actually just in a planetarium – yes, I’m trying to compare the Tanzanian night sky to HD quality video. Sad, I know but you’d have to see it to believe it.

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Source

We had a bonfire going where we were roasting strips of meat as was customary and while enjoying our bottles of Serengeti, the topic of local legends came up. And then stories of fairy-tales and magic turn to horror stories.

MK – This isn’t anything like your Mohini/Noorie story from the other week. Our ghost is not a ghost. It’s more like an evil spirit-creature called Popo Bawa that goes around sexually assaulting its victims

Me – Of course, nothing says horror like “Bat Wing“. You sure you aren’t basing your hero on the DC Comic?

MK – Shush, stop interrupting. Legend has it an angry sheikh once summoned a djinni to take vengeance on one of his neighbors. And as you know, djinns are not to be messed with cause they are so clever. This one, like all others, obviously learnt how to dupe his master and escaped.

popobawa-illustration
Me – Obviously. And then it proceeded to make home in a lamp?

MK – Ha. Ha. It wouldn’t be as funny when it comes looking for you.

Me – Not really a problem. All I have to do is keep a look out for bats. Right?

MK – Hilarious, because the Popo Bawa is a very proficient shapeshifter that attacks at night. It enters a house, sodomizes all the family members and then threatens the family that if they don’t tell everyone about it, it would come back whenever the fancy struck it.

nightmare_item_popobawa
Me – Yikes, how do you keep it away?

MK – Apparently, a fresh trail would smell like sulphur. When that happens, the entire family huddles outside by the fire and stays awake all night. Some have said that reading a few lines of the Koran will banquish it the same way holy water does.

Me – You’re then going to tell me about staying inside salt circles and using silver bullets aren’t you?

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MK – Popo Bawa has been sighted only near the coast – don’t think salt will have any effect. It’s curious though because the creature only seems to strike during great political unrest. There were reports of it during all the major elections that threatned to get ugly. There are even doctors that are willing to testify that they have treated numerous alleged Popo Bawa victims. They all say they haven’t seen the creature but have seen giant bat wing type shadows fall on them before the attack.

Me – No one’s tried exorcisms? I’ve been threatned a number of times with it cause I’m so “weird”

MK – There are some tribes that place charms at the base of fig trees or sacrifice goats and use its blood to guard their doors. In one village, apparently it possessed a young girl called Fatuma and had a deep man’s voice as it spoke through her and they heard the sound of a car revving on a nearby roof.

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Batman, is that you?

Me – WHAT? This is obviously a very new legend. You sure you didn’t just make it up after watching The Dark Knight?

MK – Hmmm, I might have to take you to the mganga (socerer). Evil spawn of the Popo Bawa.

Me – (looking terrified) What was that?

MK – (Anxiety Attack) What, what, what?

Me – FOOL! 😀

Kilombero

Udzungwa

Exploring the Udzungwa Mountains at Kilombero after helping teach English to children of the workers of the sugar factory.

The Snorkelling Adventure

I mean, snorkeling is a pretty straight forward thing to do. You wear your gear, you jump in, look around and come back. But this, this was a real adventure that I’m surprised I survived.

First, they put us on a boat which is not really a boat. It’s pieces of wood put together in a ‘cast away’ fashion with a plastic rain cover, huge bold white letters claiming it was the Gladiator. Half an hour on rough seas, one guy scooping the water out and one guy running the engine. Trust my luck to be here on the worst possible season to take off to Prison Island.

We reached paradise – white sandy beaches, turquoise blue/green water, and GIANT TORTOISES. When they said giant, I did not expect them to be that huge. I looked tiny in front of them. The oldest was 129 years old and since we were that early (couldn’t contain my excitement so we left very early in the morning) we got to feed them and watch a 100 year old monster tortoise hump the crap out of a 30 year old. By the hump, I mean almost squash to death. (Yes, I did get pictures. Perverts!)

And then they took the boat a bit offshore and made us jump of the plank, true pirate style and once we were in, they said don’t go here or there or there (pointing rapidly) cause there might be sharks.

Great! Sharks!

Then I find out my snorkel isn’t working – there a giant hole that’s been sucking in sea water and my flippers are almost falling off. Then the sealice had their way with me and the wind is so strong, it’s pushing me straight towards those darned sharks. But, the view was fantastic – we saw beautiful corals, zebra fish, electric blue fish and those puffer fish and so many more I lost track of. It was breathtaking – literally.

I came back up for air, back on the gladiator and the sea had gotten rougher, if that was even possible. And on the way back to the mainland, I got drenched more than I was when I was reaching for the coral in sea. We almost tipped over a couple of times and then joined in to help the boat guy scoop water out.

We came back exhausted and sat by the beach with a nice Mojito, trying to wrap our heads around the whole day when this single dolphin jumps out as high as he can and then again and then a back flip. I couldn’t help but grin and think …

WHAT.AN.ADVENTURE!

I can’t wait to do this again.

Not yet!

That I have only a few weeks left here have forced me to reflect on look back at what I’ve been through and how I’ve changed. Being an Indian, I have all this ‘culture’ flowing in my blood but I’ve found that no matter where I go, my blood adjusts itself to let new learnings in. With new blood comes new rituals. It’s no wonder people love to have me around. I’m such a strange mix, you’d never be bored.

Right now, I have Swahili in my blood. There’s present tense and past tense and future tense and then there’s the ‘not yet’ tense. The word ‘never’ does not exist in the culture and the language.

So if someone asks them if they’re married, there’s a word – sijaolewa which means i’m not yet married but it could happen at anytime. This person, by the way, could be 86. It comes from exploring and living life and not going through life as a series of tasks, of being on close enough terms with life to know that anything can happen.

Slowly I find that my strong and loud ‘NEVER’s (which ex- boyfriends have complained about) have changed to ‘not yet’ and I find they have seeped into my attitude.

So now when people ask me ‘What now? What next?’ I don’t break into a sweat. I crack a toothy smile and say Sijajua – I don’t yet know.