Gardening and Cooking

The language learning is once again stalled. All week we worked on technical training, and our language lesson we were supposed to have got cut from 2 hours to 20 mins because my teacher had to run and fix his debit card. My family is trying to speak more SiSwati to me because I’m way behind the people whose host families only speak SiSwati…WAY behind.

This was my favorite week of training so far, mostly because we got to be outside for a portion of it (I’m paler in Africa than I was in Wisconsin). We finished our garden which was crazy. The soil was basically cement so as we were digging instead of each strike with the hoe breaking up a clod of dirt, you could see exactly where it hit ad chipped away just a wee bit. It was tough work for sure. We spent half a day double digging our 2x1m garden. The coolest thing though was before we started digging we took a stick and pushed it as far as we could go into the ground to simulate the ease roots can grow down. (If they can grow down they don’t grow as horizontally and you can plant crops closer together because they don’t share as much nutrients, which is easier to weed and water, uses the land more intensively, and creates a healthier garden) Our “roots” could only go in about an inch and a half easily which means anything planted there would grow roots very wide and shallow. After double digging we tested our rots again and it could easily go almost two feet! I was a little skeptical of the process, but seeing that comparison really made it click. We planted a papaya tree, peppers, chillies, onions and beets for the kagogo center to use when they feed kids lunch. Hopefully, if people see how much you can grow on that little plot instead of the giant, weedy, untended fields they use as gardens some people in the community will want to learn how to do permagardening themselves.

The other part of this week’s focus is cooking healthy by encouraging small steps to change the swazi diet which consist usually of a giant helping of starch (rice or maize meal), maybe some meat that’s been heavily salted, and MAYBE if you’re really fancy a teeny tiny side of oily salty spinach. So Thursday we were tasked with locally sourcing a traditional Swazi meal and making it healthier. If you were to make a salad for you family they wouldn’t eat it (my family thinks I’m crazy for buying vegetables more than starch). So in my group we decided to make chicken without all the oil and aromat (lovely salt and MSG flavoring they put on everything), spinach, onions, mushrooms, and a small side of mashed potatoes instead of 80% of the plate being starch. Not super healthy, but the point is to make something close enough to their food they’d want to make it themselves. It was not a good experience.

The day before cooking we walked around our village and the next one over randomly bothering people to buy their vegetables (none of which are in season) because we obviously don’t have a garden. Our teacher said he’d buy a chicken f rom his host family and we would meet up the next day to cook. We met at 9am to make lunch ready by 1pm. I was all excited to cook, but then my teacher showed up with a chicken in a grocery bag. Not chicken pieces….a live chicken in a bag…because that’s normal. I was under the impression he was killing it the night before, but he wanted us to kill it our selves. I’m not a vegetarian, I know my meat was once an adorable happy animal, but that doesn’t mean I want to look it in the eye before eating it.

We took the chicken, a knife and a bowl into the yard, and so began the most traumatizing 5 minutes of my life. My teacher took the chicken out of the bag and although its feet were tied it could still flap its wing, squawk and otherwise make its displeasure known. My teacher tried to get me to hold it while he slit the throat but I couldn’t. I felt so bad, that chicken knew what was up and it was fighting for its life. Thankfully Matt held the chicken while our teacher held the knife. He had to hold the wings down, the legs up, and tilt it so the blood would drain instead of getting into the meat. At this point I was feeling pretty silly for not just holding it, it didn’t look that bad. Then he slit the throat, and I became a vegetarian. Blood spilt out of the neck, but not as much as I would have expected. That was not fun, but not so bad. Then, the bird DID NOT DIE. It kept right on kicking, flapping, and visibly breathing for at least 4 mins as the blood switched from a stream to a geyser. The blood started spurting out spraying Matt’s pants and staining them, but he couldn’t let go because it would run away headless. He had to stand there as the bird kept twitching and heaving until the life ran out of it. Poor guy was visibly upset and tearing up, I started gagging, and my teacher thought it was hilarious. What a great way to start the morning. Plucking the chicken was equally disgusting. Really the whole process was a lesson in why I value modern grocery stores that do all the dirty stuff for me.

After being thoroughly traumatized we spent the next couple hours cooking everything, trying to flavor it without salt and make it taste good. We finally finished 3 plus ours later and served it to the family and us. I thought it was delicious, we boiled the chicken with lemon and chive and onions instead of just adding salt and oil, and I really thought they would like it. Well ‘ll never know and neither will the family because before they even tried it, while I wasn’t looking, they poured aromat on everything! After all that work they didn’t even end up trying our healthier food. It was a huge let down.

The other days we’ve had more training and more of the same. Today we all had a cooking competition in our groups because starting this week our families are not feeding us anymore, and a lot of people don’t know how to cook I guess. It was one of the better days we’ve had so far, although the morning was tense because a bunch of people missed the bus home yesterday and were none to happy.

Today after dinner my family and I were sitting around and they asked me in Nicki Minaj’s body is real….I’m not an expert, but okay I’m American I’ll field this one. She says it’s real, some people think she had butt implants…moving on right? NOPE! Apparently my brother is convinced that Nicki MInaj is fake and has no ear which is why she wears wigs, the real Beyonce died in a car crash long ago and the one we see is actually the devil, Rihanna, JayZ and Kanye West are all devil worshippers (as proven by the run this town video because they wore bandannas), the list goes on. I was shocked. My family is super cool and modern compared to most of the other families, so I was not expecting that AT ALL. I knew my brother is pretty religious, but didn’t know he doesn’t  listen to rap music because they’re all Satanists. All my sisis at least don’t believe it, but there’s apparently a two part documentary on all the “facts” (coincidences) that prove this. So next week on my one day off this month I will be watching a documentary on all the sneaky ways American hip hop artists encourage Satanism. Oh, and going to church with the family first, of course. I’m still shocked by our conversation. No matter what I said, or tried to explain my brother was convinced he’s right. I asked how a fake Beyonce could have a kid, but apparently there’s no pregnancy photo so it doesn’t prove anything. YIKES. If anyone has suggestions on how to explain this all let me know. I told him a lot of those people are actually Christian and spiritual, but he was having none of it. So yeah, I learn things about America here I would never have known otherwise.

*disclaimer I did eat the chicken because I didn’t want to waste it
to rap music because they’re all Satanists. All my sisis at least don’t believe it, but there’s apparently a two part documentary on all the “facts” (coincidences) that prove this. So next week on my one day off this month I will be watching a documentary on all the sneaky ways American hip hop artists encourage Satanism. Oh, and going to church with the family first, of course. I’m still shocked by our conversation. No matter what I said, or tried to explain my brother was convinced he’s right. I asked how a fake Beyonce could have a kid, but apparently there’s no pregnancy photo so it doesn’t prove anything. YIKES. If anyone has suggestions on how to explain this all let me know. I told him a lot of those people are actually Christian and spiritual, but he was having none of it. So yeah, I learn things about America here I would never have known otherwise.

This cutie's name is really Beyonce.  Some people in Africa do like the Pop Queen after all.

This cutie’s name is really Beyonce. Some people in Africa do like the Pop Queen after all.

Beyonce with one of our Volunteers

Beyonce with one of our Volunteers

*disclaimer I did eat the chicken because I didn’t want to waste it

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