Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Eating and striking in rural South Africa

There is an interesting food product that is available in South Africa. It’s a soy product produced by Knorrox (the South African version of Knox??) and comes in several flavors: chilli beef, chicken, curry, savory, ox tail… I’m sure it’s not great for you and full of salt and msg, but I find myself eating a lot of it. It makes a nice gravy for my dishes of steamed vegetables and has some soy flecks in it.

Other than indulging in my soya mince products, I’m eating well. The move from the hostel (dormitory) to the portacamp (trailer) gave me the added benefit of a stove, so I have four burners and an oven. In addition to my soy products, I’m eating eggs and cornbread regularly. I will fry a mean egg on my return! Some of my favorite meals include, and are pictured:

*My smashed potato salad on a bed of lettuce greens—yum!

*Yoghurt, cashews, and sautéed apples on top of Ms. Camille’s Sour cream Cornbread

*Sautéed Swiss chard with onion and melted mozzarella served with Clementines

*Fried eggs with onion served with sautéed zucchini

*Stove popped popcorn sprinkled with chipotle chilli powder

So I'm eating well, eating well indeed!

The nation’s strike has ended and we are back to school. Many have asked if I was bored during the strike, and have wondered what I have done to pass the time.

Well, I’m easily entertained and rarely find myself bored.

Since moving to the portacamp, I’m blessed to now have a bit of ground that I can garden, and this garden space has kept me very busy the past few weeks. South Africa, or at least in the green Kalahari where I’m residing, skips spring, and moves directly into summer, so I’ve busied myself preparing a trenched bed (which requires a LOT of digging). The bed is one meter wide and three meters long (metric really IS easier) and a meter deep (hence, the lots of digging). I filled it with layers of manure and yard debris and am amazed at how much “stuff” it took to fill it and amazed to see how one bed can quickly clean up an area filled with manure and yard debris! (My college campus has plenty of both.)

I am unperturbed to pick up cow manure since I was paying almost $10 a bag for it before leaving the States.

So the trenched bed is dug and the even bigger task has been constructing a fence. In order to protect my seedlings from our free-roaming goats, (yes, free-roaming goats!!), I have also been constructing a thorn fence. Yes, you’re reading correctly, a thorn fence. So, this past week in particular, I’ve been gathering branches from thorn trees and constructing a fence from them. This task has involved a bit of bleeding and a lot of cursing, as you can imagine. The task has ruined a brand new pair of scimitars, made mince-meat of a pair of leather gardening gloves, and has shredded my gardening shirt (a icky old button down that family members will be glad to see go!).

The fun part came with planting!  I’ve planted some African spinach (amaranth), bush beans, Swiss chard, leeks, and carrots. Tonight, I will plant some beets and more beans.

This weekend I hope to put in some tomatoes, chilli peppers, and okra (yes! Okra! I love okra!) and two kinds of squash. If I have time, cucumbers and sunflowers.

I’m hoping all of this will have emerged and be somewhat established, before I have to leave it for a training coming at the end of September.  I hate to leave my seedlings when they are so vulnerable!

I have also planted some butterfly weed, zinnias, and marigolds in the college’s planter boxes. The marigolds are emerging already, which makes me squeal with delight!

I've also kept busy with project work, as I've learned that both gardening and project work go on whether the nation is striking or not!  When I can get to a computer (when the college library is open), I’ve been working on my community projects. The college is asking for help to establish a “movie club” and I’ve needed a computer to do research and grant writing.  I have some ideas for projects for my primary school and my community's garden, which also require a computer (and internet access) for working.

So, I’ve been staying busy during this national strike. The national strike is now over and I’m to return to my primary school tomorrow, hopefully. The problem is the college kids (I work in both a college and a primary school) have decided to strike and may prevent my leaving tomorrow.

Never a dull moment in South Africa!



1 comment:

  1. Is that lettuce from your garden? Sauteed swiss chard with carmelized onions is one of my faves. Looks like you also prefer simple food, enjoying the bare essentials. :-D