April 1, 2002
I am sending this email in five parts. It took about thirty minutes to
send that first email. So, over the next few days I will send the rest
I am sorry that we cannot be in touch better. Please, please don't
worry everything here is great. I love you all very much and wish I
could email you everyday these kind of lengthy messages, and I would sit
out the wait, but it also takes a load of fuel for the generator. But, I have quite a bit
more lined up for you to hear about. Expect an email like this every
other day until I send these all out. Now, on with the novel:
Food: The staff eats at home in nearby villages or in the staff kitchen
where they always eat the same thing nsima (crushed cassava) and dry
fish from the lake. The fish are very small and bony. Nsima
is made from cassava flour. They cook it into a bit
of boiling water until it becomes a playdough-like tasteless blob. They eat it
with their fingers while munching on fish bones... Yumm, just like Mrs.
Fields...? This is their staple diet. They know nothing else really.
Everyday I eat in the dinning room, a thatched shelter with a massive
wooden table, thicker than the Bible and heavier than an elephant. It
is the largest table I have ever seen, however, it only seats 10,
because the chairs are so big. It is a little funny actually, eating
at this oversized table with my feet dangling below. Next trip to
Nkhata Bay I will send you the brochure for this place and
you can scan it and send it out. There are pictures of the kitchen,
and the lake, and the chalets... Anyway, we have breakfast at 7 am, lunch
at 12, and dinner at 7. We muzungus eat together. I am unsure of how
to spell that word, muzungoo ,mazungu? It means white people in the
local language. There is apparently no bad connotation in the meaning,
however, being called a “pig” is the equivalent of being called a “nigger.”
The Big Man here is Patrick, who is the project manager and my boss. He is
kind, funny, and very ambitious about his project. Nadia, is trying
to teach the local villages about agriculture in hopes of starting local
trade with the lodge. Stuart does the marketing, which can be
very difficult out here in the bush, where contact with the rest of the world
is very challenging. Sometimes we have guests, but not paying guests. The
real guests don't come until June, when the lodge officially opens. I
eat with some of the guests, depending how sociable they seem.
Rabecca is our cook. We bring most of the food over from Malawi, every
fortnight. The fresh food always goes quickly. We generally eat pasta
or rice or potatoes with some sauce. Rabecca does very well with the
limited facilities and our complex Western cooking traditions. We only have an
open fire stove and an oven. She manages to make bread in a pot, which I
find amazing. The flames below heat the bottom and coals on the lid
heat it from above, but as you can imagine temperature control is a real
I teach Rabecca every Tuesday and Thursday to cook new Western
dishes, but after our first lesson yesterday I think she will have a lot
to teach me as well. I really enjoy our time in the kitchen. She is
helping me learn Chinyanja, the local language. We made Dad's famous
fajitas on Tuesday. Rabecca and I spent ages in the kitchen. We
cooked away while one staff member played my guitar and another sang.
Patrick, Rabecca's little boy, danced about our feet dangerously in the
dark. We couldn't even see him below our waists. We toiled over the
tortillas, watching with lanterns raised and they bubbled and turned
brown. It was a very memorable experience.
I told her about my family's food traditions, which intrigued her greatly.
She already wants to meet my father, the great chef she has heard so much about.
I wonder what kind of image she has of my family? When she saw a picture
of my family she laughed and said loudly 'Wow! What a BIG family you
have!' Of course, she did not mean we were large in numbers, after
all she has seven children and eight brothers and sisters. She meant we
were all fat The whole lot of us seemed like an overly obese family. People here
are short, fit and lean. I haven't seen an inch of fat yet. I bet I am the fattest one on
this side if the lake.
So, yes Baba, I do help prepare food sometimes, but I rarely clean up. I
felt guilty at first having people clean up after me, but there are so
many free hands here. A lot of the staff is employed out of
charity and they have little to do. Without these jobs it is
questionable if they and their large families could survive. So, I let
them clean up after me. They are more than happy to do it. So, yes,
I've become a bit of a princess out here, having my bed made everyday,
leaving all the dishes on the table, and best of all, having my clothes
cleaned for me!