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I spent a semester in college in Africa. After flying into Nairobi, Kenya and looking for common ground between myself and the rest of the unknown world, I was soon greeted by a crew of 11 other “majungos” (Swahili for “white man”) to travel into the African bush. I could not have predicted the intense and exhilarating adventures we experienced.
We were chased by a herd of elephants. This is the kind of thing you hear about in the movies. It did happen to us in the first week of bushwalking through the bamboo forest. (FYI: it’s hard to predict what’s ahead when you’re walking through the bamboo) Suddenly we heard a “Coooowee!” of an accompanying Maasai warrior, and a clearing opened as the bamboo went leaning on its side to make room for the majungs at the front of the line.
“Drop your pack and run like crazy.” I had no idea, but I felt in my heart that this was not a false alarm. So I followed an order, and wasn’t quite sure where I would end up. I was so thrilled to have the 85 pound pack off my back that I felt lighter in my toes than expected and so could really run. And we ran until we got to the clearing and could see and hear the elephants rising in the distance. Fortunately for us, they were blocked with the option of running up a hill or having to forge the bamboo, and thus frighteningly confused. Elephants are basically big babies, I learned that day. They can hear and thus follow, but they cannot really see. Imagine someone who has a gift for music, maybe they don’t care so much about being able to see the performance, but listening guides them. As with the elephant, they can hear with their large, drooping ears, but they certainly don’t care too much about where they step.
I went windsurfing off the coast of Kenya. That sounds like a luxurious experience, but for a month we lived on a “dhao”, a centuries-old sailboat carved from mangroves. We slept on the boards, fished for whatever white fish we could find, and combined that with ungawi “African cake”, which was a very basic white grain, cooked over a tickling fire, delicious with an African Tabasco sauce. Hmm yum Eating with your hands was required on the boat, as was following orders from the pirates (or Muslim sailors). That’s what it was like to take a risk and jump off the boat sometimes. We carried the windsurfing equipment in the boat, and I loved trying it out. On one particular afternoon, I was engaged in the opportunity to sail away in the African sea, and the deep red sunset drew me until I heard a scream in the distance. I looked away from the horizon and towards one of the sailors I’ll call Bob. His name was Bob, but he couldn’t speak enough English to say his own name, so he was left with one word: “Spaghetti”.
I heard Bob shouting in his own language. I fell and suddenly I found myself in the deep and dark African ocean, carried by massive waves. He was on his own surfboard, and I figured maybe he wanted me to get back to the boat. I was alone in the big sea, and all I could do to get back to the boat was to ride the waves on the surfboard. That motivated me to become proficient in windsurfing, where otherwise I was a little unbalanced and a little uncoordinated. As I rode back that evening, I felt free. I feel that I had just broken the law, and no one needed to know about it, but I knew that I was where I would never go again, and perhaps where no one near me had ever been. Returning to the boat, I discovered that I had crossed the Kenyan border and was in Ethiopia. No wonder that afternoon seemed so magical.
Ethiopian Red Lentils
2 T ghee* (or olive oil)
1/2 cup red onion, small dice
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 T fresh ginger, minced d
1 spoon. turmeric
1 cup red lentils, soaked for one hour
3 cups pumpkin, cubed
3 cups of water
Melt the ghee in a large pan.
Sauté the red onion in the ghee for about a minute, then add the garlic and ginger. Do not let them brown, but let them soften a little.
Add the turmeric and stir.
Then, add the red lentils, stir and pour the water.
When the water boils, add the pumpkin.
Leave the lentils and the pumpkin for about 30-40 minutes, and then season well with salt.
*Ghee is clarified butter common in Ethiopian (and Indian) cooking. It is sold in most supermarkets, and certainly in organic food.
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