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Between growing up in the Midwest and working for Monsanto, I know a lot about corn. However, there’s always more to learn and Peru has taught me even more.

Peruvian corn differs from the corn I’m used to. The kernels are large–some can be bigger than dimes!–and these large kernels don’t leave much room for rows. A cob may only have 8 rows of kernels with large gaps between rows. The corn is delicious: Inca corn (literally corn puffs), puffed corn (edible salted kernels), mazamorra morado (purple corn pudding), chicha morada (purple corn drink)…etc. The variety is astounding and delicious. My favorite is mazamorra morado served with cinnamon and rice pudding.

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It has been 15 years since I was last in Washington DC. Visiting DC as an eighth grader and as a grad student are very different experiences. In eighth grade I learned how to play poker; in grad school I learned about the forefront of cancer research, diagnosis, treatment, and legislation. While the Holocaust museum and pandas are what stand out most from on my first trip, the following is a list from this one:

  • no one jay walks: I understand the roads are wider and there’s tons of tourists, but how are you supposed to get anywhere efficiently?
  • the metro and bus system is not integrated: the pass only covers rail and it’s extra for the bus; or you could buy a special card at the office, but that’s not advertised and when asking for help at the office desk just get redirected back to the kiosk for the rail pass.
  • the metro runs regularly but infrequently: 15 min between cars, really?
  • the metro is carpeted: in a place with seasons and a party atmosphere, this seems like a really bad idea.
  • all the free museums: too many choices and not enough time!
  • sooo many smokers

Pike’s Market is known for its buskars, fresh flowers, Starbucks, and flying fish.  Living in a port city, I’m always excited by the variety of fresh fish I can have year round.   Walking through the market at lunchtime, I was struck by the surprisingly fishy smell.  Even though the signs say “fresh fish”, the smells say otherwise.

This is more apparent to me after visiting the fish markets in Tarifa and Tangier.  They didn’t smell.  They didn’t even have electric cooling (all the fish were on ice).  It was amazing–huge swordfish, as round and long as me, were filleted before my eyes, the heads with the swords still attached and proudly displayed as that day’s catch.  An entire room of fresh fish and it wasn’t fishy, yet Pike’s Market smells and it is also labeled “fresh”.  Something seems fishy to me…

A friend once told me I ‘ate a zoo’ after a meal of lamb, ostrich, and crocodile.  If that meal was a zoo, the dinner I had in Cape Town would be considered a game reserve.  I feasted on crocodile, ostrich, warthog, kudu, and gemsbok.

The crocodile ribs were the most disappointing of the game.  A little dry and with so many little bones and chunks of cartilage, they were the hardest to eat; otherwise it tasted like a chewy chicken.  I much prefer the crocodile sausages I’ve had.  The warthog ribs were like pork ribs, both in texture and flavoring, but the meat was a bit darker.  They were tender and tasty.  Even though ostrich is a bird, the fillets are red meat and resemble fillet mignon in taste and texture.  The gemsbok and kudu were also like little steaks and were very tender.

None of the meat tasted ‘gamy’.  I think a lot of this has to do with the preparation—all the meats were well-seasoned and were served with different sauces and gravy.  I’d like to have the meats with less seasoning and also try springbok.  Of the meats I had, the kudu was my favorite.  Anyone know where I can find this in the US?

Right is wrong.  Left is right.

Like the UK, South Africa also drives on the left side of the road.  Fortunately for right-side-of-the-road drivers like me, the gas and the break are the same (gas on the right, break on the left); however, the windshield wipers, the turn signal, and the gear shift are opposite of what I am used to (wipers on the left, turn signal on the right, gear shift on the left).  When I first started driving (and in high-stress situations were instinct/habit kicked in), I turned on the windshield wipers or cleaned the windshield whenever I wanted to turn left or right.  The good news is, that was the biggest challenge I had to driving on the ‘right’ side of the road in South Africa.

The Nile is the world’s longest river, flowing from Lake Victoria to the Mediterranean.  I’m not sure what I was expecting, but the source is not what I had envisioned.  I’ve never seen the source of the Mississippi River, but I’m told you can straddle it.  The source of the Nile is not so small—at its narrowest point there is a large hydroelectric dam.  If I couldn’t see the across the mouth of the Mississippi after 2530 miles of flowing water and you could straddle its source, I can’t imagine what the Nile looks like after 4130 miles, especially with the source already being so wide.

The source of the Nile is world renowned for its rapids.  I have never been white water rafting before, but we traveled to Jinja at the source of the Nile for class 5 rapids.  Before I knew it, we were out on the river practicing rowing and flipping the boat.  While the safety lecture about anything and everything that could possibly go wrong didn’t detour or faze me, being under the flipped raft gave me serious doubts.

The first rapid was the worst.  We waited in the shallows for what felt like forever, listening to the crashing water and watching our fellow rafters disappear over a class 5 rapid.  When it was finally our turn, the anticipation and anxiety seemed to make time stop.  Then with a paddle, paddle, down, and a big wave, it was all over and we were drifting on calm waters.  The rapids were over in a blink of an eye.  Since I wasn’t wearing glasses or contacts, I couldn’t see what was coming, and I think that added to the anticipation and anxiety I felt before each rapid.  My favorite rapid was one that we entered in the middle—I could actually see what was coming and didn’t feel as nervous.  Those rapids were also right after we flipped on a class 4 and I felt I could take on anything they threw at me.

Our banda at Lacam Logde was on the cliff face next to Sipi Falls 1, a 100 meter water fall overlooking the foothills and plains of Mt Eglon. It was the perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of Kampala—no electricity, no internet, no phone (battery died, and who would call me anyways?), beautiful scenery, gorgeous sunsets, delicious four-course dinners, and a room with a view.  The only problem was we couldn’t hang on to our soap.

Our first bar of soap disappeared from our bathroom while we were at dinner.  So we opened another bar while we got ready for bed, but that bar went missing in the middle of the night and also needed to be replaced.  The third and final bar vanished while we were at breakfast the next morning.

At first we thought that the wind caught the shower curtain and blew the soap off the stand behind the sink; but it never got that breezy, and to happen 3 times within 24 hours seems a bit unlikely.  The only other idea we could think of was a soap-loving animal; we did hear some creature on our roof at night, but this also seems improbable.  I think we’ll need some sleuths to help us figure this one out, Scooby-Doo, where are you?

Continuing with the theme of “Colonial Legacies“, tea is part of British identity even though it is an East Asian drink.  While Britain, Ireland, Morocco, Uganda, and India all love tea and drink it frequently, how they drink it varies greatly.

The British drink black tea with milk and no sugar.  It’s said to never trust an Englishman who sweetens his tea.  Drinking tea without milk is viewed as strange; at small cafes you may be asked if you want your tea “black or normal?”  From what I saw in Ireland, they drink tea like the English.  However, they often use a blend of black tea called Irish Breakfast (instead of English Breakfast).  Personally I think it tastes better too.  Morocco has amazing mint tea.  Incredibly refreshing and delicious, it is made with fresh mint leaves and sugar, and sometimes other spices as well.  Uganda serves African tea—spiced black tea with milk and sugar.  Some of the spices include ginger and lemon grass, but I haven’t identified them all yet.  Chai is popular in India.  Chai (or cha in Kolkata) literally means tea, so saying chai tea is redundant.  Chai is a spiced black tea with sweet and condensed milk and sugar.  It is much sweeter than any of the teas previously listed.  Indian chai is served in small portions, often in a shot glass.  However it is served, it’s delicious though and I just can’t seem to get enough.

I must have some sort of magnetism to Britain—I seem to have a habit of living in and traveling to Britain and former British colonies.  For one, I’m American* (1586-1783).  I’ve also lived in England and am currently living in Uganda** (1890-1962).  I’ve traveled in India** (1613-1947), Tangier (1661-1664), Ireland*** (1541-1949), and Canada (1841-1931, current member of Commonwealth), and will be traveling to South Africa (1806-1961, current member of Commonwealth) later this summer.  Through these travels, it’s interesting to see the remnants of British colonialism.

An obvious observation is that these countries still use English.  English is one of the official languages for India, Uganda.  Tangier still uses a little English, but mostly for tourism.  With the exception of the USA, these countries also use British English spelling and terminology.  For example, programme, colour, and prawns.

With the exception of the USA and Canada, another similarity between these countries is the 3-prong electrical socket with a switch to turn on power to the outlet.  Another USA/Canada exception is a love of tea and driving on the left side of the road.  India and Tangier (and sometimes Uganda) follow the British with the two-faucet system (separate faucets for hot and cold water).  India, Tangier, and Uganda also follow suit with fickle flushing toilets.  The structure and teaching style still have roots in the British educational system in India and Uganda.  From what I saw, Morocco and India also take after colonial British décor, heavily relying on Victorian furnishing. And in India and Uganda, I’ve seen lingering concerns about social class.  For India however, this could be a modern day extension of the caste system.

I think it’s really interesting how countries have diverged from colonial rule but also what they choose to hold onto.  I’m curious to see what continues to stand the test of time and what also fades into history.

*dates include English settlement before becoming a colony
**dates include occupation/rule by the British East Africa Company before becoming a protectorate or colony
***dates include period of lordship before coming under crown rule

So why did the chicken cross the road? To be with his peeps!

One of our guides has a chicken and a chick that follows him 1 km to work every day. Then every day at 1630, the chicken and the chick cross the road to go home. Of his 60 chickens, these are the only 2 that do this. I never knew chickens could be so loyal.