Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Eternal Question(s)...

*So, what do you miss most/notice most about America?

I miss my friends and family. I miss efficiency and speed. I miss stores that are open 24 hours, stores that stock things you need all the time, businesses that can make change. I miss the comfort of knowing exactly what to expect and the predicability of knowing what is going to happen in a situation. I miss Diet Coke. I miss some of the opportunities (theater, museums, etc.) that we had and now don't. I miss my church with its great music and great people.

People and things move so fast! Everything--stores, ads, products--are designed to get something done quicker so you can get on to the next thing, whatever that may be. I barely had time to get my coat off before I had to order a meal and barely finished before the check came. Everyone talks fast, moves fast, drives fast.

*What do you like about Tanzania?

I like the rural small-town feel. I like not having to hover over my kids and feel like I have to protect them every second from some kind of horror on the playground or at the park. I like not feeling like I'm competing in life with other people. I like that faith is a much more integrated aspect of life here. I like the slow pace of looooong lunches and socializing. I like not having every minute sucked up with planned activities. I like not being bombarded with ads that say I don't have enough, I'm not thin enough, or I'm somehow missing out on something. I like not having dramatic seasons and mostly warm days every day. I like the ability to look at myself, my family, my faith, and my country from different perspectives. I like the school our kids attend, where they can learn by doing and exploring and actively participating in their learning.

Funny. If you look at what I miss and what I like, they are often two sides of the same issue. Yes, I miss efficiency and speed, but the lack of efficiency here means I have the time to live life a little slower and enjoy other things more. I miss organized activities, but not the feeling of competition. Spending a week in Bloomington was a great appreciation of what a great life we had when we lived there, but it was also a reminder that it wasn't perfect and I can't idealize it the way I want to do when things are rough here. At the same time, I realized what I will really miss about Arusha when it comes time to leave. Life is what you make of it wherever you're at, isn't it?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Great Minnesota Food Tour.

No, there's nothing specifically Minnesotan about the list, other than I ate it all while I was in Minnesota. No walleye, or lefse, or anything on a stick. No wait, I ate chicken satays at Big Bowl. But that's Asian-esque. And I ate it sitting down, not wandering through the Miracle of Life barn at the State Fair. But it was in Minnesota.

Anyway, we don't spend a lot of time dwelling on food we used to eat when we lived here. We always ask for some things we can't get and enjoy them when visitors come, but I think we've adjusted quite well, gastronomically speaking. But since I've spent the week meeting friends for lunch and visiting some old favorites, and everyone always asks what I've missed most or how I like the food here, I'll review a few favorites.

*Diet Coke. Absolutely wonderful. Exactly as I remembered. I'm drinking it by the gallon. Seriously.

*McDonald's fries. See previous post. I am not going to apologize for how much I love these things. And they were good every time I ate them.
*Anything else by McDonald's. I don't know that I liked it so much as it was always there when I was driving somewhere. I had a stomachche for an hour after a cheeseburger. One's plenty.

*Chipotle. Specifically, chicken soft tacos. It's not really Mexican food, but if you like cilantro (and apparently there are some misguided people out there who don't and therefore don't know what they're missing) it's wonderful. I made Mark take me there for our anniversary once because the kids hate it so I never get to go.
*Bruegger's Bagels with honey walnut cream cheese. Heavenly. I can get a bagel in TZ, I can get cream cheese in TZ, but these guys know their bagels.

*Einstein's lox and bagels. See above. No disapointment here.

*Chicken soup (canned but dressed up with extra veggies) and biscuits (refrigerator). OK, I can make (and have made myself) homemade chicken soup with all natural ingredients and I can make (meaning I can tell the housekeeper to make) biscuits from scratch and probably 90% of the people reading this would rather do the scratch thing, but it was really good eating biscuits from a tube. Sorry, but sometimes the processed thing works better for me.
*Fondue. Yeah, I know I could make this back in TZ, but actually Lisa made this and having someone else make food for you is always cool, not to mention she completely rocks at hosting anything and whenever you go to her house you always feel so relaxed and comfortable AND she has an amazing new kitchen, AND we were a little on the obsessed side with fondue in our past so all of that made it really great.

*Hot Tamales. Dang, these things are good! They were always a favorite, even when I was a kid.

*White Cheddar Rice Cakes. Go figure. I was in Lund's, there they were.

*Movie popcorn. "Bee Movie" is not all that reviews are making it out to be. Seinfeld humor but not all that interesting, I thought. And I've learned that the Arusha Cinema's popcorn is pretty darn good because my movie popcorn at MOA was not a big thrill. Plus the Arusha Cinema has caramel popcorn. Bring your own extra bag and mix the two together for a great sweet/salty taste.

*Big Bowl, Shrimp Pad Thai. One of the bigger disappointments. I LOVED this once upon a time. Now, "eh." And their DC was on the flat side. Very ho-hum, surprisingly.

*Woody's. My big ol' salad that I've been craving forever, I thought. It was good, but HUGE. Turns out the Greek salad at Stiggbuck's in town is perfectly great.
*Yum. At the former the Lincoln Del spot on Excelsior and Minnetonka Blvd. Think D'Amico atmosphere but with American food. And being someone who loves dips, what's not to love about fries that automatically come with 3 dips?! And they have excellent soups, toasted cheese, and desserts!
*Edina Grill. My first time but fish and chips with malt vinegar and tartar sauce is one of my absolute favorites. I'm not sure I needed an entire sturgeon on my plate though! And for that matter, portions are just waaaaay too big. There was nothing that I could completely finish. Including salads. They also have tempura battered green beans with plum sauce. Definitely delicious.
*Biaggi's. I'm the kind of person that always orders the same thing at restaurants. So when I'm in the mood for linguine and clams, I'm off to Biaggi's. Sadly, they don't have 1/2 portions so I couldn't do that and appetizers. The best part of the meal were the friends, though!

The only thing really missing from the list is pizza. We eat pretty decent pizza here--it's good but it's not the same. Sigh.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Some Observations

Through a series of unfortunate events, I'm writing from good ol' Bloomington, MN where I'll be for a week. I'm starting to wake up from the long trip and am having a great time seeing what has changed and what hasn't.

*Anyone who said that McDonald's fries wouldn't be tasting as good as I remembered them were dead wrong. They are terrific! I suspect the people who said this are related to the people who said I wouldn't still be reading People magazine online after almost 2 years.

*Americans are not the wealthiest people in the world. The Dutch are. Otherwise, how to explain a $10 "value" meal at McDonald's? (to their credit, they don't call them value meals--they're "McMenu options")

*Americans may be among the most generous people in the world, but the fact that an airport trolley costs $3 is a joke, because it forces me to stagger down the halls dangerously listing to the left as I lug my huge duffel bag to the car (well, that and my stinginess over paying for said trolley). Even in TZ, where everything goes missing the second you turn your back on it, you can get a trolley for free.

*Apparently leggings are back in style. DON'T BE FOOLED. They won't look good on you. I know you think they will and the siren song of comfort and non-binding waist bands, particularly as the holiday season approaches, is seductive. But you'll be wrong. And then you might think that you'll be OK if you wear them under a dress or tunic-y kind of thing. Wrong again. We were all wrong the last time they were in style and if we check our photo albums, we'll have the pictures to prove it. It's time we learned from the past.

*We move at the speed of light here. I am flabbergasted at how fast the waiter can take my order and deliver my food! I can eat a whole meal in like 25 minutes. In Tanzania, I can get a waiter's attention and a drink in 25 minutes.

*Stop thinking we aren't polite here or that manners are disappearing. Please. I've stood in orderly lines, had a door held for me, been told "excuse me" when someone's in the way, been allowed to have the right of way when driving, and generally have good smiley feelings about all of this. There are a LOT of great polite things that happen in Tanzania, too, don't get me wrong, but I LOVE the things that run so smoothly here!

*Hey, I pay almost $5 per gallon for gas. When I go to a grocery store, there's no guarantee they'll actually have the foods I'm looking for that day. Or that it's not a bit stale (or sometimes a lot stale). Or that they'll actually have change for me when I've paid for my things. Just keep that in mind the next time you wander through Cub or Rainbow or Lunds. ONE STOP SHOPPING. I rest my case.

*Peace Lutheran Church is the best church in the world. I love you guys! It's one thing to get emails from people, but so much better to be able to tell people in person how much we appreciate the prayers and support that are sent our way.

On the whole, I'm having a great time. I miss my family, but I'm enjoying the efficiency and orderliness of life this week and seeing friends. I'm appreciating the best of both worlds!