Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Hair Update #5

I know, I know. I am a bit obsessed with my hair. You would be too if you were always one 90% humidity day way from a full blown afro.

Anyway...if you had not already guessed it by now, Az does not have a whole lot of Black people running around. Thus, my hair is a bit of an...attention getter. Even more so now that summer is here and I am changing up my hair style as the days get hotter and my hair gets longer.

My new style of two-strand twists get regular comments and often an errant hand or two (Az culture does not have the, "thou shalt not touch a Black woman's hair" creed). Even with all the cultural faux pas and humorous hand slapping, I think I am looking pretty good, but hey, you be the judge.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Civic Engagement

My new favorite term: civic engagement.

This has been a favorite term of mine for awhile. According to Wikipedia, civic engagement is defined as individual or collective actions designed to identify and address issues of public concern.

And there is no better group than Rotary International that embodies that definition.

I am extremely lucky as the Nome Rotary Club is extremely active. Throughout my childhood, I can't remember attending a meeting where the Club did not have a an active community project on the table. Although, I did attend most meetings for the hamburger and fries my dad was sure to buy me, I learned valuable lessons while munching away. The most important: being an active and responsible member of your community.

At any rate, I recently attended a meeting of a local Rotary club here in Azerbaijan. During my five minute intro speech and flag presenting, I told them this: I am truly blessed to have such a great role model of civic engagement as Rotary in my life.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Clap On

Prior to moving to Az, my experience with thunderstorms could be summarized into one tidy statement:
Hey, I think saw one of these puppies in a movie, once.
Nome gets some pretty big storms, but thunder and lightening ain't included, which is why I would consider myself thunderstorm-illiterate. This; however, is starting to change.

Evening thunderstorms seem to be the thing here in Zaq and lucky me, my bay of kitchen windows has the sweetest thunder view. My newest evening activity is to make myself a cup of tea (with a bit of apple cider vinegar and agave syrup to ward off night time creepy crawlies) and watch the event.

Not a bad way to wind down a day.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Thailand or Bust!

Team AK is headed to Thailand for Christmas! Wicked Sweet!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Coffee, Kahlúa and Cherry Muffins

There are many things I love, but coffee, Kahlúa and cherry muffins are quickly becoming my top three favs of all time.

Coffee from America (well, really shade grown organic coffee from Costa Rica that has been roasted in New Jersey by a small, independent coffee shop) is a super treat for me. Homemade Kahlúa brings a certain decadence to a Sunday morning and cherry muffins stocked full of cherries I picked myself and baked in my brand new oven, puts a huge smile on my face.

Even better, sharing all that with a couple of friends (one who happens to be an amateur photographer - check out her awesome photo of my muffins) while enjoying my apartment's fantastic view.

The only downside: 9 a.m. and it's already 85 degrees.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Sangria Sundays

I’ve said it once and I will say it a thousand times, I am a PCV 24/7. Although, I love my job, it is extremely important to find some me time during the week.

Luckily, my sitemates and I stumbled upon a delicious new habit which I hope to enjoy all summer long - sangrias on Sundays. It does wonders for my disposition and provides ample opportunity for me to check in with my fellow PCVs.

If you are so inclined, enjoy a Sunday with me. I will be thinking good thoughts about you while sipping away (Note: These ingredients are easily found in Az. In the US, add a 1/2 cup brandy instead of a second bottle of wine)!
1 bottle red wine
1 bottle white wine
1 liter Lemon Aquafina (lemon flavored seltzer water)
1 orange
1/2 lemon
1/2 kilo strawberries
1-2 cups sugar
In a small pot, combine 1 cup wine, 1 to 2 cups (your preference) sugar, a couple dashes cinnamon, some cloves, and a dash of ginger (I also add cardamon). Reduce to half.

While wine reduction is cooling, clean strawberries and slice citrus fruits. Add to reduction. Mix in remaining wine and Aquafina. Serve chilled.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Holistic Remedies

I have to admit, I am a bit anal retentive. I like the spick and span, the well-ordered, the methodical.

I also know when enough is enough. I understand that a certain level of germ is acceptable, even wanted. I am a big probiotic fan and support natural remedies well above any chemically enhanced pill.

I am also a Googler. Which, combined with my love of clean and my passion for herbal cures, gets me into a search engine frenzy when I come across a problem.

My newest issue: fleas. My house has got a couple and barring chemical bombing my apartment, what can I do? Well, I can:
  1. Vacuum a lot (great, I got no vacuum)
  2. Dehumidify (great, no dehumidifier and it is hot and steamy in Zaq); or
  3. Use salt, boric acid and consume a table spoon of apple cider vinegar everyday (this, I can do!)
So, with that in mind, my house gets a regular sprinkling of salt (which I sweep up a few hours later), I am searching for boric acid and I drink a cup of tea with a little ACV in it every night (this stuff is great for a variety of reasons).

2nd world countries are interesting places.

(Update: Newest problem: cockroaches)

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Getting into the Groove

I love kitchen experimentation. Anything I can do while wearing my bright orange apron is A.O.K in my book! Just the idea of trying out some fun recipe I found on the internet and seeing if I can actually make it work gets me going for at least a week.

And what makes kitchen experimentation great is living in a country where everyone does it! That's right, Az is the land of fermenting, canning, and substitutions! Although, I loved living with my host family as I got a personal view of great kitchen creations, I am ecstatic to now live alone and be trying things out on my own!

So, what did I make this week? Sauerkraut! That's right. I pulverized some cabbage and it is now sitting under my stove (fermenting and not rotting I hope).

If you get an opportunity, try making a batch yourself. There is nothing like wacking* the heck out of some cabbage to take the edge off a bad day (or make a spectacular end to a great day).

1 medium head of cabbage
1 medium glass jar

Thoroughly clean glass jar (used boiling water). Chop cabbage as you would for coleslaw. Place a layer of cabbage into the jar. With the bottom of a spoon, pulverize cabbage. Sprinkle on salt. Continue adding cabbage and pulverizing (with a sprinkle of salt between each “layer”) until jar is full. Liquid should coverage cabbage; however, it is okay to add a little water.
*You can use a food processor.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

I am melting.

I wish this was just a joke, but as temperatures hit the mid-80s (20s for us Celsius folks), I am reminded as to why I live (and love) Alaska. Who in their right mind would live in a place where eggs pop out of the chicken already hard boiled?!

The even crazier part of this? Zaqatala is considered the “colder” part of the country. Places like Ujar and Kurdimer hit temperatures of upper 120s. I have no idea how the PCVs in those rayons live.

At any rate, my plan is to get a spritz bottle, hole up in my house with jugs of filter, chilled water, and sit in my underwear with a large standing fan pointed at my face. Of all the plans I have ever created, this one tops them all.