Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Do you eat food?

I have recently just finished reading "In Defense of Food" by Michael Pollan.

The book is much longer than it should be, but worth it none the less. Pollan feels the need to defend food not because food is under attack or people aren't eating enough, but because what we are gorging ourselves with in the West (he contends) is not really food (agreed). We instead consume "food-like" products that are made or enhanced by nutrients that we think food should contain and our bodies need. 

These "nutrients" are what we have come to replaced food with. So instead of eating a peach, you just actually want 100% of you daily value of vitamin C, and since peaches aren't always in season and not found in the vending machine, why not then drink a soda that has been enhanced with vitamin C! All the other not-so-highly advertised or yet to be discovered benefits of a nice juicy peach are sadly forgone, and instead a mind-numbing flood of sugars are rushed to the brain. 

The basic motto of the book is "Eat Food. Not Much. Mostly Plants." This eating motto has for the most part reflected my time here in Burundi. Meat is expensive, and there are many fruits and vegetables in the market to enjoy (not exactly the equivalent of a farmers market ). That being said there is one product in Burundi that I consume on a daily basis that is, well, processed.
Nido Full Cream Powdered Milk.

This food invention has been with me since my childhood. It holds great nostalgic appeal to me as I can remember it as one of my first African memories. I use to take Milo Chocolate powder, mix it with Nido, and then add only enough water to turn it into this creamy chocolate paste. Revolting to me now, but oh so delicious when I was 4 years old.

With this milk product, populations around the world that have no access to refrigeration have been able to store at least in some form, milk. Here in Burundi I take a full scoop of this powdery wonder in my tea every morning. I normally wouldn't think twice about it, but the Chinese milk scandal now has me sipping my tea with some hesitation!

My mother was always so happy that when in the United States on furlough her children could have REAL milk to drink.  I remember absolutely hating this new "real" milk
and couldn't wait to have Nido again!  It's what you're use to, I guess.

On a similar note, tomorrow kicks off the beginning of America's annual month of binge eating (Thanksgiving through Christmas).  I know you can't mail your leftover turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans, stuffing, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, rolls, and whatever else you don't eat to "starving kids in Africa", but maybe you could take it to your local homeless shelter this year? OR, if you by some chance really do care about the starving kids in Africa you could maybe make a simple Thanksgiving meal, and donate the money saved to Food for the Hungry!  I'm sure you can still be thankful for God's blessings without a food coma. 

*Please note that when I use the word "you" I am not picking out any one person that I wish to harp on (except maybe the general American consumer)* 

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

the view from Mt. Songa

In Burundi any time you leave the capital city Bujumbura we say that you are “going up country”.  Bujumbura lies in the Great Rift Valley on the edge of Lake Tanganyika.  It faces the Congo Mountains across the lake to the west, and is enclosed from behind by the Burundian hill country that fans out to the east. So if you are leaving Bujumbura, you are more than likely headed up into the hills, but even if you are going to follow the lakeshore south to Nyanza Lac and aren’t actually going to gain any elevation or head into the hills, we in Bujumbura still call this “going up country”.  This past weekend I took my third trip “up country” to the central-most province and second largest town in Burundi, Gitega.  There is much to be said about this area of Burundi, but a history lesson is boring so instead I will simply tell you what I saw from the top of Mt. Songa which is the highest point in Gitega province and about 5 km’s from town.

 At the top of Mt. Songa I have a 360 view of the green and seemingly lush countryside.  Banana Trees carpet the warmer more fertile valleys flanked by cultivated fields of maize and vegetables.  Almost all the land is cultivated.  There are no trees except for a few patches of Eucalyptus that have been planted for their ability to be harvested in a few years.  The cultivated land creeps up the hills and halts only when the land is too rocky to support plant life.  The crops planted on these slopes cling precariously to the thin topsoil, waiting for a rain that will either bring them life or wash them away into the valley.

I want to see beauty here, and in many ways I do.  But I also see a land that is being stretched beyond its capacity.  There is too little land for too many people.  Erosion is eating away at the once rich soil, leaving behind only rocks and barren earth.  I pray for hope to be restored in the lives of these people who toil the earth; I pray for the work of their hands.  For as Christ transforms and restores their lives may they be reminded of their duty as stewards on this earth and engage it in a different light.      

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Family First...

I thought I would start off this new era of political comedy with an email that one of my Burundian colleagues emailed me...

"After hearing that he was leading in the Presidential race, Obama's extended family in Kenya decides to move to the USA to live with him in the White House!"

Hey, this is what we do in Africa!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Day After My Birthday...

In 2008, the day after my birthday happens to be Election Day back in the USA.  Thats today, and honestly I am so glad too, because I am sick of it.  All of it.  Plain and simple.  

So people, lets face it.  Mr. Obama is more than likely going to be our next president.  Now, I have no idea what will come with his presidency (I have been assured that it will be quite the CHANGE from that last guy we had), but something that will most certainly have to come about is new political jokes!  Take a break, O ye weary and down trodden conservatives and republicans, and return to your homes and grab a cold Bud and flip to the new Comedy Central!  'Cause I think we will be seeing a CHANGE in our Daily updates with Jon Stewart!

Of course, I am absolutely intrigued as to how the comedy world (i.e. Hollywood) is going to shift its focus of humor and (dare I say sometimes) mockery to Mr. Obama and a more "liberal" government (Yes, I am implying that I feel they will balk at the idea that now they have to make fun of themselves).  I mean, they've had it way to easy for the past 8 years.  Our last president was a white man from texas who couldn't follow a TelePrompTer to save his life...too easy.  So I hope that we are now entering into a new age of comedy, are you ready America?!  Too bad I live in Burundi where I will have no access to cable television or YouTube to watch this new era be birthed...

(Take a look at this pioneering website that has had me in stitches for over a year now.  In many ways I find it refreshing...though a good many of those points I am guilty of myself, so it helps to laugh at one self)