Friday, April 28, 2006

Mmmm...Moroccan

When I’m not cooking, I usually enjoy the cuisine at various ethnic restaurants throughout the city. I’m worried that when I actually get a job, I’ll just spend all my money at these places. So far I’ve done pretty well: Hungarian, Japanese, Ethiopian, and Vietnamese.

The other day, my roommate offered to take me to “the restaurant of my choice.” He is from Egypt, so I suggested Arabic cuisine. There are two nationalities of food that fit that description in Calgary…Lebanese and Moroccan. Although I did base my choice largely on the location of the place, I must say that I chose the right one.

If you’re ever at 217 19th St NW in Calgary, do stop in at the Moroccan Castle. The ambience is great – cushions, drapery, bronze, music, and dim light. All that was missing was a camel, sand, and some peddlers. Talk about a great relaxation place. You could go in there stressed and come out as mellow as can be.

Oh, did I mention the food was good, too?  B’Stilla, a filo pastry pie with chicken, lamb, and almonds on the inside, sprinkled with icing sugar and cinnamon on the top. Lamb Tanjine, a mixture of potatoes, carrots, peas, olives, lemons, lamb, and gravy. Baklava, a filo pastry dessert with walnuts and honey. All washed down with a cup of hot mint tea.

It brought me back to the short time I spent in Morocco – drinking mint tea and coffee at every roadside stand we could find.

Overall, the Moroccan Castle gets 5 Stolen BBQs out of 5. It is a bit on the expensive side, so do make sure someone is paying for you if you go.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Chernobyl

I was reading today that it is the 20th anniversary of the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl in the Ukraine. As horrible an event as it was, one vivid memory comes to mind:

In Grade 5 (1994/95), I think, our town brought in a bunch of young kids from the Chernobyl are to help improve their immune systems. Since my town had a strong Russian influence, it made perfect sense. I remember being taken for lunch (Dixie Lee Chicken, in fact) with two Ukrainian girls and my Russian teacher. Don’t recall saying anything had all…just devoured the food that was in front of me.

My guess is that those girls would be about 20 or 21 right now, and I can’t help but wonder what they’re up to now. Interesting how I’m really only realizing the significance of this meeting on a landmark day for the Chernobyl accident.

Semester = Done

Well…there’s another semester in the books. Do I remember half of it?  No. January and February were complete blurs.  I’ve almost been home for 4 months now, yet it seems like a lot longer than that. On this day last year, I arrived home from China…only to find that I had an AIESEC traineeship prospect in India. The rest is history….

I’d like to give a big shout out to my friend Kelsey (who informed me today that she reads my blog everyday…without fail). She is off to New Zealand and Australia in 3 days. Is she fazed? Not in the least. Was she the one that got shat on by a goose (reference in previous post)? Absolutely. Good luck, Kelsey. Oh, and you can read her stories (if she sends them) right here.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Why Do They Make Us Choose?

As a university student and hockey fan, I can’t help but notice how playoff time conveniently corresponds to final exam time. It’s like the hockey/academia gods are asking you to choose between your favourite sports team (since you were six) and your future. Well, they want you to think that final exams have a direct correlation to how successful you will be in the future. To this, I say, “Corporate Governance and Compensation pale in comparison to the magnitude of the Calgary Flames being in the playoffs.” Maybe I’m putting my “future” on the line by choosing to watch three hours worth of hockey, instead of spending that time falling asleep reading entertaining academic articles.

I’m faced with this decision every year. Hockey usually wins, although I occasionally recognize the importance of certain exams. Luckily, it’ll all be over tomorrow (exams, that is) and I can get back to doing what I truly want to do at this time of year…watch hockey.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Snow?

After the Flames finished grilling some Ducks last night, the weather decided to go psycho on us loyal citizens of Calgary.

Yesterday was gorgeous…22 degrees. Today…1 degree and snowing. You could really feel it coming, though.

Last night, while making my new speciality “1 AM Satay Chicken,” I couldn’t help but notice the fierce wind that had come up. I knew it was bad because it kept blowing the BBQ flame out.

So, I really wasn’t surprised to see the fluffy white stuff this morning. Good thing the Flames won or it would seem a hell of a lot colder out there.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Sometimes I Wonder

Every so often I question my ability to live on this planet. It’s strange because I could navigate my way around Beijing and Delhi on the city buses, while feeling quite normal doing it. But for whatever reason, this whole “Canada” thing just doesn’t work for me sometimes. Today was one of those days….

My task for the day was mailing two items: tax forms and traineeship report. Hard life, I know, but it was 20 degrees outside so I had to get outdoors for a bit. So after getting my report ready to be mailed, I walked out the door and completed the 4 minute walk to the post office. As I approached the counter, it struck me, “Oh #%$&, I forgot my tax forms.” I figured it a good idea to mail what was in my hand and then make the trip back home to grab the tax forms.

Second time out the door, I made it do the other side of the street before I thought, “Maybe I should bring an envelope with me.” After deliberating over it for what seemed like an eternity on the sidewalk, I went back inside to get a manila envelope. Back to the post office I went, fearing that the employees of the establishment would begin to think I was crazy.

I was home for about 30 minutes when I found out that I could also mail a student loan form to the BC government. Although this would require another trip to the post office (my third one in less than 2 hours), I couldn’t help but revel at the thought of getting it all done (and leaving it in the hands of the government).

Ironically, I don’t think the people at the post office even knew that I had just made 3 successive trips. I’m just glad it was a beautiful day and it actually made me want to make that many trips. I kept looking for other things to mail, but couldn’t think of anything. I wonder if 4 trips would’ve been a record.

Fun With Hippos

Here is the latest email from Michaela in Botswana. She went to Zimbabwe...I'm so jealous.


So for easter I went up to Kasanye with Bantsi (my roommate), Pipi, and Max (her two best friends). The drive is about 12 hours on experimental roads (ie lots of potholes) so we left thursday night driving through to the morning. Although I slept most of the way I was up for the sunrise and saw giraffes, elephants and tons of ginnefowl on the road. A quick little fact: Botswana has the highest population of elephants in Africa and they have become such a problem that they have started exporting them to other countries!! The drive up there is an experience in itself, first are the villages, which are not much more than a gas station with a take away shop, a small grocer of sorts, traditional houses and of course donkeys just hanging out on the road. Second is the land, which is so vast and flat that all you see are bushes and small trees for miles and miles ( and of course elephants if your lucky). Then are the constant road blocks that are set up along the way, there are two types; first the police who stop the cars and check on the drivers licenses (or just stand there and wave you through depending on.....I don't know what!) and the the foot and month barriers created to stop the spread of the disease between the wildlife and cattle. At these stops you get out of your car, dip all your shoes in a disinfecting solution and then drive your car through the same solution, it was a bit strange the first time i did it but like anything else you get used to it.

We ended up staying at max's moms place which is really nice because all accommodation up there is quite expensive...no budget motels only nice hotels along the river. On friday we went on a boat cruise along the chobe river, it was beautiful we were able to see more elephants, crocodiles, hippos and monkeys. Saturday we went into zimbabwe...Kasanye is situated close the the borders where botswana, zimbabwe, zambia and Namibia meet. After parting with way to much money at the border ( you have to pay for your car...then a road toll fee...then you have to buy insurance to drive on them....and of course my US$65 visa) we drove into the country. We spent some time along the Zambezi river and could feel the spray on our faces and then the goal was to see the falls. unfortunately that didn't happen its a long story and of course the amount you had to pay was ridiculous (i was a bit disappointed but what are you going to do....). So instead our trip allowed us to see the local life. We met this guy who at first was trying to sell us souvenirs and ended up showing us around, getting us a good exchange rate and taking us to the local places to get meat and drinks (ie a whole lot cheaper). He then found us a braai to cook the meat on ( behind the supermarket??!!?) and showed us to a nice park, where we enjoyed our afternoon, with some friendly warthogs. One thing that is really nice traveling with these guys is that are able to meet lots of the locals and we can therefore get away from all the tourist spots and see how people really live, for me its a better experience and I feel very lucky to get that opportunity.

so that was pretty much the trip..back at home we have been having a great time with my favorite little friends ( the cockroaches). We ended up getting our flat fumigated on thursday as they were just getting to bad. I can deal with a little.... but when everytime you pick up something in the kitchen you get cockroaches scurrying away from underneath it you just can't ignore it anymore. so we came home to dead cockroaches everywhere, it was just lovely..... had a really fun time cleaning them all out of the cupboards and off the floor. At first we were still finding ones alive, just bigger and i was scared we were going to start breeding superbugs, however they seem to keep dying off and i find new ones dead on the floor every morning...its quite satisfying.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Finders, Keepers. Losers, Weepers.

In Canada, Tim Hortons (a donut/coffee shop) holds an annual event called “Rrrrroll up the Rim to Win.” On specially marked cups, coffee buyers have the opportunity to roll up the rim of the cardboard cup to see if they have won a prize. The grand prize is a new SUV. But what happens when people throw their cup in the garbage before checking to see if they won?

This exact thing happened in Quebec. A 10 yr-old girl found an empty cup in the garbage with the rim not rolled up. She then picked up the cup and asked an older girl to help her with the rolling part. As the older girl did so, she was astonished to find that the prize was the SUV. Naturally, the families of the two girls got lawyers involved to figure out who was the rightful owner of the cup and, thus, the SUV. Here’s where it gets good.

Some janitor then hired a lawyer to argue that he was the one that threw the cup away and should therefore win the SUV. Nice try, buddy.

Today, Tim Hortons ruled that the 10 yr-old girl is the one that will win the SUV. Of course, the car will go to the parents.

New Link

The creator of my blog colour scheme, header, and footer has finally joined the blogging world (the English blogging world, actually). The title is kind of a play on words…”Germany’s Next Topmoppel.”  I’m told that “moppel” means “chubby” in German.

Johanna already has a post about Indian traffic and chocolate, so if you like either of those things, head on over.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

No Lining Up This Year...

Two years ago right around this time, I made the fateful decision to head down to the Saddledome (the aptly named hockey arena) at 4 AM the next day to try and get playoff tickets. The line-up (or queue, for you Brits) was huge, yet I still got the opportunity to buy two tickets (5 hours later). Just the thought of watching a playoff game between my favourite team (the Calgary Flames) and the team I hate more than anything in life (the Vancouver Canucks) gave me the shakes and I almost forgot how to sign my name on the receipt.  All the tension was eased, though, when one of my friends was shat on by a bird. Ahh…good times.

My luck continued for the next two rounds as I was able to somehow get tickets of Ticketmaster. This time around, the Flames are back in the playoffs.  However, there won’t be any lining up at 4 AM this time. Instead, there will be a lottery to divvy out the 1,300 tickets available. Do I like my chances of being able to go to a game?  Not really.  But the deeper the Flames go into the playoffs, the better my chances are, conceivably.

Regardless, it’s time for the boys to saddle up and start flaming some duck.

This Won't Go Over Well

I couldn’t help but notice a new story with the headline “Giant Mao statue erected in Tibet.” –BBC

Wow, what a slap in the face of the Tibetan people. It’s like putting up a Napoleon statue in Russia, a George Bush statue anywhere, a Bismarck statue in France, a Stalin statue in the Ukraine, a Mussolini statue in Ethiopia, etc.

"Many Tibetan people suggested we should have a statue of Chairman Mao to show our gratitude," a local Communist Party official told Xinhua (the Chinese News Agency).

Why am I having a hard time believing that? Perhaps the Chinese people that were moved there think this, but indigenous Tibetans?

I remember seeing posters in Mcleod-Ganj asking people to boycott the Olympics in Beijing because the precious metals used for the medals were “illegally” mined in Tibet. Not to mention all the other visible anti-China paraphernalia.

This statue is 7m tall and sits on a 5m earthquake-proof (or angry mob-proof) pedestal. It will stand in Gonggar (south of the Tibetan capital, Lhasa), in the centre of a 40,000 sq. metre town square.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Happy Easter


Easter has always been synonymous with good food. Usually, it's a stuffed turkey with all the fix-ins. Some people opt for a ham, while others go with a more traditional roast beef with yorkshire pudding.

On this day, we went with a ham and BBQ'd vegetables. We also made a horseradish-mustard sauce to accompany the meat.

Happy Easter, everyone.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Experiment Night



Believe it or not, there are in fact days when I don't BBQ. This is usually a result of not having any meat thawed or marinating prior to dinner, or just plain laziness. On the menu tonight was concoction involving "items that had been in the refrigerator/freezer way too long."

Broccoli
Prawns
Linguine
Parmasean/Oregano/Basil/Serrano Pepper White Sauce

While these ingredients may not be as appetizing when served separately, they are dynamite when served together. So far, this has been my best experimental dish...especially the white sauce.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

New Template

I was really starting to get sick of my old blog design…so much so that I was considering making a whole new one.  Then Johanna came to the rescue with a glorious new template that has me wishing I was in the same place as the banner.

Gotta love outsourcing….

Danke, Johanna.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

BSD

Tomorrow is a day us University of Calgary students like to call “Bermuda Shorts Day.”  Why the name, you ask?  No idea.  It’s snowing half the time, so we end up wearing winter coats and not the usual shorts.  It does promise to be sunny and +16 tomorrow, so maybe I’ll just have to break out the shorts named after a paradise in the Caribbean.

The day is marked by one thing: copious amounts of drinking at ungodly hours of the morning.

This usually leads to passing out by about 2 PM, waking up at 4 PM, getting your second wind, drinking more, going to a club at 8 PM, and then waking up the next morning without an ounce of energy to study for exams coming up within the next couple of days.

It’s been 2 years since I’ve participated in this event, so it will be nice to have a breakfast beer with my eggs. Events of the day also include a BBQ at my house and probably a club in the evening. Luckily I have class at 2, otherwise I just might not make it to the club….

Just heard that one of my friends is participating in the Beer Mile…a test of stamina that involves a lot of drinking on running (a bad combination).

So here’s to a semester of school that went by way too quickly.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

What Would I Do Without My BBQ?



I figured I'd celebrate my "A" with a little BBQ. On the menu tonight was some satay shrimp, potatoes, and red peppers. It's a meal like this that makes me take BBQ's from alleyways....

4th Time's a Charm

After four tries in previous years, I finally picked up an “A” on a history essay for this one professor.  This may sound conceited, but I fully expected this mark - I wrote on an obscure topic (Mongolian history in the 1930s) and had personal interviews to back up what I was saying.  What makes this mark even more rewarding is that the paper constituted 50% of my mark.

Outstanding.    

Monday, April 10, 2006

Things You Don't Hear Everyday

When in Eritrea, expect 3 rounds of sweetened coffee upon entrance into a local’s house.  Oh, and be sure to describe the first cup as “delicious.”

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Palak Kofta and Punjabi Karhi

Palak Gravy

Punjabi Karhi

The last two parts of my culture night meal turned out pretty good. Made some nice kofta to go with the Palak gravy, but the Karhi was missing the usual pakoras (deep-fried batter). Managed to find some paneer, however it was pre-packaged, not the fresh stuff I was hoping to get. Did find a nice little Indian store close by, though.

Overally, the culture night went well. From what people tell me, the food was good. I've also trained a new chapati-making team. Oh ya, I have a ton of leftover gravy so if anyone is looking for some "comfort butter chicken" come on over to my house and pick it up.


Highlight of the Night

The food was tasty, the pictures and movies were interesting, but the highlight of the night was definitely the screening of the Bollywood film “Dus.”  Megan, you definitely missed a classic.  And when I say classic, I really mean “movie full of factual errors that only Canadians would pick up on.”

First of all, this movie is filmed predominantly in and around Calgary, Alberta.  We could recognize all the sights and landmarks, as well as understand the references made to places like “Canmore,” “Mac Mahon Stadium (actually, McMahon Stadium),” and “The Banff Police Station.”  The best part was when the producers tried to pass the Calgary skyline off as Algiers, Algeria.

Second, this movie didn’t feature a love story…only fast-paced action scenes with guns, grenades, and bazookas.  One had to wonder about the realistic nature of the action, but it was entertaining nonetheless.

Here are some of the highlights:

-Lumberjack assassins that come out of nowhere and shoot people on a bridge
-Two “urban thugs” rob the owner of a Canmore restaurant
-One of the guys saying, “Can’t you find another place?…there must be some jungle around (referring to the Alberta wilderness).”
-Trying to pass off Yankee Stadium as McMahon Stadium
-Showing a football field, baseball field, and soccer field in three consecutives scenes (the intention was a soccer field)
-The catchphrase, “Let’s rock.”
-And many more….

What a great movie.  Never have I laughed so hard for a full 146 minutes.  If you are planning on watching this classic, do be prepared for a test of patience.  The plot moves slower than molasses and it’s really tough to decipher what’s going on…even with subtitles.

Dus Bahane….

Friday, April 07, 2006

Enchiladas -> Cabbage Rolls -> Butter Masala

Some of the Ingredients

Butter Masala

Yes, I have posted a lot of food pictures over the last few days. No, my kitchen has not turned into an internationally-recognized fusion cookhouse.

On the menu today: Butter Masala gravy for the Indian culture night I am holding tomorrow. I also plan to make Palak (Spinach) Kofta (Veggie Balls) and Punjabi Karhi (Yoghurt/Cumin gravy). Oh, and I can't forget about the copious number of chapati that will be had and the sweet, sweet chai (not quite tea stall chai, though).

I received from disturbing news today. The liqour store at the Haryana/Chandigarh border that I had frequented so often (whether to visit cops, serve myself, or pick up a cart that had fallen on a horse) was torn down due to not having proper permits. I'll miss that place.

Nick, can you send me that picture of me holding the cop's gun? Thanks.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Making Cabbage Rolls

Makeshift Steamer
Ouch, that's hot.
This is gonna be good.

Ready for the oven

Ready for my stomach.

On Tour: Botswana

I've been pleasantly surprised at the frequency of emails from Michaela. Hopefully she keeps up this pace so we can all learn about the wonder that is Botswana. Here is the latest:

Just a quick note to describe my adventurous weekend......As I mentioned before we headed up to Kutsi National Park. Its about 270 km outside of Gabs heading north, into the desert area. The trip started early early (im talking 4 in the morning) on Saturday, why so early is beyond me but i was just going with the flow. The benefit of the early start was that it allowed me to watch the sun rise as we drove into the bush (so beautiful), after stopping numerous times to accomadate everyones bush runs (there was three vehicles) and a leisurely breakfast on the side of the road we didn't actually arrive at the park until 10. I was surprised at how nice the camp sites were, there was an outhouse (probablle the nicest I've ever seen) and a shower contraption that allowed you to place water in a bucket and dump it over your head. ( though I don't know where people would get the water from, it seems like kind of a waste out in the bush). The only thing that surprised me was that there was no fence that enclosed the site, we were just out in the open, nothing to separate you from nature ie hungry animals!!

We went on a game drive late in the afternoon, unfortionatly we didn't really see a whole lot (just mainly springbuck and kudu). This could be attributed to the fact that our group had consumed....oh maybe just a couple beers, and therefore wasn't really in the mood for a quiet game drive. Im sure any animals that were close by were scared away from all the yelling coming from the back of the truck! Anyway, it was quite unsuccessful..however the next morning we went out around 6 this time everyone seemed a little quieter (i wonder why). On the way out of the camp site we saw large paw prints all over the road (can only assume what that would be). so we continued on and about .5 km away we saw 5 lions watching some springbuck in the tall grass. Unfortionatly they were quite far away from the road, and becuase the grass was so high all we could see was their heads. Now some might be worried, waking up and coming face to face with lions just outside your camp, but i don't think we had too much to worry about because its the end of the rainly season, and there is lots of other, easily assessable, animals for them. the downside to the season was that its harder to view animals has they are not all around a water hole, and there is lots of bush to hide. So other than the lions, we didn't really see too much. Fortionatly sean and I will be going to the Masi Mari game reserve in kenya in october, so hopefully we will have better luck.

We left camp around 3 and drove home, for dinner we stopped at the best place (dad you would have loved it). The system entailed that you buy your food (steak and pap-ground maize cooked with water- )and drinks (local cider called savana) then cook the meat outside yourself on a braai(bbq). This meat was some of the best I have ever tasted (beef is the second main export in botswana, and- i hate to say it- it could compete with alberta beef). For $2cdn you got a organic, probably straight from the cow, big piece of meat, and after cooking it med rare(everyone eats their meat welldone down here) it was the best thing I have tasted in a long time. After a weekend of camping it was the perfect end, i am trying to convince everyone to go there again next weekend.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Ahh...the French

You really have to admire the French and their willingness to protest every single controversial law that goes through parliament. And these guys don’t just setup up a picket line and yell some things…they go all out.  We’re talking flipping cars, lighting fires, exploding bombs, and a whole host of other protest activities. It’s like these people are back in the 1700s and about to storm the Bastille. I wonder when the hordes are going to realize this isn’t the second coming of the French Revolution and get back to what winemaking, cheese producing, and escargot farming (sorry for the stereotypes).

The most recent protest has resulted from a Youth Action Job Plan that allows for easy hiring and firing. Easy hiring is definitely a good thing (I know plenty of students that would love that policy), but I guess the students are getting hung up on the “easy firing” part. Apparently, actually doing a job well so as to not warrant termination is a bit too much to ask. All I have to say to that is, “Welcome to our world, French students.”

Maybe this is a little out of line, but is it possible that there needs to be a general European war right around now? It’s been sixty years and there hasn’t been much action. I have a feeling Germany would be game (Benjamin?) and you might even be able to persuade the Russians to get in on it. Now, I’m not talking about a modern war. What they need is a good ol’ fashioned battle with horses and archers. War of Austrian Secession, anyone?

This seems like the perfect resolution for any youth job problems. They wouldn’t have to worry about being fired from the front lines, and when the war is over, they could spend a great deal of time reconstructing all the torched villages. Just a thought.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Experiment Night in the Kitchen 2



During the couple of days before Customer Appreciation Day at Safeway (10% off or 10 times the Airmiles on the first tuesday of every month) I usually have a food shortage in my house. Today, I had the following to work with:

An Avocado
A Can of Black Olives
Linguine
Medium Firm Tofu
Half an Onion
A Can of Tomato Sauce
Parmasean Cheese
Herbs
Olive Oil

What resulted was basically a poor man's spaghetti. The avocado was a nice touch, but I wasn't too impressed with the olive addition. If I were making it again, I'd probably use green olives instead, and possible some feta cheese on top.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

The View From Canal Flats



Would you complain if you woke up to either of those views every morning? Didn't think so.