Thursday, November 30, 2006

How Could You Inflict Pain on a Face Like That?


The Birqash Camel Market is not a friendly place for a face like that. Beduoins from all over the place come and basically beat the living daylights out of the camels. It's a rather intense experience, and one not fit for animal lovers/rights activists. I have some videos, so I'll try to upload them on YouTube.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Cairo's Champions

Bread is the staple of many cultures around the world. Whether it comes flat, leavened, or whatever you call German rye, bread has been satisfying stomachs since the dawn of time. Whoever invented it is a genius and probably isn’t getting the royalties he/she deserves.

There is certainly no exception in Egypt. Bread is as important to the diet as sheesha and falafel. But how is bread transported? It’s not made everywhere (for the sake of the story, pretend that the socialist ways of Nasser centralized bread production in Cairo). Sometimes it’s delivered on trucks, but traffic is so bad that speed of delivery is poor.

That’s where this week’s Cairo Champion comes in. He is the man that not only carries bread on his head, but does it while riding a bike. He is the epitome of insane: riding a bike in a city that completely disregards anyone not in a vehicle with a 3 x 4 ft board covered in bread balanced on top of his head. He has one hand on the board, and one hand on the handlebars.

He may be the man I respect most in this city. I like to think that I have pretty decent bike-handling skills, but I now realize I have nothing. The guy carries bread on his head while riding a bike! I still can’t come to grips with it.

Should a piece of bread fall off, there is always a pedestrian willing to pick it up and run after the bread-carrying guy. Usually a successful transfer is made between the two, but sometimes the bread man just continues on like nothing happened.

If there is any doubt as to the importance of guys like this to the city of Cairo, just imagine what life would be like without bread.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Goodbye Mohandeseen

Like so many other trainees that have graced Cairo, I will soon be homeless.

Not sure what it is about this place. It’s like getting evicted is a rite of passage and I would go as far as to say that your Egyptian experience won’t be complete unless you actually have to go through the struggle that is finding a place to live.

The details as to why we were evicted are a bit unclear. Apparently the police were called because of noise…the landlord didn’t take too kindly to that. Plus, the landlady was in last week and didn’t like how the place was being maintained, so she got a little upset. The final nail was the co-ed nature of our guests. We had asked the landlord if girls would be allowed to come over and he said it was fine. Not anymore, I guess.

Ironically, I will back to where I started with regards to my living situation prior to arriving in Cairo. Tom and Megan are also homeless, so we’ll be shacking up somewhere downtown, inshallah.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

A Once-every-two-month Luxury to be Enjoyed

The laundry machine in my house had some problems last week. The result: no clean clothes. I guess the situation became urgent enough to prompt Farzina and I to take our laundry to one of the many laundry shops in the area. We had no idea how the process worked, how much it would cost, or how long it would take. Not that it mattered…we needed clean clothes.

So, I wrapped up the dirty clothes in my galabaya and we headed down the street looking like hobos. The shop was close and we were greeted by three men. I attempted to explain what we wanted, but I’m not sure what kind of impact that made, if any. All I got out of it was that the laundry would be delivered by 10 that evening, inshallah, and that the place was closed on Friday. Oh, great, the magical Arabic saying that means the laundry probably won’t arrive for two days. Then again, I say it all the time when I know I’m probably not going to do what I say (see: promising to go back to a shop at the other end of the city).

As was easily predictable, the laundry didn’t arrive until Saturday. I wasn’t around, but I got the “good” news as soon as I got back. The bill was 52 LE (10 bucks) for me and 50 LE for Farzina. Wow, that’s steep. But then I saw the clean clothes on the floor. Each was immaculately ironed, folded, and put in a clear plastic bag. My socks were actually clean and my shirts were ironed for perhaps the first time ever. The initial pain of the bill was quickly receding….

Oh, and my galabaya was in pristine condition, and it smelled great. After a shower, I put it on and felt like a million bucks. I think other people noticed, too, because the guys at the shop I always go to offered to give me another galabaya as a gift. Inshallah.

Friday, November 24, 2006

The Name's Bond, James Ahmed Mohammed Bond

I’m not much of a movie guy, so it takes a lot to get me to pay that egregious amount movie theatres tend to charge. There is one absolute exception, though, and that is when a new Bond movie is released.

This whole concept of a “Bond Movie” has become its own genre. The formula is simple enough: suave secret agent + hot girl + car chases + explosions + guns + ridiculous stunts + cool gadgets + exotic locales + cheesy lines + one crazy opening scene = two hours of wholesome fun. Plot-wise, the movie could be as loose as the end result of Cairo Colon. Acting-wise, you could find better quality in a grade school play. And, yet, Bond movies remain an institution around the world. So when Casino Royale came out last week, I had to go see it.

What I was apparently oblivious to was the fact that we were going to an Egyptian theatre. Who knew what this would bring. After all, movie theatres in other cultures are always a treat. How will the audience react to the hero getting the girl? Will they cheer when the good ol’ U.S. of A defeats the terrorists? Or will people actually turn off their cell phones when instructed to do so. So many questions…some of which were about to be answered.

The particular cinema we chose attracted the “uncivilized” elements of Egyptian society. The fervent masses congregated in small groups held in check only by three or four ushers. Such power those four possessed. Well, until the crowd reached a fever-pitch, anyways.

We were let in under the watchful eye of the doormen, only to be herded like cattle down a narrow hallway (fully equipped with snack vendors). The fact that the movie (only the credits actually) had started definitely explained the slow progress once we got nearer the entrance. Seats are assigned when you purchase the ticket, but are not clearly marked in the theatre, so further ushers have to walk customers to their seats using a small flashlight, while at the same time controlling the number of people who blindly try to find their seats.

Finding our seats was surprisingly simple. What was odd, though, was that there wasn’t much of an incline between the front and the back of the theatre. Anyone with semi-decent posture, therefore, would block the view for the person directly behind. And since the place was packed, you had to basically watch the movie through the cracks.

Then the movie started. Too bad the sound was gramophone quality and cranked up too loud. I’m not sure I even understood what was being said—and I’m a native English speaker. This made the non-natives in the group feel a lot better. What’s sad is that the dialogue is supposedly much wittier then previous Bond movies. Then again, who goes to a Bond movie for the words?

The one particularly disturbing aspect of this Egyptian theatre was the little regard paid to the fact that a movie is supposed to be watched in relative silence. Cell phones were constantly off and people talked the whole time. This wasn’t noticeable during the more epic scenes when the volume was at a nadir, but became a painful reality when Bond was trying to be funny.

After all that, I’m not sure I can comment on how good the movie was. It didn’t follow the normal Bond operating procedure, ended rather abruptly, and had no significant climax. But it was different. And as we all know, different takes a while to get used to.

Maybe what ruined it for me, though, was seeing Bond driving a Ford up to some Hotel in Nassau.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Something You Probably Shouldn't Do Abroad

The above incident was quite frustrating so when the delivery guy asked me if I wanted more fatah tomorrow, and I said yes, and he asked for my number and gave me his, I thought whoopee! He's just made my life easier, a one-stop-call for fatah at my door. But when I came back into the flat, everyone gave me the biggest bollocking, telling me I should never EVER give a random Egyptian guy my phone number, because apparently they think us foreign girls are an easy lay :S According to Kent, he could even start stalking me, and calling me constantly. I promised never to do it again, but I still think the guy just wanted to make our future transactions a bit easier... :S We shall have to wait and see…” -Farzina

That was two days ago.

farzina at work says:
OH FUCK!
farzina at work says:
THE FATAH GUY IS CALLING ME?!?!
Kent says:
HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!
farzina at work says:
omg!!!!!!!!!
farzina at work says:
i didnt pick up
farzina at work says:
obviously
Kent says:
i won't say anything
farzina at work says:
OMG HE IS CALLING AGAIN>??!?!?!

That was an hour ago.

Scary bit of foreshadowing, I must say.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Sweet

Monday, November 20, 2006

I Love This Country

I lived my dream last night.

“Do you have pizza tonight?” asks Simon.
“No, not tonight,” says the man.
“There is never pizza here. It’s always bukra inshallah (tomorrow, god willing),” utters Simon.
“I’ll go in there and make a pizza and then I’ll show you how good it is,” I offer.
“Ok, go ahead,” returns the man.
Whoa. The guy just said that I could go into the kitchen and make a pizza or two. Did I hear that right?

I must say that I was unconvinced at first that they would actually let me into the kitchen. But that feeling soon subsided once the guy took my arm and led me into the fray. Two thoughts entered my mind simultaneously: 1. This is the coolest thing ever, and 2. I’m nervous as hell.

The kitchen was quaint, but disorganized. There was a brick grilling station, a gas oven, a range, a small metal chopping table, and the sink was in the middle of it all. There were two guys working in there, but that number increased to as many as six.

The owner of the place was extremely helpful. He found me dough, asked me what ingredients I wanted, and even swore like a sailor when I suggested that pineapple might act as a decent topping.

“What the $%#& do you want pineapple for? Pineapple does not $%#&-ing go on pizza.”

Awesome. The dough was cold (it had been in the freezer for a bit), but I was able to roll it out without much trouble. For pans, the guy produced two small, “medium dish” ones. I requested a stone, but they seem to be hard to come by in this country.

All the while, Simon was next to me chopping onions, green pepper, and olives. He was schooled in that art by the chef, who had just shown us how fast one could chop an onion while keeping the slices precisely uniform. It was impressive, and I imagine Simon will set about practicing the art for next time.

We topped the pizzas with the ingredients we had—then it was time for the oven. The chef had set it to 250 F. I did my best to explain that we needed 500 F, but it did take a while. So we waited for 10 minutes while the gas oven fired up. To our left, the chef was preparing the French onion soup we had ordered. And while he used chicken stock instead of beef stock, the soup was of the finest Egyptian creations.

After the pizzas had gone into the oven, the owner tried to get me to sit down. I was vehemently opposed to the idea of not seeing my pizza to the end, so I refused. It took a second, but Simon and I were able to convince him that we should stay.

Fifteen minutes went by while the pizzas bubbled away in the oven. We watched the chef at work and marveled at the various indeterminate food items laying around everywhere. Finally, I hauled the pizza out of the oven and cut it up. Both the chef and the owner tried a piece…both liked it, I think. Or maybe they were just being nice.

“You can come back any time,” said the owner as we brought the pizza to the table.
“Awesome. I’m definitely going to be back,” I replied.
“If you want, you can come and cook your national cuisine,” he suggested.

If only Canada had a national cuisine….

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Not a Bad Weekend

Three things of note happened on the weekend.

1. Microbus Adventure

I’m now decently well-versed in the art of the microbus. The lesson lasted about five hours. Actually, I think Mai and I spent more time walking than taking microbuses…they were ridiculously hard to find when we needed them the most. We still managed to get out to Heliopolis and to Haram (the road that leads to the Pyramids). And, for the first time, I saw those giant miraculous works, albeit from a distance. The day’s culinary highlight occurred at sunset when we stumbled upon this small café on a dirt street in the shadow of the Pyramids. Contained in it is possible the best fuul Iskandarone (fava beans, Alexandria-style) this side of Alexandria.

2. Horizontal Shawerma

This is not a common site in Cairo. You’ll normally see the vertical variety, sizzling away with the help of a gas-fired element. So, when I came across the horizontal equivalent, surprise was imminent. Surprise quickly turned into curiosity, so I had to ask Mai to ask the guy why his shawerma was horizontal. Perhaps a bit embarrassing for an Egyptian, but to be fair Mai wasn’t sure either. After a small conversation, of which I understood two words, it was determined that the shawerma was as it was because the guy was using coal to cook the meat, not gas. You have to respect a guy willing to cook old-time style for commercial purposes.

3. Meat Symphony vs. Meat Poetry

Well, the spoken word won this battle. Congrats to Tom on a masterful job. His implementation of “working class” flavours overpowered my attempt at subtle, “aristocratic” flavours. I did, however, come up with a solid vegetable: tomatoes stuffed with kareesh, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, cucumbers, and garlic, and then grilled to almost-perfection. Both Tom and I agree that there will be many more sound vs. word battles in the future. Stay tuned. Oh, and a much more detailed report will be posted on the food blog. Just not sure when I’ll get around to it.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Like a Caveman. Grilling for the Very First Time

Last night was one of those nights that reaffirms any doubt you had in your ability to cook food like the Neanderthals did.

Loyal readers of this blog may be familiar with my grilling obsession. While in Calgary, this blog became the sole resting place of endless pictures of food I had prepared using my good friend propane and a BBQ I found in an alleyway.. As with all good things, my grilling time came to an end…or so I thought.

The grilling culture in Egypt is such that kofta, kebab, and chicken wouldn’t exist without it. Unfortunately this culture usually exists in cafes with relatively industrialized grills, i.e. ones I’m not going to be rolling into my house anytime soon. Then Tom found himself a grill. It was a great day for all foreigners in Egypt. I must admit he put on quite the show, even though he doesn’t stand a chance this weekend in the first-ever “Meat Symphony vs. Meat Poetry Battle Royale.” Naturally, I had to follow suit by buying my own grill. For the last few days, though, it became a matter of if I was ever going to use it. Well, last night was the night.

It started with the usual preparations. Fennel-coriander chicken, ginger-yoghurt lamb chops, and a variety of veggies that Simon and Megan had brought with them. But there was this unforeseen challenge: lighting the coals. There is no such thing as a propane grill or charcoal bricks. No, we’re talking semi-burnt pieces of wood that sell for 60 cents a kilo. Lighting them is easy if you have a hairdryer or fan. We lacked both, so it was up to Simon’s wind generating techniques to get the coals firing hot.

Original efforts were somewhat futile, however progress is often a slow process. Salman, a self-proclaimed coal expert, came home about a third of the way through the process. His suggestion, admittedly a brilliant one, was to get some petrol. That was sure to get the fire started, if not only in the BBQ. So Simon and Megan set out to take care of that, while Salman and I continued to fan like crazy to get the coals going.

We had a decent base of coals going by the time the supply team got back armed with a jerry can of what we thought was petrol. Salman prepared to do the honours saying, “Simon, take this bottle of water and dump it on me if I catch on fire.” Holy $#&@, man. Don’t kill yourself. That’s taking the concept of “taking one for the team” to a whole new level.

One of the most anti-climactic things ever is when you expect a furious explosion of light and flames, only to get nothing. That’s exactly what happened when Salman sprinkled the gas over the hot coals…nothing. How disappointing. We eventually concluded that the gas was in fact diesel. I think it was a sign that we should stop cheating and go back to our Cro-Magnon ways.

And that’s what we did. We fanned furiously and finally got some semblance of cooking coals. Then it was my turn. Up first, the fennel-coriander chicken. It grilled up beautifully—tender, juicy, and seductive. Next up, some yoghurt-ginger lamb chops. Simply put: if medium-rare lamb doesn’t get it done for you, then I don’t know what will. Third, a bit of an experiment…honey-glazed broccoli grilled on bamboo skewers that turned out decently. Fourth, a menagerie of peppers in the bell family, also soaked in the honey glaze. To top it all off was grilled apple smothered in sugar, cinnamon, and raisons. As they say, “Go big or go home.”

All the while, Simon did up a legendary shisha—perhaps the best shisha I’ve had since arriving in Egypt. BBQ and shisha. It’s a combination for the ages. And the best part of it all was that we used the coals from the grill to burn the tobacco.

This was perhaps my greatest BBQ feat ever. Cooking like a caveman is just that much more rewarding. But, I couldn’t have done it without Salman and Simon working the coals (and Megan for morale support).

Business opportunities are currently being explored.    

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

A Woman I Wish I Could Talk To

I just watched my tea/coffee lady talk some poor guy into the ground. He came up with a big smile on his face, and left looking dejected and defeated. The conversation was in Arabic, unfortunately. Not that it mattered. I could see it in her eyes. Amazingly, she never once raised her voice.

This woman has to be in her 50s and as wise as any person I’ve met here. Her facial expressions are simple, yet effective, and she talks like she’s seen a thousand summers. Oh, and did I mention she makes a mean ahwa (Turkish coffee).

My desire to interview her almost makes me want to learn Arabic properly. Msh Mshkela (No problem). Mai Khattab has graciously volunteered to play translator for me. I just hope she agrees to answer my questions.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

What Else Could I Be Doing Today?

If I wasn’t thousands of kilometres away, I’d be walking across the stage to receive my degree today.

Five years. Numerous classes. Two Co-op terms abroad. Legendary parties.

And I won’t even be around to fully appreciate it.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Remembrance Day

Nov 11th, Remembrance Day, is probably the most significant holiday of the year for me. It's the one time where the true heroes of our country are honoured. Having learned fairly extensively of the Great War, I've developed a very explicit respect for what these men and women did. Makes me wonder if I could've done the same thing.

Regardless, everytime I stop to think of the sacrifices that were made, chills run down my spine. And while this post is a day late, do take a moment, if you haven't done so already, to pay your respects.

Real Shubra


Meet the next generation of Egyptian footballers. And a mean-looking American.

We were exploring the streets of Shubra (a poorer suburb of Cairo) and came across these little guys. I couldn't help but join in the fun and start kicking the ball around. I think we ended up playing for the next 2 hours. As the word spread, more and more kids came down and people started watching from their balconies.

It was a ton of fun and part of an altogether good day of wondering, talking, and bbq'ing.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Mcdonalds vs. Childhood Obesity


Eldon spotted this contradiction in Calgary. I'm amazed the advertising company allowed both billboards to be put up next to each other.

If you're a kid, which one do you choose: the familiar Golden Arches or the concerned woman using words you might not even understand?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Dad: Your New Hat


A gorgeous Moroccan-made Fez, or Tarboush (in Arabic).

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Cairo's Champions

I just finished eating one of my favourite foods here in Egypt: smoked street yams. Then it occurred to me that these guys should be featured on the next installment of Cairo’s Champions.

They are the masters of the smoked sweet potato/yam. If my yams turned out like theirs at Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter, I’d be one happy man. Alas, their secret seems to be one passed down by forefathers, who, even two-hundred years ago, likely used the same technique. One can therefore be sure that the product sampled that many years ago has changed little in today’s market. Any food that can last that long in its original state deserves respect, and so do the men behind it.

The average street yam vendor has a cart equipped with a stove. And, like any entrepreneur, he looks for the crowded areas of the city where business is likely to be best. Sometimes, though, you’ll find him in the unlikeliest of places at the most convenient of times. Often times, the sweet smell of smoked sweet potato tantalizes your nostrils before you even see the guy.

Purchasing is fairly straightforward. You tell the man how many LE (Egyptian Pounds) worth of yam you want (usually 1 or 2 LE), he either reaches into the stove to pull out a piping out one or grabs one from the group of already-smoked yams sitting on top of the stove. Either way, you’re getting an expertly-smoked yam that’s ready to eat, so you can’t complain. The last step involves wrapping the product in sheets of paper for transport to your destination.

Not wanting to wait until you sit down, you inevitably open up the paper package and let the smell waft to your nose. It is time to sink your teeth into the soft, inviting, orange flesh of the vegetable. The first flavour you get is a smokey, bacon-like taste that keeps you coming back for more, which is soon followed by that sweet yam taste you’re used to.

So, if you’re walking by a master, do pay homage by sampling the finest smoked vegetable on the planet.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Always the Peacemaker

Canadians can be non-confrontational with the best of them. We’re always looking for the non-violent way out of a situation. Some might say it’s because we’re wimps, others might say it’s because we don’t know how to use weapons, while even more will say it’s too cold in Canada to fight, so discussing the problem over beer is a much better option. Whatever the case may be, Canadians are peacemakers.

What does this have to do with anything? Well, Tom, Pam, Brian, Megan, Simon, and I went back to the Friday Market to see if we could find some military surplus and more endangered animals. We accomplished some of that…there was a giant tortoise that looked positively decrepit and I picked up some sweet Soviet coins. Oh, and my Dad can look forward to a brand new Moroccan fez (pictures pending).

At one point during the day, we were navigating through the decidedly less-busy market with me in the lead. Directly in front of me, a guy a little bit older than me bumped a woman a lot older than me (she was dressed conservatively). I didn’t see any sexually-motivated action, so the guy must’ve said something because the action provoked quite the response from the woman. She started yelling at the guy.

Now, if I were the guy, I figure I have two choices:

  1. Leave the situation with my dignity intact

  2. Fight back and look like an idiot doing it

Honour, dignity, respect…obviously none of these qualities were running through the guy’s mind because he started kicking the woman. And this wasn’t any sort of decent kick. It was like a kick a girl does to a guy when she wants to ensure reproduction will not be in his cards, but with the guy leaning back to avoid the woman’s arms flailing around him.

Giving the recent events on the first two days of Eid, my attitude towards Egyptian men attacking woman was basically in the toilet. It helped that this was happening a foot from me because I decided to step in and start holding the guy back. At that moment, the woman took off her sandal and started hammering the guy. Finally, she was restrained, but the guy remained belligerent. With the help of a local, we managed to get the guy out of harm’s way and calm him down.

Just another day at the market, I suppose.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Baking Bread in Foreign Countries

In every flatbread country, leavened bread is simply an afterthought. So is key ingredient associated with leavened bread: yeast. This isn’t surprising. Leavened bread takes a long time to make and, unlike chapatti, naan, and the like, doesn’t have much of a functional purpose in countries that eat gravies, beans, and lentils.

In all fairness, these flatbread countries have made an effort to reproduce bread in loaf form. Well, bread that masquerades as leavened, anyways. It’s usually the equivalent of North American Wonderbread. If you don’t know what that is, think “bread that has more air in it than flour.”

The problem comes because I grew up with homemade bread. My dad is what you would call the human version of a bread machine. Ask him, “Why don’t you have a bread machine?” He promptly replies, “I am the bread machine.” I’m pretty sure his output equals that of some small Pacific island nation. Kiribati, perhaps. As such, store-brought bread, aka. Wonderbread, didn’t enter the equation.

Mongolia had fabulous bread. India and Egypt, on the other hand, are sorely lacking. Not that this is a problem, but it did motivate me to bake a loaf or two. The attempt in India was egregious—no proper oven, decades-old yeast, and heavy flour. My attempt stopped before it even started.

Last night, I attempted my first loaf in Egypt. Things definitely looked on my side: I had a proper oven, half-decent yeast, and what I assumed to be good flour. Strangely, I followed the directions on the yeast package, instead of just winging it like I always do. Actually, I did wing it because I had nothing even close to resembling a measuring instrument. I put some flour in, salt, sugar, oil, my yeast/water mixture, more water, and then added the flour until the concoction resembled a dough that I could knead.

Four hours of proofing later, I was ready to bake my creation on a makeshift baking sheet (the same one we used for cookies). Judging by how the cookies turned out, the problem was going to be keeping the bottom from burning, while making sure the rest of it was cooked. Solution: crank the oven a bit hotter, throw in the bread, leave for 15 minutes, then turn the oven off.

The result was a decent loaf of bread. Good and dense on the inside, with an adequate crust. If there was a problem, it’s that I used too much yeast for the amount of flour. That gave the bread a little bit of a beer’ish flavor, which, to some, isn’t a bad flavour to experience in the morning.

One thing’s for sure, though. I will definitely be trying this again. Now all I need is a baking stone. Perhaps a ceramic tile from the dump will do.

What? Spell 'Bolour' with a 'K'?

If there was one time when I actually cared that German did not boast a hard “c” sound, it was the other day. While mulling over what seemed like limited options regarding my travel plans back from the country speaking that fair language, it hit me: Cairo is spelled with a “K” in German. I had been focusing mainly on German budget airlines, so it all made sense (even in the English translation of the site). Low and behold, when I scrolled down the list of potential destinations from Leipzig-Halle, there was Kairo.

Why is this significant? Because for some reason flights from Germany to Kairo are not subject to the same rules that the flights to Hurghada were. So, I could book it online without any problems…it was a bit more expensive, though. Tom can attest to my epiphany. He was most likely thinking, “Canadian idiot. Learn some ****ing German.”

This whole event reminded me of my favourite Monty Python sketch. A guy walks into a travel agent’s office to see if he can book a trip to India. While he’s talking, the agent notices that the guy can’t say the letter “C.”

“Yes. I saw your advert in the bolour supplement.”
“The what?”
“The bolour supplement.”
“The colour supplement?”
“Yes. I’m sorry I can’t say the letter ‘B’.”
“C?”
“Yes, that’s right. It's all due to a trauma I suffered when I was a schoolboy. I was attacked by a bat.”
“A cat?”
“No, a bat.”
“Can you say the letter ‘K’?”
“Oh yes, Khaki, king, kettle, Kuwait, Keble Bollege Oxford.”
“Why don’t you say the letter ‘K’ instead of the letter ‘C’?”
“What, spell ‘bolour’ with a ‘K’?’
“Yes.”
“Kolour. Oh, I never noticed it. What a silly bunt.”

Script provided by ibras.dk.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

We're Makin' Cookies

We have in our midst a Cookie Goddess. Others have vied for the title, and failed miserably.

Pam put on quite the show last night. I swear, anyone that can make cookies without the following things deserves to be put up on a pedestal and worshipped:

  • Measuring cups (and we all know how important proportions are in baking)

  • Electric mixer (poor Brian’s right arm is going to be mighty strong)

  • Cookie sheet

  • Recipe

  • A properly functioning oven

“Kent, do you have anything I can measure with?”
“No, I could cut a milk carton in half and that would give us 2 cups. Oh wait, it stinks”
“Anything will do. Just give me a cup or something.”
“Here, try this mug.”
After putting flour in. “That looks like a cup, right?”
“Sure, why not?”

Baking is this finicky art full of chemical reactions that can go wrong if something as simple as the oven temperature isn’t right. Pam, showing an absolute blatant disregard for convention, goes and eyeballs everything. Then right before she was about to mix it all together, she realized she forgot baking soda (that’s generally a helpful ingredient in cookies). Brian and I were in charge of the actual baking, employing a gas oven that neither of us had used.

Lighting a gas oven is kind of like playing Russian Roulette: there’s always going to be that one time where something goes wrong and you end up without a single hair on your body. Brian and I were playing that little game last night. Not having worked much with gas ovens, I’ve never really mastered the art of lighting them. Brian was a bit more seasoned and offered his suggestion:

“Get me some toilet paper. We’ll light it and then drop it down the hole.”
“Ok, man.”
Brian lit the toilet paper, I turned the gas on, but it didn’t work.

Then we tried a more “in your face” approach. I think we both had our heads in the oven with the gas on a couple of times.

“I can smell and hear the gas. Why isn’t the friggin’ thing lighting?”
“I don’t know, Kent. That’s a weird oven you got. Let’s try lighting it from the bottom with the lighter.”

Finally it worked and we had ourselves a nice heated oven. But we soon learned that the gas never actually turns off, so there is a constant heat source from below. And as we’ve probably all learned, cookies aren’t exactly friendly towards such a phenomenon.

For a cookie sheet, we brought out the drip pan from the oven and covered it with some tin foil. Pam did the honour of scooping the dough onto our makeshift sheet, while I squished the little blobs with a fork. Then, into the oven the rack went (this required Brian and I using sketchy rags as “heat-proof” gloves).

The finished product was something of legends. A crisp, yet soft butter cookie with dark chocolate chunks. Sweet, but not too sweet. Just right.      

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Razor Ramblings: That Was Ugly

“Finally the end was near.  The last cream was applied in a much calmer fashion, or at least compared to the previous two.  As I stepped out into the fresh air, my face felt like it had been sandpapered and then rubbed with hot chili oil.  My eyes were on fire and observers probably noticed me shuddering as I stumbled down the alleyway back to meet Ryan.”

As shaves go, I think that day in Jaipur was probably the worst. Well, until last night.

Location: Same as last time
# of Nick: Can you count the number of stars in the sky?
Rating: 1/5

The old man in the shop did a great job last time. Sure, the threading hurt like crazy, but it was no reason not to go back for one of those close shaves that only a veteran blade wielder can give. To be honest, I think I was starting to take a liking to the guy. He called me habibi, I called him habibi (my love). He shaved my face, I gave him a great story to tell his family. It was a match made in heaven.

Then it all went wrong. I’m still not even sure if I can comprehend what happened. Nothing made sense. He proceeded as normal, but this time managed to scrape and chop up my face. And the proof was definitely in the pain I experienced when he sprayed the alcoholic “eau de cologne” all over and rubbed it in with one single square of toilet paper.

It had never happened before. My skin can usually stand up to even the toughest of razors. When I checked the damage, it wasn’t pretty. Nicks and cuts and scrapes everywhere.

Alas, I’ll still go back, but I’ll be sure to sit in a sauna beforehand to open up my pores.

I'm Speechless

“During Eid, I had heard rumours and secondhand "friend of a friend" accounts of chaos in downtown Cairo on the first day of Eid - apparently a massive crowd of less-desirable characters were roaming the streets in a huge pack, finding women on the street and mass assaulting them. I was far away in Dahhab and didnt really want to think about it, and when I got a few minutes of internet access I couldn't find anything at all about it.” –Tom Gara

I can’t think of a word strong enough to describe the abomination that this event represents.

There are accounts all over the place. This one is particularly detailed.