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Taking the road less traveled Spending a year in five continents to embrace my "inner turtle", to live simply, and to avoid being shark bait!

"Turtle" Living on the Weekends

MOZAMBIQUE | Sunday, 15 April 2012 | Views [616]

Corn muffins

Corn muffins

Weekends in Tofo crawl by, they're so very different from the past!

We don't have any official volunteering work to do on weekends, so all the time are free.  Even on the weekends, I wake up at the usual time of 6:30 AM (the time I normally wake up for the 7 AM dives); I stretch, do laundry (by hand in an outdoor basin complete with built-in washboard), have breakfast, read, and it will still be not yet 10 AM.  We have participated in a monthly community organized beach clean-up one Saturday (the most fun were the two local kids who helped me; we communicated by finger-pointing, and together we hauled the trash bag as it got full), and another Saturday, we played with some kids from an orphanage who were visiting the beach.  

Besides meals and the beach, there's not much else to do in Tofo, so we've entertained ourselves by playing a lot of cards (learned some strange Swedish card games, and I taught them "Big 2"), reading, exploring and taking walks, and movie nights on the computer (it's funny to see us sitting "cinema style" in front of a laptop with a pair of portable speakers).  Back when I was in Thailand, I also had a lot of downtime and discovered the pleasures of TED talks (http://www.ted.com), so prior to coming to Tofo, I downloaded a bunch of TED videos into my iPod and have been watching them.  There are so many wonderful talks that I want to share with everyone!  One of them could not have been more timely; it was a presentation by a boat captain, Captain Charles Moore on the seas of plastic, and how our present-day society of wanting everything disposable and convenient (plastic bags, water and soda bottles, plastic utensils, the list is endless) have resulted in an insane amount of rubbish, most of which end up in streams and rivers and ultimately the seas and oceans.  I love his statement "only we humans make waste that nature can't digest".  Plastic beverage bottles are the main culprit, with less than 5% actually recycled; even if recycled, recycling plastics is difficult, due to its low melting point (it melts below water boiling point), and that it does not drive off oily contaminants nor can it be purified by the re-melting process like glass or metal.  There are also different types of plastics (indicated by the number inside the recycling arrows on plastic containers) and not every recycling facility can handle all the various types.  When plastics end up in seawater, they are often eaten by birds and other ocean animals who mistake them for food.  The day I watched this video, Andrea from Marine MegaFauna Foundation rescued a juvenile loggerhead turtle while on a dive; it is about the size of my palm, estimated to be a few months old, and had a lot of parasites on its shell.  Worst of all, the biologists suspect it may have ingested some plastics which are blocking its internal organs, thus was having a hard time diving down into the water and instead was floating more than it should.  I had the pleasure of being on the Ocean Safari in which the turtle was released (see my story "The Whale Shark that was there but not for Me), but even the biologists aren't so confident of its fate.  It's depressing but also encouraging that as I watch these talks, I can  relate them in my daily life.

Two volunteers have some surfing experience, so the few of us newbies gave it a try one Sunday afternoon.  The one experienced surfer took us out on the surfboard; we climbed onto the board, laid on our stomach, and he pushed the board as a wave came along.  On my first try, I tipped forward and the surfboard hit me square on the jaw as I surfaced (big ouch); the second time, I tumbled into the water as the wave hit the shore; finally on the third attempt, I managed to get on my knees for a few seconds, the feeling was exhilarating!  I felt so much speed riding the wave, no wonder so many people love to surf.  Looking forward to more surfing!

Preparing dinner on the weekends has become quite an event, mostly because we have so much time.  The first Friday dinner, I took the lead and made stir-fried noodles using noodles, carrots, mushrooms, green bell peppers, onions, garlic, and eggs (for the non-vegans).  There's no soy sauce so I improvised by using some soya mix and diluting it a bit; the noodles weren't half bad.  The next night, two gals made a vegan shepherd's pie (substituted beans and carrots and peas instead of lamb stew) and salad with vinaigrette.  The third night was dazzling; we scoured the kitchen to find available ingredients and condiments, and came up with a "buffet" of various dips.  We made a bean dip using fresh beans, hummus using canned chickpeas, fresh tomatoes with garlic and oil, guacamole, and a pineapple salsa (I made this one up, used a whole pineapple, tomatoes, chili peppers, and onions, all finely diced and seasoned with salt and pepper).  One volunteer who just spent a month in Kenya made "chepatis" (totally misspelled); it's also common in Tanzania where I've eaten them before.  It's made with flour, water, and salt, the dough is rolled, pressed flat, and then pan fried; it's like Chinese green onion pancakes but plain.  We also made a cabbage and potato soup, and threw in a coconut milk sauce in case folks wanted something sweet.  We were all so impressed with the outcome!  Everything was vegan, hearty, and delicious.  

The next weekend, I made a vegetable curry with rice for dinner on Friday (using red curry paste and coconut milk).  Saturday was Swedish and Swiss cuisine night with Swedish meatballs (minced meat, onions, carrots) and roesti (a Swiss specialty of panfried shredded potatoes served with an onion sauce); there was even a vegan version of the "meatball" using the same ingredients but substituted bread for meat.  We raided the pantry again on Sunday night, and made a simple tomato sauce with spaghetti.  

I am also learning to make vegan baked-goods.  The vegan gal taught me how she substitutes ingredients to fit her diet:  oil for butter, water for milk, and mashed banana for egg (doesn't work for all recipes but close enough for many).  The kitchen has no measuring utensils so we must estimate the ingredient amounts (having cooking experience helps!)  The oven has no temperature setting, it's simply "off" or "on" (it's turned on by lighting the burner with a match), so we don't know how hot it actually is, thus baking time is estimated also.  We still manage to make brownies twice (the texture was more like cake and they were banana-flavored but who cares), corn muffins (improvised from a blueberry cupcake recipe, substituting crushed corn flakes for corn meal), and coconut cupcakes using milk and shredded meat from a fresh coconut (I've decided I actually like coconut; I only tasted artificial coconut flavor before, which is too sweet for my taste).  I even made a coconut caramel rum sauce to accompany the cupcakes, all for afternoon tea on Sunday.  I am in awe of what we've been able to bake with limited resources!  

With the success of the weekend meals and baked goods, we decided to contribute to a kitty so we can buy ingredients not covered by All Out Africa, hopefully to make more elaborate dishes or to improvise new ones.  The possibilities seem endless now, and we are undaunted by the lack of measuring spoons and cups, expensive cookware, and fancy ingredients.  More importantly, it is a joy to cook with others, which I rarely get to do back home; it's also great fun to have everyone sit and dine together with no distractions; no one is constantly updating Facebook, and no one rushes through the meal to watch TV (there's none), to hop online (there's a shared house laptop with mobile broadband which we're charged by the minute), or to get on the phone (only a few of us have a local SIM card in case of emergencies, else to use our mobile phone with SIM card from home is very expensive).  Simple living at its best!

Tags: cooking, marine megafauna foundation, ted, tofo

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