Thursday, May 29, 2008

uganda photos

There are obviously many, many photos from Africa that I haven't gotten to share here. I'm slowly, slowly working to make more of them available online. To start, click here to access an album of Uganda photos. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

tilapia is the coolest word of all

(For photos to accompany this post click here or scroll down to the January 8 entry.)

Two weeks ago tonight I enjoyed one of the perks of my job. My writing-assignment-of-the-week was a profile story for Nashville Arts Magazine on a couple of Nashville’s restaurant owners. Mid-afternoon I met them at one of their restaurants and got to know them a little as we chatted and I wrote down their answers to my questions. Very pleasant people.

As we ended our interview time, they invited me to come back to that restaurant, the one in Sylvan Park, and to their other one in, the one in East Nashville, and enjoy a dinner on them, noting that experiencing their restaurants would be helpful for writing the profile story on the owners. Very wise people.

I decided it was a good week to take them up on their offer, even if it was going to take up more of my time and even if sure-to-be-scrumptious meals are better enjoyed with dinner companions than alone. My cupboards were fairly bare, and my meal-creating energy almost completely depleted. Taken together, this created a good moment for a job perk. A good meal is surely nearly as great as health insurance, right?

So Monday night I enjoyed a drive through East Nashville streets that always make me want to own a little front-porched house on a side-walked, tree-lined street with neighbors to wave at and nearby coffeehouses to haunt. And a neighborhood café that serves delicious fare would be nice too.

I ended up choosing an entrée from the list of specials for the night. The tilapia dish attracted my attention, and when the bartender recommended it, I was sold. Choosing tilapia dishes is one of the residual results of my world being opened up by my Africa travels. Tilapia. I learned I liked it. And guacamole and avocados too. These foods have been added to my list of choice foods, courtesy of Africa.

I was not disappointed. The tilapia special was scrumptious indeed, as were the cheesy grits served with it. (I always thought I didn’t like grits either! And I kind of enjoyed not liking them and being a rebel southerner. Hmmm, is there any other kind of southerner?) This tilapia was much tastier than the last tilapia order that Africa prompted me to choose and that I tried to write about on this lovely blog.

On that occasion, ‘twas the night before Christmas and I did some thing I had never done before. I ordered fish at a restaurant. My parents, my sister and brother-in-law, my nephew and I ate supper at Applebees before they closed early for Christmas Eve. I perused the menu and saw the parmesan tilapia. It made me think of Africa. Just 23 days or so removed from that continent, I was happy to take my mouth and mind back there and to have an excuse to do something I’d never done before. Actions in the service of sentimentality can be nice.

Tilapia makes me think especially of my couple days on islands in the Ugandan waters of East Africa’s vast Lake Victoria. Fishing is one of the major industries of the people who live there. And I was told that they were catching mostly tilapia and Nile perch. I don’t know what either of those fish look like, so I couldn’t check out the veracity of my informants, but I’ve decided to trust them.

I had fish quite often while in Africa. I don’t especially dislike fish, but I usually don’t choose it when there are other options. Like chicken options. And I definitely don’t like picking out those spindly fish bones. But since I usually was eating whatever was offered me during my travels, I ate fish and learned that I like it. And I particularly learned that I like tilapia, at least tilapia recently pulled from the lake. I also learned how to spell tilapia, which is a good thing to know because it’s such a cool looking word.

My novice palatte still can’t distinguish well between different kinds of fish, but now I feel like I have a fledgling relationship with one specific member of the general fish category. It’s a pretty one-sided relationship, but a relationship nonetheless. So I must now take advantage of any opportunity to deepen that relationship. So Applebees tilapia it was. It arrived with accompanying rice pilaf and veggies and earned points for choosing good friends. It had nice texture, looked good and was thankfully boneless, but when its parmesan blanket was scraped back, well, it was pretty one-dimensional. Boring. Bland.

And I have to confess that part of me was a little bit glad that looks were deceiving. Because actually, the blackened, salt-preserved fish that appeared to take hours of preparation around a wood fire was tastier than that fancy, boneless Christmas Eve version. The island tilapia was served sans head but with fins to accompany its sliverly fish bones. Fins aren’t exactly appetizing-looking, but memory says that the fire-cooked fish tasted much better and had much more character than the nice American restaurant version, which made me proud of my island hostesses. And made me feel connected to them again. Which made me wonder if my Applebee’s tilapia had been caught by one of the island fishermen I met. Which made me feel connected to them too.

And so I think it’s now a done deal that tilapia will always take me back to Africa and to kind and smiling hosts who labored over my meals and reminded me that we’re all alike on the inside no matter our outer trappings. Those are memories that make me smile and feel warm inside, whether the tilapia proves to be tasty or not.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

haiti on my mind!

(Credit where credit is due: this map came from here.)

Greetings! Just a quick update for now. Someday I'll hopefully have time to write again. For now time seems filled with admin and organizing tasks that aren't such good food for the creative parts of a person's brain. :-)

I'm working today to nail down my plane tickets for the Haiti trip, so I can finally make those plans official. If you stumble over to this post and send out a quick prayer that I'll make good decisions as I sort through the price and schedule options, I'd appreciate it! My tentative Haiti schedule is July 1/2 through 26. (Right now it's possible I'll leave Nashville on the 1st but not arrive in Haiti until the 2nd.)

Also, I'll eventually get this posted in the sidebars, but here's the link to the website of the missionary friends who will be hosting me and coordinating much of my trip while I'm in Haiti: Michael, Karen and Kaydence Broyles. Please pray for them and their work in Haiti, as well as the extra work that comes with hosting and coordinating things for a visiting friend.

Okay, back to the airline websites!