Saturday, June 11, 2011

How I'm Spending My Summer Vacation

On the top of my post-Malawi to-do list was spending loads of time with my nephew, A. He’s now 2 years old and a whole new person from the one I left 10 months ago. He runs around, talks, plays games, climbs up jungle gyms, sleeps in a real bed that he gets into himself. Who is this person?

Most of my visits with him have gone well, although he’s still super-wary of me; he doesn’t talk much and is a little too well behaved. After all, I am a total stranger to him; he has no fixed memory of me. *sniff* But, we were making progress in our bonding, and I thought I was doing well as Auntie Lisa.

Until yesterday . . .

Some Lessons Learned:

* Two-year-olds do not understand sarcasm.
* Two-year-olds do not understand logic.
* Two-year-olds have amazing stamina and focus when it comes to getting what they want. Especially when what they want is their mommy.
* Never attempt a new recipe when baking with a two-year-old.
* Never turn your back on a two-year-old who is holding a full bottle of sprinkles.

We had a few close calls and a lot of clean up, but we managed to bake some cupcakes. A. got to pick the mix-ins for the batter, so we had chocolate-chip-and-rainbow-sprinkle cakes and blueberry-M&M-snowflake cakes. Decorated with bright yellow icing and red, pink, and white sprinkles. Surprisingly, they were rather tasty.


Despite being a (quickly disappearing) farming community, my hometown has surprisingly few farmers markets. A couple of large, semi-permanent markets have created a bit of a monopoly. But some folks are trying to create some alternative markets. We have one market that has run one Saturday a month for the past few years; now a new market started last month, also once a month.

The new market had all of five stands today, and two of them were mostly selling plants, not produce. But I still managed to fill up the fridge with goodies: kale, zucchini, radishes, red leaf lettuce, tomatoes, new potatoes, spring onions. I also got garlic scapes, which I’m eager to try. I’ve never cooked with them before, but they were only one dollar for a bunch of three, so I figured it was worth the risk.

The challenge now is to find recipes that my mother---who prefers her food as bland and predictable as possible---will eat. I've convinced her to give fish tacos a try this coming week, so I have some hope.


I’ve decided to take on a year-long reading challenge to read a book from each African country. As much as I’ve read about Africa and Africans, I’ve read very little by Africans. So the only rule to my self-imposed challenge is that each book has to be written by someone from Africa. I’m focusing mostly on fiction, but I haven’t ruled out nonfiction (particularly because some countries might have very little available in English-language or translated fiction).

But the first snag in my plan is deciding, Who is an African writer? Can I count J.M. Coetzee as a South African writer? He was born there, spent most of his life there, but . . . well . . . he’s white. He’s not an “indigenous” South African.

What about others who were born or spent a significant part of their lives in an African nation but now live and write from and about a non-African place? What about white Africans?

Mind you, I give this challenge until about mid-September before it entirely falls apart under the weight of my ridiculous academic-year schedule (four courses per term, plus a teaching assistant position, plus a part-time job; I’m not even pretending that I’m going to get work done on my dissertation until next June).

In the meantime, first on my list is Desertion by A. Gurnah (Tanzania).

Any thoughts on how to define an "African" writer? Any recommendations for books by African writers?


At 3:34 PM , Blogger nwt said...

No help from me on how to define an African author. But we read Cry, the Beloved Country in high school, and I remember it being good. According to Wikipedia, the author, Alan Paton, is from South Africa.

At 5:14 PM , Blogger Bearette said...

Also read Cry the Beloved Country in HS. Can't say I loved it. Also read Disgrace by Coetzee. Didn't love that either. I do love Alexander McCall Smith's books about Botswana...

At 8:26 PM , Blogger nwt said...

Oh, I just remember Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. Another one I read and liked in high school


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