Safari Pictures!

Just a quick post to share some of my favorite photos taken on safari in Tanzania. What an adventure that was. Truly epic. We were certainly lucky to see so much awesomeness.

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Kenyan Recipes: Pilau + Kachumbari

Pilau is a spiced rice dish that is found all along the Swahili coast of Africa. Often it is made with shredded chicken or bits of beef, but this version is vegetarian. It is a dish that is heavily influenced by Indian cuisine, and it tastes great alongside another Kenyan specialty: kachumbari. Kachumbari is basically the African version of pico de gallo, except you make it a bit spicier and the chiles are of a different variety (unknown to me) that is not jalapeño.

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Here in Nairobi, you can find the pilau spice mixture at practically any grocery store or market, but you can make it at home as well. A standard recipe is here.

Also, here are a few pictures from our little trip to the suburb of Karen to visit the elephant orphanage and giraffe sanctuary last weekend.

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check out those eyelashes!

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this guy is such a douche
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that tongue – wow!

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1 cups basmati or jasmine rice (I used brown basmati rice)
1 medium red onion, diced

1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 tablespoon butter or cooking oil
1 1/2 tablespoon pilau masala

salt and pepper

Cook the rice per package directions.

In a large pan, sauté the onions, garlic, and ginger in oil. Once the onions are transparent, add the pilau masala and stir around until fragrant. Add the cooked rice and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for an additional two minutes or so, until the rice is warmed and the ingredients are mixed well.

Serve with kachumbari on the side (recipe below).


3 large tomatoes (the variety I find in Nairobi is similar to a roma tomato, so that is what I use), diced
1/2 medium red onion
2 small hot chiles (serrano would work well), minced
1 clove raw garlic, minced

2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
drizzle of olive oil
drizzle of lemon juice, lime juice, or red wine vinegar
salt and pepper

Mix all ingredients together well and refrigerate.

My Work in Kibera

It occurred to me today that many of you probably have no idea what I am doing in Kenya, so I thought I’d share a bit about the work I am doing here.

To start, I am interning for a non-governmental organization (NGO) called Kounkuey Design Initiative (KDI). You can learn a lot more about them and what they do on their website, but in brief, they build Productive Public Spaces. These public spaces are places that can address the many needs of slum-dwellers: economic development, sanitation, clean water, playgrounds for children, schools, clinics, and even simply spaces for people to mingle. So they are spaces that the entire community can use and enjoy, but they are also productive in that they provide many needed services to residents.

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Toilet facilities at Kibera Public Space Project Site 02

KDI partners with local community groups in the informal settlement of Kibera (aka, slum) to work on projects that improve quality of life and help to alleviate poverty. They provide funding and technical support (from engineers, architects, landscape architects, and planners, like me) through a process called community-driven design. The community itself provides all the necessary feedback and information in designing the site, and they assume responsibility for running and maintaining the project when it is complete. KDI has built two productive public spaces in Kibera, a third is in construction, and three more are in the works.

My role here is (mostly) two-fold.

1: I will be planning for, designing, and running public meetings to gather input from the community for a new public space project – Site 04. These community workshops will focus both on the physical design – architecture, landscape architecture, and engineering (ie, how they want the site to look and what structures they want there) – and the programmatic details of generating income for the site, maintaining it, managing it, etc.

2: I will be designing and implementing a watershed education program. The goal is to educate and empower the local community to reclaim the river and sustain environmental integrity.

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Dumping site along a river in Kibera

I have several other smaller tasks to accomplish, but that’s the quick and dirty of what I am doing here. I am working with 5 other interns who all have various roles in the process and a team of Kenyan staff who are helping to teach us the ropes. I share a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment with Margaret, an architecture intern who just graduated from Cornell. We have cleaning service twice a week (which includes our laundry), and they change our sheets once a week. I am feeling really spoiled in that regard.

So, to end this post, I will leave you with a couple videos:

really nice apartments look out over Kibera:

school children ask how I am doing:

the river runs black in Kibera:

Tofu and Cucumber Salad + Africa Pictures

So this recipe is not at all African. It just so happens that I’ve made it twice since I have been here. I have not (and will not) stock a full pantry here for a mere two months, so I am trying to create some recipes with just a few basics. I have soy sauce, and oil and vinegar, and I bought a nice spice mixture called Pilau Masala, which is used for making a rice dish called – you guessed it – Pilau. So with just a few items, I have been throwing together this nice little salad.

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I never really wrote much about our 2-week pre-internship trip through Tanzania and Rwanda. It was yet another wildlife-centric trip for us, with just a bit of beach and city time on each end. I only have photos from Zanzibar and Rwanda uploaded to flickr right now, so safari photos will have to wait until next time, but here is a little preview of my favorite photos from those two places.

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Sunset at Kendwa Beach, Zanzibar

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The evening sun illuminates a building in Stone Town, Zanzibar

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Eric eating chapati while watching a local soccer match

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The red colobus monkey of Zanzibar

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A mass grave at Kigali’s genocide memorial, Rwanda

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Eric paying his respects to the victims buried in the mass graves

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Locals participate in gorilla conservation by entertaining hikers each morning

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Manicured streets of Kigali, Rwanda

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Rwandan countryside

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Silverback gorilla posing for the camera

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Female gorilla, contemplating

In other news, I have settled into a work routine here in Nairobi. Many days I will wake up and head to Kibera to meet up with the KDI Kenya team. Others I will work from home if I have to use internet or the computer. We have not had many days off yet – public meetings need to happen on weekends when people are home from work, so that means Saturdays and Sundays have so far been off limits for traveling.

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Soccer field in Kibera

It is striking to me what a different world Kibera is – especially compared to the wealth you see in other parts of Nairobi. You enter Kibera on foot because there are not really roads – just dirt paths that are steep and uneven. When you walk in, you see row after row of small businesses – a clothing shop or a butcher, a vegetable stand or a hair braiding salon, a tailor or a knife sharpener – each set up in its own little tin-roofed shack. Further in, you can start to smell the fragrance of Kibera. If it’s a warm or sunny day, the smell can be especially strong. Sewage, sweat, and animals (including farm animals such as goats and pigs) are the main scents I can identify. Trash collects at dumping grounds along the river and is scattered along the paths. The rivers are essentially open sewers, and in many places in Kibera, the stream runs black.

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Trash builds up along the river; there is no formal garbage collection system in Kibera

The extravagant wealth that you can find in other parts of Nairobi may not exist in Kibera, but you will still find well-dressed men and women, children attending school, eager entrepreneurs, and happy, friendly people. As I walk through – with my pale skin and blonde hair – children break into a sort-of song and dance, chanting “how are you” as they stomp their feet and run to shake my hand. High fives and fist pumps are huge with the kids. And if you respond to their “how are you” – if you say “I am fine, how are you?” back to them – they will often giggle and turn their head shyly. The younger children know few English words beyond that.

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School children love posing for the camera

Tofu and Cucumber Salad

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1 english cucumber, halved and sliced
1/2 medium sized daikon radish, peeled and julienned
1 small red onion, finely sliced
1 package tofu, cubed
5 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon cold water
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon vinegar (preferably rice vinegar, but I used red wine as I had none on hand)
1 teaspoon sesame seeds

Combined tofu, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, and a sprinkling of vinegar in a container and marinate tofu for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, chop the vegetables and combined. In a separate bowl, combine the remaining soy sauce, water, vinegar, and honey. Pour the dressing over the vegetables and refrigerate.

When the tofu is done marinating, pour some oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Add the tofu, making sure it is in a single layer. Let sit for a couple minutes until 1 side of the tofu has a crispy, golden edge. Stir around or flip the pieces and continue until most or all sides of each piece are crispy. Combine the warm tofu with the cold salad and mix well. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Almost Settled in Nairobi

Even though I’m not exactly moved into my apartment and settled in, I thought I would post something here about my experiences so far. The internet connection is slow and intermittent, so no pictures yet, but hopefully when we move into our new apartments we will have a strong enough connection to upload a few pictures.

We’re staying in a temporary apartment right now because our actual apartment is not available until Monday. The apartment is comfortable – 3 big bedrooms, a nice living room, and a decent kitchen. Everything is furnished, and our next apartment will be also. There is even cable TV, complete with Food Network! Though apparently our next apartment will not have such luxuries.

We live in a pretty nice neighborhood and are very close to 3 huge grocery stores and two major shopping centers. There is even a fantastic natural foods store nearby! I bought an avocado at the produce market yesterday for 20 shilling, which is around 25 cents. You can bet I will be eating well here. The market had an amazing selection of fruits and veggies, including all kinds of things I have never seen before. This summer will definitely include several fun cooking adventures!

There are plenty of fantastic restaurant options, including several Indian and Ethiopian options – I am pretty excited about that. I went to check out the local gym today, since running on the streets seems nearly impossible. They charge $100/month! I’m seriously considering it, though, because it’s pretty nice and they even have a great spin studio. I should have brought my spinning shoes!

So I have my first meeting in Kibera today, the informal settlement (aka slum) that I will be working in all summer. I am excited and nervous to to see this place that I have imagined in my head for so long. I will blog more about those experiences later.

Eric and I also had a fantastic time exploring Tanzania and Rwanda during the last two weeks. I’m working on editing down close to 3000 photos, so it may be a little while before I can upload them. I managed to whittle a set of 800 down to around 400 just yesterday, though, so it might be sooner than I originally imagined.

And well… I guess that’s it for now!