Set the meditation timer to five minutes. Consider whether you set a low bar for yourself in all aspects of your life. Set the timer to ten minutes. Remember that you have 14 things to do before the day officially begins, and set the timer back to five minutes. Allow all the nagging thoughts of errands and obligations and forgotten tasks to simply fall away… so that deeper fears of self-doubt and wasted purpose can really come to the fore and shine. Glance down at the timer, notice you’ve winningly achieved 43 seconds of mindful bliss. Add the State of Nirvana to your dream destination list, pack it in and get on with your day.
I’ve been cooking for Z for years, taking fundamental nutritional advice from my previous boss in the States who had long prepared food for her pups, and adding in the fruits of my own research, tempered by local availability of ingredients. It’s a labor of love, one shared by old roommates, and one that requires at every meal either proper planning or clever improvisation. Occasionally, the improvisation borders on the absurd, as when all I have to offer Z are extras of what I’m eating, minus the spices or sauces or canine-indigestibles. So sometimes the dog gets a scoop of goat meat ‘n slop from the bucket in the fridge, and sometimes she dines on sauteed filet of fresh fish with a side of chopped Swiss chard. Go figure.
It’s getting to be that time again…when my stash of comfort foods from home has waned and I’m weeks away from my next trip, so it’s time to get creative with local finds in a non-local kitchen (see Somali loxoox, still beyond my level of skill). It’s an expat food-lover’s conundrum: How to create magic, or at least something edible, out of a selection of options you’ve spent too much time with already. (This may also be a regular lover’s conundrum). In the interest of honesty, I’ll admit that the first cute little flour volcano I molded and filled with bright yellow eggs on our slightly angled counter top turned into a sticky, slip-and-slide disaster; I tried to whip it together with the gentle dexterity of Godzilla and ended up with egg yolks in my lap. That may have happened with the second cute little flour volcano as well. Then I wised up, forwent my ego, and mixed the dough in a perfectly reasonable bowl, which worked out a bit better, per my lap. A breakthrough: orecchiette. Al dente thumbprints that held pockets of buttery tomato sauce and delivered them in perfect form right down the hatch, one after the other.
Sometimes you keep your head down for a bit too long, buried deep in your laptop, your creative work, your chores, and you forget to look up and press your face against the world. The humdrum becomes drudgery, the drudgery becomes dead weight, your whole environment becomes a nuisance. It’s (way, way too) easy to lose sight of the charm that’s just next to you, of opportunities for humor and grace. Herewith, in attempt to recapture that charm, and reclaim my gratitude about life overseas, are some of the things I appreciate most about living in Hargeisa.
If it’s camel milk you’re after, you’re in luck; head to the market at dawn or dusk and you’ll find the absolute freshest available, just after it’s milked, to cure whatever ails you. When my partner’s mother visited us earlier this year and fell ill, his father brought her fresh camel milk, with fervor of devotion, just after milking time morning and night, as she insisted it was the most effective tonic and quickest route to health. What you can hardly find unless you have the right connections, is fresh cow’s milk. Local stores carry massive canisters of the powdered variety, most often mixed into Somali tea or instant coffee. Some groceries have shelf-stable liquid milk, but this has simply been dehydrated into powder and then rehydrated again – a far cry from fresh. If you’re lucky, you’ll find non-dehydrated liquid cow’s milk in cardboard cartons in the refrigerated section of the most expensive groceries, but even that comes from abroad and, given the limitations of cold chain shipping in the region, I question its integrity. …
After more than a year of dreaming, thinking, planning, pushing and pulling, getting off track and finding the way back again, we’ve managed it at last, setting up shop in Hargeisa’s international airport. There were delays of the self-indulgent and self-doubting varieties: Is this the right path among all those others? Is it the most profitable? What about that other shiny-looking opportunity over there… Does anyone really buy t-shirts? (Turns out, to our great relief, yes they do).