Pilaf

I can’t believe that I haven’t written about this dish yet. It is a staple in Central Asia, and it goes by more names then any other dish that I have heard of. Pilaf, plov, pilau, osh, plof… the list goes on, but they all have a few basic ingredients in common. While different countries and different regions vary the recipe a little, they all have rice, meat, onions and carrots, oh and oil… a lot of oil. Unless there is a pool of oil at the bottom of your plate, it’s not good pilaf.

In a country where we don’t trust the street food, pilaf has become our fast food. Most local places only serve it from 11:30-3:00, and it is always ready in a giant cast iron drum. So we can walk into a restaurant, order and have food on the table in less than 5 minutes. We always order the same thing: one black tea with lemon, one bread and two portions of pilaf. It is fast. It is cheap, and it is filling. What more could you want? (Oh.. and we eat it at least once a week and haven’t gotten sick from it yet!)

Lesson learned: When in Rome…

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Benjamin’s Turn

Different symptoms, possibly a different cause, but ultimately the same story. Both of us have now faced and conquered a mysterious Central Asian stomach bug. This was the sickest that I have ever seen Benjamin, and for one whole day he let it beat him. But Benjamin is not one to be beaten for long, and he fought through to recover quickly. Yet again, we have learned the great and valuable lesson of probiotics.

Lesson Learned: It doesn’t matter what caused it. In a foreign country, you may never know for sure.

Painting the Barn

walgreens-beauty-aisle

My old pastor used to say, “If the barn needs painting, then paint it.” By that he meant, if a woman needed to wear make-up, then let her put on the paint. I am not one of those women who wakes up with glowing skin and long lashes. This barn needs a little bit of painting everyday. When we moved to Central Asia, I tried to bring enough make-up to get me through the first several months, but I have now reached the point where my mascara wand was a clump and heaven forbid… I have run out of concealer. Many women here wear make up, so I wasn’t worried that I would be able to find some.

We were warned that we would have fewer options overseas, and I see that it is both true and untrue. In one sense, I have a plethora of choices. I can choose from any number of bazaars, and at each bazaar I can choose from one of 20 stalls or shops that sell the same kinds of products. Where my choices whittle down is that each shop sells the same few options. So when I went looking for mascara, I knew it wouldn’t be a hard decision because I my options would be limited.

If you walk up to the Covergirl aisle at Target, you probably have 30 options of just Covergirl mascara. Waterproof, non waterproof. Black, brown, really black, blue, etc. Lengthening or volumizing or both. The shop that I chose to walk into did have a few options so I can’t complain too much. In another life, I would have spent 15-20 minutes pouring over the make-up aisle in Target making sure that I was making the best choice out of my 100 options, but now I just chose the cheapest one.

Lesson Learned: Some choices matter, and some don’t. I have learned that my choice in mascara is less of a ground breaking decision.

Paying Bills

In America, they make it easy to pay bills. You can pay online. You can pay by phone. You can mail in a check or money order, or you can pay by a credit card.

Life in Central Asia is very different. We live in an area where cash is king, especially the US dollar, and we pay for everything in cash. Our cash transactions must, as can be expected, be done in person. Our cell phone bill for example, we pay for by going to a small hut like structure with a tiny window. All day, every day, a guy sits in that hut with a computer, takes your money and credits it to your phone number.

All other bills are similar in concept. Take home internet for example. My husband must go to the internet “store” and pay for the bill on the first of the month. He has tried to pay in advance before, but always without fail, on the first of the month our internet gets shut off. This month, he went into the store exactly on the first to pay our bill. He was told that we didn’t use any internet, and therefore we didn’t have to pay anything. “Come back the first of April,” they said. My husband insisted that we had used internet, but they responded with the same. So, he went home, used the internet and three hours later got a phone call that they had made a mistake. Long story short, we were without internet for several days. Hey… it happens and there is apparently nothing that we can do about it, except to roll with the punches.

Lesson Learned: Don’t get too attached to internet. One day you have it, and the next…

Basic Math

math

We live in a big enough city where public transportation is available, and for that I am grateful. I have previously written about my fears of the public transportation but since staying inside all day every day is neither healthy nor reasonable, I must venture out and take advantage of the transportation that is available to me. This bring me to basic math, and today, I offer you a word problem.

Rachel must get to class Monday- Friday for language. If taking a taxi costs her $5 one way and the bus costs her $1, how much will she spend if she takes a taxi to and from class every dayHow much will she spend if she takes the bus to and from class every day? 

Answer: A taxi will cost me $50, but a bus will cost me only $10. Now $40 may not seem like a tremendous amount to some people, but when you are living on a budget, it can make a huge difference, especially when it continues to add up. At the end of the month, I could save $160. At the end of the year, I could save $2,080. Does this mean that I never take a taxi? Certainly not. Some days I am running late, and I am more than happy to pay the money for a taxi to avoid a stern look from my language teacher because in the end, time is money. All in all, I just want to be a good steward of the money that we do have.

Lesson Learned: Who knew that I would use a word problem as an adult?