Wednesday, January 31, 2007

My Little Gold Friend

Several of you had been wondering about my lack of blogging over that most important of news items from the past week: the Oscar race. My biggest hurdle in this episode of Blog was finding sincere love (or even insincere like) for most of the nominees. Part of the problem, I realize, is that I haven’t seen any of the nominated movies. But in an attempt to redeem myself in your eyes, Beloved Readers, I promise to buy at least some of them on DVD. (And if they’re really good I may even get non-pirated ones.)

Best Picture
The Departed
Letters From Iwo Jima
Little Miss Sunshine
The Queen

Any look at the Oscar class of 2007 obviously has to start with the Best Picture category. Since I haven’t seen a single one of these films, I have decided to base my vote on gossip from E!News. Well, “The Queen” seems more like a movie of the week than an Oscar contender so it (and all its subsequent nominations) was immediately thrown out. I’m not a fan of Westerns and therefore not a fan of Clint Eastwood, so “Iwo Jima” is also out of the running. That leaves us with “Babel” starring Brad (I cheated on my wife because all men are scum) Pitt, “The Departed,” starring Leo (I’ll always be that guy from Titanic) DiCaprio, and “Little Miss Sunshine” a feel good movie starring some kid who wishes she was Dakota Fanning.

What does all that mean? Basically that I have no particular favorite for Best Picture but if I’m forced (which you are doing) to make a selection I’ll lean toward “Sunshine.” Hey, I was ever one to cheer for the underdog.

Best Actor
Leonardo DiCaprio, "Blood Diamond"
Ryan Gosling, "Half Nelson"
Peter O'Toole, "Venus"
Will Smith, "The Pursuit of Happyness"
Forest Whitaker, "The Last King of Scotland"

This one should be a wee bit easier as I’m not going to cheer for the old guy (O’Toole), or the kid from “Titanic.” Gosling needs to put in more work to win one of these, I’m afraid. Which leaves us with the Fresh Prince and the football player from Hubby’s all-time favorite movie “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.” I’d be happy with either one taking home the golden man.

Best Actress
Penelope Cruz, "Volver"
Judi Dench, "Notes on a Scandal"
Helen Mirren, "The Queen"
Meryl Streep, "The Devil Wears Prada"
Kate Winslet, "Little Children"

This one is a unanimous vote in the Typ0/Hubby household: Kate Winslet all the way. She’s been nominated several times before and is a terrific actress. Go Kate!!

Best Supporting
Actor Alan Arkin, "Little Miss Sunshine"
Jackie Earle Haley, "Little Children"
Djimon Hounsou, "Blood Diamond"
Eddie Murphy, "Dreamgirls"
Mark Wahlberg, "The Departed"

We should get rid of the easy idiots first: Eddie Murphy is still the guy from those classic 80’s movies. Don’t get me wrong: I love watching “Coming to America” when it’s on TNT for the fourth time this week, but he’s no Oscar winner. Next we need to ditch the guy who posed in his undies and was the Mark in “Marky Mark and the Fresh Bunch.” I’ve never heard of Haley so he’s out too. Sorry! That leaves us with Alan (I’m boring) Arkin and my pick to take home the statue: Djimon Hounsou who is not only hot but a very talented actor.

Best Supporting Actress
Adriana Barraza, "Babel"
Cate Blanchett, "Notes on a Scandal"
Abigail Breslin, "Little Miss Sunshine"
Jennifer Hudson, "Dreamgirls"
Rinko Kikuchi, "Babel"

Yet another category with no one for whom I wish to cast my vote. Having the American Idol reject (Hudson) win would be nice if only because it would thoroughly upset Beyonce (I’m incredibly overrated) Knowles.

Best Directing
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, "Babel"
Martin Scorsese, "The Departed"
Clint Eastwood, "Letters From Iwo Jima"
Stephen Frears, "The Queen"
Paul Greengrass, "United 93"

I’m going with Scorsese here. Not because I think the movie is any good but rather because this guy has been nominated and lost so many times for way better movies that he deserves to finally take home the gold.

Best Foreign Language Film
"After the Wedding" Denmark
"Days of Glory (Indigenes)" Algeria
"The Lives of Others" Germany
"Pan's Labyrinth" Mexico
"Water" Canada

How do you spell Canada? C, eh, n, eh, d, eh. Go Canada!! (Like there was ever any doubt about the way this one was going to go.)

Best Adapted Screenplay
Sacha Baron Cohen and Anthony Hines and Peter Baynham and Dan Mazer and Todd Phillips, "Borat Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan"
Alfonso Cuaron and Timothy J. Sexton and David Arata and Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby, "Children of Men"
William Monahan, "The Departed"
Todd Field and Tom Perrotta, "Little Children"
Patrick Marber, "Notes on a Scandal"

I don’t care who wins this one as long as “Borat” loses. Please it took FIVE people to write that drivel?

So that’s my rundown of a few of the Oscar categories this year. We will, I’m sure, have a wrap up for the outfits, winners, and losers after the show in February. But until then, who are your picks? What do you think was the best movie of the year? And most importantly… Which of these movies should I waste Hubby’s hard earned dollars to see?

Friday, January 26, 2007

More Birthdays!

Happy Still-Going-On-29 Birthday, Daddy!!!!

I hope I didn't wake you up when I called this morning.

Birthday Time!

Happy Birthday, Aunt B!!!!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

It's Mythbusting Time

Since arriving in Nairobi, Hubby and I have discovered a new program for which to build small shrines and center our lives around. The most surprising part, for those of you who know us well, is that the new show isn’t one of our typical WB or Fox mind melters. Which is not to say that we aren’t keeping up with the latest seasons of “The OC” and “Gilmore Girls” but rather that our hearts have been stolen by the Discovery Channel.

Yes, you read that last part correctly: we are obsessed with a show from the Discovery Channel and aren’t ashamed to scream it from the highest heights or blog about it on the Internet. We discovered (if you’ll pardon the pun) our new sweetheart by accident and now find ourselves rushing home from dinner or the bar so that we can catch the latest three-year-old episode of this especially amusing and enlightening program.

I’m guessing that by now you’ve either guessed which show (Bravo!) or are wondering what the heck I’m talking about. As the smarties in the bunch could tell you, I’m talking about “Mythbusters,” which stars Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, two special effects geeks turned TV busters. These guys are so cool they've even appeared in the Marvel Comic X23!

Those of you who have seen the show know that while the science behind the show is spot on and regularly enlightening, the hosts themselves are what keep the fans coming back week after week. Adam and Jamie have an on screen chemistry that hovers somewhere between brotherly tolerance and sincere mutual dislike. Hubby does an amazingly amusing and spot-on impression of the senior buster, Jamie, that has become slightly annoying through repetition but he tells me is still cute. Adam and Jamie aside, the real star of the show would have to be Buster – the much maligned crash test dummy who tests all of the more deadly and injury inducing myths. That poor Dummy seriously needs to fire his agent!

But you’re probably wondering who does all the work on the show. Well that would be the Junior Mythbusters – or, as Hubby likes to refer to them: Kari and a bunch of other people who aren’t as hot as Kari. Do I even need to mention that she’s a (dyed) redhead (Hubby note: dude, does that matter??)? Silly cute but predictable boys.

Now that you’ve met the team, I’ll have to explain exactly what Mythbusting is. The team takes urban myths and legends and tries to disprove them using (semi) sound science. Last night’s episode, for example, involved exploding jaw breakers (confirmed), exploding PVC piping (busted), and deadly playing cards (busted). They tested the myths using various homemade gadgets, which included a literal iron jaw, a giant iron static ball, and a super-human, mechanical card tosser. Name an urban myth and they’ve probably attempted to bust it: from escaping from Alcatraz (plausible) and dying in quicksand (busted) to Archimedes death ray (busted) or the best way to cool a six-pack of beer (You’ll have to come over for a party to find out the answer to this one!).

This show seriously redefines fun and cool. Plus, for those us stuck in Kenya and wishing they were back in California, it gives them a little piece of home. Mythbusters, much like our earlier World Strong Man obsession is a very, very good thing. Plus its edu-ma-cation-al!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Bring on the Trans Fats!

Well the Ooga Chucka baby has officially vacated our Nairobi apartment. (Sorry mum!)

Reading this article on Yahoo over the weekend a sudden craving for a double cheeseburger from Harvey's, and maybe some Zesty Doritos or even some Hostess Twinkies.

Bon Appetit!

Eating Trans Fats May Increase Infertility Risk
By Anne Harding Thu Jan 18, 6:47 PM ET

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Women who want to get pregnant may want to stay away from fast food French fries not just to avoid putting on some extra pounds, a new study shows.

The more trans fats a woman eats, the more likely she is to be infertile, Dr. Jorge E. Chavarro of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston and colleagues found.

Trans fats are found in fried foods, packaged snacks, commercial baked goods and other sources, and are known to increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes. "Even for somebody who's not trying to get pregnant, it is a very good idea to stay away from them," Chavarro told Reuters Health.

Trans fats can interfere with the activity of a cell receptor involved in inflammation, glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity, Chavarro and his team note in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Drugs that activate the receptor have been shown to improve fertility in women with a condition known as polycystic ovary syndrome.

To investigate how trans fat consumption might affect fertility, the researchers analyzed data from 18,555 healthy women participating in the Nurses' Health Study. All were married and trying to get pregnant between 1991 and 1999.

For every 2 percent increase in the amount of calories a woman got from trans fats instead of carbohydrates, the researchers found, her risk of infertility increased by 73 percent. The risk rose by 79 percent for every 2 percent of energy in trans fats if they replaced omega-6 polyunsaturated fats. And for every 2 percent of calories derived from trans fats instead of monounsaturated fats, the risk of infertility more than doubled.

For a woman eating 1,800 calories a day, 2 percent of energy intake in trans fats equals 4 grams, Chavarro noted. "It's not very hard to get 4 grams of trans fatty acids every day," he said. "It's really a small amount of trans fatty acids that we observe having a significant effect on infertility."

The Food and Drug Administration now requires manufacturers to state on their label if a food contains a half gram of trans fat per serving or more, Chavarro noted, but foods with less than a half gram are allowed to claim that they have zero grams of trans fat. To cut trans fats out of the diet completely, he added, people should avoid all foods that list hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils in their ingredients.

SOURCE: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, January 2006.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Lazy Sunday

I’m sure that most of you observant and brilliant Devoted Readers have noticed that my tour of our Seychellois vacation ended rather abruptly with a few days left. I haven’t yet told you about Hubby’s brilliant golf playing at the world famous Seychelles Golf Club. I think he may have even set a course record during his time on the links. (Of course the record is for accidentally throwing your club further than you hit the ball, but hey, it’s still a record!)

Nor have I gotten around to telling you about the great supermarkets where you can buy a tube of Pringles for the low, low price of just US$7.50. Of course, if you head to the hypermarket before you break your daily fast, you could head down the cereal bargain aisle and pick up a box of US$6 generic Rice Crispies or US$10 Special K. Oh, you mean you didn’t want to have to sell your first born to eat on the island? In that case we’ll head for the ocean.

Our second day on the sea was much more enjoyable than our sea-sickening first. Hubby jumped in the water at the first opportunity to test out his new snorkeling gear and had to be dragged back in the boat for lunch. The catamaran took us around the smaller islands closer to Mahé (including Typ0 island: It’s the one now claimed by me in the middle… passport and visa information for visitors to come in a future blog) and we enjoyed the time and opportunity to enjoy the sun (appropriately drenched in SPF50) and leisurely meet our fellow travelers from Denmark, South Africa, Poland, and Britain. We tried explaining where we were from but eventually gave up and started simply agreeing with whatever designation was guessed with a smile, a shrug, and a polite response of, “Sort of.”

The truth of the matter is that I stopped sharing our Seychelles vacation details not because it wasn’t a great vacation – it most certainly was – but because I got bored of writing about the same topic day after day after day. I wrote about other things for a few days and was peer pressured by Hubby into finishing up the holiday logs.

Interestingly, Dobhi Wallah (aka Queen E) is currently in the Seychelles (or on her way there, I’m not sure which) and will soon be visiting your favorite blogger B!tch here in Nairobi in just a few weeks. I have been busily preparing for our first visitor by… um… Well, I haven’t been preparing really. But I will! Eventually…

In fact, I think it may be time to stop drinking cider, blogging and watching the World Series of Poker. After all it’s the middle of the afternoon so it’s probably time to get dressed and face the day. Eventually…

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Literacy of the Damned

Being without the Internet was both a blessing and a curse. The curse, obviously, was that I was separated from you, my Beloved and Devoted Readers. And while I won’t admit to any addiction (be they alcoholic or internet-ic), I must admit that the forced weaning of my fingers from the keyboard of my Mac was not an altogether bad thing.

Of course, what good is the cure of your “aholism” of choice, if it doesn’t leave something better in its wake? You see, in the last few months I have rediscovered the arcane form of entertainment known as “reading.” That, naturally, required buying books en masse during all those long, internet-free hours. Some came via (not a bad option if you have a large order in mind) and other random jaunts to Toronto and India. Anyway you crunch the numbers, however, literacy is expensive drug.

Hubby, narrow minded git that he is, will tell you that some (or as he claims all) of what I read wouldn’t count toward the literacy of a rabbit let alone a grown woman with a pricey book habit. I freely admit that I like a good trashy romance as much as the next girl. The links to the right of this entry are proof enough of that KISA addiction. Nor do I apologize to anyone for enjoying a good Happily Ever After in this Unhappily Ever Is that we live in. Hubby believes that these books have given me false expectations of the real world. But hey, that’s why I’m the blogging freak and he’s the one at work… working.

But this episode of blog isn’t about those books. I’m not sure if maybe I’m maturing or god forbid growing up but I’ve been leaning less toward my romances of late and more in the direction of books that my parents would actually not make me hide when we had company. The problem is that I haven’t exactly been happy with all the heroes or authors in these new tomes. Knights in Shining Armor they were not. Examples? Well if you insist…

Before I left for Toronto, I ordered a copy of Bill Buford’s new book, “Heat.” Even though it arrived only after I had departed on my much-needed vacation, I eagerly tore into it shortly upon my arrival back in Kenya. I was thrilled to have the book in my hot little hands as one of the memoir’s central figures is my Food Network hero of Italian food, Mario Batali. Molto Mario’s cookbooks have been a constant source of inspiration in the Typ0/Hubby kitchens. Some of you may even have enjoyed what we have dubbed “Mario Sauce,” a menu staple in our house that was inspired by one of his recipes.

After reading “Heat,” however, the warm clog-orange glow has worn off of Mario in favor of a more honest semi-respect for his business know-how and chef derring-do. But what really bothered me most about the book was Buford himself and what I perceived as a serious lack of integrity.

You see, at one point in his Italian journey, Bill heads off to Italy to learn the art of Italian cooking from experts and folks who so long ago taught Mario himself. The time spent there was engrossing to read about and kept me at the edge of my kitchen counter seat. At one point in this journey of discovery, he meets Betta and over the course of much time (and pages), convinces her to teach him her special tortellini recipe. She naively agrees but on one condition – He can NEVER EVER, EVER share her secrets with Mario for whom she has little respect or, it seems at times, even liking. After the chef equivalent of a pinky swear Betta begins Bill’s tutelage.

Her teachings are recorded in his book ingredient-by-ingredient, process-by-process. Buford kept his promise not to tell Mario and instead published all of Betta’s secrets in a million-copy best seller. What a great guy. I would someday like to hear his defense of his broken promise and Betta’s reply.

(For the sake of full disclosure, I will note here that I really loved the book and it was well worth even its rather steep hardcover price. It was well written and kept me intrigued almost the entire way through. Cooking fans, Food Network fans, and fans of good writing would all enjoy this book. Betta, however, might not.)

A month ago, I finished reading “Memoirs of a Geisha” by Arthur Golden. Recommended to me by Princess MK along with the other awesomely good book “The Secret Life of Bees” by Sue Monk Kidd, I was eager to dig into this popular book which was turned into (from what I’ve heard) a fairly decent movie. I enjoyed “Geisha” as I
read it in Delhi and on the plane back to Nairobi in December. My enjoyment of the heroine (seemingly well-written by a guy, it should be noted) ended abruptly as the book’s final chapters drew the book in its inevitable downward spiral of woman-hating.

A tragic hero that is blessed with neither good looks nor tremendous disposition befriends, saves and loves our Geisha. She, naturally, sees him as just a friend. In fact, not only does she not love him but is also deeply infatuated with his best friend and boss. So, to thank him for everything the hero has done to help her, she stabs him in the back. I almost didn’t finish the book because I didn’t want her to have her HEA.

I have other reviews and books to share with you like “Shantaram” and “Glass Castle” and the porn-light brilliance of JR Ward, but I’ll leave those for another day and another episode of blog.

Now I turn to you, Dearest Reader, to share with me any good book or authors to be found on your “keeper” shelves. I’m running out of books that need to be devoured and am slowly coming face to face with the stack of those that I purchased in haste and am now doomed to read. So please save me and feed my literacy addiction.

History is a novel that has been lived,
a novel is history that could have been.
- E & J de Goncourt

Friday, January 19, 2007

A Midwinter Day’s Dream

I had this dream once where I was flying. To be honest, I have dreams like this quite often. Not flying like Superman or anything, but more gliding on a cushion of air. I could push a cart and be floating up just as high as the top of the wheels so no one would notice. Or be up in a tree and suddenly be flying over my neighborhood from treetop to the tops of the power lines and back again, all the while taking in everything beneath me like I was in a movie panning over the scene.

Other times I would dream that I was naked. The odd thing was that I’d never realize it until it was too late and I was in public somewhere. And, of course, since it was a dream, I always had a really hot body to cover up with whatever was at hand in dreamland.

Before we moved overseas, I would frequently have dreams where I was in the passenger seat of a car and being told to drive. I’d lean over and try to steer and reach the pedals of an already moving vehicle and wonder why the steering wheel was on the wrong side or why I was on the wrong side. As luck would have it, I was on the right side of the car, just a few years too early.

The oddest dreams are those that bring back names and faces from the past. Boys I haven’t seen since I was 13 and friends I barely knew for fifteen minutes when I knew them fifteen years ago. I always wonder if dreams like that are trying to tell me to look these people up for a reason. Did something happen to them that I should know about? Or maybe something was triggered by hearing a name similar to theirs in passing while I was watching TV that day.

I’m a big one for wondering what dreams really mean. I think it’s because I tend to dream in big shiny Technicolor. Hubby never remembers his dreams but mine are so vivid they often seem real. Are they snippets of what may have been? Or what will someday be? Or, as some stick in the muds think, nothing at all: just pictures behind my closed, blinking eyelids that no one else can see.

Or maybe, just maybe, this whole thing we call life is just one big long dream. Some of it good, some of it long, horrible and rather nightmare-ish. A friend of mine in high school had a theory that we were all just players in a big holodeck of each other’s lives. As soon as we left the scene, we disappeared.

A dream. A scene on Captain Picard’s holodeck. Either way I think it’s time for a nap and maybe perchance to dream.

If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber'd here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream…

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Ooga Chucka

I discovered some wonderfully amazing baby news last night. You may recall back in June I gave a shout out to my bud Care Bear for getting herself knocked up by her wonderful husband, Cubby.

Well the blessed event is here and my Toronto Babe now has her very own too adorable for words Baby Bear. *sniff*

Congrats sweetie! You guys done good. Baby Bear is too sweet and cute for words!!

I do not have maternal feelings. I am not seeing the “Ally McBeal” dancing baby in my living room. I do not want kids.

(Did anyone buy any of that last paragraph?



Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Temporary Reprieves

Despite previously made plans to attend a tour of Île aux Cerfs, the tour operators kindly gave one day away from boats and water to spend as land-locked as possible. The horror of boating would return full force on Friday but at least for this one day, I could attempt to forget that the only way to visit the neighboring islands was by ship.

The first top on our Day Away From Water Tour was a fabulous pizza place in Victoria called Sam’s. Due to our remarkably late start to the day, the restaurant had actually stopped serving lunch by the time we arrived. After a few pitiful looks and pleadings on our part, they took pity on us and agreed to let us be the absolute last seating of the afternoon. Our extra pathetic looks were not for naught, for lunch, as promised by the guidebook, was trés tasty.

Properly satiated with rum punch and pizza (Hold on. That sounds oddly familiar…) we headed “a wee bit” down the road to the Botanical Gardens. Three miles later, we were granted access the incredibly picturesque grounds free of charge due the late hour. Here, rather than the typical slather of sunscreen we applied a coat (or six) of mosquito repellent.

It should be noted at this juncture that whilst Hubby was sunburned from our holiday, I spent the whole week as a walking 12-course mosquito meal. Bitten from ankle to cheekbone, I spent more time rubbing my back against itch easing doorways than can be considered either reasonable or polite. The Botanical Gardens are a known ‘skeeter hangout and I was not going to be caught out (like I had on every other day of our vacation). That said, it was here that I obtained my highly attractive cheekbone bite. Lucky, tasty me! Or something…

Bloodsuckers aside, the gardens were gorgeous. They boasted all sorts of local flora and fauna including several varieties that we were unable to identify. Although free of wildlife of the four-legged variety there was an abundance of birds to enjoy. There were several amateur ornithologists there with us who seemed thrilled every time an overhead branch so much as quivered.

Then, of course, there was the wildlife of the two-legged variety that were busy throwing a rather loud party in the covered café at the top of the swampy portion of the park. Luckily, they didn’t inhibit our enjoyment of the area and even helped to provide a groovy soundtrack to our afternoon. The birders were a little less impressed as the music seemed to have scared away several varieties of birds that were known to call the Gardens home.

Dinner that evening was at La Scala near Beau Vallon. Restaurants in the Seychelles come in two varieties: inexpensive and inedible; and expensive and exquisite. La Scala was definitely part of the latter grouping. This was one of those places where women receive a menu devoid of prices so that their dates can faint away when they innocently order veal or lobster not realizing the wallet-shocking price. The homemade pasta melts in your mouth but leaves you with just enough room for one of the devilishly delightful desserts. The best part of an evening at La Scala, should you ever find yourself there, is the view of the waves crashing against the shore in the fading light.

As our rather cool taxi driver drove us home we snuggled together and I tried to forget the horrors that would be waiting for me come the dawn. Hubby insisted that the catamaran would be gentler on my landlubber stomach than yesterday’s wave hopping vessel. In the meantime, I was more than willing to fall into our bed and dream of having teleportation skills that would never require me to board a boat ever again.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Water 2 - Typ0 0

Wednesday was a day I would much, much, much rather forget for the rest of my life. Wednesday, you see, was the day that we took a boat ride from Mahé to La Digue and then onto Praslin and back home to Mahé. Or, as I remember it, the day I discovered that I was *not* a pirate or any other sort of sea faring person in a previous life. Allowing for some pleasurable stops in between, the torturous sojourns aboard the ship overshadowed the rest of the day…

As I mentioned in my previous blog, the rainy season was upon us in the Seychelles when we arrived on Christmas Eve. Typically, though, the rain comes in short, sweet bursts, so the rain we experienced yesterday was a bit unusual. The rain that had amused us the night before with its fork lightning had created rough seas by the next morning. This naturally coincided with our planned tour to the islands of Praslin and La Digue.
Praslin and La Digue are the second and third largest islands of the Seychelles after Mahé and are approximately 20 minutes away via helicopter or an hour and half away by boat. A very long hour and half.

Our tour consisted of about 30 people in total; about 12 of whom were seasick on the way to La Digue that morning. Sadly and pukingly, I was one of them. I am proud to say that I held out for about 45 minutes before I reached for my first little white bag. Although my practice of not eating breakfast probably contributed to that bit of will power.

When we finally arrived on La Digue everyone gladly ran off the boat and started to look around the small island which had only had motorized transportation for about 10 to 15 years. Prior to the introduction of this modern convenience, locals used ox pulled carts to get around. Of course, since ox pulled carts are kitsch and cute, they naturally kept them around to transport sea weary tourists like us.

The first stop here was a touristy coconut plantation where we learned about the big money to be made with this small male fruit. We were told that vanilla production used to be the number one industry but the abolition of slavery did away that labour intensive crop. The answer for the lazy plantation owners fell as if from the sky: coconuts. All they had to do was wait until nature said they were ripe and they fell from the trees, pick them up and enjoy their harvest. The perfect crop for lazy rich folks.

Much of the Seychellois production stock is shipped to Pakistan after firing (which preserves the meat of the fruit) where it is used to make everything from oil to butter. But nothing here goes to waste: the coconut water is consumed by the animals and the discarded shells are used to heat the kilns that fire the coconuts after harvest.

The tour guide introduced the group to the Emmanuelle house and then moved the oblivious (other than us) group onto the turtle pen. These massive ninjas-in-waiting are native to the island and were absolutely adorable. A few them even ate from the hands of one of the braver tour-goers.

Lucky for my still wobbly stomach, our morning on La Digue included a several hour rest on a lovely beach with an even lovelier cool breeze. We once again coated our skin with SPF50 and then plunked ourselves on a shady rock to enjoy the sight of our fellow tourists in their tanned, bikinied and Speedo-ed splendor. *shudder*

We spent quite a bit of time on the beach tormenting the sea crabs that seemed to jump at every sound, shadow, or stick that Hubby threw at them. The Crab People eventually became braver and inched closer to us; this resulted in Hubby experimenting in covering their house holes to see who would win Strong Man Crab Edition when the need to escape their seed covered homes arose.

Sadly, this land-locked peace was not long lived: we were told to head back to the boat so that we could head over to Praslin. You can, I’m sure, imagine how brilliantly happy I was with this news. On the plus side, at least this trip would last only 20 minutes. Twenty very long minutes.

The first stop after the horrible boat ride was a small forest. This incredibly informative walking tour was where we learned all about the famous Coco du Mer and its slightly less sexy male counterpart the coconut. Our guide pointed out other cool trees like All Spice (which I always thought was some sort of white trash mix of several other spices as opposed to one big tree) and Breadfruit trees. Cool note about the latter is that instead of being buried in coffins made of pine, the Seychellois make their coffins from the wood of the breadfruit tree. Which, of course, means that they aren’t buried in pine boxes; they are buried in breadboxes!! LOL I amuse myself. (Yes, that was your cue to laugh and agree that I’m funny.)

Lunch, which for my queasy stomach consisted of a piece of bread and a scoop of rice, was followed by more beach time. Despite the light sprinkling of rain, most people, including Hubby, went straight out into the azure blue water to splash around. This hour was only to fool us into thinking that our moments in paradise would never end. The call to board the boat back to Mahé proved that sentiment wrong.

The trip home was pretty much the worst hour and half of my life ever. I didn’t just regurgitate lunch but I think I felt several intestines make their way into the small
white bags that the boat crew kindly tossed overboard for me. In fact I kept one only slightly mocking crewman busy the entire time with that rather repetitive job.

I officially hate boats, sailing, and anything having to do with the water in general. The worst part was that we had another boat tour planned for the next day. God help me because as we docked in Mahé the thought of getting in a bus was making my stomach quake. Boarding a boat in less than 12 hours sounded about as thrilling as dinner at the Boat House. Poseidon help me!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Driving Him Crazy

Due to Hubby’s crispy-style shoulders, we opted to go driving around Mahé on Boxing Day. A simple sounding plan perhaps but despite having only 100 taxis on the island there are no major car rental places to pick up the slack. After a bit of negotiating with our hotel, we managed to arrange for a slightly over priced (and empty-tanked) sedan for the day. Our plan was to spend the morning and lunch in the capital “city” of Victoria and then to drive the perimeter of the island stopping at various touristy spots that were mentioned in the guidebooks.

The POA set, we made our way 10 minutes down the road to Victoria. There isn’t much to see in the capital and the tourist shops are lacking in anything that even I, the original shopaholic, wouldn’t buy. The main two things to see in town are the clock tower (which didn’t work until 2000 as the movers dropped one of the pieces into the salt water back when it arrived in 1903) and the fish market. The latter was a source of good deals on whole nutmeg (for me) and dried lemongrass (for Hubby’s tea).

After a decent but rather bland lunch at the “famous” Pirate’s Cove we piled back into the car and, map in hand, set out on our tour of Mahé. I should note here that the entire island is rather hilly and Hubby’s ability to negotiate the inclines while shifting gears was greatly put to the test. Despite the once-award winning skills of Map Girl (aka me), we managed a few wrong turns on an island with only a handful of main roads.

The plus side of this was that the scenery made all the poor navigation worthwhile. The narrow roads (two lane my arse!) made it difficult to impossible to pull over for pictures much of the time but Hubby’s old lady-esque driving enabled us to enjoy the beauty of the Seychelles at a leisurely pace. The vistas around us were genuinely gorgeous and made the hours that day literally melt away.

After a brief shop at the Seychelles’ version of Fragonard, Creole Fleurage Parfum, we went back up into the hills for what we hoped would be another tea plantation tour. We realize that the tea tour has become a rather predictable part of our trips but we love drinking the free tea and buying discounted Citronelle tea straight from the source. Of course neither of these was possible at this plantation because we arrived too late in the day and the Evil Woman in the store refused to sell us any of Citronelle tea because it required her to stop talking on her cell phone for more than five seconds. (The Itch!)

We then headed back down the “mountain" in search of the local outdoor craft center. Once again my amazing map reading skills led us to a road famous for being the worst on the island. Or as I liked to call it “a short cut.” The good news is that, as I mentioned, there aren’t that many roads on Mahé so you can’t actually get lost even if you try.

The skies opened up just as we arrived at the craft village and didn’t ease up until early evening. We took advantage of this easing of the seasonal weather to escape back to Beau Vallon for a restaurant that all our guidebooks swore was a top pick. For the record: they lied. The Boat House was described as a seafood buffet but was more of a tuna buffet. *shudderblech*

There were only two high points to the entire fetid meal; the first of which was the coconut couscous that turned out to be a local specialty. Coconuts, as you may recall, are plentiful here and the locals have discovered numerous yummy ways to use them: from fermenting them into potent rums to using the meat to season a normally boring dish and transform it into a memorable meal.

In case you’re wondering what the second high point of the meal was… It was paying the bill (where we did actually fare well with the Euro exchange rate) and getting to leave.

Just as we pulled into the Wharf, it began to pour once again only this time it didn’t let up until long after we were asleep. This, as I was soon to discover, was a bad omen for our boat trip to La Digue and Praslin the next day. A very bad omen.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Blog: The PG13 Edition

Before I can tell you about our day of driving around, the cuteness of sand crabs, or why boats are the work of the devil, I need to acquaint you with the number one obsession that surrounds the islands of the Seychelles: SEX. I’m not talking simply about horny teens checking out the skanky topless Euro-trash cougars either. Sex is a fully pervasive theme that you can’t escape anywhere or on any tour.

It starts when you check into your room and observe the artwork. This painting and one just like it were directly in front of our bed. To the left of our sleeping area were two of a similar if slightly more male theme.

The Seychelles are famous for two things above all else. This is one of them:

Called a Coco du Mer it is the “female” coconut and was first found on the island of Praslin and basically only grows naturally in the Seychelles. (I’ll be sharing more about these cool fruit in a later issue.) The Coco du Mer is sold whole (although real ones cost about $400US and weigh upwards of 20 pounds), in miniature carved form (think key chains and earrings), and is even used to denote the women’s washrooms in some restaurants.

In case you’re wondering what they use for the boy’s washrooms…

This is the stem of the "male" coconut that we are all familiar with in the Real World. Basically, they grow on these stems up in the trees before they fall to the ground. Like I said, this is a sex-obsessed nation.

The second thing that the Seychelles is famous for is… well… a porn (or as Hubby edited: a soft-core, erotic love story) movie. They are seriously proud of this fact and advertise it during tours and in guidebooks. The movie “Goodbye Emmanuelle” was filmed here on the island of La Digue several years ago in this house.

The structure is now owned by the Seychellois government and is used to house famous political visitors that, we were told, include Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Finally, in case on your trip through the Seychelles you had managed to block out the Coco du Mer, art work, male coconut stems and the nasty topless sunbathers… I give you the turtles.

In case you can’t quite figure out what’s going on here (and well, that would be really sad) Dude Turtle is having a “good time” with She-Urtle and Loser Turtle, who showed up too late, is waiting his turn.

So now that you’ve seen the real wonders of the Seychelles, I’m pretty sure you can understand why we enjoyed it so much! Rowl!

Friday, January 12, 2007

A Very Beachy Christmas

Our early pre-morning wake-up call not withstanding, our first night’s sleep in the Seychelles was a peaceful one and we awoke to a sun drenched Christmas morning. After rifling through all the goodies that Santa had left for us we prepared for a traditional Seychellois Christmas on the beach.

A light continental breakfast later, Hubby and I piled into a taxi and headed for Beau Vallon in the north part of the island. Beau Vallon is a great hub of people, hotels, and restaurants and is probably the area we would stay on our next visit. All the beaches in the Seychelles are essentially public and don’t belong to any one hotel no matter their proximity to the key sunning spots. This in mind, we wandered down the beach and found a nicely shaded spot only a few feet from the salty ocean. Hubby kindly snuck into the closest hotel and procured a chaise lounge for me to perch upon.

Our first order of business was to slather SPF 30 sunscreen all over our carefully cultivated pasty selves. As we did so we looked around at the highly tanned (and often burned) Europeans lying on the sunny beach around us. While it is highly probable that we simply missed it, it appeared that we were some of the only people on the beach who concerned themselves with sunscreen application of any kind. Our fresh arrival on the island was highlighted whenever bare-chested Hubby would stand near anyone else and his neon whiteness shone like a healthfully pale beacon.

One last comment on the sunburned Europeans… When Hubby and I rule the world there will be an official embargo on Speedos. *shudder* Good god, why do fat 50 year olds think they look sexy in a tiny piece of material that does NOT cover their boys. *shudder*

Back to the blog… Suitably attired in surf shorts and plenty of sunscreen, Hubby ran directly for the water while I settled onto my chaise lounge and started to Soduku. After having whizzed through several “difficult” puzzles, I joined Hubby in the water and was rewarded for this marital devotion by being dunked under the warm salty water several times.

Hubby spent more time playing in the waves in Beau Vallon than he spent on shore and it was only with some reluctance that he finally joined me on the beach and got dressed for dinner. It was then that I noticed the somewhat pinkish colour on his shoulders. I dismissed this rose coloured vision since I knew we had almost emptied the bottle of sunscreen that day with multiple applications.

We wandered down the beach to the Le Meriden Hotel for dinner. We had read in our guidebooks that this rather pricey hotel had good restaurants (and bars as we soon discovered) and made reservations quickly. The maitre-d’ seemed less than pleased to hear that non-hotel-residents were trying to eat in his restaurant but we smiled innocently and bid him a Joyeux Noël. (I mentioned that the Seychelles is a French/Creole speaking country, right?) Our dinner that night, while not free, was very tasty.

After an incredible thirty-minute wait for a taxi back to our hotel (about 20 minutes away) we finally arrived back to our hotel home away from home. It was there that we discovered that Hubby’s “pink” shoulders were actually lobster red as was much of the top of his back. It turned out that the sunscreen we were using wasn’t actually waterproof (despite its claims on the label: damn boutique-y brands!) and every time he went back into the water he washed off his protection. The funniest part (if I may admit there was a funny part) was that the redness ended right along the water line where he would stand-up to wave at me. I should admit here that I too was slightly pink along my nose and cheeks despite having applied sunscreen vigorously all day. We quickly agreed to start using the SPF 50 the next day.

Of course, if we were burned and we actually tried to protect ourselves what did those Europeans who purposely placed themselves directly in the sun’s rays without sunscreen look like?! Great! Next time we went to the beach we’d have to deal with lobsters wearing Speedos. If that thought doesn’t give you nightmares then I don’t know what will. *shudder*

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Seashells in the Seychelles

As I mentioned in my previous post, Hubby and I spent the week of Christmas in the Seychelles and it was heavenly…

Christmas Eve morning arrived sooner than I had either wanted or expected. Before I knew it, Hubby was creaking down the spiral stairs and calling out that our taxi to the airport would arrive in twenty minutes. My first thoughts were about how much I hated mornings, morning people, anything in general that required me to awake before at least 8:30 a.m. That, of course, is when I remembered that it was finally the day of the trip! Agreeing to wake up early today meant that I got to go to the Seychelles. With that sunny thought in mind, I crawled out of bed with something that vaguely resembled enthusiasm. Or at least with as much enthusiasm as I could muster two hours before dawn.

One of the nice things about this destination choice for the holidays is that the Seychelles is only three hours away from Nairobi by air. If you inclined to look it up in your atlas, the 115 islands that make up the Seychelles are located in the Indian Ocean vaguely near Madagascar. To continue on the nerdy info-theme, the total landmass of the islands is less than 460 square kilometers. To put that into perspective, Hubby and I drove the perimeter of the main island of Mahé and crisscrossed it three or four times all in about a half a day. (And it only took that long because, as you know, darling Hubby drives like and old woman.) But more about that day of driving and puttering around on another episode of Blog.

We arrived in Mahé with little fanfare (and only slightly late due to flight delays) and made our way to our hotel, the Wharf. The hotel and private marina were well maintained if somewhat out of the way from the rest of the island and its attractions. That said, our room was brilliantly air conditioned (to the point of being chilly), generously sized, and had a rain shower. (Dude!!) Naturally, since this is us we’re talking about there was no hot water in said rain shower but the excessive heat and humidity made hot water a rather torturous thought most days.

We settled into our room and headed down to the bar (Shocking huh?) where we eased ourselves into Seychellois life by sipping beer and margaritas. A light lunch was interrupted only by requests for more beverages and the need to reserve a table for the “gala” dinner that was planned for that evening.

The surprisingly good dinner of soup, turkey with all the trimmings, and dessert was marred only by the dreadful humidity that hung in the air. Because of said heat the cold amuse bouche and lemongrass sorbet courses were among everyone’s favorites. That said, even Hubby who is by no means a huge turkey fan, loved the dinner and was still raving about it several days later.

It was with slightly intoxicated heads (induced by locally made after-dinner liqueurs) and full stomachs that we ended our first day on the island of Mahé in the Seychelles. We crowded under the warm, white duvet and closed our eyes content in the knowledge that we had been good little expats this year and so Santa was sure to visit us during the night.

That’s when it happened.

All of a sudden (around 3 or 4 a.m.) there arose such a clatter that I sprang from my pillow and told Hubby to answer the dang phone! The urgent life or death event on the end? It was my beloved parents calling to wish us a happy Christmas.

Let this be a lesson to you children of the world who, like me, enjoy tormenting their parents by calling them on every holiday in the middle of the night. Payback will come and it will be vicious and mocking and said previously besieged parents will enjoy waking you from your innocent and peaceful slumber.

Of course, that payback thing works both ways. Muhahahahahahahahahah!!