December 25, 2010

Just Like Christmas.

Some pictures from the Mattingly Household on Christmas morning.
And what would Christmas be without my favorite Christmas song. Off to celebrate with booze and bagels at my uncle's house in Capital Hill:)
Merry Christmas everyone!
Photo Credits: Andrei Sinioukov

December 20, 2010

Holiday Inspiration from the Spice Island.

Tis the season for over-imbibing and over-indulgence. But instead of sharing the standard bottle of red wine at your next holiday party, why not try something a little more inspired?! 

I came across the following recipes for Jamie Oliver's mulled wine and a holiday sangria featured on the Sprouted Kitchen, and the combination of winter fruits, warm spices and clementines all brought about immediate associations of the Christmas season in my mind. So drink it warm or cold, depending on your locale, but either way tis the season to add some spice in your life!
Interestingly, both of these recipes hit close to "home" not because mulled wine or sangria are holiday staples in our family, but rather because of my current proximity to Zanzibar, otherwise known as the "Spice Island." Zanzibar, the semi-autonomous island approximately 20 miles off the Tanzania mainland, has a long history of growing spices. In 1698, Zanzibar fell under the control of the Sultanate of Oman, which developed an economy of trade and cash crops with a ruling Arab elite. They developed large plantations to grow spices, and eventually the term "Spice Island" was coined in reference to Zanzibar. Today, spices continue to be one of Zanzibar's main industries, together with tourism. The islands are particularly well known for their production of cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and pepper. 

Tourists to Zanzibar are welcomed to join any number the daily spice tours excursions to the plantations within easy reach of Stonetown. We had the pleasure of taking a spice tour on a recent trip to Zanzibar and it proved quite an interesting excursion. Perhaps in this case pictures are worth a 1000 words.
the "spicy" boy.
fru-ITs and spices.

Photo Credits: 
# 1 and #2:
As a side note: the photography on this site is amazing, and makes the blog well worth reading alone, even if cooking is not a personal interest. I highly recommend perusing this site.

pictures of fru-ITs and spices: Andrei Sinioukov

Homeward Bound.

Tomorrow we are homeward bound for the holidays, or so we hope. Barring weather delays and grounded flights, we hope to board a plane and then another one and then another one to make it home in time for the holidays. Fingers crossed we experience a smooth journey. Afterall, it wouldn't be the holidays without Joannie's cookies to celebrate.

December 17, 2010

Dispelling Rumors.

The speculations are filled with much excitement and the pictures are on facebook appear to "prove" it. But I must confess, I did not have a baby, nor am I even pregnant (despite the recent weight gain). Instead, these pictures tell part of the "story" about our recent trip the Ukraine.

Andrei's mom is a neonatal doctor and was delighted at our suggestion that we come tour her hospital facilities and meet "her" babies.

So she suited us up in the appropriate gear:
And she introduced us to all of the babies on her ward:
His mother seemed to have the professional, comforting touch while the babies seemed to sense my inexperienced handling care.
After Andrei inquired about whether his mother was worried about any germs we may be carrying from Tanzania, our tour was quickly diverted to another floor of the hospital, where we got to see the "traditional" baby send off from the hospital and entry into the real world.

This package of premium services is complete with film footage to capture the special moment as well as oversized stuffed aniamls to celebrate the occasion. Afterall, who can deny all the extra trimmings for such a special occassion?! The presence of stork in the corner allows those who would prefer the false pretense that babies always have a safe, healthy and happily ever after entry into this world to go on believing.
All joking aside, this the tour of this birthing facility was incredibly impressive on its own right, but especially given my most recent baseline of comparison in Tanzania.

December 14, 2010

Once Upon a Time...

Someone had a dream.

To turn this:
 and this:
and this:
Into this:

and this:
and this:
and this:

As if the use of scrap metal to construct adorable home design objects is not inspiring enough, it turns out that the welders and artisans behind these works are actually a group of adult polio victims who arrive to work mostly via this mode of transport:
For more information about this workshop of wonders head here. To see their gallery or to make any last minute holiday shopping requests, head here. We are happy to support this great cause and would be happy to carry home any desired objects to friends and family back home, just drop us a line!

Cherry Bomb.


Photo Credit:
Andrei Sinioukov

Steve Bomb.


Photo Credit:
Andrei Sinioukov

December 13, 2010

Please spread the word.

As promised, I am writing a follow up post about the sale of sea shells not so close to the Indian Ocean sea shore in downtown Ukraine

I will begin with a loosely related passage from an exceptional book that I just finished reading Emergency Sex:

In Mombasa, Heidi meets James, a Masai “tribesman”. Following a romantic walk down the beach, she happens to notice that she is one of several solitary white women, all fairly young and attractive, with their own Masai tribesman. She casually remarks to herself, “Great, now I have turned into one of those rich white chicks who pick up poor, attractive men in third world countries for sex.”

In what appears to be a typical romantic ploy, James leads her onto a dhow, and following a short ride, they land directly onto a reef that she describes as filled with puddles that hold the most magnificent sea creatures – anemones, urchins, and starfish – with splashes of bright, living color everywhere – purple, red, blue, yellow – just lying about in shallow pools of water, waiting for the tide to come in and rescue them.

Tropical paradise at its finest, so it seems. Except that, the "curio trade" threatens to render this image obsolete. Borrowing from the "authority" in this area, I will explain.

The sale of shells and other organisms, mostly to tourists or shell collectors, is known as the curio trade. Shell collecting is a hobby with a long history. By the 17th century, seamen on trading ships were bringing home shells as curio. In the last 50 years, with increasing possibilities to travel, the purchase of shells has become a common practice for visitors returning home with samples of the bizarre and attractive sea life from remote corners of the world.

Throughout the Western Indian Ocean (and apparently Ukraine), road-side shell stands and shops are common, retailing mostly large, attractive and colorful gastropod shells, chunks of hard coral, turtle products or jewelry made from these. The business may not appear to be very large but the sheer volume of shells and other marine curios (that is to say, interesting and bizarre dead sea creatures) sold is staggering. The collection and export of shells and other marine curios is mostly unregulated, but indications are that hundreds of tones of cleaned shells have been exported over the last thirty years.

This practice holds damaging environmental consequences. The damage to shallow coastal habitats caused by turning over boulders or prizing coral off the seabed may have considerable local impact on the productivity of the area. The trade in dead coral and turtle products is banned in many countries outside of the Western Indian Ocean and tourists carrying these items back home run the risk of being fined and having the articles confiscated. The removal of these animals not only reduces the productivity of shallow coastal habitats but also the attractiveness of the habitats to tourists.

However, the book further warns, even collecting empty shells can be damaging for two reasons. Firstly, hermit crabs need gastropod shells. Without empty shells, hermit crabs may totally disappear from an area. The second reason is that empty shells serve as a hard substrate and are a vital component of the overall growth of the coral reef. Many organisms (corals and sponges) settle onto such hard surfaces. Collecting is therefore NOT RECOMMENDED, unless this activity is pursued to establish a properly identified and cataloged collection of shells, which will be available to specialists, and thus add to the knowledge of mollusks in an area.

While measures have been taken to restrict the collection of shells, for example by enforcing regulations banning collection inside marine protected areas (as a side note: Kenya's effective use of regulations stands in contrast to Tanzania; it is said that weak enforcement inside marine protected areas combined with loose enforcement of bans against dynamite fishing in Tanzania, make the reef a startling and defacto aqua "border" between the two countries), the general recommendation is to limit the sale and import of shells. Until there is a system of management which ensures the collection of species sold is not depleting the wild stocks or interfering with the balance of life in the shallow marine habitats of the region, these activities should not be encouraged.

DO NOT BUY CORALS OR OTHER CURIOS. Please spread the word.

December 8, 2010

The Far Reaches of the Indian Ocean.

In celebration of our "paper" anniversary, I gifted Andrei The Field Guide to the Sea Shores of East Africa. A major hit, this book has become a much referenced guide in our household. Described as ideal for beachcombers, snorkellers, and divers with an interest in natural history, this book usually accompanies us on all of our weekend adventures in Dar es Salaam. Little did we know how useful this reference guide could have proven on our trip to Kiev, Ukraine.

We were out exploring and stumble across this table of ocean treasures in the middle of downtown Kiev:
Most of these are species that we see on a daily basis in Dar. However, it is not usually the case that I am beachcombing in a full length fur coat.
Despite the smile on my face, this moment was quite disappointing. I will reserve my thoughts on how damaging the international shell trade is for a later post. In the mean time, however, I will take the opportunity to point out for Dar-based folks that all proceeds from the sale of this field guide go to a charitable trust that will help develop marine science (and conservation) in this geographic area. That alone makes the book worth buying.

December 7, 2010

Culture Shock in Ukraine.

We have landed in Ukraine, apparently land of fast internet. Oh the joy! As if the return to quick internet connections is not shocking enough, I have found myself thoroughly surprised a couple of times over past few days.

On our way into the city from the airport, we were pulled over the by the police. A routine check it appeared. The officer asks for all requisite paperwork. When Andrei's cousin fails to produce the written insurance policy (despite the insurance card and proof of existing insurance), he offers the police officer a bribe to get the process over with quickly. The officer denies the bribe and insists on issuing an actual ticket. And we wait in the car, for a very long time. Where in the world are we?!?!

The next day we walked through the neighborhood where Andrei grew up as a child, it was fun to take in all the sights and to be in a city with 2000 years of history and accordingly tourist attractions. I kept doing a double take at all the moms pushing around fancy baby prams.

You can imagine my "shock" coming from a world where this is more of the norm:
But I guess the "shockingly" cold weather and the existence of sidewalks provide a formative opening for such cumbersome baby gear.

December 4, 2010

Ukraine Bound Today.

For your reading pleasure:
I promise more over the coming week!
Til soon.