Saturday, July 10, 2010

Fun Food Adventures

Written on: 2010.07.07

Hopefully the entry before this one contains pictures! We've been having some really crazy adventures this week. As if our lives weren't busy enough, the World Cup semi-finals and final starts at 1:30am in this country. So our plan so far have been to sleep a few hours, wake up, and then sleep some more.

Last night was pretty crazy. After a long day of language classes and meetings, we went to the Construction Clinic (where the Andalas University students have sort of an office) and did some seminar preparations. This seminar has been put together so fast that it's really amazing. Things tend to take long when you're in a foreign country. Here, there tends to be a lot of waiting for people after we've scheduled meetings. But this seminar has basically been put together in a week. We've already reserved the hotel, invited people, and preparations are going full speed ahead.

Continues writing on 2010.07.08

After we finished up for the day, we took the local public transit back to where we're staying. The public transit system consists of these minibuses. The previous post has pictures of them. They basically take out the chairs and put in benches along the sides and pile people in. Sometimes it gets pretty cramped. There are different colored ones that drive different loops around the city. You just hop on the one that you need and get off whenever you want. They have a set price of 2,000 rupiah (about $0.20) per person per ride. Longer rides cost slightly more. There's never a wait for these things because the drivers themselves are actively looking for customers. It's like an organized taxi system. It's pretty nice since there's no waiting or having to get off at a certain stop. They'll stop whenever. There are also “city buses” that run along the main roads. They work the same way.

When we got to our place, we were pretty hungry and went around looking for food. This wasn't hard since there are a lot of choices around us. We saw this cart that was advertising matebak, which VC really likes. She's been talking about them and described them as sort of like flat omelets with different types of filling. So we decided to order three for dinner. As we were waiting, we noticed that they were making something that were more like cake. Then they started putting on lots of butter, along with sugar, tons of chocolate sprinkles, and sweetened condensed milk. They're really into sweeten condensed milk here. Everything here is crazy sweet. At some point, we noticed that all the other customers were kids. We realized that this cannot be our dinner so two of us went to get some vegetables to go with the noodles that we would cook.

Greg and I went to across the street and was about to go into a restaurant when VC walks up to us and asks if we had paid already. We were like, “no, we thought you stayed behind to pay.” And then we noticed that the guy following her was one of the guys from the matebak stand. Turns out that when VC tried to pay, the guy said, “belum, belum” which means not yet. She tried again and he repeated himself so she thought “belum” meant “already”. We didn't have exact change so she went back across the street with that guy to pay him.

Greg and I were still laughing about this when we got to one of the restaurants. They had some cooked spinach left and I tried to order some to-go. I definitely got the word “vegetable” and “to-go” right but she was really confused at why I would want just the vegetables. People here think of vegetables as more like garnish than anything edible. Greg suggested that we get some rice to go with the noodles and I immediately realized this would be the only way to get her to give us some vegetables. So we ordered a thing of rice and asked for vegetables to go on it. She proceeded to give us like a couple of leaves and then asked if we wanted sauce. She pointed at two different sauces and then at the various meats. And we were like, uh, can we just get more vegetables? We thought this whole exchange was pretty hilarious. The rice and vegetables came wrapped in banana leaf and looks kind of like “zong zi”.

We got back and shared the matebak with our housemates. It is super, super sweet. We made the noodles and rice but they were tasteless because the spinach was not soaked in chili sauce. So I decided to open a packet of “mock meat” that a friend's mom gave to me in Cambridge. It's tofu that's flavored like chicken and put into a vacuum sealed bag. Sichuan special, I think. So our dinner consisted of this super sweet cake, rice, noodles, spinach, and chicken flavored tofu. I'm sure there will be more of these adventures to come.

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