Barista Class!

The best coffee roasters in Bangladesh (the one that I found last year) holds training classes for aspiring baristas. They also have classes for helpless amateurs like me who want to pose as someone who knows what they’re doing. When the CLO (Community Liaison Office) at post organized a class, I jumped at the chance to demonstrate my clueless but enthusiastic ineptitude.

We learned about different kinds of beans and roasts, and how to make espresso, cappuccino and lattes. My sad attempt at a latte gave me more respect for real baristas who actually know what they’re doing.

Hands-on help from real baristas
I couldn’t even drink my own creation…
Lipstick on a pig.
She had better luck than I did

We had more luck with the pour-overs.

There is a proper way to make a pour-over

We learned a lot about coffee and had fun sampling our new skills.

Sampling our own creations
Coffee-producing areas of Bangladesh.

Bangladesh is trying to increase its coffee production. This coffee roastery is working with local farmers to try to enhance and improve the quality of the crop. They say that in a few years Bangladesh will start exporting coffee. We got to try some local coffee beans. It’s quite good. The hope is that this new crop will raise the standard of living of the local farmers.

This changes everything

In the grocery store yesterday, I saw some international variations on American “food.”

If you don’t know what Tom Yum is, go visit a Thai restaurant. It’s delicious.

Hot Tang is my go-to backpacking beverage. Not sure how this would taste hot. Or cold, for that matter…

Beef bacon is not awesome

I get it, Bangladesh. Bacon is awesome, but you’re a Moslem-majority country, so real bacon is a no-no. And you did your best, I’m sure. It kinda, sorta looks like bacon.

But.

It does not taste like bacon. Instead of the crispy, oily, smoky goodness that is bacon, you gave me a mouthful of tough, chewy, salty, beef jerky.

Not awesome. Thanks for trying, but you did not succeed. Next time, maybe try goat.

Birthday with Celebration Cakes

Yesterday was the birthday of one of the locally-engaged staff in the section. We had a small celebration. “Happy Birthday” was sung in English, not Bangla, to my disappointment, but the birthday treats were very nice.

Of course, we had a cake:

But we also had some savory local snacks. One is like a samosa, and the other was a meat-filled pastry. Very yummy.

I was too busy eating to get a good photo…

The treats came from a friend of the Embassy staff, a housewife started selling her homemade snacks, and it grew into a business (“Shumi’s Hot Cake”) with several branches around the city.

A house hold name in Celebration Cakes

I told the LES that I was interested in trying the local foods. They took me at my word, encouraging me to try the treats, and explaining what was in them. I’ve said it before, interacting with LES might be the best part of this job. They are very sweet and welcoming.

One of them also told me that Dhaka is known as a “ten pound post.” Standing on the bathroom scale this morning, I realized that she was right. The food is really good in Bangladesh, so I will have to hit the gym a LOT if I want to maintain my waistline here…

Sure-fire diet plan

If you’d like to lose 5-10 pounds in only one week, then pay attention, because I have stumbled on a method to drop weight fast.  For the cost of one low-priced meal, you can watch the weight melt away.  It’s as effortless as sitting down.  And sometimes, kneeling.

Here’s how it works: you eat lunch at a restaurant that looks clean, but really isn’t.  Within hours, you will feel the process begin.  An unmistakable feeling of impending loss of matter from your body will start to percolate in your gut.  Before you know it, your body will begin to relieve itself of parts of you that you no longer need.  You will lose 2-3 pounds instantly. And that’s just the start!

As the days go by, you will not be hungry.  Think of the money you’re saving on food, as you lose that weight!  And when you force yourself to eat or drink something, your body will auto-correct for you, reversing your actions as fast as you can say: “Get out of my way! She’s about to blow!”

I’ve gone through this process three times since I’ve been at post, and each time, I’ve been super impressed by the results.  Sure, some people call me “sick,” or “pasty,” or “at death’s door,” but I think they’re just jealous of my slimness. Even the nice nurse at our med unit was so envious that she wanted me to take drugs to counteract my diet plan.  Just to humor her, I took the medicine, but we both knew that it wasn’t really necessary.

Added benefit: drugs!

In short, if you need to take a few days off work, and catch up on your sitting around not wanting to move, then I can recommend this method. I promise that in one short week, you will be thinner.  You will also have a new appreciation for the simple things in life, like not spending half your day in the bathroom.  The benefits of this plan are almost endless.

One word of caution: while you’re on this diet plan, you can’t trust your own farts. ‘Nuff said.

I sampled the local cuisine

Last weekend a group of us went to Dong Thap (Đồng Tháp) province.  The Consulate’s locally-engaged staff organization arranged for us to volunteer at a summer camp for at-risk teenagers.  It was a lot of fun, I got to interact with some young people, and help out with an NGO’s work to prevent human trafficking.

A team of us did a workshop on “soft skills,” which is a buzzword in Vietnam lately.  Schools here focus on academics, but don’t teach life skills like teamwork, communication, interpersonal skills, and professionalism.  The workshop we did combined English practice and communication skills.  Essentially, we played games.  Even though we were playing a game, I explained to the kids that in order to succeed in the game, they had to listen to what each other were saying, and strategize their own communication.  Yes, OK, we played “20 questions.”  Stop judging me.  It was relevant.  Shut up; it was, too.

We also got to do a little culinary exploration.  When I told some of my coworkers that I was going to Dong Thap, they smiled and nodded knowingly.  They asked if I knew anything about the local cuisine.  Of course I didn’t, because I’m an ignorant foreigner who doesn’t know the intricacies of Vietnamese culture.  That seemed to amuse people even more.

So the night after we finished the workshops, we all went to a local beer garden for dinner.  We got a lot of the usual goodies, beer with ice cubes (you get used to it), and then, a big plate of the local cuisine.

Yup, I ate rat.

And unfortunately, it was delicious.