Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Have You Ever Been Guilty of Being Heavy-Handed...

…with the milk and butter when making schmashed taters?  (Please excuse my unsophisticated terminology.)  So your side dish lost its soft but substantial texture in exchange for a swampy, custard-like texture?  If this has never happened to you, I trust that you have enough imagination to envision the results.  (Digression: I got the same basic turnout a couple days ago when schmooshing boiled pumpkin and butternut squash with too much evaporated milk.  F.Y.I. it was still so amazingly delicious, especially served over an absorbent bed of rice.)  Now that your head is swimming with runny, creamy, spudly goodness, I’d like to ask if you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to stand in the gooeyness?  Perhaps you’d like to wade, ankle-deep, just to see what it’s like?  Maybe you want to hike for miles through a mushy-potato-floored obstacle course?
            You’ve never wondered what this would be like?  Never longed for such an experience?  Then perhaps my metaphor has failed (but not for lack of trying, right?).

            Last Saturday Ivan and I willingly took part in a hike through goopy-potato-esque terrain.  Or, I guess you could just call it muddy.  In fear of being charged with the understatement of the century, I felt an elaborate metaphor was necessary to convey the serious schlopiness of this mud.  I cannot say that, prior to Saturday, I have ever literally been ankle-deep in mud.  Although, the ankle-deep parts weren’t terrible.  The mud was cool and pretty refreshing—once I’d convinced myself it probably wasn’t infested with leaches.  No, the mud got tricky when it was the only ground cover down a 45-degree slope and was still slick from the two-hundred people who slid down it before us.
            What am I going on about?  Ivan and I were participants in Grenada Hash House Harrier’s 725th hash.  That probably translates to a bunch of mumbo jumbo to most of you, so let me offer an explanation.  First, what is a hash?  Well, don’t bother looking it up.  The definition ranges from a breakfast food (gag!) to a recreational drug (not to be confused with recreational jogs) to the pound symbol (#).  The definition of a hash in this context is a hike through scenic ill-defined paths.  The hikes may (or, more often, may not) be easy to traverse, but they are open to anyone.  From what I’ve seen, they’re usually a few miles long.  The trails are distinguished with clumps of shredded paper (eco-friendly!), so you know that you’re on the right track.  Sometimes false trails are created, but are eventually revealed as false with a shreddy-paper “X.”  As the hashers move forward, those in the lead yell back “On! On!” if they see a clump of shredded paper, indicating that the group is on the right path, or “On back!” if the lead comes across an “X” to indicate the wrong path has been chosen.
The very beginning of our journey

A clump of shredded paper--probably a good alternative to breadcrumbs

            Hashes are not competitive, but done in recreation and there are hashes held worldwide (hey, Erieites!  Go on a hash in Erie!).
            So, on Saturday, Ivan and I went on our very first hash in Boca, Grenada.  (That we were “virgin hashers” we kept to ourselves as the “de-virginization” process involves a beer bath and certificate heavily laden with double entendres.)  First, I’d like to tell you that I have no idea where Boca is, and I’ve been there!  All I know is we hiked through the jungle, first plunging into a field of sugarcane, which sufficiently blocked our view of anything else.  (Sugarcane is tall.)  The whole lot of us (and there were a lot of us) tramped uphill through grass and a thin layer of mud—though we should have been prepared for the ridiculous amount of mud to come considering the downpour we’d experienced earlier in the day.  The sugarcane was replaced as the uphill journey continued, with trees and roots and vines.  The grass underfoot was replaced with an uncomfortable softening as our feet sunk deeper and deeper with each unsteady step.  Labored breathing and laughter were punctuated with the all-too-familiar ssschluuuup! of thick suction as feet were drawn from the mud’s grasp.  Here and there feet pulled free of the shoes that stuck tenaciously in the ground one step back, and a clean-socked-foot invariably planted itself in the muck ahead.  Well beyond attempting not to fall, even seasoned hashers took to their bums when sliding down impossibly slick grades.  And seeing all of these people laughing, splashing and, in effect, wallowing in the mud, was like having an adults-only party that features a bouncy castle—hilarious!

            The vines were lifesavers for the most part, offering their support when I found myself in a running-backwards-but-sliding-forwards situation.  Although, I did rely on them a bit too much and at one point became hopelessly tangled.  (A moment of thanks for sure-footed husbands who are a wiz at chemistry and untangling vines.)  I was also in peril a few times when uncontrollably tripping towards the bamboo javelins that seemed to be sharpened to a point and planted at dangerous angles all along the path.
A view through the canopy

Bamboo grove

More bamboo

Ivan's bamboo walking stick
            I must say, hiking through a tropical jungle is an interesting experience.  As mosquitoes circled my head (the only part of me untreated with DEET), I had to keep reminding myself that I only needed to fear dengue from them, not malaria.  We passed copses of bamboo, vivid flowers and even a nutmeg tree.  So much of it seemed unreal, I half expected a velociraptor to charge out of the palm trees, or at least an old man in a straw hat and white shirt-sleeves with an amber-topped cane welcoming us to his bizarre theme park.
Check out my muddy legs

Bird of Paradise flower

Using vines to climb down
            While we may not have run into John Hammond, we did come across the remnants of a house.  But for some rotting wood that hinted to the presence of a window frame long, long ago, only its concrete walls stood, hooded as they were in vines and broad, green leaves.  Even the floor—assuming there was one—rotted away and succumbed to the jungle.  I have no curiosity of why it was left to crumble.  Who builds a house in the middle of the jungle?

I like to think that the structure appeared sound, though; otherwise we have no sense of self-preservation, because Ivan walked right in.

Eventually we schlepped our way back to the HHH meeting point and washed away much of the mud at a public spigot.  Then we had some drinks, food, and listened to live music.  This was our first time trying oil down, Grenada’s national dish.  It has dumplings, callaloo, coconut oil, fish and meat.  From what I’ve heard, the meant frequently used is the less-desired cuts (i.e. chicken neck, pig tail, etc.), which would explain why I had to pause between bites to fish vertebrae out of my mouth.
Rinsing off

Oil down... doesn't look that appetizing, does it?

Poor mama begging for food (yes, I gave her some oil down)

My sandals after rinsing them once

Here’s what else is new:
I never mentioned how Ivan did on his midterms!  I guess I must have just assumed you all knew how smart he is and also knew that he did superbly.  I’ll just confirm that knowledge.  Yes, Ivan did superbly.
We also have a new “guest” in our building.  Yes, the quotation marks around guest imply my sarcasm.  It’s a tired trick, right?  Anyhow, for the past month or two, every time I do laundry, I’ve heard a rustling inside the washing machine.  I naively assumed it was a lizard since they are everywhere.  But one day I spotted the pink feet scurrying around the basin and knew it was a rat.  Or, I guess we could just say it’s a large adorable mouse.  But it’s not.  It’s a rat.  And it should die.  Although I’m not as repulsed by the rat as I am by the cockroaches, I know they are more likely to carry disease and, therefore, should die twice as fast.  Luckily it’s not actually in our apartment and it is only inside the washing machine’s body (not the actual clothes basin).  But it should still die.  And I told the landlord as much.  He said he’d put out some bait and automatically I envisioned a fish hook and a chunk of cheese, but he probably meant poison.
So far it hasn’t worked.  The video is in slow motion, which removes the audio, so please excuse the death-march music I added; I thought a bit of suspense was necessary.  You may have to watch it a couple times to see the scurrying feet.  The last couple seconds are of a still image of the rat’s feet as it runs away.

We decided to apply for on-campus housing.  Just as the cockroaches played no part in the decision to fly home for the summer, the rat played no part in our decision to move on campus.  Actually, in this case, it really didn’t.  But the timing does seem perfect.  We have a lot of reasons for moving on campus, but most of them revolve around not wanting to get a car, but still desiring convenience.  Lucky for us, we got in and will be getting our new assignments at the end of the term (please cross your fingers we get a balcony!).  I say “lucky for us” because not everyone who applied got into the married housing—there’re a limited number of suites.  So even though we are approved for next term, that doesn’t guarantee the following term.  Hopefully it all works out.
Last on the list of What’s Been Going On is our apparently desperate desire for snow.  So desperate is our desire, in fact, that Ivan made us a whole sink full!  Actually, the egg trays didn’t fit in the fridge anymore because the ice on the back of the fridge was so thick.  So, with a metal spatula, Ivan hacked away until we had a little more refrigerator space and a whole bunch of snow!
Sink full of snow!

(Full collection of photos and videos from the hash are HERE!)

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