Buying A Goat in Dar (a long story about being a omnivorous eater)

(Before I get started, I warn you that I do talk about watching an animal get slaughtered. It’s not bloody nor is it traumatizing, but regardless I’ll let you know when I start writing about it) 


Several weeks ago I found myself talking to a friend who told me about the one time she went to buy goat- a live goat- to get it slaughtered and butchered. I immediately asked how I could do this, too.

Don’t worry, I’m no American Psycho or anything. Rather, my sudden desire for a one-time alive, fresh, goat meat stems from a notion that our (American) culture has become so removed from the meat we eat that I needed at least once to experience this drastic sacrifice of life for food. There’s a strong disconnect in many parts of the world between a living, breathing, feathered or hoofed friend, and what we see on our plates- boneless, skinless, breaded, and fried. Western worlds are notorious for an over-consumption of meat products, and I believe it’s because many of us have lost sight of where our food comes from.

Zanzibar Market / Butcher >> a butcher shop from zanzibar >>

Living in China was the first time I saw carcasses, half animals crudely butchered and displayed for general consumption, without even a glass window to separate me from them. It. Whatever. And then there were the chickens, live chickens packed into cages at the wet market in China, prodded and poked and examined for their health, then taken behind a thin wall to be brought back out moments later with far fewer feathers and much more dead (this is also the place that gave us the bird flu, but let’s not get into that right now…).

So arrangements were made, and not long after I so quickly expressed my desire to go buy a live goat for slaughter, I found myself driving down a stretch of road that wound through Dar’s city center, past old German colonial buildings, past markets displaying huge round baskets of rice piled into pointy pyramids. We drove further than I have before, passing buildings and billboards that were likely ancient but completely new to me. Our friend, for the purpose of this post, named “A”, was our triumphant leader that morning. He sat in my back seat, a mug of tea in one hand and juggling a banana and orange in the other- as casually as if we were going to pick up a copy of the Sunday Times at the corner store.

By the time we reached the large Azam factory he had finished his breakfast fruit, and instructed us to make an upcoming right turn. Soon after we made a right, the road narrowed, and a subsequent right turn led us down a bumpy dirt road. I had no idea where we were, who knows if those streets even had names. But as soon as we hit dirt, our arrival was sensed. Young men flocked to our windows, waving for us to pull over. They knew we were there to buy something- we could have been in the market for anything- and whatever it was, they were willing to sell it to us.


A” rapped on the windows from the inside. “Eh! EH! Go away!” he shouted, waving back towards the now-seemingly-thinner-than-usual glass. We parked in a less congested area, where “A had “a guy”. That’s how it is in these foreign countries, isn’t it? You have a guy. A guy who knows a guy. A guy who can get things, a guy who can do things. A guy for each and every little thing. A guy who gets you your goats.

We got out of the car, and greeted an old man- “A’s” “goat guy”, and the little boy who sat next to him, with friendly hellos. Then, as I was expecting, the obligatory string of Swahili ‘how are you’s. How are you this morning? Very Good. How did you sleep? Well. Are you peaceful? Peaceful. How is your brother? He is good. Your son? Also good. How is his family? Very good. Are you good today? What’s the news? No news? Good!!


After confirming that both parties and their families were well, we walked down the same road we came on, past those same men that were moments ago so enthusiastically waving us over- now just sitting in groups under areas shaded by wooden structures. We crossed a street towards the railroad tracks, where a cluster- our cluster of sheep and goats were milling about. Of course, when we reached the animals, our presence again attracted the young men, all whom were suddenly more than willing to sell us the animals.

Who did these animals belong to? To my pure confusion, all of them were offering to sell us an animal. “A knew better though, and though at the time I thought he was being strategic in cornering the youngest of the boys to sell him the animals at a good price, I later learned that he knew- sensed, somehow- that this young boy was the rightful owner of the animals. After much haggling, a couple of walk-away moves, refusing to pay certain amounts and offering far too low of other amounts, a price was settled on and three animals chosen (one goat for “A”, one goat and sheep for myself and the Diploman).



I’ve seen some pretty heated bartering matches in the past. The Chinese are some of the best in the world, let me tell you. Or so I thought, until I witnessed this African exchange.

I’ve got to mention, too, in the midst of our own bartering, a fight broke out not too far away from us. Arms flailing, spit spewing out of mouths because men were talking so loudly and emphatically that saliva could no longer be controlled. Hands on chests, feet stepping forward and back in a twisted and aggressive tango. I couldn’t understand a single word of what was being said, but I had a sinking feeling that we were, somehow, in some way, involved. But tensions eventually dissolved, the quarrel resolved, and all the men went back to their respective shady spots to lounge and watch, all parties presumably absolved.

A Tanzanian friend said to me recently, (and, I’m paraphrasing here) “I don’t know why you Americans argue so politely. How can you sit and listen to your opponent’s argument when you’re mad? In Tanzania, we yell. We don’t wait for someone to finish if we’re mad, that’s silly!” I’m just now understanding this fully emotional, totally passionate side of Tanzanians- for better and for worse.


Back in our little world led by our triumphant leader “A”, handshakes were exchanged and pats on the back were fondly issued, as the animals rounded up and the three selected picked up to be hauled to their fates. Then- can I say this?- I started feeling a bit of buyers remorse. I looked into the eyes of this goat, into his beady, rectangular-shaped pupil eye staring blankly out into nowhere. And I silently said to it, “I’m sorry in advance for eating you”.


We went into the garage that we had parked in front of earlier, with three men holding three animals that we had chosen.  A knife was sharpened- long and sword-like, reminding me of a knife we have in our own shed in our own house that our gardener so innocently uses to plant seedlings. As well as a little pink plastic bucket, and a large tub of water. Then, without much ceremony, the slaughtering commenced.

(Here’s where those of you who are extra squirm-ish might want to skip onto the next paragraph.)

Little ceremony indeed. There was barely any noise, much to my surprise. It was, quite shockingly, a quiet, calm, methodical affair. Very little struggle from each animal came forth, and the men used very little brutality or force. It was a swift manner in which the animals were laid sideways, throats slit, and blood drained. Only a bit of sawing of the throat made me uneasy to the point where I had to look away. But soon, three dead animals were laid in front of us, and again I professed my apologies to animals everywhere as I realized they were just as quickly pieces of meat as they were a live animal. Their skins came off easily, reminding me of the way I had cut off the skin off my papaya earlier that morning. Their insides spilled out with little odor, and the warmth of their innards filled the space.


I didn’t turn into a vegetarian, though I knew there was a 1% chance that I could. I wasn’t disgusted at the fact that we killed and ate animals, and didn’t think that this was wrong. In fact, as I took my whole animal carcass to the butcher just a short while later and walked away with a cooler full of meat, I knew that I had done something that was quite all right, and that I was in a very strange way, satisfied with.

Let me tell you, that first taste of an animal that I had watched slaughtered was weird. I made a goat stew the next day, after braising it for hours and hours upon end as I read goat meat was wont to do. If it were a movie, it would flash to a second of a live goat, and then back to my humble bowl of goat stew. The meat had a special taste, just a little more flavor, and a little richer texture than most.

The true taste of meat? Perhaps. The truest taste of meat I’ve ever had? Definitely.

And now, a few more pics from the day:








It’s alive!!!

Screen Shot 2013-04-10 at 2.26.12 PM

I’ve been working on a few things these last weeks, none of which are paying me any money. It’s okay, the DiploMan and I have a deal: He makes the dolla-dolla-bills now, and I’ll bring home about a million $$ per year by the time he retires at the ripe young age of 50.

One of these projects I’m very excited to share with you is my personal writing and photography portfolio. I wanted to make sure to get it done before I moved to Africa, and though every single piece of writing hasn’t been uploaded, it’s completed in terms of layout and content. Over the next month I’ll make sure all my photo and published pieces are up-to-date. In the meantime, it’s live today, so check it out!!


Chinese New Year: A lesson on how to eat a year’s worth of luck

Chinese New Year falls on Sunday, February 10 this year, when we kick off the year of the snake. Snake personalities are known to be acute, cunning, aware, proud, vain, and vicious at times. My mother was a snake, so besides the fact that my teenage years represented an era of nonstop nuclear warfare in our house, I appreciate this cycle of the Chinese Zodiac much more than most.

I’m ready to kick off this lunar year in DC right, then. There are certain foods one must eat during Chinese New Year to bring in luck for the home and the family, and to be frank, for oneself. And though the New Year is a one-day holiday, celebrations often extend for a week before and after – which means a lot of eating potential. While it seems like every single foodstuff has a corresponding symbolic meaning in the Chinese culture , I’ve selected a list of 8 the most symbolic foods to eat over the holiday, where to find some of their best iterations throughout the city, plus why exactly you’ll be eating them in the first place.

eel noodles


We here in DC look to cities like LA and NY with ramen envy. So instead of that brothy, porky, noodly combo, let’s stretch our imaginations and parla Italiano for a second. Legend has it that Marco Polo brought the concept of spaghetti to Italy via China, so we’ll play that card here. DC has no shortage of Italian gems, but this year’s standout has got to be Fabio Trabocchi’s Fiola.  If you haven’t heard of Fiola yet this year, you’ve got to be living in China or something.

Noodles are a symbol of longevity. The longer, the better. So order up some spaghetti, bucatini, or fettucine on Fiola’s menu, and leave that short stubby orecchiete stuff for another day.

market fish

Whole Fish

Thank you Chesapeake Bay, for your abundance of seafood. Thank you for your oysters,  your crabs, your whiting and your hake. Thank you for providing the folks here in DC with an orchestra of tasty delights from your waters. Finally, thank you, Farmers Fishers Bakers, for opening this past year and bringing us the most sustainable of your daily catch.

In Chinese, the word for fish is a homanym for abundance, and symbolizes just that.  Traditionally fish is served steamed, always whole – representing prosperity for the whole year, from head to tail. 



It’s winter. Where do you think you’re getting fresh peaches around here? Now’s the time to look for the little sugary fruits baked into pies! Dangerous Pies DC, with it’s rock star mentality and hand made pies, is serving up both sweet and savory desserts as a part of H Street’s growing food scene. If you can’t get out to H Street, don’t fret. – Dangerous Pies is now going mobile, bringing a bit more abundance of goodness to my stomach, and unfortunately, my thighs too.

Peaches are often brought as housewarming gifts, as ancestral offerings, or displayed in the home, symbolic of youth and eternal longevity. China is the number one producer of peaches in the world. 



Mmmmm… little packets of meats and veggies wrapped in a thick fluffy dough. Hey now, we may be stretching our imaginations for a bit, but isn’t the empanada, like, the dumpling of South America? Check out DC empanada’s new outpost at Union Market, with a rotating menu ready to please all senses. Favorites include the WMD- Weapon of Mass Deliciousness (Chili and cheese), the The Badass (Buffalo chicken and blue cheese), and the Tio Shawn (black beans, rice, cheese, chipotle). Yes, that last one’s vegetarian, but yes, it’s tasty and a personal favorite.

Traditional dumplings resemble the ancient golden nuggets used as currency in medieval China, and are symbolic for wealth and prosperity. Mo’ dumplings mo’ money (I think this expression just might catch on).

chinese candies


That Georgetown Cupcake line don’t lie, we Washingtonians need our sugar fix. Rather that a cupcake though, I’d rather indulge in the cupcake’s daintier little sister, the macaron. This French staple has officially arrived thanks to DC Patisserie. Indulgent enough to pass for a special-holiday treat, plus small enough to pop a few at a time, the macaron is the perfect sweet treat.

Sweet desserts for a sweet year. Though the Chinese don’t often have an abundance of sweets and desserts in their cuisine, the New Year is a time when they roll up their sleeves and pull a few tricks out from their sleeves. Tiny red-wrapper candies are passed out to kids, and cakes and tarts are baked for dinners and parties.


Tangerines and Oranges

To balance out your new diet of empanadas, pies, and macarons, maybe a little something fresh would be appropriate. Thankfully little clementines are the winter darling of the produce world. I’m always searching to get my hands on a little extra Vitamin C in the wintertime, and popping a few of these for an afternoon snack do just the trick. Korean grocer giant H-Mart carries these by the carton, and for cheap. That’s some good fortune for both you and your wallet.

In Chinese, the word tangerine sounds a lot like the word ‘luck’. Additionally, oranges represent abundance. So pairing a bowl of oranges along with tangerines, means you’ll have abundant luck. Even better, the more leaves that are on the tangerines the better – those symbolize life and longevity! You know, in case eating those noodles didn’t do the trick.

red beans and dates

Nien Gao

A dessert with dates and beans? Hey, I warned you earlier, the Chinese don’t really do sweets and desserts. But actually the floating red dates and sweet red beans suspended in glutinous rice flour is actually…well, quite good. You know who does glutinous rice and sweet red bean paste better than the Chinese, though? The Japanese, and their mochi (though, I might be starting WWIII with this statement). Tiny little Hana Market, tucked on a corner of U street adjacent to a fire station, is one of the only authentic Asian markets in the district, and a good one at that. Stocked from floor to ceiling with hundreds of varieties of Japanese goods, you can find mochi in their refrigerated cases.

Nien Gao is another homonym for good luck – actually meaning “sticky cake”, it can also mean ‘high year’. All over china and beyond, Chinese eat this dessert for the new year to bring a tall order of good fortune in the new year. I personally eat it with high hopes that in the future, I won’t find the Chinese language so damn confusing.

stir fry at home

Stir Fry with 10 Vegetables

Both my parents reminisce of their childhood New Year dinners, when there was always a big plate of 10-vegetable stir fry on the table. Every Year. My mom fondly recalls her father meticulously chopping vegetables the whole day into paper-thin slices, specifically for this dish. Traditionally made with ingredients such as pickled mustard greens, lotus root, fresh bamboo, bean sprouts, and shiitake mushrooms, it’s a light respite that is welcome during feasts of rich seafood and meat. For this one, I say visit a local DC farmers market to pick out the 10 best ingredients, and make your own seasonal, lucky stir fry. Onions, cabbage, parsnips, celery, tofu, bean sprouts, parsley, leeks, mushrooms, and carrots sounds like a great wintery combo to me. To the farmers market I go!

The number 10 represents completeness, and having 10 vegetables serves a purpose of being fulfilled in family and life. Plus this one hits close to home, which is good a reason as any to eat a dish.


So there you have it: Eight foods you should be eating these next few weeks, and where you’ll find their best versions in DC. And oh yeah, eight is very lucky in the Chinese culture, because it sounds like the Chinese word for “prosperity” or “wealth”. So yeah, it’s confirmed that we Chinese are pretty superstitious mofo’s looking for luck everywhere we can.

In California

voter reg

I’m in California for a week working on a project, but it has ever-so-fortuitously coincided with Election Day. Thankfully too, because my registration up until Monday was not confirmed (there was a bit of confusion since I changed my name this summer). Going to the county registration office on Monday was a bit of a zoo, but so worth it.

California ballot

4 more years!

My Sandy Day

You’ve all seen pictures and heard the news of Sandy’s hit here on the East Coast last night. First off, we’re totally fine. There’s one person still sleeping in our bed (and it’s 1pm), but other than that, it’s a normal Tuesday.

We had a gorgeous day here on Saturday. By the time Sunday rolled around, the grey skies reminded us that yes, we really were in for a storm. The weather reports oscillated between it being bad, really bad, and the worst. One late turn, and Sandy’s eye could be focused on us, rather than closer up north. So of course, we prepared for the worst.

On Sunday night (we were a little late in the emergency preparedness process) the DiploMan and I headed out to gather some food, water, and beer. Enough to last a few days without having go to the store, at least. He had just found out that work was called off on Monday, so we were going to hole up, and have a hurricane party to celebrate.

This is what we found at the store.

grocery aisles

Okay to be real, this was only the canned food aisle, and a little bit of the water and cereal aisles. I was tempted pretend I didn’t know a thing about this storm, and be the one person in the store buying eggs, milk, cheese, and sausages during a semi-emergency state. But I refrained, but mostly because we had to save room in our bags to carry all our beers home.

Being from the West Coast, I’m used to earthquake preparedness. Mind you, being “prepared” for an earthquake really only happens when you are in elementary school, and you bring a bag of canned food with your name on it at the beginning of the school year. And then the first week of school practice your ‘duck and cover’ routine as a class. Other than that, there is no earthquake preparation. Earthquakes give no warnings!

We walked home from the store, and by that time a light drizzle had started coming down on us. I woke up on Monday to hear the rain rapping on the windows. Nothing too crazy, just a rainy morning. I played on my computer for a little bit, and then a couple of our friends came over. We popped a few drinks and played some games. I took a nap. We had an amazing dinner: a hurricane soup, comprised of mostly leftover vegetables from the vegetable drawer (recipe below) and spaghetti with sausage ragu (sausage c/o Eco-Friendly Foods).

sandy soup

We kept peering out the window, waiting for the worst. We kept our eyes on our Twitter and Facebook feeds, eventually realizing that it was New York who was in for the worst.

While we here in DC were ‘victims’ of non-stop rain and pretty gusty winds all day, it was no match to what my friends up in NY saw. I kept checking the front page of the NY Times, which was constantly updating the website with photos of the city under four feet of water. I couldn’t help but think: the art in Chelsea!! The trees in Brooklyn!! The basement storage rooms of all the restaurants in the West Village!

Here in DC, our power stayed on, we were connected to wifi, and we were warm and dry. Our bellies were full. Our shelves were stocked. We even went out and danced in the rain for a bit.

ready for the rain

This is how you dress to go dance in the rain in Logan Circle.

Thank you anyway, friends and family, for thinking of us and for all the little texts and emails and phone calls that came our way. Unfortunately, my day was nothing but a stormy day stuck inside with a few boys (I went just slightly crazy with cabin fever) and a lot of drinks.

Hurricane Sandy Soup


  • 2 cups chicken broth (low sodium)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 4-6 large kale leaves, stemmed and coarsely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 small bunch broccolini, florets only
  • 2 cups spinach leaves, loosely packed


  1. Combine first four ingredients in a medium pot and bring to a boil. Turn heat down, cover, and let simmer for 20 minutes. If liquid looks low (neither the DiploMan nor I like too much broth in our soups, but some of you do!), add up to another cup of water. Add chopped celery and broccolini, cover and simmer for another 10 minutes. Finally add spinach. Stir and let simmer, uncovered, for 5-10 more minutes. Serve from the pot, hot, alongside bread, pasta, or salad.

Options: (1) Carrots, cubed potatoes, bok choy, or any other veggies you might have lying around. Or, (2) crack a few eggs into the soup after adding the spinach, so you have a heartier serving with poached eggs. (3) If serving as an entree, vermicelli noodles would fare well in this soup. Make sure to soak the noodles until they are clear and add them with the spinach.

Yield: 4 appetizer-sized servings, 2 entree-sized servings

Hometown Heroes

My Facebook feed looks as if it has officially become the twitter feed for the San Francisco Giants. Every single one of my Bay Area brethren have made a pledge of allegiance to the black and orange this week. Bandwagon? Slightly. Annoying? Mildly. Do I love it? Oh, certainly.

AT&T Park Marquee

It doesn’t matter if you’re a sports fan or not, you’ve got to admit there’s something special about a team that shuts out their opponent 9-0 after coming back from 2 games down in Game 7 of a NLCS title game. Well, I guess if you really can’t stand sports I might have lost you somewhere in that statement. Just think of the best comeback from behind EVER, and that might put a smile on your face.

Both the DiploMan and I aren’t huge sports fanatics, in fact, I am more than he is. Which is a little surprising, given that he’s very athletic and even more competitive. But we are big fans of team effort, of camraderie, of hometown spirit, of the underdog, and of celebrations. We’ve found that it’s important to keep these things in mind, especially while living abroad. And yes, I guess to be cheesy, it’s important in life and marriage too. Which is why we were hootin’ and hollerin’ from our beds at home (while watching TV, get your minds out of the gutter) as that last pop fly was caught last night. Rooting for your hometown is really the best.

Also, I’m going to go ahead and cause a stir, and say that they have the best ballpark in all of the Major League:

AT&T Park

Do you have a favorite team? Who do YOU pledge allegiance to?