Thursday, May 21, 2009

La Terrasse

Looking over my entries so far, one thing becomes clear:  I should avoid reading Melville prior to sitting down to write.  I'm going to try to keep most of these posts a bit shorter in an attempt to ease the burden on myself and my (likely imaginary) readership.  I'll read Hemingway next, I promise!

Today's photo is of the Michaud Medical clinic, in the back of which sits our wee operatory and my "office".  I'll say more about it all in future posts.  The thing on the blue box to the left is the Wet Bulb Thermometer, from which our heat stress readings are taken.  Here it reads 105 degrees Fahrenheit.  :p

Anyway, for those following along, my attempts to photograph Ahab have so far proved futile, but I'll catch that reprobate corvid in pixels yet.  Other current events include my signing up for the Arabic language course and the French language course at the distance learning centers here.
My French is the decayed remnant of my high school days, and my Arabic is non-existent.
I have many French resources - among them the Rosetta Stone course lent to me by friends Dave and Mary, and the quirkily enjoyable Coffee Break French podcast (originating from Glasgow) and these have proved helpful.  I want to quickly review some verb conjugations though and I know that unless I have some external driver that laudable goal is likely to go by the wayside.

As to Arabic, well it's not the predominant language here - that would be Somali - but nobody is offering a Somali course, and there are quite a few Arabic speakers around here.  I confess to being interested in the language since my time spent in the formerly Muslim occupied areas of Sicily and Spain, and my reading about the role of medieval Arabic speaking culture in the development of the Western scientific tradition (ever wonder about the origin of the word algebra?).  Anyway it should be edifying.

La Terasse  is the name of a restaurant situated about half way between the entrance to our base and that of the French.  It was recommended by Dave Leivers - he of the Rosetta Stone above - and was roundly aknowledged by the outgoing crew here to have a good reputation  although they had not as yet tried it.  We gathered up 5 hearty souls and a van, headed out the gate and turned right on Somali road (turn left and drive 5 or 6 miles and you're likley to pass the Somali border - unchallenged if it's after dark), right again at "Khat corner" (more another time), and we were there.  I knew right away that the cuisine was likely to be continental when we were invited to sit down and wait until the kitchen opened  - we had arrived at 7 PM.  The AC was anemic, the ceiling fans but faint help, but the meal - after we had been seated at 8 PM was phenomenal.  

I shall not attempt to render the names in French, but as an entree I had local scallops in a richly flavored sauce that would have made Julia Child envious. This was  followed with a local fish in a delicately spiced reduction, with a superb vegetable side dish .  My dinner companions had local squid sauteed to perfection - delicate, flavorful with just a bit of firmness, and chateaubriand with a mushroom  sauce that had us all grabbing for the last bits of the baguettes served with dinner to mop up.  Wow!  The owner, a lovely French lady, had talked us into ordering a couple of chocolate "volcano" cakes after recounting for us her struggles at the market to get her hands on one of the scarce bags of cacao before the other restauranteurs outbid her.  We were not disappointed - it was at once light, rich, intense and delicate.  Not a chocolate fan ordinarily dear readers, but this was a wise investment.

The owner was, as I say, a French ex-pat, who I wish I had had a chance to ask about her life here in Djibouti.  She was very proud of having the only French chef in Djibouti - a claim I could not hope to discern the accuracy of, but which did make me wonder what crimes exactly the chef de cuisine must have committed to be sent hither.  I guess Devil's Island is closed. Anyway, we got back home (odd how quickly one's CLU becomes ones castle!) about 11PM, well sated and grateful for this oasis of gustatory delights here in a harsh land.  Life here shall not be entirely without its charms.

Tonight we'll celebrate the departure of the folks we're replacing, at a BBQ which is to be attended by our French and Djiboutian counterparts.  More on that tomorrow or soon thereafter.

As a counterpoint to the tale of elegance woven above, I'm attaching a story forwarded to me by one of the folks here. It is a frank  account of one chap's exploration of the culture of khat here in Djibouti.  A bit grim, but entertaining.  If the link doesn't make it through, search for Esquire magazine and an article titled "High in hell".  I'll warn you that it is graphic, coarse, explicit and involves the deliberate use of illegal drugs.  If that doesn't make you want to read it, then I've mistaken my audience...

Until next time!

No comments:

Post a Comment