Bangladeshi food in NoVa

Nate and I love to cook and eat, and one of the most exciting things about moving to another country is the food!  I am all about trying new foods, we’re both eager to start eating Bangladeshi cuisine.

There is at least one good Bangladeshi restaurant in Northern Virginia, and last week Nate went there for lunch with some of his classmates.  I asked him to bring some food home for me, and he brought back beef curry.

I’ve had lots of curries, but this was really good.  I even liked the rice!

The beef was tender, flavorful, and spicy, but not too spicy, and the rice was flavored with cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods and cloves.  I don’t really like rice, and I could have eaten this rice by itself with a spoon.

Apparently the restaurant they went to (I don’t know what it’s called) is known for their shrimp curry, and if the beef curry was this good I can’t wait to try the shrimp!  Nate is going there again today with his classmates and teachers to practice speaking Bangla with the waitstaff.  I am so jealous.

Earlier this week I made a fish tomato curry to use up all the tomatoes from our garden, and the recipe I used was supposedly Bengali.  It was loaded with fresh ginger, ground cumin and coriander, garlic, and turmeric.  The curry was pretty good (not amazing), and I think it would have been better with higher quality rice. I also left out the cilantro since zero forethought went into the recipe and I used what I already had in the kitchen, which is currently cilantro-less.  Typically I would include a photo of the finished product, but it was an unattractive red blob in a bowl so I didn’t even take a picture.

I’m hoping Nate will bring back some leftovers from his lunch today for me to try, but he can really pack it in, so that’s unlikely.

In other news, Nate’s language class is seriously moving right along.  I am really impressed with how much they have already learned!  They’re working on reading and talking about the U.S., and it’s hard to believe this is only the third week of class.  It’s interesting listening to him practice speaking because I truly have no idea what he’s saying, when it comes to things other than “hello” and “my name is…”  With a lot of other languages, bits and pieces can be gleaned from languages I already know, or at least I can recognize the alphabet, but not with Bangla.  It sounds like complete gibberish.

 

 

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Would you like a vacation, a car, or a door?

We are going to rent out our house when we move to Bangladesh, and now that we have refinished the floors, we are moving on to the next item on the we-should-probably-fix-that list: a new front door and storm door.

Our current front door is crap.  It serves to close the opening in the front of our house and that’s about it.  It’s so drafty, last winter I sealed it off with that plastic stuff you put around windows with double sided tape and told Nate we were only using the back door until spring.  Also there’s a huge glass panel on the top half of the door that’s begging to be punched through.

So I did what I usually do when we need to fix something around the house: I turned to Angie’s List.  Yesterday morning a contractor came over to provide a quote for replacing the front door and installing a new storm door.  I should have known it would be bad when they offer $250 off per door to Angie’s List customers.

Even so, I was not prepared. The poor salesman quoted over $4,000 for our main entry door and storm door.

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Yes, that is a comma, not a decimal point.  And I picked out the absolute cheapest doors they had!

It cost less than half that to refinish all our wood floors.  We could purchase a used, trusty SUV in Dhaka for $4,000, or go on another trip to Vietnam.  We could re-do part of our kitchen, or fix up the deck and install hardwood floors in the sunroom. There are so many other things I’d rather spend $4,000 on.

Why on god’s green earth would we spend that much money on a fucking door?  Especially when we’re moving in 8 months?

If I’m going to spend $4,000 on a door, that thing had better be able to sing, dance, and make me a sandwich.

Needless to say, our next course of action is to check out the door installation services at Home Depot. As much as the salesman derided the quality of Home Depot doors, they can’t be that bad.

 

 

Race review: Ocean City “Island to Island” Half Marathon

This blog post has nothing to do with the Foreign Service, so if you stop reading here, I won’t blame you!

I’ve mentioned that Nate and I are runners.  Our fall/winter racing season is getting underway, and it made me think back to our spring races.  We ran three races in four weeks: Cherry Blossom 10-Miler (awesome, planning to do it again if we win the lottery), George Washington Parkway Classic 10-Miler (also awesome), and the Ocean City “Island to Island” Half Marathon (not so awesome).

If you’re trying to find reviews of the Cherry Blossom or GW 10-milers, you’re in luck.  Tons of people have run these races and provided in-depth reviews, and all you have to do is google.  The same cannot be said for the OC half, which is why it’s getting its very own blog post. There were reviews of the race on the OC Tri Running Sports facebook page, but they got deleted.

So, if you’re thinking about running the Ocean City “Island to Island” Half Marathon, consider yourself forewarned. (The important bits are bolded and italicized.)

We arrived the night before, picked up our packets, and had a mediocre dinner.  Bright and early the next morning, we drove to the race finish area and boarded a bus to the starting area, as the race starts on Assateague and finishes on the boardwalk in Ocean City.  There was plenty of info on where to get the buses, when the buses ran until, how often they would leave, etc.  We got to Assateague with plenty of time to spare, and immediately headed for the porto-pots.  Thank god we got there early.

There were, and I’m not exaggerating, eight porto-pots for probably 1000+ runners.  If there is one thing to know about runners, it is that we all need to use the bathroom at least once, probably twice, before a race.  The porto-pot situation was a disaster. Granted, there were some real restrooms in the visitor’s center, but that line was like 300 people deep.

If you didn’t feel like standing in the monstrous lines for the porto-pots, you could also take care of business in the bushes/underbrush.  And that is what most people were doing.  There was a line for what ended up being the women’s area of the bushes!  Nothing makes you feel like a real runner more than squatting and peeing in a national park with hundreds of strangers.

The race was supposed to start at 7:00, so we dropped off our jackets at the gear check and headed for the starting corrals.  It was freezing cold, with a good breeze coming off the Atlantic.  I was counting down the minutes until the race was supposed to start because I just wanted to run and warm up.

So then what happened? Buses kept rolling in and dropping off more and more people. The race start was delayed for half an hour.  I was miserable.  I was also hating all the idiots that didn’t board the buses on time and delayed the start for everyone else that had used common sense and planned ahead.

Finally the race started.  Because of the long delay in starting, the road closures were done by the time we actually reached those areas.  This meant we had to run on road shoulders for probably 9 out of the 13 miles. Yay, car exhaust!  It was also really uncomfortable because the road was slanted, so it felt like my right leg was having to take longer steps than my left.

Crowd support was almost non-existent.  Although I do have to give a shout out to these two women that were cheering for us at like five different points in the race.  One had a cow bell and the other was banging a skillet with a spatula.  They were great; everyone else was terrible.  When we got to Ocean City, which was towards the end of the race, so crowd support really would have been nice, people on the boardwalk were just staring at us like we were bat-shit insane.

The course was also not particularly scenic.  The first bit heading out of Assateague was nice, but that only lasted maybe a mile, and then it was fun to run on the boardwalk, which was also maybe a mile.

Once we reached Ocean City, there was minimal direction for where to go.  At one point we reached a T-intersection and nearly came to a stop because we didn’t know if we should go right or left. No big sign with a big arrow or anything.  Just a policeman who was paying absolutely no attention. The woman running in front of us was super pissed off, swearing at anyone who looked like they deserved it (which was pretty much everyone).

I picked up the pace in the last mile and finished strong in 2:23:00.  Not exactly fast, but I was really proud and happy with the result of my first half marathon!  We got our finisher’s medals and complimentary pizza and beer, and sat by the ocean.  I had a fun time running with Nate, but I would not run this race again.

Wow, do I sound like a whiner.

If you’re looking to run 13.1 miles and you just want to log the mileage and get timed, and you don’t really care where it happens or what the experience is like, then this would be a good race for you.  The two other races we ran were like well-oiled machines: the race organizers knew what they were doing, were ready for thousands and thousands of people, and anticipated the runners’ needs.  In the OC half, none of that happened.

But hey, at least the pizza was good!

Pizza, sand, Hokas, and the ocean

Pizza, sand, Hokas, and the ocean

 

Manners 101: Protocol and U.S. Representation Abroad

This past weekend Nate and I attended a day-long class on protocol and etiquette.  It was basically a crash-course on manners.  I thought I had good manners, but wow did I learn a lot.

The morning started out with a mock-cocktail party, and we each had a slip of paper with a name on it.  We had to find said person (by introducing ourselves to as many people as possible), learn something about them, and then introduce them to the “ambassador.”  After about 15 minutes of not finding my person, I asked Nate if he’d met the woman I was supposed to find.  It turned out he’d just met her.  Whew!

So I walked up to her and instead of saying “Hi, I’m Kathryn,” like a normal human being, I said “Hi, you’re my person.” Who does that?!

And I managed to approach her just as she’d taken a huge bite of food, which was awkward for both of us.  Lesson learned: always introduce yourself politely, and check to see if whoever you’re approaching has food in their mouth.

Here are some other things I learned during the class:

  • “Avoid the American huddle.” Let’s say you go to a cocktail party.  Do you wander around and talk to as many strangers as possible, or make a bee-line for your friends and hang out with them most of the night?  I find my friends.  It’s easy, if they’re my friends they’re probably awesome, I know I like them, we have lots to talk about, and I’m less likely to embarrass myself.  Apparently I need to work on being more of an extrovert.
  • “Surf, don’t scuba dive.” It turns out I’ve been eating soup improperly my whole life.  You are supposed to glide the spoon over the surface of the soup away from you.  And for Pete’s sake, don’t slurp or drink out of the bowl.
  • Seating charts are complicated.  Who is the guest of honor in terms of seating if there is actually no guest of honor? Exactly how long has each person/couple been in the country, and when did they receive their rank? These things all need to be considered. Also, never seat two people that are having an affair next to each other.
  • “Avoid appetizers that will complicate your life.”  Let’s say you eat a chicken wing or a shrimp at a cocktail party.  What are you going to do with the bones or tail?  What if your hands get really dirty?  It’s time to break that RPCV/poor grad student “Must Eat All The Food” mentality.
  • “Lower left, raise right.” Serve food (but not beverages) from the left side, and remove plates, etc from the right.  You are also supposed to enter your place at the table from the right, which only works in theory when everyone knows that they sit in their chair from the right.  Otherwise you’re all bumping butts.
  • You break it, you bought it.  Which is to say, don’t clink those $100 crystal glasses while toasting– you could be on the hook for the bill.  Oopsies!
  • Always hold wine glasses by the stem.  So they why would anyone invent stemless wine glasses?  To make those of us that own them look stupid?  I guess it’s time to invest in more grown-up wine glasses.
  • “Pick a dining style and commit.  Don’t switch when the going gets rough.” When dining with silverware (rather than your hands or chopsticks), it turns out that there are two dining styles: American and continental.  The American dining style involves cutting with your right hand, switching the utensils around and then eating with your right hand.  In the continental style, the knife stays in your right hand and the fork, which is turned with the tines facing down, stays in your left.  So you can’t cut the steak and eat it continental style and then eat the peas American style because you can’t manage to stab each and every god-forsaken pea with your fork.
  • The art of passing bread is extraordinarily complicated.  Like, so complicated we probably spent 15 minutes discussing it.  Basically, if the bread is near you, you can’t just take a piece of bread.  No, no.  You have to offer the bread to the person to your left, and then pray to god that they know that then it’s their turn to offer you the bread, which at this point you desperately want.  What if they don’t know that you only offered them bread because you really want it?  Well, then I have have no idea what you’re supposed to do.

I’ll admit that as the class progressed, I decided would be able to avoid most of the diplomatic protocol rigmarole by simply never hosting a fancy dinner party.  But when you think about it, that’s impossible (and silly).  When other people invite us to dinner parties, are we going to decline because god help us if we have to return the favor?

Upon further thought, I’ve come to the conclusion that Dhaka will be an good first post to get our diplomatic feet wet because we’ll be able to hire help for our dinner parties, rather than having to do it all ourselves.  Although we might have a few practice rounds while we’re still in DC.  Also, I realize that not every time we have people over will be a fancy-schmancy affair.  We are big fans of low-key entertaining.

Who wants to come over for dinner?!

I blinked and a month happened

It’s September.  September 2nd, to be exact.

Flag Day was over a month ago.  People, time is flying by.  We leave for Dhaka in eight months!  It sounds so far away, but shit is getting real faster than I expected it to.

So, what have we been up to?  I went to visit my family in Wisconsin for a long weekend, and Nate had to stay behind, unfortunately.  But I brought back loads of cheese, sausage and brats, so he didn’t miss out entirely.

Labor Day weekend was nice, and we went to the farmer’s market in Del Ray and, while we were in the neighborhood, bought Athena a pretty new leather collar. We met up with a bunch of Nate’s friends from A-100 at a middle eastern food festival on Saturday night, and that was super fun.  We went for a hike around Pohick Bay, and Athena had an absolute blast; we brought her home soaking wet and covered in sand, seaweed, and mud.  That afternoon Nate smoked ribs and a chicken on the grill for four hours and they turned out really well.  We also managed to bring the wrong key with us on our long run, so Nate had to break into our house.  I took pictures of Nate breaking in, but I’m not going to share them.  That would be stupid.  Instead you get another Athena photo!

Athena: doggy fashion trend-setter!

Athena: doggy fashion trend-setter! Also, toys do make the best pillows.

Oh, and I quit my part-time retail job!  While I will miss being able to buy beautiful clothes at a ridiculously low price, I’m happier having my weekends back (my checking account is also relieved).  No more on-call shifts, no more being polite to people who don’t deserve it, and no more stress about getting weekends off!  That brief foray into the world of retail was fun while it lasted (usually), but I’m glad it’s done.

We’ve been busy, and life is good!  Now if only that nice fall-like weather would come our way…