Thursday, October 3, 2013
The two-continent ginger preserves saga
My job in Africa required me to take frequent business trips back to the States.
That means I spent way too much time in Heathrow and Gatwick airports in London.
Way too much time!
Imagine flying all night to Europe (from either the US west coast or Nairobi, depending on your destination) without more than a few minutes of sleep here and there, and then you take a shuttle between Gatwick and Heathrow, and then you spend all day in the airport waiting for your next flight. All day! Like, usually 14 hours!
The connecting flight doesn’t leave until late at night (often 10:25 p.m.) so you try to sleep in those awful chairs that were never meant for sleeping.
Besides, people milling around make you worry about your purse being stolen. And other people seemingly yelling at each other—and speaking any number of languages—make it impossible to sleep.
Jet lag and sleep deprivation make your stomach feel sick, make you feel like you’re tossing about on a ferry boat in a wind storm.
And you haven’t even reached the midway point of the 36 hour trip.
Killing time in Heathrow and Gatwick wasn't all bad, though, considering that the enormously prestigious Harrod's store has mini-shops in both airports.
I still remember the first time I went to England in 1986 and ventured into the Harrod's in downtown London. It was an exciting, unforgettable—even staggering—experience so, for that reason, I always enjoyed the Harrod's mini-shops in Heathrow and Gatwick.
Usually I didn't have enough money to pay their steep prices, but once on my way home I bought a jar of ginger preserves as a gift for my mother. At the time I was not acquainted with ginger preserves, but later I sampled them at Mom's breakfast table and found them quite delicious.
Well, one time at Gatwick on my way back to Nairobi, I headed for Harrod's and checked their shelves. There it was, a jar of those heavenly ginger preserves. I felt the surge, the longing. I picked up the jar. With my mouth watering, I turned it around to check the price. Ouch.
But, oh, I wanted it so badly! I stood there with that jar in my hand for quite some time, unable to talk myself into either buying it or putting it back on the shelf. Eventually the penny-pincher in me won out. Sadly I put the jar back on the shelf and walked away.
The rest of the story is that, back in Nairobi, at the Chandarana grocery store I found a jar of—you guessed it—ginger preserves. They weren't the Harrod's brand, but rather the famous Robertson's brand. The price was much better than Harrod's, so I bought it.
(Imported from England, it had the official royal insignia on it, with the very polite notice: "Please try and recycle this jar if you can.")
At Chandarana I also found the desiccated coconut I'd been looking for. Yes, "desiccated." That word sounds rather violent to my North American ears, but that's what they call it there. (The dictionary says that means it's thoroughly dry. That it is. And it's finely shredded as well.)
Speaking of the ways English is spoken in Kenya—
Below is a list of words North Americans commonly use, along with the proper words to use in Kenya, a former British colony.
paraffin: jelly wax
burlap: Hessian cloth
rubbing alcohol: surgical spirits
French fries: chips
potato chips: crisps
green onions: spring onions
car trunk: boot
car hood: bonnet
Looking back now, I remember how opposed I was to moving to Africa. I’m so glad I didn’t stomp my foot and tell God “No!” I would have missed so many delights, so many taste treats, so many blessings.