dirty work for idle hands

One of the biggest challenges for me here in Luanda (and I might add for newly unemployed “trailing spouses” in general) is my lack of purpose. While my husband is off enjoying his work and building a satisfying career for 10 hours each day, I grapple with definition. I realize that once the baby comes (in two more months) I’ll be a mommy, which I know is a bigger job than I can imagine. It’s very likely that this existential tangent will dissolve into a past when I clearly had too much time on my thumb-twiddling hands. Never one to revel in my misery or angst for too long, I’ve started poking around in the yard.

Last month I posted about how excited I was to receive a couple bags of potting soil through amazon. I know it sounds silly, but the dirt in our yard is primarily sand and it will take me a while to build it up through my composting efforts, currently underway in the back courtyard. Although we only get dappled sunlight throughout the day, I’m hoping it’s enough. Once our things arrive, I’ll be able to prune back some of the low lying scrubby branches from the trees, letting more sunlight through.

In the meantime, I’ve started some seeds. We had some left over from our years of gardening. I’ll focus on growing things that I either can’t find here in the stores or if I do, are too expensive and of poor quality. For instance, there are tons of cukes, but just the great big ones used for salads. None to make pickles! This just won’t do. Who can live without crisp and garlicky refrigerator pickles for two solid years?

I’ve also started a few plants to donate to a community garden project on the embassy grounds. There are 3 of us who are working with the grounds keepers to get a little plot cleared and prepped for a vegetable and herb garden. Besides parsley and cilantro, there are no fresh herbs here! I never realized how dependent I am on fresh thyme or how just the thought of basil makes me say yet another little prayer of gratitude for the abundance I’ve had in the past. I actually used to nip little branches to add to summertime bedside bouquets. Seems so wasteful now.

Back to the embassy’s community garden project, we’ve been assigned a little spot to start out and gauge interest. We’re hoping that once people see how easy it is to get things going and how prolific our tomato plants (!!), there will be an interest in individual plots. Between the cost and quality of vegetables here in Luanda and the lack of recreational activities, I anticipate people will be eager to contribute.

I need to talk the guards into looking after my “babies” for the month of August when Snakes will join me in Johannesburg. He’s managed (by the grace of all that is holy in the FS) to do a little consulate swap since they could use an extra set of hands at the office in J’burg. This is such a stroke of luck. I will be leaving soon for 3 full months of preg-evac and he will join me in August, reporting to work at the consulate,  without having to burn all vacation/paternity time that’s stocked up. A canine-loving friend from USAID has agreed to look after the mutts. So just as my idle days are beginning to have some semblance of purpose and order, we’ll stir things up again. This time adding a totally new and quite substantial ingredient to the pot. 18 days until my departure. 2 months until that feisty ingredient’s due date.


12 thoughts on “dirty work for idle hands

  1. We have no yard here either, but our patio is now chuck full of planters with tomatoes, strawberries, and peppers. The one small patch of dirt used to have a dying tree that we plucked and put in yellow squash and zucchini that have thrived. It’s wonderful.

    I think you should plant a lime tree at the embassy. 2 years without limes is too many.

  2. Your blog seems to be somewhat of cultural diplomacy. You can read our blog and I think it will be of interest to you. The subject is cultural diplomacy, seeing as your are an FSO family, our blog/conferences might be interesting to you/your family.
    Thanks so much.

  3. OK, two things. 1) I would LOVE your pickle recipe. Shoot it my way when you get a sec. 2) I want to learn to grow things – help! I’ve never had a garden or anything but I desperately want growing things around my house from which I can later eat. Any tips/blogs/books about how to start?

    1. brooke- I’ll send you an email later. Both answers are VERY simple and “organic” in the sense that it’s more intuitive than anything- two things we’ve been doing for so long that they no longer require recipes or much thought!! But I’m happy to share what I know. I’ll be in touch soon- I owe you an email anyway!

  4. Such cute little seedlings! Good for you~ always able to manage to make things better and more interesting. Really hope that some of the other spouses and embassy people get involved in the community garden. I can see it providing a great deal of companionship that will be every bit as delicious as the produce!

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