American University of the Caribbean knows how to say goodbye in style. Dr. Testa, the senior associate dean, is moving on to a new place and a new position. So, the school threw him a tropical party for the staff and students to enjoy!
The funniest part of the celebration was the Dean Testa bobble-heads that faculty members auctioned off. The best part was the yummy food. There were so many things to taste! Fruit juice, ice cream from Carousel, fresh fruit, coconuts… yes please!
One of the tables was made to look like a traditional Caribbean dress, complete with someone wearing it.
We managed to get one of the last coconuts from the coconut man.
To top it off, a local youth drumming group came and played a few songs. It doesn’t get better than tropical fruit and steel drums! Happy trails, Dr. Testa.
Last week, my friends Taylor and Bethany came to visit. While they were here, they treated Ben and I to a special dinner. Since food is expensive here, and we don’t often buy meat or certain fruits and veggies, they gave us the gift of yummy by taking me shopping and buying me groceries for an awesome meal.
We decided to make one of Ben’s favorites: meat sauce on rice, Africa style. Well, sort of. We didn’t have any curry powder. But I improvised, and it turned out great!
A couple pounds of beef
Oil for frying
4 oz of tomato sauce
2 T pilau masala
1 T of garlic
1 t of ground ginger
1/4 cup corn starch
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups Chicken broth (or bouillon cube and water)
Cut the meat into one-inch cubes. Slice onions.
Heat oil in a frying pan. Fry onions until translucent. Remove from pan.
Fry meat until thoroughly cooked.
Add spices to meat and stir.
Add tomato sauce, water/broth, and onions. Allow to simmer.
Slowly whisk in corn starch until sauce is thick.
Serve sauce over rice. Pair with tropical fruit and salad. Enjoy!
Ironically, I had to go back to the desert to find the garden.
One strange thing about living on Saint Martin is the lack of cultivation. You’d think that a tropical paradise would be dripping with succulent fruit, but this one’s not. And I can’t try to grow anything myself, because the only dirt I can call my own in the soil in the dustpan.
Early this morning, I landed in Phoenix, Arizona, where I grew up and where my family still lives. When the sun rose, my mom took me on a tour of her garden.
I have never been able to coax more than a sad cactus to grow in the hard clay we Arizonans like to call dirt. My mom, however, has a true green thumb. She and my dad have conquered the bugs, rats, birds, hard soil, and lack of rain by building two beautiful raised gardens near their citrus trees.
The first raised garden is full of vegetables and a row of giant sunflowers. We picked some carrots and lettuce. Fresh carrots hold some many good memories for me. We planted them in our garden when I was small, and I remember feeding the root to my cousins’ horses and the greens to their rabbits. Horses thought carrots were treats, so I was convinced that they were basically candy.
We enjoyed the fresh lettuce and tomatoes in our sandwiches at lunch. In Saint Martin, lettuce is expensive and goes bad more quickly than we can eat it. I never buy it, so it was a treat. Especially since it was fresh picked.
The flower garden is beautiful. Can you tell what my mom’s favorite colors are? She grows daisies, poppies, and other bright blossoms. The hollyhocks, sadly, did not decide to grace us with their presence this year.
Last but not least is the little orchard. My parents have an orange tree, a lemon tree, a grapefruit tree, and a tiny lime tree with one baby lime. They’ve recently planted a peach tree. They also have a strange lemon tree with an orange branch grafted in. The fruit looks like an orange but is bitter like a lemon. It makes interesting lemonade but is not very good eating. Citrus actually grows very well in Arizona. It’s one of the state’s five main sources of income, along with cattle, copper, cotton and Grand Canyon tourism.
Here, in the middle of the desert, good and beautiful things grow. I left behind a land of lush greenery and little produce, and found myself in a dry place with much fruit.
I think that our Christian lives are like that at times. Sometimes, we find ourselves in an oasis in life, but we discover that we bear very little fruit in that rich season. Then, we may find ourselves in a desert place. We don’t expect to find growth in our lives in those seasons, because they’re so dry. But when we look at ourselves and our lives, we suddenly realize that the very place that promised so little is the place that cultivated the most growth and fruit.
Are you in a dry season? Don’t slip into discouragement, dear friend. You may not realize what great things God is doing in your life until you come to the end of the wilderness.
“The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad;
the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus.”