Finally a picture. And it's of Chinese food. I'm sure this will disappoint and possibly annoy some readers of this blog. I know, you want gorilla pictures, or pictures of Kigali or the university I'm at or something. I have some of those, and I'll post those later. But I like the idea of having my first Kigali picture be of Chinese food. There are many reasons. Let me explain.
Chinese food is comfort food for me. I grew up eating Chinese food in New York City. We would occasionally eat out, but quite commonly order it in. Sometimes I would go out for some quick Chinese during lunch when I was in high school. I'm not sure what it is, but Chinese food almost always is satisfying and comforting. Even "bad" Chinese food is good. Some people feel this way about macaroni and cheese, or maybe pizza. For me, it's Chinese food. I don't know that I have "roots" in any normal sense. But if I do, Chinese food is part of them.
So Chinese food is a connection to comfort and home. I also feel a connection between China and my work here in Kigali. I had essentially no experience working internationally, and only modest international travel experience, when in 2004 I was invited to lecture at an interdisciplinary, international program in China. It went well, and I had a great time. I lectured again the next year, and then was co-director of the program for three years. It was hard work, but incredibly satisfying and rewarding. I came to like China a lot. When the program faded away due to lack of funding, I felt a surprising void. I had gone to China every summer from 2004 - 2009. The summer of 2010 felt a little empty. It was time to figure out what the next adventure would be.
So I applied for a Fulbright Fellowship. In my application I discussed in some detail my experiences in China. And a colleague from China, the professor who co-directed the program with me, kindly wrote a letter of recommendation. So it was in many ways my work and experiences in China that led me to where I am now: on a balcony in Kigali, overwhelmed but mostly surviving, teaching far too many students, and learning a lot by being in a new and different place. So some Chinese food seems like a fine image for this blog.
And it's really good Chinese food, no less. I found an awesome restaurant, Tangren. The food is excellent. They have fish-flavored eggplant, which is the dish pictured above. Fish-flavored eggplant, which doesn't have any fish in it, is eggplant cooked with lots of chili, garlic and ginger, and also some vinegar and sugar. This gives it a tart and tangy taste to go with the sweetness of the sugar and eggplant, together with a big spice kick from the chili and ginger. It is a great combination. I ate it all the time in Beijing. But I haven't found it outside of the China. Until now. It is awesome.
Today is the Chinese New Year. It is now the Year of the Dragon. This is supposed to be a good sign; the Dragon is the luckiest year. I don't know that I believe in omens like this. But it is hard not to like the idea of a lucky or auspicious year. The last year hasn't been bad, but it has been challenging. Lots of hard work. Maybe too much. So I am happy to welcome a new year with a post about Chinese food in Kigali, Beijing and New York.