Sunday, February 26, 2012

Game Review: Metroid Fusion

For lack of a Goodreads-esque forum in which to post my thoughts on video games, I shall use this blog. First up:

Metroid Fusion (GBA)
Finished: February 25, 2012

Gameplay: An old-school platforming and shooting romp. I'd never played a Metroid game before (not even the more recent non-platforming entries), so I made the grievous mistake of asking Brook "this one's like those Castlevania games, right?" when I first picked up the cartridge. After (or despite) being treated to an impassioned recounting of the Metroid franchise's history in relation to Castlevania, I packed it up for my trip. Subsequent research shows that the first iterations of both franchises came out approximately a month apart in 1986 (Metroid was, in fact, first), so I'm not sure I actually committed any sort of deadly gaming sin by comparing them as I did, but regardless, I discovered Castlevania on the DS, too (with Dawn of Sorrow) and was keen to play more games of the genre (what genre is that, anyway? Action-platformer-shooter-something?). I digress. All this has nothing to do with gameplay. You run around, jump, shoot things, shoot bigger things and get upgrades from them, jump higher, and eventually save the galaxy or some such. It's very fun. You either like the genre, or you don't, or you've never played it, in which case this is a fine game to start with.

Story: Utilitarian, to put it in the best possible light. "Something's going wrong in sector 5!". You go to sector 5 and fight some guys. "Samus, an alarm has gone off in sector 3!" You travel to sector 3, fight a boss. Etc, etc. Mass Effect this ain't. It does make the one interesting bit of story reveal near the end more impactful, somehow. 

Difficulty: Tough, but I beat it after putting the DS down 2-3 times and vowing to stop playing altogether, so it's probably just the right amount of tough.

Overall rating: 4 / 5

Food and drink in Malawi

I promised a post about the foods and beverages of Malawi, and here it is. First, let's cover the basics:

Chicken. Chicken is definitely the staple meat here, in all its varieties. Roasted chicken. Stewed chicken. Piri-piri chicken. "Southern fried" chicken. Just around work, there's a former Nando's (now called "The Grill House", but serving a strikingly-similar menu...), Galito's (more piri-piri chicken), "Luv Dat Chicken" (KFC-esque), and I'm certain several others that I'm missing. And those are just the North American-style fast food joints - there are several local takeaway places that serve similar menus of chicken + chips/nsima/rice. I see goat and beef on menus, too, but chicken is easily the most prominent. 
Chicken and nsima from Summer Park restaurant, Lilongwe
Nsima. Not by itself, of course (that would be like saying you need to try rice while in China), but it's a great vehicle for chicken and leafy greens (the most commonly served accompaniments). Nsima is similar in appearance and consistency to slightly solidified mashed potatoes (it's solid enough that you can rip pieces off and pick things up with it), and by itself, is mostly tasteless. I'm fond of eating it with stews, so I have something to dip it in (much as I enjoy Indian naan or Ethiopian injera), but others will eat it accompanying grilled chicken or steak. I've discovered a great place to get it right by work (cheap, too: 450 kwacha, or just over 2.50$, for the smallest portion, pictured here). Now I just need to figure out how to reproduce the chicken stew in vegetarian fashion!

Ok, so you could have read about those two things in any Malawi guidebook - they're the traditional staples. (If you're feeling really scholarly, you might take a look at this article, which goes into far more depth about nshima and its place in Zambian culture). 

Here are some other, less-anticipated, aspects of food and drink that I'd like to highlight:

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Life in Malawi

Some people are probably curious what my life is like down here. Where do I live? What do I eat? Are things expensive? etc.

Well, to give an idea, here's a day in the life:

I get up around 6am. By that time, I've usually slept through both the local mosque's alarmingly loud call to prayer (around 4:30am) and the sunrise (around 5:30am), so it's not as early as it sounds.

I haven't quite figured out a good breakfast routine yet, but so far I've been eating either a hard-boiled egg (eggs are cheap) or a Weet-bix biscuit with milk. There isn't a great selection of cereal available (and it's quite expensive). I haven't yet found a way to make the Weet-bix taste like anything other than cardboard, but I have a box of them to get through, so I plow on.

Assuming the water is working (and really, it has only been out one day of the three weeks I've been here so far), my morning routine isn't otherwise greatly different from what it is in Canada. With luck, my little lizard friend will make an appearance in the bathroom at some point (he comes in and out and often hides behind the water heater).

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Guavas in the garden

Yesterday morning, the water was out at home. That's fine, I thought, I can go one morning without a shower, can't I? This never happens back home, how exciting! (I'm told this excitement will soon give way to anger, denial, and finally, acceptance.)

Then I got to work, and found the power was out and had been for a while. All the backup power sources had drained and, consequently, all the computers were dead and the office had heated up to an ambient temperature best described at this point as "pleasantly warm".

My laptop battery died around 10am, and by lunchtime, although the office temperature had probably not increased significantly since morning, I was ready to describe the conditions as "sweltering". As a result, I decided to tag along on an outing with Dan, and captured what is perhaps a very uniquely African photo: 
Standing in the CEO's garden, inspecting a generator
and eating guavas freshly picked off a nearby tree.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Why you should care about co-operatives

Are you a member of a co-operative? 
Yes? No? Not sure? 
(I am curious! Leave a comment. :)

Photo from Ocean Spray media library, 'cause cranberry bogs are awesome
Did you know...

...that Ocean Spray cranberry juice, Natrel milk, and Camino chocolate are all produced by co-operatives?

...that Canada has one of the highest per capita credit union memberships in the world? According to the World Council of Credit Unions, 46.2 per cent of the economically active population are members of a credit union or caisse populaire

...that Alphonse Desjardins founded the first North American caisse populaire/credit union in 1901 in Lévis, Quebec?

...that 35% of the world's maple syrup is produced by co-operatives in Quebec?

...that the United Nations has declared 2012 the International Year of Cooperatives?

Even if the extent of your co-op savvy is limited to a vague understanding that you have to "become a member" in order to shop at Mountain Equipment "Co-op", fear not! I was in the same boat a few months ago, so in the spirit of the International Year of Co-operatives (and of my co-op-related internship), I thought I'd share some of the knowledge I've since gained.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Lake Malawi

With the Canadian credit union coaches in town for two weeks, I had the chance this past weekend to join them in a whirlwind tour of central Malawi's sights.

I was told that I would be picked up around 6:45 on Saturday morning, which in practice means it was close to 7:30 before I tucked myself into the middle seat of a 4x4 pickup (otherwise filled with driver Dalitso, MUSCCO employee Jovita, and coaches Lennie and Rocio). Our first stop would be Liwonde National Park, about 300km southeast of Lilongwe.