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Dear Meredyth,

Winter is coming! My village, Phitshane Molopo is at the extreme south, in a valley between mountains of Botswana and South Africa, though picturesque, this also means that it is the coldest, windiest part of the country.  Winter in Africa is an odd thing, morning time is incredibly cold, and then the sun comes out and warms the day up to about 70 degrees, so it feels like springtime in America. The days are great, not too hot or cold, and a cool breeze is always around for the long walks around the village with the sun beating down on me. Temperatures drop with the sun around in 6 in the evening, which means by 7 my house feels like an icebox again.

Thankfully, Mom just visited me in Africa; along with her she brought an entire suitcase full of the winter clothing I neglected to pack that with me when I moved to Africa in September. (Also, thank you to Dad who was holding my clothes and sorted through my box of clothing to find the best stuff to send me.) So now each evening in my non-insolated, cement house, I can bundle up in layers of warm, wool clothing.

Our dear, thoughtful Mother also packed in that giant suitcase tons and tons of goodies for me! Besides the year long stock of Trident gum and Dum-Dums, she brought the best comfort foodstuff to keep my insides as warm as my outsides. I am now stocked for the stews season with bags of dried beans, (the selection of beans in Africa is pretty limited, black beans do not exist here) savory seasonings, spices, gallon zip lock bags of ground coffee, packages of flavored oatmeal, and probably my favorite, a bag full of Swiss Miss Hot Chocolate (the kind with the mini marshmallows!) I am stocked to sip and stew my way out winter seasonal depression!

Last night I made lentil soup for dinner from a recipe in the fantastic PeaceCorps Botswana Cookbook. Volunteers in Botswana made this Cookbook, for volunteers in Botswana (many of whom have never cooked for themselves before coming here or do not know the first thing about cooking food from scratch) the recipes never require an ingredient that can’t be found here, but there’s a great index for substituting missing ingredients.

Since I fancy myself a lentil connoisseur I got creative by adding some new flavors and the random assortment of veggies I had in my fridge. I went a bit squash crazy at the store this weekend and brought home an armload of butternuts. I love butternuts in lentils, the sweetness of the cinnamon with the curry spice brings is a great pairing for these tubers. Also, I took your idea of poaching the neighbors’ fruit trees; I scored three large lemons this week!  The lentils were lacking the acidity that tomatoes usually add, so I squeezed some fresh lemon juice on top. This was the best idea, second only to swiping the lemons in the first place (thanks big sis).

With my belly full of hot (both temperature and spiciness!) lentils and fresh bread rolls I stayed up late (9:00 pm, woot!) sipping SwissMiss and watching season one of the West Wing (my new favorite television show, probably because I am so nostalgic for America these days)

Probably by the time I get to write to you again I will have sipped and comforted myself through my stock of SwissMiss. So don’t worry, its ok to add that or coffee to any care package you may want to send (mostly joking).

Yours truly,