Development Mercenary

kacang-2.JPGWell, that’s how Nina described herself.

We’ve only seen, let alone met, one American in Malaysian Borneo. But she is more interesting than a few dozen backpackers combined.

Nina is about our age and hails from San Francisco. She works as a freelance, um, development mercenary, that is, she works as a contractor for large development organizations (e.g. US AID) who pay her to implement, evaluate and/or monitor international projects. She has worked as an election observer (the sort of thing you hear about Jimmy Carter doing) in Peru and most recently just came from evaluating an A.I.D.S. program in East Timor. (Laura, Amanda, we want to lock you in a room with her for a couple of hours. This is the sort of stuff we think you may want to do someday.)

Over the past 20 years or so she has worked and/or lived for an extended period in Angola, Burma, Cambodia, Haiti, Malaysia, Madagascar, El Salvador, Bolivia (yes, she’s fluent in Spanish) and countries we’re too embarassed to admit we couldn’t locate on a map. (Deb, Karen, don’t worry, she also claims she could never live in Peace Corp conditions and recently hung out in the most opulent digs with a good friend in Brunei working for the Australian ambassador.)

In addition to giving us great insight into international development issues, Nina introduced us to iced kacang (pronounced ka-chong). The ingredient list: soft gelatinous gummy worm-like things in green and red, white pearls of some other tapioca (maybe) sort of stuff, beans (not unlike your basic pintos), yellow corn (not S&W, but definitely out of a can). Then you heap on a bunch of shaved iced (Hawaiian style) and shape it into a cone, pour a half can of evaporated milk over one half and a brown sugar syrup mixture over the other half, and then dig in. Sounds (and looks) pretty disgusting. Sort of a chunky, milky snow cone that quickly melts into a sweet soup. It was pretty weird at first. Then we got hooked.

For those of you joining us for Thanksgiving, I’m afraid without a shaved ice machine we won’t be able to make this the year’s special beverage. Sorry.

We will definitely stay in touch with Nina. She is a gem.

Next up: Into the Jungle

2 thoughts on “Development Mercenary

  1. We just picked up a shaved ice machine at the Salvation Army Thrift Store. Look out now. The Ais Kacang (how it’s spelled in Malaysian) is not you parent’s Icee! I will perfect this concoction – mwa-ha-haa.

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