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Tuesday, April 16, 2013


This weekend's adventure took place at Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. A merry band of misfits and I decided to go gorilla trekking. Bwindi is one of three places IN THE WORLD that you can actually interact with gorilla families in their natural habitats. The other places are in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Gorilla trekking takes quite some time to plan. You have to go to the local wildlife authority and get permits, which cost $350 in the off season and $475 in the high season. When you get the trekking permits, you also pick the family you are going to trek. When I say 'trekking' I mean we actually go find a family of gorillas. The family we chose was the Rushegura group (commonly called the R group). This group is supposed to be the easier of groups, the one that is the most habituated with humans. This group is also supposed to be one of the groups that is closest to the rest camp we stayed at. The other groups tend to be further away, leading to a very long, strenuous hike. Our hike wasn't terrible, it was steep at some points but it wasn't exactly impossible. The worst part was the fire ants or safari ants. They are big, red, and evil. When they bite, you know. It's really painful and the pain lasts.

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

When we finally got to the gorillas, we couldn't see them clearly at first. They were mostly youngsters who were in trees. Eventually they came down and we got to sit and watch for a bit. We took plenty of pictures. At one point, one of the girls in the group was posing for a picture and the silver back came down the path. It passed behind her by a mere 4 feet.

The REAL kings of the jungle

The silver back went down and posed for many pictures along with a mother and some babies. After a while they all started heading up. We followed them a bit, until the silver back decided to charge one of
the younger gorillas. At this point I froze and threw my hands up in an 'I didn't do it' type action. Of course if the gorillas had seen me, they would have thought I was being aggressive and would have charged me. Thank goodness they didn't see me.

I got really close to a mother and a baby and at this point the silver back had gone back up the hill. When I was posing for some pictures, the silver back started coming back down and passed behind me by a mere few feet. I freaked out and of course the guide keep trying to reassure me to stay calm and I'd be fine. I did and I was, but it was a bit scary while it was happening.

The time felt shorter than it was and we had to leave. We got back to the rest camp safe and sound. It was truly an amazing experience. Now I understand why Diane Fossey got all hyped up about these Gorillas (though she was in Rwanda, not Uganda).

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Cupcake Diaries - Ssula Biri

Let the baking adventures continue!

Rice cooker prepped and ready

As you may remember, some time back I decided to test out this whole ‘rice cooker cake’ theory. Essentially it was a success, with a few minor setbacks…namely my rice cooker overheating and shorting out. Fortunately, this time around, I was smarter about my baking via rice cooker. Also, this time I decided to attempt the rice cooker cupcake. Yes, this is a real thing.

Prepping for the GLORY
The instructions to make a rice cooker cupcake are as follows:
Mix cupcake mix according to box instructions. Place cupcake cups in molds. Add cupcake mix. Place cupcakes in steam tray and close the lid. Allow to steam according to box baking instructions (30 minutes typically).

Using caution, open the lid and check cupcakes for doneness. If ready, add frosting and enjoy!

Cups filled!

Rice cooker on - notice I did NOT tape it on this time. 

So, with this in mind, I armed myself with a box of Betty Crocker Super Moist Milk Chocolate cake mix (judge away, but I did not want to go through the motions of making cake mix from scratch if it wasn’t going to work) and a jar of Nutella for frosting. After my trusty sidekick, Alia (the vanilla buttercream frosting to my red velvet cupcake), mixed the cake batter and poured them into the individual silicon cupccake cups (fill each cup about half-way), we filled the cooking bowl about 2/3 with water. We used foil cupcake wrappers for half the batch, to test out how they’d do in the steam bath. We flipped the rice cooker on and started the waiting game. The water took some time to start boiling, but once started, the baking was on! After a few minutes, I carefully checked the status of the baking and to my amazement, it was actually working! That’s right folks, rice cooker cakes are completely and 100% feasible and delicious (and if you use the foil variety, wrappings are a viable addition).

Look at that steamy goodness.
Cupcake GLORY!

Moist and delicious

Foiled perfection


The cupcakes are much moister than when I made the full cake in the rice cooker and more airy compared to when I used an oven. I almost prefer the airy, moist rice cooker cupcakes to the normal oven-baked variety. The combination of the deliciously moist cake and the deliciously creamy Nutella makes for a diabetic’s nightmare and a sweet lover’s dream-come-true. All in all, I’d say the rice cooker cupcake is a win.

With Nutella frosting!
On a final note, I highly recommend rice cookers to PCVs and younger, single, oven-deprived individuals. They are versatile and currently my best friend (you know, besides my human friends).

Now begins the road to ‘fat Aditi’.

Happy Easter!