Edit Blog Post
Published: February 2nd 2011
Angie's mom & me
Living in a foreign country with an American poses many obstacles to true cultural immersion. To find yourself entirely independent of all American comforts is rare, unless you truly push yourself. They say that it is easy to stay in the "American bubble"- which means hanging with Americans, speaking English and involving yourself in American activities. When you live abroad, whether it be volunteering, studying, living or simply traveling- to shake all the comforts of home and put yourself in compromising, vulnerable, uncomfortable and usually awkward position is not easy and one must be very brave. I am proud to say that I have finally gotten to the point where I can independently travel abroad, go places and experience people without hesitation. Well...at least in Spanish speaking countries.
I am fortunate enough to be teaching adults so I have plenty of opportunities to connect with my students outside of class. One day, I announced to one of my classes that I really wanted to learn how to make paella. For those of you unfamiliar with it, paella is easily the most popular and traditional Spanish meal. So, one of my students, Angie, said "Come to my house, my mother can
Angie's Mom's BF playin hard
teach you!". Easy solution, right?
About a week later I found myself in Angie's kitchen with her mother. I imagined this would be a no fuss, simple cooking lesson- WRONG! I walked into the house and Angie's entire family is there, her aunt, uncle, mom's boyfriend, brother and five friends! Everyone was looking spiffy and I was in utter shock. This was a well-organized gathering, an afternoon of eating and drinking with loved ones- no simple cooking class. I met everyone and I proceeded to the kitchen with Angie's mom, and she had an enormous paella pan all ready and fired up. I quickly took a seat at the counter and began scribbling furiously as she wasted no time began to dump in one item after another. She described different spices and ingredients and their purposes and I used my electronic dictionary to translate all the words in record time. (Still in the process of conquering Spanish cooking jargon) The friends and family watched me and laughed as I was so intrigued by the process, I haven't been so focused in a long time, it is certainly my goal to leave Spain being able to make an outstanding paella.
I found out later Angie's mom was a cook in a beach side restaurant for years the family used to owned- what a perfect teacher!
Cooking time from the first splashes of olive oil to the last squeezes of lemon juice atop a mound of rice and chicken was about an hour, more or less. All ten of us sat down at the table and indulged. Amazing. Just one word to describe this wonderful mound of chicken, rice, peppers, spices and lemon juice. Truly delicious. I am so glad that I had the opportunity to eat paella in a true Spanish home because I had some at a restaurant a while back- it was SO nasty! They say that you can't have a great paella experience unless you have the dish in a Spanish home- lucky me!
After lunch, everyone started cracking jokes. The whole table was in stitches after every joke except......me. I understood the jokes but I just didn't find them amusing! Some were sexual while others were juvenile and other were just plain, not funny. It was a little embarrassing as well as frustrating that the family thought I simply didn't understand just because I
Angie (R) and Chary(L) are two of my students, love em!
wasn't rolling on the floor like everyone else. But I'm not one to fake a hearty laugh. Or fake laughing at all. Maybe I should, I guess it'd be the polite thing to do!
After we started to clear the table everyone sat on the couch while Angie's uncle and mom's boyfriend began to play Spanish guitar and sing flamenco. The two abruptly began to play, startling, but so much fun. They were both very talented and very entertaining. I have truly fallen in love with Flamenco and have been listening to it non-stop.
Flamenco is the traditional dance/music of Spain, its like baseball and the US, the two can't live without one another. Spain has along history with gypsies and Flamenco is the dance of the gypsies. Gypsies exist today and are very segregated from the rest of Spain, they live in excluded communities and have had a lot of problems integrating with the rest of Spanish society. Gypsies are known to steal for a living, live in poor conditions, marry young and die young because of the numerous drugs floating around in the communities. Gypsies don't abide by Spanish law, they kind of live within their own
world within Spain. It's a fascinating topic, I plan to research more on their lifestyles and the reasons behind them.
After a tour of Angie's house and a ride on her friends motorcycle I was off to a tutoring session. The parents of little girl I tutor cancelled so I went into the city to see a movie, solo! I haven't even gone to the movies alone in states. So again, I was very proud of myself. The movie ended up being fantastic, depressing but SO well done.
By the time I came home, I was on a Spanish high. Paella, Tinto de Verano (a spanish beverage), flamenco and a spanish movie all in one day and free of the "American bubble". That was a good day.
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