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Juanita and La Comida

Although I love to eat and the food is always interesting to say the least, one of the hardest things about living in a host family is the meals. It is taking a lot of strength to accept the very different culture and traditions of the indigenous people. My family consists of two sisters (Estefanie – 14 and Daniella – 10), one brother (Jorge Luis – 16), the dad and their abuela Juanita (Grandma). Juanita is indigenous, wearing the traditional clothing and Kechwa is her first language. She is amazingly gorgeous… and not in a ¨hot mom¨ way as a certain nameless friend asked… More like a ¨she belongs on the cover of a guide book¨ way… her features are so unique and her smile and eyes seem to me so exotic… her grandaughter, Estefanie, has the same exotic features that are really hard to describe.

I was quite taken back the first few days when I was thrown into this family. Just imagine the first meal… I am sitting with the whole family described, except Juanita. She is in the kitchen. She brings out each individual bowl of soup to each person… without any thank yous murmured or pleas to help in addition to mine. As strange and rude as this seems… I quickly realize that this is normal to everyone else, so I choose not to push to help and continue observing… Juanita then goes back into the kitchen as we all enjoy the hot soup. She comes back to pick up our empty bowls, and brings out the main course. Soon after, she picks up each individual empty plate and returns with hot milk or hot water for our tea/coffee/cocoa cups. She also sets the tea, hot cocoa, coffee and bread on the table. I thought that maybe it was just a special occasion, it being Sunday…. but then every meal there after was the same routine?¿

I didn´t really know what to think of this, so I asked my professor at school. He told me that in the indigenous culture, it is tradition for the woman to prepare all the meals, eat before or a little after everyone else and always in the kitchen alone, not at the table with the family. This is just one example of how, although the family is quite modernized – with all the kids having cellphones, a dvd player, washer and dryer, etc – the indigenous culture is still preserved in so many ways, good or bad. (see photo of Juanita and Daniela – who was dressed in Mexican attire for a school program)

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Juanita y Yo!

Juanita y Yo!

la comida (the foooood!)… as I said, is always interesting and often a surprise! Don’t think it was ever the same dish. The only thing that was constant was the soup and the rice… almost always a soup preceded every lunch and dinner, and both were always accompanied by rice. One time we had chicken and corn, another time a salad of lettuce, avocado, potatoes and egg, another time slimy pasta with mini-shrimps and lots of butter. My favorite days were when we had friend plantains, or maduras, the sweet kind…the best! The worst, however, was my first Friday when our whole dinner was plain white rice with some cold canned tuna thrown on top. My second week we started having a dessert after lunch which was either homemade cake or pie or fruit cup… delic!

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