by Andrew Nilsen
Re-blogged from: May We Suggest
I’ve never seen such gigantic pots in my life. In fact, I’ve only seen one pot comes close, which is at my father in-law’s cabin down in Cave in Rock, IL. Today I witnessed two enormous pots full of food for fiestas with familia. What a way to be welcomed into the family!
Today was my first full day living at my training site. As TEFL teacher trainers, Emily and I are placed in separate small towns (pueblos) approximately 15 minutes away from each other in the Masaya department. Peace Corps Nicaragua assigns married couples to separate training families primarily to help with language acquisition, which makes a lot of sense in our situation given that I have much more Spanish experience than Emily. We will meet up twice this week for all-staff trainings, and will be able to spend the following weekends together, but for the time being we are focused on bonding with our host families.
Doña Juana has adopted me for the next twelve weeks of training, which means I now have older siblings! My brother Osman (40 y/o) and sister Taniana (31 y/o) both are living at home. They are very kind, welcoming, generous people. In fact, I think Osman is sleeping in front of the TV in the living room, because I think they gave me his room. I look forward to posting more updates about them in the following weeks.
This morning, after a light breakfast of bread and coffee, I hopped in Osman’s car to go to the finca para comer. To be honest, I wasn’t 100% sure what he meant by finca, but since we were going there to eat I was pretty stoked. We drove about 10 minutes out of town, and turned right down a dirt driveway lined with plantain trees. Turns out that was Osman meant by “Vamos a la finca para comer” was that we were going to his (our?) cousin Ricardo’s beautiful piece of land out in the country for an all-day food and family fest to celebrate the birthday of another one of our cousins. Over the next six hours I ate a bowl of pork sopa consumido, received a botany/fruits of Nicargua taste-testing tour of la finca from Ricardo, ate freshly fried pork chicharrones with corn tortillas, won five out of six hotly contested ping-pong matches against Ricardo and his son, ate a gigantic plate of Nicaraguan style chop suey with pork, watched little cousins destroy a bunny piñata, and ate birthday cake.
If you were sensing a pork theme, that is because the family purchased and prepared two whole pigs to feed the birthday bunch. We were a big crew, and even the biggest pot I’ve seen in my life only barely contained enough chop suey to feed us all. The wonderful afternoon of family and conversation ended with me promising Ricardo and his wife that I would bring Emily to visit la finca before we finish our training. I think our chances are good, since they throw a party there every time there is a birthday in the family.
After la finca, Osman drove Doña Juana and I to a one-year-old birthday party for a family friend. Although the setting for this was much more humble, there was still the same immense pot full of food to feed the 30+ people who gathered around the dirt yard of the corrugated steel hut/house. We were fed vigoron, a national dish of Nicaragua with (you guessed it) pork served over a bed of yucca, topped with a cabbage slaw. While we were eating cake outside and watched more small Nicaraguan children obliterate pretty cardboard animals, Doña Juana, my new mom, turned to me and said “See, we don’t just eat gallo pinto for every meal. We ate all day, and didn’t have rice or beans once!”
It’s only been one day, and already Doña Juana is exhibiting maternal psychic abilities by assuaging my unvoiced foodie fears. However, I’d gladly trade gastronomic monotony any day for the feeling that I am a part of a family. After today I get the feeling that I may not have to make that choice.