Saturday, April 23, 2011

Waiting For A Taste Of Easter

In about an hour, I'll know if I get to taste Easter this year, or if I've blown it entirely.

Everyone has their own thing that means Easter. Not in the grander meaning-of-the-holiday sense, but in the smaller, personal family sense. Easter for some is hiding eggs under bushes and for others it's big chocolate bunny-filled baskets. Here in Ecuador, Easter is associated with a very particular kind of soup that has a ridiculous number of ingredients, and back in Nebraska I kind of associate Easter with banana bread.

Laugh now, but then think about this: If Easter was a holiday you put in your mouth, what would it taste like to you?

I can't make a sunrise service in the Brule park in Ecuador. I can't pretend not to be too old to hunt eggs in my grandmother's yard - not least because Easter egg hunting is not the Ecuadorian way. I can't fight my cousins for my mom's mashed potatoes, and I won't be working my way methodically though a dessert table that rivals a bakery.

What I'm left with is banana bread. Specifically, my aunts, but since I didn't get the spike of Easter lonely till about 10:30 tonight I had to cheat and get a recipe off the Internet instead of calling her. It's from Australia and it has lots of sugar and butter in it, and I already had the bananas.

My history as a chef is not a shining beacon of excellence. I've learned the hard way about things like not mixing cinnamon with paprika, and that following the instructions is actually kind of important. Even with the best of intentions I've been known to completely screw up basic meals and side dishes, to the point where I'm a bit intimidated by my boyfriend's request for deviled eggs.

Yet I meticulously chopped my own walnuts to put in the bread, and creamed my sugar into the butter with gusto. No proper mixing bowl meant the thing got stirred up in a casserole pan, but it was indeed smooth as per the instructions. I dutifully buttered and floured my baking pan, and pre-heated the countertop convection oven. I am very proud of myself at the moment, but still fearful that something will be all wrong, like my oln friend the high altitude or something about the kind of bananas we have hear.

Still 46 minutes to go ... but the smell is right. Naturally it needs to be mixed with an undertone of baked ham and the chatter of family, but sweet banana will have to do. Let's all hope this tastes amazing ... and HAPPY EASTER to you all.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Happy Teacher's Day ... Who Are You?

Today I had a nice surprise when I went to my school - it's Teacher's Day in Ecuador. I received a beautiful rose from the Abraham Lincoln school and many well-wishes and hugs from my students. My current students were somewhat obligated to acknowledge the holiday, but the past students who made a point to come give me a kiss on the cheek and a hug were especially precious.

Now if only I could remember who they all were ....

Between my own classes, substituting for other teachers, being around the school, etc, etc, I have met well over a hundred dedicated English students. Some of them are unforgettable, but others fade into namelessness when the new cycle starts (12 week class cycles). I recognize their faces as having been in my class, but I can't quite put a name on the face.

The worst is when I see the students out and about and nowhere near the school, so my brain can't sort them by their class time or level. I met a student on the bridge to Solano today coming back from her high school, and though we had a nice conversation, I still don't know if it was Jessica or Veronica. I'm pretty sure she's Jessica. I think. Definitely a Saturday morning student ...

Still, even if I don't always have a ready name to put to the face, it is nice to be able to recognize people on the streets of Cuenca who are not my fellow foreigners. This is a definite benefit of teaching - you have a recognized connection to the society, and get to feel more at home in the culture. Also, the students definitely know you, so it makes for those nice moments that you would have in a small neighborhood, stopping and chatting, even in the middle of Cuenca's bustling byways.

Happy Teacher's Day, indeed!