Sunday, March 4, 2012

You and Me Shouldn't Sit Under the Mango Tree

Ok, first of all, let's all take a moment and appreciate that today,
the 27th of February, is the D.R. Day of Independence. Which means
about everyone on the street got drunk at 11:00 instead of directly at
noon. And there were flags covering every available space of public
and private institutions. But more importantly, it's my official
seventh month on the mission. As long as we're prioritizing here. I
personally can't decide if it seems like the time is speeding or
dragging. Or both. Depends on the day. For example, all P-days go by
in a blur of early morning cleaning and a frenzy of letter writing.
But the days when we have three Jos├ęs in a row to teach and none of
them are home when we come by, well, those are the days that seem like
weeks. But yeah, I woke up to a bunch of ridiculously cute
"congratulations" cards from my companion and housemates today. Awwww.
The only thing better than patting yourself on the back is having
someone else do it for you.

Well, I feel like much how mine and Hermana Lund's last English lesson
focused on food, this blog needs to do the same. Food is one of my
special hobbies, and I feel like I haven't done it any justice up
until this point. Let's start with the class, shall we?

So, Hma. Lund and I decided it might be useful for our students to
learn a cultural note or two alone with every lesson. So after
teaching the basic food groups and teaching them how to ask other
people about their favorite concoctions, we shared with them the
difference in how food is viewed here. For example, there is no such
thing in the states as "a bueno tiempo," which essentially means if
someone is eating something, they will say that phrase as a way of
offering you whatever they're eating. So you're options are to take
it, or to say "a buen provecho," which just means, "no no, you enjoy
it." It's becoming stranger and stranger to me that in the states, a
lot of us (I'm speaking of me too) guard our food so jealously when we
have so much of it. I think it's just we don't like mooch mentality.
We're willing to share... if it's of our own volition. But as the
well-known saying goes, "no one's gonna lay a finger on my
Butterfinger." At least, not unless they ask. Or are prepared to duel
me for it.

I, in my non-obvious, completely subjective manner, made it more or
less clear that women do NOT spend their whole day cooking. Children
and spouse do not come home to eat a lunch time, nor is lunch the
biggest meal in the states. And here, if you interrupt someone during
their meals, it's no big deal. You'll probably just get invited in to
eat with them. But in the states, if you interrupt dinner, you are
usually expected to get you outta there. I think all our Dominican
students left feeling mentally feed. And maybe a bit disappointed that
America isn't the land of the free after all. You gotta work for it!
But at least there's the 99 cent menus.

But some more food for thought came my way this last Sunday as my
companion and I traversed the Calle Mercedes, searching for the people
that had earlier in the week promised us that they would come to
church. Of course, it's easy to promise to do something in the
afternoon of Tuesday, and another thing to have to actually get up at
the crack of dawn Sunday to bring it to pass. But I'd really rather
people just admit to me that they have no intention of going. It would
sure save me a lot of walking. Not to mention that the Calle Mercedes
is evil and I hate contacting there. Everyone is Catholic, and so they
either don't want to listen, or will listen only to contradict. I'm
just of the mindset that you shouldn't kill the messenger. Listen or
don't. That's up to you.

Anyway, at the end of that calle of doom is the solares, or rather,
the unpaved, farm-like area that has houses few and far between. In
one of these homes lives a family, in particular, a 15 year old girl
we're teaching. We came to her house expecting to hear some excuse for
why she wouldn't be able to come to church. But she was all ready to
go. And I was like, "you mean, you can leave right now, right this
minute? Wait, explain this to me again, more slowly..." I've kinda
started to make myself accept that everyone let me down so that I
won't get disappointed when people fail me. How human of me. But it
didn't even matter to me that we had a long walk to the church because,
we had someone with us. And that was all that mattered. But you may be
wondering what any of that had to do with food. Well, her house is
essentially a fruit farm. It's pretty dang cool to actually see on
what trees bananas and papayas grow on. But early in that week, when
we asked the whole family to go to church, the mom said she couldn't
go because she had to stay with the house. Normally I'd think that was
a crock if I didn't know it to be true. If you live on land where
fruit is growing openly, you're automatically a target for robbers.
So, you either always have someone guarding the house, or you get
robbed. Win-win. It made me feel pretty, well, something. But that
something became something more when at the end, I asked if I could

need a bathroom." I guess there's a first time to pray for everything.
It would almost be funny if it weren't mostly sad. But they're good
people and I dearly hope they get a bathroom. I wouldn't wish not
having one on my worst enemy. Most days.

Well, that's about all that I can vomit onto the page for now. But the
advice I put in the title remains: the mango trees around here are
quickly producing fruit, and if you're sitting under said tree at the
wrong time,,, you're gonna get hit. Mangos have no mercy, nor much
discrimination. But I can't wait till the season when they're ripe
draws nigh. Apparently, you can get them super cheap, and when they're
full-grown, they can get as big as your face. I'll let you know how
that goes. But I can already tell you... it's gonna be good.

So till next time, eat your fruits and veggies and share your bag of
chips. If it's the family sized bag, at least. And a flavor you don't
really care about.

Love,

Hermana Sweeney

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