I hope that you are all well! I apologize for not sending out something. Even now, this is only a half-finished story. We were without power, internet, and telephone for a long time, and I have not had computer access. This was what I had started, but not finished. I think I will post another time after this to better complete my journey. There is a lot more. For now, however, this will have to do.
Love and prayers,
I think that the motto for my trip might be Every day is a new adventure- make the most of it! I have been trying to use up every minute of my limited time here to learn something or to teach something. In the process of exchanging knowledge and customs comes a friendship, a mutual joy.
That being said, one of my adventures of the past two weeks was to learn more about the food here. The same types of food that I am used to eating in the United States are cooked differently here, and if possible I wanted to be able to cook Dominican.
Just about every other day, I went to the Nutrition Center early so that I could watch the ladies prepare breakfast for the children. The children have a more varied breakfast than the teachers; oatmeal, harina, harina de maíz, or maízena. Occasionally they eat bread and cheese, and even more rarely cereal. But since I know how to cook oatmeal and slice bread, I mainly wanted to learn about the last two foods.
Well, I did learn- to cook harina de maíz for ninety children! The amounts are just a bit different than what I am used to. It will take me a couple tries, I think, to scale it down to a manageable size. The harina de maíz is a sweet corn pudding that is either flavored vanilla or chocolate. My job was mainly to stir the concoction as it cooked on the stove.
But first, I had to stir the powdered milk into good water and mix in the corn flour. That took more time than I had anticipated, due to both the volume of the substances and the tendency of corn flour to clump into little balls. While I was whisking the milk and flour together, on the stove was a giant metal pot filled with a boiling tea made of cinnamon, sugar, and water.
When I finally had the approval of the cook, I dumped the milk mixture into the pot. These ladies are really used to cooking for this amount of people. I was nervous because after the milk was added, the level of the maíz was only two inches from the brim of the pot. As I am struggling with trying to describe the amount of food being prepared, just know that my milk mixture was three gallons.
And the stirring began! Because of the water and milk, at first the harina is a relatively thin liquid, but with the heat, it gradually thickens. I had to stir it constantly to prewent lumps of corn flour from reforming. Twenty minutes later, I wondered how the cook did not have disproportionately large arms. As the mixture thickened, it was more and more difficult to stir. With a huge smile, she took the spoon from me and stirred the harina easily, using her hand but not her whole arm. Always something to learn.
Well, the harina was very good. At least, I enjoyed it, and most of the kids ate well that day. Although, now I understand why towards the end of their bowls, the kids don´t want to eat more. It tastes good, but is super filling.
I have to say, I am jealous of some of the cooking implements here. The metal spoon that I used to stir the pudding was huge and heavy duty. Without a doubt, it could double for a baseball bat. (Why am I thinking of baseball? That´s another story) The size of the pot requires two people to carry it. In my dreams, right?
Back to baseball. We had a group come and deliver Christmas toys on Friday. It was chaotic, but very happy. The kids were in Heaven. Each one received one toy, and what strikes me is that they were perfectly happy with the toy that they were given. Surprisingly, I don´t remember anyone fighting over a toy or being upset that someone had something different. Instead, they hurried to show the teachers or me. Look, look, look! It was easy to get them to shout a hearty thank you to our guests, who enjoyed giving the toys just as much as the children enjoyed receiving them.
Among the mixture of barbies, dolls, helicopters and cars were some plastic bat and ball sets. Remember my bizarre baseball game with Berlin? Unfortuantely for him, he wasn´t at class on Friday. I don´t know which was the case, but when children don´t come to class, it is either because their parents can not bring them, or they are sick. Either way, he was absent.
After deliberating a bit, I finally asked the group if I could have a toy for Berlin. They were more than happy to oblige. I am looking forward to giving it to him. The teachers told me that for many of these children, the gifts they received with be the same ones that are under the tree later. Many families don´t have sufficient food, let alone money for toys.