Jessi and I have been interviewing students for a while now and have our routine pretty well set. A student comes in and Jessi puts the name tag on. We sit together with the student and I conduct the interview, with Jessi helping out when the student tells me something I don’t understand or to get more details from them. Sometimes I just don’t understand a career or sport, even with a description, so there’s always the dictionary, Google translate, or a You Tube video which gives me a visual so I finally “get it.” (such as “tocho bandera” being touch football). When the interviews are done, Jessi then takes each student’s picture.
Back at the office, I write up the interviews. If the student already has a sponsor, I make it a personal letter to them, and then Jessi attaches the picture after I email the finished letter to her. If the child has no sponsor, I type up a different letter, telling the reader about the student and asking if he/she would care to sponsor them. A donation of $100 USD will keep each student in school for a year, providing uniforms, shoes, books, field trips, etc. for those in grades kindergarten through 6th grade.
Reading the biographies gives the reader a personal connection to a real child. For me, I was touched by many of their stories, and picked 3 of them to sponsor myself. One of the children is a boy who loves studying about ancient Egypt and wants to be an Egyptologist in the future. I was interested in ancient Egypt when I was young, and my niece Catherine Butzen has been and still is, so that made me want to help him continue in school.
When I returned, I cooked a nice American lunch for the staff. I had gotten up early to cook the rice before the interviews and the day before had bought fresh okra, wax beans and cauliflower from my friends Richard and Magda’s organic farm. I hadn’t seen any bread crumbs in the tiendas, but they do sell pre-made toast – pan tostada – so I had bought some of that and stuck it in a blender to make bread crumbs. So I had that, plus the fresh eggs and fresh chicken, plus garlic and an onion.
For the final spice, I had bought some cumin powder from the local tienda. They do not generally sell jars of spices here because that would be too expensive, so you can buy it by the teaspoon in little plastic bags. Same with baking soda – couldn’t find a box of it anywhere. When you ask for it, the shopkeeper scoops it out of a large jar – however much you want – and puts it in a little plastic bag for you.
So I breaded and baked the chicken, breaded and fried the okra and boiled the cauliflower and beans. I told them that I wouldn’t be insulted if they felt the need to put hot sauce on it, but they ate it plain and said it was very good. They were really amazed at the okra and wax beans; apparently they had never seen these vegetables before. One staff member continued to try to eat her chicken leg with a knife and fork. I told her we eat it with our fingers – but she wouldn’t do it until I finally picked up my chicken wing with MY fingers and began eating it. It reminded me of having a meal at my friend Eva’s house back home. I would look at some of the Mexican dishes she would serve and wonder how to eat it – what do I put in a tortilla, or do I eat it with a fork, etc.
One other thing – I mentioned the hot sauce. There are bottles of Valentina hot sauce everywhere and they seem to put it on just about everything. On beach day, I watched little children open a bag of chips and just pour the hot sauce into the bag. It made me wonder at what point they became used to it. I can’t imagine they were born with a tolerance to it…
Oh, I almost forgot about the “American” in the title. North, South and Central America are all American. I was reminded of this one day when I was giving a talk about Project Amigo back home. I said that it is a non-profit organization with Canadian, American and Mexican Rotary clubs heavily involved. One of the Rotarians pointed out that Canada, the U.S. and Mexico are all part of North America. It was also pointed out to me here that United States isn’t an exclusive name either; the official name of this country is the United States of Mexico, and it is comprised of 31 states and the Federal District, just as my United States is composed of 50 states and the District of Columbia.
I guess this is all just splitting hairs, but figured I would add a little political and geographic education in there. Time for bed now, then two more days of interviews. Have a good night everyone, and stay safe and warm.
Nos vemos !