Noon lunches at Escuela Colibrí are nothing short of delectable. For one thing the view from the long table on the open-air veranda is spectacular. First there’s the fruit trees—papaya, coconut and the like–from which the juice that accompanies the meal is made. Further away is a territorial view of the valley, city and mountains beyond. Cinnamon hummingbirds, orioles, motmots and magpie-jays flit here and there.
The food is as fresh as possible because many of the ingredients—spices and vegetables—are grown in the surrounding gardens amongst native poinsettas, azaleas and hibiscus. The presentation itself is striking too. For instance, note the lettuce canoes in the photo allowing one to eat the beet salad as well as fried corn discs with fingers.
Often I had the sensation of prayer throughout the meals. A deep sigh when I initially smelled and saw the food before digging in and then pausing and recognizing the rush of warm gratitude while tasting. I was grateful for my wonderful fortune to be there in the precise moment that was NOW. Savoring the view, the nourishment and the company.
All of this in a bath of Spanish surrounding me and enabling conversation with others. Fortunately the teachers were scattered amongst us so there was hope, not that they ever spoke English but God, are they clear and, oh yes, patient. Definitely patient.
At one such banquet I sat across from Ceci and a man I hadn’t met yet—Lester. Gradually it became obvious they’re a couple. I confirmed this with one of my lines that gets a good chuckle most of the time, “Is he your favorite husband?” The line works in Spanish too so I was buoyed along by the laughter and tried another standard, translated into Spanish, “Lester, me gusta tu sabor…” (My plan was, “I like your taste in women.”) Right away, mid-sentence, the teachers, several of them, were giggling and correcting me, saying “tu gusto.” It took me more seconds than I’d like to admit to get their drift because I was pretty sure my conjugation of the verb gustarse was correct. No, they were telling me I had said that I liked the taste of Lester not his taste in women. Jajaja! (Hahaha!) A bit embarrassed but not silenced. How’s a girl to learn? After all, I won’t forget the noun el gusto, will I?
The plot thickens because that very day as I walked down the hill toward Marlene’s, I met a fellow dressed in full costume carrying his bass guitar. I am not kidding. We exchanged pleasantries which was easy enough, given his mariachi get-up. It got to the point that introductions were in order so I stated, “Soy Penélope,” to which he responded with delight, all smiles, “Me llamo Lopéz también, Natividad Lopéz.” (“My name is Lopéz too…”) Funny, so he thought my accent was colloquial and I’d dropped the z. Ha! My question was what in the world did he think about my first name because pene means penis in Spanish?! Finally in my process of learning this second language, I am recognizing the importance of emphasis (for example, the name César is different from cesar meaning to cease.) Maybe Pené is a perfectly reasonable name in Spanish just like Natividad (nativity in English) is.
Regardless today’s story begins and now ends as it should, “Buen provecho!” I’m not exactly sure how that translates but it’s used to acknowledge how wonderful good food is and before every meal with good reason.