Homestay with Paella

paellaPart of learning Spanish is interacting with people outside of school. The immersion program includes living with a family. We stayed with Angeles, an 84 year-old woman. She told us the story of her life “her destiny.” She was born in Valencia, Spain. I calculate in 1923. When she got married, she and her husband wanted to see the “Americas” and took a honeymoon in Buenos Aires. They didn´t go back. After living there for many years, they moved to Peru. After 15 year sin Peru, the political situation changed and they moved to Panama in 1986.

She remembers Spain fondly and talks of it frequently.  I underestimated the diferences between people in Valencia and other ares like Madrid and Barcelona. Angela still speaks with a Spanish accent. “Azucar”  or “sugar” is pronounced with a “th” sound for the “z.” She watches cable television broadcast from Spain. She is proud that the emcee of La Rouletta de la Suerte is not only Mister Spain but also Mister Universe. She is conservative in her politics and abhors communists.

At 84, she is busier than some people half her age. She dressed up in “whites” complete with spongy white shoes to volunteer at the local cancer hospital. She dressed up in a suit and wore jewelry to go to an association meeting of Peruvian ex-pats. She went on an all day excursion (leaving at 6 a.m.) to a beach resort with the Lions and Rotarians. She baked two hundred almond cookies for a bake sale for charity. Most days, she has  a big lunch with her son. Every day, she prepared a full breakfast for us.

She also has strong opinions about restaurants. On Valentine´s Day, we went to a Spanish restaurant and had paella from Valencia. When we came home. we told her about our dinner and expected her to be excited we had taken an interest in her native cuisine. Instead, she almost spit in disgust saying the cook did not know what he was doing and his paella was no good. We were lucky: she said she would cook us a paella and show us how it was really done.

And she did. She invited her two sons for a large lunch. The food was great and her sons were very interesting. One works for the Canal as purchasing manager and has traveled the world, including all over the States. The other is a writer and well-versed in culture. He was had read the literary critical work of two of my college professors, Edward Said and Lionel Trilling.

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