Turkey Time & Helping Others Get Blogging

Every Thanksgiving, I get the same song stuck in my head:

Maybe it’ll be stuck in your head too now. Thanks a lot to my sister, who likes to sing this song as loudly as possible.

After helping make sweet potato pie, and eating a lot, and talking, I spent the rest of my Thanksgiving evening helping a fabulous 62-year-old I met tonight create a blog. She has a lot of opinions and learned how to use Skype recently, so I wrote out a step-by-step guide and we practiced posting a couple times.

Spreading the writing love, y’all! What’d you do this Turkey Time? Do your grandparents blog or tweet or facebook?


A Thanksgiving Poem: Max Coots’ A Harvest of People

As it’s Thanksgiving week here in the US of A, I’m sharing a Max Coots poem I heard today. It’s fitting for this week: food and friends and the way time gallops by sometimes and creeps by other times.


Let us give thanks for a bounty of people.

For children who are our second planting, and though they
grow like weeds and the wind too soon blows them away, may
they forgive us our cultivation and fondly remember where
their roots are.

Let us give thanks;

For generous friends with hearts and smiles as bright
as their blossoms;

For feisty friends, as tart as apples;

For continuous friends, who, like scallions and cucumbers,
keep reminding us that we’ve had them;

For crotchety friends, sour as rhubarb and as indestructible;

For handsome friends, who are as gorgeous as eggplants and
as elegant as a row of corn, and the others, as plain as
potatoes and so good for you;

For funny friends, who are as silly as Brussels sprouts and
as amusing as Jerusalem artichokes;

And serious friends as unpretentious as cabbages, as subtle
as summer squash, as persistent as parsley, as delightful as
dill, as endless as zucchini and who, like parsnips, can be
counted on to see you through the winter;

For old friends, nodding like sunflowers in the evening-time,
and young friends coming on as fast as radishes;

For loving friends, who wind around us like tendrils and hold
us, despite our blights, wilts and witherings;

And finally, for those friends now gone, like gardens past
that have been harvested, but who fed us in their times that
we might have life thereafter.

For all these we give thanks.

Max Coots


I Don’t Cook, But…Quinoa, Arugula and Sausage Salad

I’m an eater, not a cooker, but here’s a quinoa salad I learned to make this weekend. And I didn’t cut myself or burn anything while learning, so there is hope for you too.

First you make some quinoa, the healthy food that Bolivians have known about forever but has more recently becoming the new granola. To make the quinoa, you put it in a pot with some water and making sure it doesn’t stuck to the bottom. Turn the heat down or something.

You put the quinoa you didn’t burn in a bowl, then add some green stuff on top. Like arugula or spinach.

Meanwhile you’re heating up some chicken (or non-chicken, if you want to be like that) sausages in a pan. I told you about the sausages, right? Put some oil in there beforehand.

Then you cut up those sausages. They go top of the green stuff.

If you have some around, add some tomatoes and avocado on top. Little tomatoes mean less chopping for you, and they look more like candy. Hopefully your avocados won’t be kinda brown like mine were.

At the end, you put some dressing on there (lemon + honey + oil + salt + pepper is the standby for me) and mix it up.

Eat! Finally. Celebrate knowing how to nourish yourself for another couple of hours.

I was thinking of granola quinoa ways of naming this salad, and so far I’ve come up with Green Gratitude, Bolivian Breakfast Salad, Quinoa Layer Cake, and Green Sausage Tom. Other suggestions?


Colombian Curiosities, Part II: Hot Cocoa with Cheese, Photo-shopped Ties, Juice in a Bag

Following the feedback on my previous post on interesting, unusual, unexpected Colombianisms, I’m sending out a round two.

You may have heard of this unexpectedly delicious mix: hot chocolate and cheese. It’s technically called Chocolate Santafereño, and you put the cheese inside the hot chocolate. It adds a slightly salty flavor. And then you eat all the pieces of cheese once you’re done with the hot chocolate. (I did it wrong and tried to leave some cheese behind. My coworker stood over me while I ate them all.)

Snacks at work.

I had to get passport photos for my visa renewal. The guy next to me was wearing a polo shirt when he went into the booth to get his photos taken. Yet, when they’re printed, the photos have him wearing a suite and tie. Magic.

Pick the shirt and tie you would have worn!

Here are the women’s options, on the computer screen:

Just insert your head!

Juice comes in a bag, which you put in a plastic holder that goes in the fridge. The empty juice bag takes up less room in the trash, and the plastic holder can be reused an infinite amount of times. Genius!

It’s my juice in a bag.

Lastly, I was going to write about hand soap that turned out to be clothing spray (like bathroom spray, for your clothes). Then I realized that we already have that in the US – Febreeze. I had wanted to buy liquid soap for the Nunnery bathroom, and instead brought home clothing spray. Colombia supermarket: 1. KDV: 0.

No Such Thing As A Free Lunch: Photos of Food

My free lunch at work ran out. I’m not sure exactly why, but now I need to pay for lunch. It was a nice bonus while it lasted!

I went to the grocery store, so I have some things in the fridge at The Nunnery. My first night there, the landlady gave me dinner.

Soup, paella, panela and crackers

Sometimes I cook.

Salad, pasta, and peas & corn

Sometimes I order from the local pizza place.

Brie chicken and apple & cherry, pineapple and peach

For breakfast it’s usually the same thing.

Black tea & slightly burnt tomato, avocado cheese panini

And sometimes my coworkers bring me dessert.

Tea and cake

And it all tastes pretty good. Even with my (nonexistent) cooking skills.

Sunday Night Songs

Sunday night I was invited to a friend’s family party. A nephew and his girlfriend were going to Chile for a conference and the family was seeing them off, helping them get there. I tried to give them 10,000 COP (about $5 USD) as a way to show my gratitude, but my money was firmly handed back to me.

I arrived late, under-dressed, empty-handed. It was misting here (it always is), and I was coming from work (I always am).

They took my coat, sat me down, handed me a glass of hot sangria with a sugar rim. There was a rifa, where I won a hand towel with a green frog, and a small porcelain angel that I unceremoniously dropped and broke an hour or two later.They fed me ajiaco, my new favorite soup.

But the singing, oh the singing! That is what I came here to share. Once the eating and gift-giving was over, the two guitars came out and everyone, everyone sang. Even the shy 10-year-old who held the guitar with the strings facing up towards the ceiling, and murmured Hey Soul Sister. There were songs about aguardiente and being Colombian, being unable to find the right man to marry, unrequited love, gypsies, doing something versus saying you’ll do it.

Of course, with everyone else singing, I was cajoled into singing something in Russian. My repertoire consists of children’s songs or mid-90s rap. I chose Миленький ты мой, a short song, very repetitive. Luckily only the very last sentence of my a cappella rendition was captured on video.

Video evidence presented for posterity

The universality of it all is what I love most. That people in every country I have lived in, have sang together, played guitar. The songs tell the same stories – the beloved country, the hope and despair of love, the fleeting nature of youth. Whether it’s on a friend’s couch in Vermont, around a campfire in Russian summer camp, in dark Massachusetts basements, on Chilean buses –  the words, language, setting may be different, but the guitar sounds the same and the heartstrings respond the same.

A Taste of Home: Ice Cream!

I was feeling a little angst-y due to being at a desk all day, so I did what any angst-y young person does: I went to the mall. Centro Comercial San Martin has a gym inside (Spinning Center – membership is $90/month), a grocery store (Exito! the successful supermarket), and a bunch of overpriced, empty shoe stores. And a Crepes and Waffles!

I was responsible & went grocery shopping (successfully!) instead of eating dessert for dinner. But after dinner, I indulged in this delicious chocolate ice cream with maraschino cherries inside:

My grandmother’s favorite way to eat ice cream: with chips.

Add some blackberry jam, and salty potato chips, and there’s no need to leave the house for dessert. Ice cream with potato chips. I know, it’s an acquired taste. It’s the sibling of chocolate covered pretzels.

What strange snack reminds you of home?