Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Lunch Life of Expats


In order to understand the word fully, you had to be an expat. Fortunately, having been an expat for a very long time, I understood completely what it meant to be an expat. 

In expat situations eating was one of those things that became a special treat. A way to get out of the local culture, a vacation, a way to go to someplace exotic. A tourist, on the other hand, often wants to try to find some way to experience the local food as a way of exploring the local culture. 

In this situation, I was a tourist. 

In this situation, my hosts were expats. 

So I was amused when it was asked if I would be all right with Italian food. I smiled and assured that I would be fine with Italian food, and so we ended up in a beautiful restaurant in Antigua that would serve Italian food. I realized as I walked in that the restaurant was not only pretty but in many places open to the weather. There were several porches and the entire thing was an outside space.

I had the passing thought that this must be a seasonal restaurant, with so much space open to the outside. Then it finally hit me that I was in Central America. While the evenings were certainly a touch cool, that was about as cold as it was going to get in Guatemala this year. I started to understand what it meant to be in a country that was so seasonable so much of the time. You could build restaurants and houses with entire interiors that were for the most part open to the sky, with coverings here and to filter out the rain. Otherwise life was on the outside. In some strange way it reminded me of the patios on temples in Korea, large flat open spaces that were basically prettily decorated porches open to the world. In the summer the ajjumas, and ahjussis and children would all lay about on them socializing and chatting, much as I imagine people took advantage of all the pretty couches and porches here.

It was lovely.

Our table was toward the back of the restaurant, next to a small bath-like pool, overhung by the fronds of palm, and other big, leafy green trees. We were joined shortly by two more teachers with the school that was hosting the convention, and one more guest from a school in Costa Rica. There were more hellos and eventually we were all settled all around.

“You must try the Thai stir-fry, that is what I am having, SA-ra, you should try it,” Esmeralda directed this at me first, but now she had any number of people to direct statements at. Before long she had advised everyone at the table that the Thai stir-fry was what they must get. It amused me that not only did everyone get the Thai stir-fry, but so many people had ordered it that the kitchen ran out of bowls to serve it in. I went against the grain and had calamari with vegetables and thought it was quite good. The Thai stir-fry, as it turned out, was a yellow Thai curry, which I made a distinction about in my brain, maybe because I had been so long in Asia.

As we ate lunch, the clouds that had been overlooking us all day finally decided it was time, and so aside from passing conversation, the sound of gently falling rains also accompanied us as we ate. It was rather musical and lovely. I could see how one could fall in love with this part of the world and never want to leave.

We had a dessert on top of lunch and it was decided that the final act of the afternoon would be some shopping at a local market to pick up the touristy knickknacks and presents that people felt obligated to get while visiting another country. I was fine with the plan, as I knew this would most likely be my only day of freedom, the rest being taken up by the conference.

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