Sunday, November 20, 2011

Día Deportivo and Tamales

I'm getting better and better about figuring out how to manage school and family commitments. Yesterday, Saturday, was an example of going between school and family. While that doesn't sound like much of an achievement, I'm quite proud that I now understand what's going on around me. In my first days (or weeks, more like) I just followed my family around, figuring out where we were going through context clues. Now, with some improved Spanish skills and a little bit more experience with this family I feel like I can anticipate our plans a little bit.

Friday night we started the process of making tamales. I wrote about this at the beginning of my trip, but I'll bore you all with the details because I think it's a pretty cool process. On Friday night we ground up 5 lbs. of corn into corn flour, using the same grinder that I took pictures of in September. It's really hard work! Alexis and I took turns grinding, but my arms are still sore.

The next morning I got up early for the Día Deportivo (my school's version of Field Day). Lucky for me, it started at 7:30, meaning I had to leave at the same time as any other school day. Cursing my school, I got up early on a Saturday morning to catch my bus.

Each class at my school designed its own jerseys for the day. The competitions for the day included a 5k run, the beginnings of the inter-school soccer championship, the selection of the class with the best uniforms, a pet competition, a beauty competition, and bailoterapia (dance-therapy). I ran the 5k run, and learned that the distance, though it doesn't sound like much, can be rather hellish. I'm putting my difficulties down to the altitude (I was running at about 2500 meters about sea level) and the early morning. However, my new found love of Ecuadorian animal crackers and complete lack of preparation may have made the running a bit difficult as well.

Each class nominated a boy a girl to represent them and a boy to serve as an escort in the beauty competition. Tom, my friend from Germany, was nominated for his class.

My class, posing together in our super sweet uniforms.

While I was dying (read: running) doing the 5k, the girls were doing bailoterapia. This is basically where a dance instructor equipped with a lot of hip-hop and a microphone shouts out dance moves for them to do. I got back in time to watch the last couple songs. After having participated in the last bailoterapia (my school has a session once a month) I enjoyed watching my classmates without having to participate.

My friend Gustavo and I after finishing the 5k. I wasn't wearing a watch, but the guy working the finish line told us we finished in 5th place with a time of 22 minutes.

My soon-to-be-professional-dancer classmates doing the bailoterapia. Can you see how relaxed they're getting?

There was more to the sports day, but I left early so that I could get home to help out making tamales (and shower). I thought most of the muscle work was done, but I was so wrong. I got home to find Dori enlisting everyone to help her stir the corn flour/egg/water mixture. The mixture was quite thick, so we worked stirring it for about half an hour, working in thirty second shifts. Here's a couple of pictures of us working to stir the batter-mixture.

Once the batter was deemed worthy by Dori we started the process of making the actual tamales. Starting with large leaves which I'd flattened with an ironing pin, we dolloped a couple of spoonfuls of batter into the leaves. Then, we put a little bit of peppers, carrots, chickens, peas, and onions in the tamales. After that we folded the leaves up and put them in big pots, where they were steamed for about an hour. For dinner and breakfast we enjoyed tamales.

The first step: put about two spoonfuls of the corn flour mixture in the leaf.

Dori, ladling in chicken and onions to the tamales.

The tamales, ready to be steamed in the big pots.

Breakfast this morning: tamales, lemon tea, and mangoes (in mango season, which is right now, you can get mangoes for about $.25 each)

I'm pretty jealous of you guys with your Thanksgiving holiday. The kids from my exchange group are getting together on Thanksgiving to celebrate, but it's not the same. Still, I'm planning on making an apple pie variation I found on the internet, so I'll let you know how that goes. If I remember, I may even take some pictures of my attempt at American baking. I hope you're all well. Thanks for reading!


  1. 5K is an easy run. I ran the Shadyside 5K in Pittsburgh in 22:36 when I was 59 years old. I think you need to run more, Jimmy. ;)

  2. When you return to Fort Worth next year you can teach your mom how to grind her own corn flour. :)

  3. I think Duane missed the point about running at 2500 meters!

    Great posting, J man. Just as I was lamenting the difficulty (and tediousness) of making tamales at BK's kitchen table, now I realize I how much more work they actually involve without a food processor. Do you know how Dori seasons her tamale filling? Does she use any spices besides salt?