It was lunch time today in my strange city, placed in this strange country. I had spent the day inside, typing away on my computer. God bless the internet, and my computer in this strange place. Seems its not all that safe in the streets and while I venture out from time to time, I am trying to make sure that I make it back to the United States in one piece. I saw down to lunch, seemed it was left over day. My host mother had been busy cleaning all day and exclaimed that she hadn’t had time to cook. I wasn’t upset or even put off by this fact, I simply understood. I had felt a pang of guilt earlier in the morning when she asked if I would mind if she came in and made my bed. So far I’ve been making the effort to get out of bed and make sure I made it before she had the chance to get to it, it was really the least I could do. I was in the middle of straightening my hair when she asked if she could come in, so I stopped and made sure she understood that I wanted to help her, as I assisted in making the bed. But back at lunch, I was having spaghetti with a homemade pesto sauce that was rich with cilantro from three days before, and my host sister Alessa was having tuna. I watched as Alessa opened the can, then using a fork to put all of the tuna on a plate. She sat down across from me, then bounced out of her chair walking to the fridge and pulling something out. It was two long thin green pepper. I watched with a cautious eye as she bit into the tip of it, chewing it, not breaking a single beat. I took a sip of Yoli (a soda here, similar to sprite but much sweeter), still eyeing the green pepper that sat half eaten on her plate. “Are those spicy?” I asked her, pointing at the object. “It’s a little spicy. But not too bad.” Surely then, those weren’t the same peppers I had suspected them to be. They looked like the peppers I would throw in a blender with onion, garlic, tomatillos, and water. The ones I knew were habanero peppers. By the way my host sister was snacking on them though, there was no way they could be the same.
“Can I try a little?” I asked her, my taste buds were suddenly curious.
“Yeah if you want.” I picked up the pepper. Then looked at her nervously.
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah just take a small bite, its not that spicy.”
I took my teeth to the edge of the pepper and bit down. Chewing slowly, I knew with in the seconds that my suspicions had been right. I’d bitten into a habanero. Suddenly as I swallowed my mouth was on fire. I looked at my host sister who was watching me, waiting to see what I think. I could feel the sweat gathering on my brow.
“Holy fuck that’s hot!” she laughed
“I guess I’m used to it.”
“What do I do? What do I eat? Fuck this is hot!”
“Put a little salt on your tongue it will make it better.” I didn’t feel like I had the time to look in the pantry looking for salt, so instead I reached in the basket in front of my host mother, pulling out a tortilla she had just made.
“Can I have one?” I asked in the strange language, she was laughing too, as she nodded. My head was light and my eyes were watering.
I took a small piece of it and tore it off as I stood next to my chair, eating it quickly. It wasn’t really hoping. I grabbed the glass of Yoli in front of me and chugged what was left in my glass. Then running to the water pitcher I quickly poured a glass. The fire still burning in the back of my throat. I chugged the glass of water and it was gone. I sat back down in my chair, laughing.
“Welcome to the strange country! You are now one of us.” My host sister said to me. “You will be getting a mustache, a sombrero, a poncho and a free donkey in the mail soon. Not a big donkey, just a small one.” That part made me laugh most of all. With tears in my eyes and sweat on my brow, I washed my dishes laughing at the new experience.