Although it’s still fairly uncomfortable to be the random exchange student that lives in the shed out back (too soon… Dónde Está Elisa?), I do enjoy my family and am ever-so-slowly getting to know them.
Edgardo, or Pelli, as everyone calls him, is my host father. His vices are sweets and giving Suzy (the dog) whatever her goblin-like head desires. He’s a jovial man with white hair that comes down to his chin and a crazy-old-man beard to match. He ties the look together nicely when he wanders about in poncho, Suzy close behind, jumping and dangling from the poncho with the faith that if she can just touch the hem of his garment, she’ll receive celery, crackers, and other niceties.
Edgardo has developed the majority of our relationship through oldmanstories and discussions about food, travel, and language. He’s diabetic, so we know he likes sweets at least half as much as I do… as well as appreciating mayonnaise, butter, and salt more than I could ever imagine. He describes food that he likes as “ex-qui-si-to” and endures his family’s ridicule for over-indulging the dog with mild looks of irritation, or occasionally with resolved satisfaction as he passes another celery bit to Suzy, assuring me that Suzy prefers her celery with lemon. He also enjoys, to the family’s great laughter, speaking English when there is a word or phrase he knows. His response is, “See how insolent my children are?”
Of course, the whole family did spend a dinner saying Charles’ name over and over in British accents and proceeded to talk about Mr. Bean.
Susana is a ceramicist. I feel I don’t know her personality as much as Pelli’s; she still works a lot, and Pelli is loud (maybe to make up for his deaf ear). She and Fran are the ones that take the most time to hear me out when my Spanish is slow. She cooks wonderfully and loves vegetarian food, big, belly laughs, smiling, and music–back in the day, she was a music student before switching to ceramics. But here’s why Susana is amazing: Yesterday I left class because I was throwing up. Emily helped me get home via taxi. I hopped into the shower and was getting ready to sleep the whole thing off. Susana came in with tea, a hot water bottle, and a hair dryer to dry my hair. Then she kissed my forehead and told me, “Te quiero mucho. Eres muy linda.” She periodically checked on me, bringing me Jello and some sort of cooked pear juice (It’s been too difficult to explain my eating habits, especially the kosher part, so I didn’t say anything about the Jello.). I told her how strange it was that I’ve already been sick twice, and her response was that the body never is isolated from emotions and our other, more important parts. Anyhow, I have no idea how to express my gratitude for things like this… it amazes me how our parents take care of us through countless colds, stomach bugs, and many years worth of other sickness, yet we never really learn how to say thank you.
Fran is 28 years old and currently manages at an Argentinean café. She’s super thoughtful and has done the most to make me feel included in the family (partly because she’s around, partly because she’s an oldest sister). She’s often the first person I see and briefly chat with when I come home (often in the kitchen while she cooks something fantastic). She’s the quietest in the family, though; her laugh is a girlish giggle, even when she’s laughing very hard.
She also babies the dog in the most hilarious way. She talks to Suzy about how they’re going to find her a little Shih Tzu boyfriend, asks here whether or not she wants to try certain foods, and commiserates with her about how difficult life is. Fran frequently cradles Suzy in her arms like a baby. For you to understand how funny all this is, you have to understand what kind of a crazy rat/seacreature/mop Suzy is.
Before working at the café, Fran worked at an editorial after earning her degree in philosophy. She was telling me some of the difficulties of being the only female in her classes (apparently philosophy is male-dominated, as all of the classical thinkers are male, and her studies didn’t digress much from classical thought).
Anyhow, here are my top three THANKS, FRAN moments: 1.) A couple nights ago she brought lúcuma cake home for me to taste. 2.) She then made me crepes (panqueques) because she discovered how much I love manjar… so we ate panqueques with manjar. 3.) But the best thing is that she makes me peanut butter. She roasts the peanuts and everything… Now at first, I thought she was making a sacrifice because many Chileans think PB is disgusting. BUT I’ve realized that the peanut butter is disappearing whether I eat it or not… Jaja, my host family’s hooked on peanut butter!
And then the twins, Tono and Paz, age 26. Boisterous, quick, constantly in and out, and ardent followers of Dónde está Elisa? and The Simpsons, the twins are always good to tell a story or laugh about something or another.
Paz is a nutritionist and works at a local public school (insert applause). The public schools here are awful. I’ve had some interesting conversations with her about the school system here, obesity, and Chilean consumption of mayonnaise. But ultimately, I don’t see her very much. She has a boyfriend, with whom I assume she must spend some of her time. She makes me a little nervous because she talks excitedly, and I feel like she wouldn’t want to take time to listen to my words.
I don’t have that problem with Tono; he doesn’t really stop long enough for me to want to contribute. Although I guess it’s appropriate: he’s a law student in his final semester before graduation, so talking is probably his thing. He’s hilarious, and I have to say that I’m occasionally left with the feeling that a whirlwind has passed through after he’s talked for a while and left the room. I’ll get used to Chilean Spanish eventually.