Thursday, November 29, 2012

Cuban Vegetables, Puerto Rican Thanksgiving, and Our New Life in the Swamp

One year when I asked my father about coming up with a Christmas wish list, he said that as he gets older, he sees less value in things (physical objects) and more in experiences. (A worthy consideration for anyone who has “hard to buy for” friends and relatives.)

Most people are impressed when they find out Brandon and I were willing to travel all the way across the country so I could serve the church here—and it was, indeed, a major sacrifice in some respects. But there is nothing like the excitement of moving somewhere really new and different.

I think I’ve mentioned before that when I first realized this area is a swamp I was kind of terrified—especially since so much of the land around here is still completely undeveloped (the church itself is on the edge of a nature reserve). But it means seeing all kinds of wildlife. Just naming some birds, we’ve seen Muscovy ducks, marbled godwits, hawks, wild turkeys, hooded mergansers, a night heron, white ibises and snowy egrets—and we’ve seen lizards, frogs and turtles I have yet to identify—and (so far only as roadkill, but still) armadillos! Can’t wait to get out to the Manatee Viewing Station …

About a week ago we checked out a Cuban sandwich place (nothing says Tampa like an authentic Cubano) and also tried a soup made from root vegetables—there were two or three different kinds—very similar to a potato, but with distinct flavors. And a week before that we tasted a unique beverage at a Carribbean joint: Irish Moss. It was pretty bizarre, and even the Caribbean waitress had never tasted the stuff and acted as if she’d been afraid to try. We found out later you can buy a can of it at some grocery stores. I guess it’s basically a red algae (extract?) boiled with milk and cinnamon.

And we had the wonderful good fortune last week of being invited to have Thanksgiving dinner with a Puerto Rican family. We were treated to scrumptious, melt-in-your-mouth roast pork, rice cooked with some special kind of Puerto Rican bean, rich homemade flan, and a boisterous cast of characters who welcomed us like their new best friends. They even roped us into their traditional game of bingo (for nickels) and our beginners’ luck won us $1.05 USD and five cents Canadian. It was everything a couple of gringos could have hoped for!

So, anyway, we are missing loved ones back on the west coast, but having many wonderful new experiences. And now that we’re more settled in, I’m going to make an effort to get back to blogging regularly again …

No comments: