I’ve been taking Portuguese language courses at the local high school and it’s been fun, if frustrating. The school year is comprised of three terms and, not gonna lie, the end of term parties are my favorite part.
The first one was in December; basically, it’s the Christmas break. The teacher explained we would have a potluck and asked that everybody bring food from their native countries. Already this was a #win, because there’s an Italian contingent and a guy from India so I knew I wouldn’t go hungry. We had our second party last week (Easter break) and it was wilder than the first. (I can’t wait for the end of year party!)
Both times we had an oversupply of food and wines and liqueurs. I got some of my favorite American foods that I have missed (one couple made pulled pork) plus I tried food from South Africa, India, Belgium (no, not chocolates, alas). We also had some Portuguese dishes, a cheese board (Portugal has a fabulous array of cheeses), salmon quiche, fresh fruit, potatoes au gratin, Easter candy. I made M&M cookies, because really, what’s more American than putting junk food in junk food?
The Italians did not disappoint. At the first party, one of the men walked in with a fab lasagna, so our expectations this time around were high. He arrived a little late this time, carrying a big pot in his hands. The room ROARED when he walked through the door, very much like Norm entering Cheers. He served up huge helpings of a pasta Bolognese and his friend merrily walked from person to person with a block of parmesan and a grater.
The lady from South Africa made a dish called Bobotie (served with a special rice) and she wisely supplied printouts of the recipe for people. I am not an adventurous eater but I gave this a try and really liked it. (I’ll be making it at home.) She and her husband also brought a liqueur from South Africa, Amarula Cream. It’s made from the fruit of the marula tree. It’s sweet and creamy, lighter than Bailey’s. Very yummy. And, of course, I have slightly out-of-focus footage… of animals getting drunk off the fruit. The narration is not quite as good as the “Honey Badger don’t care” video, but right up there.)
The Italian guys brought another liqueur that looked like a white chocolate somethin’ somethin’, but I had ridden my scooter to the party and figured one small drink was enough. I was DEFINITELY glad I had decided not to drink when they brought out what looked to be an Italian version of moonshine. (Sadly, I have become a lightweight.)
The most fun part was seeing the admins and our teacher party down. They were doing shots while we banged on the desks, shouting “GO! GO! GO! GO!” like we were at a college kegger. It’s kind of like being a kid and seeing your teacher out in the real world. Of course, everyone else was doing shots, too, so it was all good.
Even though we’ve been in class together for over six months now, we are still a little divided up: the English speakers and the Italians and a few from various countries dotted in. One thing we all have in common is our inability to speak Portuguese. For the English speakers, it’s prepositions and the fact that we now have to deal with things like cars and buildings and furniture being masculine or feminine. The Italians are more used to that, but they have their own struggles with vocabulary because of the nuances between the two languages. Every Portuguese person I have met has assured me that Portuguese is one of the most difficult languages to learn. I don’t know if it’s true, but it makes me feel a teensy bit better.
While we haven’t quite broken the language barriers, we have broken bread and that brings us together even more than the shared suffering of untangling prepositional phrases. The wine helps, too.