Throughout classes this year, I have told our students bits and pieces about life in Costa Rica (where I grew up).  Sometimes, I use this as a tactic for getting their attention—breaking into rapid Spanish achieves instant quiet in the classroom.  Other times, I use Costa Rica as a point of comparison—when at the health clinic with a group of students interviewing a nurse about malaria, I explained Costa Rica’s nationalized health care system (an almost inconceivable concept here).  Recently, I decided it would be fun to give students a real taste of Costa Rica, so I invited them over to our house for a culinary surprise.    

In preparation for the event, I made a few small posters to hang around our living room:

Did you know that about 25% of Costa Rica is protected by national parks or private reserves?

The traditional meal in Costa Rica is a casado, a plate with rice, beans, fried plantains, meat or chicken, and a tortilla! 

Costa Rica abolished its army in the 1940s—this saved the state money, which was instead used for public benefit (education, healthcare, water…)

Learn Spanish! Yo me llamo…(Spanish).  My name is…(English).  Ma name na…(Pidgin)

Next, I attempted to make my first ever tres leches cake.  I knew it would be easy to find cans of sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk, but I was astounded when I managed to find a carton of whipping cream.  I mixed together a simple white cake batter and baked in on my stove (cake pan rests on several small stones that sit at the bottom of a large covered pot, gas flame is turned low to avoid burning).   Once baked and cooled, the cake needs to be stabbed repeatedly with a fork and then drenched in the sticky tres leches syrup.

Finally, I made tortillas.   Stacks of them.  Stella and Kennedy arrived early, so I put them to work flattening the moist masa into disks.  

Josh made guacamole and salsa.   Our living room slowly filled up with students.  Lucia and Josy tried to make whipped cream, but ended up with butter that they happily slathered on warm tortillas.  Samson wanted to use our Podcast software to record a religious rap he had written.  The cake was devoured in 2 minutes.  The tortillas disappeared enthusiastically once students discovered there was extra sweetened condensed milk.  The guacamole and salsa went untouched until someone decided to try sweetened condensed milk on those as well (with mixed results).  

Florantine and Josy asked for blank paper and tape, and soon our walls were covered with new language lessons: 

What are you doing?  Weti you di do? Tu fais quoi? Qué está haciendo? 

How are you?  You di do how? Comment ca va?  Como está usted?

I want to eat.  I want chop.  Je veux manger.  Yo quiero comer.