While staying at the Amazing Hostel enjoying all the amenities it had to offer, we began settling into a daily routine. Each morning we awoke to the sound of roosters across the street, the local gas trucks trumpeting their products across the loud speakers, and finally a morning workout including running on the beach and poolside exercises, followed by a fresh smoothie from the local vendor.
We decided it was time to put the luxury of staying in one place to work for us. Susy, one of the hosts at the hostel, was bilingual and offered Spanish lessons to the patrons of the facility. We found that for $40.00 US, we would receive a week’s training for two hours a day. We quickly added this to the routine and enjoyed the casual, however intense, teaching she provided. We were able to help Susy continue with her English lessons also (or so she says). We covered the basics and then quickly escalated into present, future, and past tenses. I didn’t care for English in school, so this was a challenge! However, it was a labor of love. I really wanted to learn to communicate effectively.
We practiced all week when we were in town. I think the locals were humored by our attempts to expand our vocabulary. It was nice to be able to carry on more of a conversation than just, “Buenas Dias”, or “Gracious”. We were really learning Spanish! This carried on all week. During the course of our classes, each morning, Anhuar (Susy’s husband and co-host), would bring us a drink of some type, as it was hot sitting on the deck near the pool, taking lessons.
On the second or third morning, he brought out a particularly colorful concoction in a glass filled with ice. He explained that this was a traditional drink in Mexico and that we should try it. It was called Agua de Jamaica (the “j” sounds like “h”). Of course being cautioned against drinking the water in Mexico, I was leery of drinking it, though it looked so refreshing, and it was ice-cold! What the heck, drink up! Man, am I glad I did! It was an amazing blend of cold, sweet, juice like tea. Bernard and I, immediately agreed, this was great stuff. A real find, authentic Mexican tea! Anhuar explained it was a flower type leaf that is prepared just like tea, boiled in a pan and then added to more water. He brought some of the dried leaves for us to see. You can actually chew on the leaves and get the taste. What a refreshing drink! Apparently the boiled water, eliminated any side effects of drinking it.
As the week of lessons neared the end, we made more small talk with Susy who was disturbed that we had not heard of many authentic Mexican dishes. She said, “We are going to have an Authentic Mexican Barbecue on the pool deck for you on Saturday morning”. This was news to our ears. Any time you mention food and pool In the same sentence, its bound to be a good time.
Saturday morning ushered in the intense Spanish sun. Fortunately we got our exercise out-of-the-way early, and the appetite kicked in. We met Susy in the kitchen. Anhuar had been to the produce stand and meat market already earlier that morning. Susy put Bernard and I to work immediately, cutting up vegetables, mixing contents in the bowls. All the while she was instructing and explaining what we were making.
After about an hour of prep time, the food was ready! The grill was fired up and Anhar taught us another grilling trick. He cut a fresh onion in half and after the grill heated up, wiped the fresh-cut side on the grate to clean it. It shined right up and smelled great too! The grill quickly filled up with all of the contents that were brought to the meal. The list was pretty extensive, and a feast for only 4 people to consume. There was thin slices of steak, cheese quesadilla’s, whole grilled onions, chorizo (Mexican sausage), Nopal with cheese on top (cactus leaves-minus the stickers), cactus salad (made by Bernard), guacamole (made by me), and tortillas, and salsa! Man this was one spread of food!
We sat talking for several hours over the incredible dinner. We learned that the couple had lived in the U.S. for a few years, and that their daughter finished third place in the Latin America version of Th e Amazing Race, and had built the hostel. We really felt a connection as we shared our families and life experiences. The day was definitely a day to remember. Anhuar and Susy, treated us like family and we enjoyed their exceptional hospitality. I certainly believe they enjoyed our company as well. This barbecue was an exception to the rule, it was not common, and other guests looked on with apparent envy at the site and smell of this Mexican meal.