Saturday, June 29, 2013

This Post Could Have Several Titles: "Things I Haven't Blogged About", or, "I'm Tired," or, "Why I Haven't Emailed You"

Somehow, language classes are almost done. We fly to Pennsylvania next weekend for a 2-week leadership training with MCC.

I didn't expect a lot of things during these last two months. I didn't expect to feel so tired and mentally exhausted. School is hard with kids, but learning another language is draining in a unique way. 
I've had little motivation to blog or do much "keeping in touch."  I post a lot of pictures on Facebook and Instagram, but it takes little effort to push a few buttons. I know there are friends and family not connected to us there. Sometimes I get overwhelmed just scrolling through status updates on Facebook. Emotionally, I'm unsure how to relate or correspond with people back in the States.

We're here for five years. I want to make an effort but I've stalled. I can't decide if it's the idea of trying to relate my emotions and experiences here, or if it's more simply that I'm tired and still "transitioning." Or both. Or neither. Or not sure how to keep in touch. Or just envious that I can't go pick berries and do fun American summer pasttimes like all my Facebook Friends talk about, or enjoy a BBQ and pool with friends because we have neither a BBQ nor a pool nor friends. In time. In time. 

Last week I felt inundated by so many things that I couldn't organize my thinking. Some of my thoughts are common "Mom" and "Wife" worries, accentuated by being in a new country:

-I haven't started Hazel's first year scrapbook and she turns one next week. 
- Hazel's birthday is coming up. I put so much effort into Ellie's first birthday and this time we'll be lucky if Hazel has a cake on her birthday.
-Until last weekend I hadn't exercised since we got here. I can't go running and I miss my double jogging stroller. I still have weight to lose to get to my pre-pregnancy weight, and Hazel's about to turn one. Frustrating. 
-I should blog and share about some interesting facets of life here in Guatemala. I have several blog posts started in my head. With lots of fun pictures. But I can't seem to get the motivation to turn the computer on and start typing. 
-I'm happy with how my Spanish has improved but simultaneously frustrated with how little I can understand quick-speakers. Slow down, mumblers!
-My floors always feel like they need to be mopped. I have a crawler. I should clean them more often.
-I don't feel like I have energy to spend with my girls when we're all home together, and I find myself impatient when I want to just enjoy time together. 
-Our record for staying healthy as a family since we arrived here is 2-3 weeks. This week Ellie got strep throat and now Hazel and I have some kind of cold, and I had a flu-bug at the same time. 
-Our original vaccination records for our girls have been misplaced. My guess is they got sent to the immigration office with our visa applications, but no one seems to know where they went. Hazel hasn't been in to the dr. since we were in Fresno and we need to take her. 
-I keep finding myself missing "things," mostly, toys for the girls. I am trying to be thankful for what we have and trying to be creative with the girls. But I sure miss our play kitchen. And table and chairs. And easel. And several books. The original idea was to replace those when we got here. But we haven't. Yet. 

I read a lot. Yesterday I read a whole book. There are books sitting around our apartment from previous tenants. I've read several Oprah Book Club selections. Usually I start a book and read it over the weekend. How do I have time to read books yet still feel burdened in so many other areas? It's my outlet. It's my quick, easy, let-me-turn-my-brain-off and not feel overwhelmed escape. And so I pick up a book and I read. Usually during naps and after the girls are in bed. It's the fastest, easiest way for me to unwind. And to shut out the Spanish running through my head constantly. 
So, instead of emailing family or friends or being intentional with people back home, I sit on the couch and zone out. And read. And think about the blog post I could write or the email I should write, and then read some more. 

When we return from PA we will immediately begin three weeks of training for our job here. These two months of language school have been unique. Never again will we have months of time together at home, every afternoon, with the girls. At the beginning of September we will move to a house around the corner. I couldn't be more excited about having a yard and outside space for the girls to play. I think we are a little stir-crazy in a second floor apartment without a yard. We will have 4 bedrooms which means space for guests (hint! hint!) and will be on a quieter spot. These are things to look forward to, with more transitions as well. (We will live in that house for one year before we have to move again). 
As I write this my daughters have just woken up from their naps. They always greet each other with huge smiles after their nap time separation. Talk about joy-filled moments. They are literally dancing and singing and playing together. Though it's been a hard couple of months, there are so many positives. My girls are happy and have transitioned so well to their school. They both are learning Spanish and growing so fast. How is Hazel one next week? And Ellie almost three? 
I'm blessed. I know it.  After writing this post of honest processing with traces of complaining, it has helped me realize I have so much to be thankful for. I need to keep that perspective. This has been an interesting few months and we are gearing up for the next phase. We are excited to finally start working, the whole reason we started this journey in the first place. 
And, right now, it's time to go play blocks with my sweet girls. 

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Guatemalan Dessert: Rellenitos

Yesterday during my Spanish lessons my teacher taught me how to make a typical Guatemalan dessert. I googled them and found this recipe, and many others, although my recipe is slightly different because it includes chocolate. 

They are called rellenitos and are mashed plantains stuffed with refried black beans and rolled in sugar. Most of the recipes I found online don't include chocolate but that's how my teacher made them and who doesn't like chocolate? 

I've never been a plantain lover, and I was skeptical of a dessert that used black beans, so the combination didn't sound appealing. I must admit, I was surprised at how tasty these were. The plantains we used were more like bananas than potatoes, thus being sweet. I hadn't realized there were different types of plantains. This would be a fun dish to make with young kids because they could help mash the plantains and make patties, but the adult would need to do the frying. 

3-4 large plantains (can be adjusted as needed)
About half a can of refried black beans 
(We bought pre-made refried black beans but you can use whole black beans and mash them up really good and add some salt and/or sugar.)
Hershey's chocolate bar
sugar or powdered sugar

First, cut the ends off the plantains and then cut into thirds (or halves, depending on the size). Boil in water for about 20 minutes, until the peel falls off with a slight tug of a fork. Remove from heat, drain water, and put in the freezer for a few minutes to cool them down. Set aside until cool.

When the plantains are cool, put the black beans in a pan with some tabs of Hershey's chocolate bars. (How much you use depends on how sweet you want them. We used most of the bar).  If you don't have chocolate you could just add some sugar. Heat until chocolate is melted and the bean mixtures is smooth and pliable but not a liquid. 
(The picture is right after I put it all in the pan and not yet to the correct consistency.)

Next, mash the plantains with a fork in a bowl until smooth. Wet your hands to prevent plantains from sticking to them. Put about 1/4 cup of mashed plantains in your palm and make a thick patty. This part really depends on the size you want. I didn't get a picture of the thick patty because my hands were messy, but the patty basically covered my palm. 

Spoon about a teaspoon of the bean mixture onto the patty and fold the edges and seal to make an egg-shaped ball. I was making perfectly round ones but they fry better as an egg shape. Be sure to close all the edges so no beans can escape. Add a bit more plantain if needed to ensure they are closed. 

Heat some oil in a skillet and carefully place the rellenito into the hot oil. Continue to make rellenitos to add to the oil and be sure to flip them and cook on both sides. 

My teacher, Edna.
When the rellenitos are cooked and brown on both sides, carefully remove them from the oil with a fork or slated spoon and place on a plate lined with a paper towel to drain the excess oil. 

Sprinkle with sugar or powdered sugar. We only had granulated sugar but I think powdered sugar would be delicious. 

Time to eat! Buen provecho! 

Surprisingly tasty.
If you make these, let me know how they turn out!

And, happy 11 months to our sweet Hazel Jane!