I have a pair of pants here in Santiago that are displaying significant fraying.  They will likely not return to the United States but, given the dearth of sufficiently large pants on the continent that is my temporary home, they will have to continue to serve for a bit longer.

They’re not the only thing fraying.  The students are starting to show signs of wear and, I suppose, so am I.  Mary left Sunday night and, though I will not answer the question I was asked by students (“Did you cry?”), I will confess to eating a pile of empanadas and watching Raiders of the Lost Ark.  Comfort food and movies.  I advised students suffering from homesickness to partake of the same.

Unfortunately, for them, they are now slammed with work.  Regular readers will recall that the academic portion of Southern Cone got off to an incredibly slow start.  The class in Buenos Aires was fascinating and the students highly engaged but it was summer school, taught by a busy guy to students he would never see again.  Like I say, it probably was what classes should be: interesting dialogue with an expert with nothing but “did you participate” (i.e. pass/fail).  As an aside, why do we put so much grade pressure on subjects which are not of professional interest?  That is, why should an electrical engineer get graded hard in an English class or an English major in a chemistry class?  Might not these students, if all classes outside their major were pass/fail, take more interesting and “difficult” courses rather than beg, borrow and steal to get into the easiest section of the easiest class they can find to boost a GPA that then signifies little?

I digress.

So, the students have two exams this week, a major paper due Sunday, and an exam next week.  Most have another paper and major presentation due next week, as well.

Okay, they aren’t exactly fighting for their lives but, point is, they’ve escaped a lot of work so far as much of what they’ve been assigned has been “cultural”.  Moreover, we’ve had a LOT of cancelled classes, especially my late Wednesday class.  Throw in a few class trips and the result is the push back of exams and homeworks.  The bill has come due.

This bill arrives just as their friends back home are posting endless instas and snaps of trips to the sunny, warm beach after wrapping up their semester.  So, the tables have turned since February when we were the ones lounging by the sea as others toiled in dingy classrooms.  Such is life.

Last night was the latest Tuesday night dinner at the prof’s place and, having overheard several stories of homesickness, very much relating to food – recall, the students eat dinner at their homestays and, at this point, everyone is getting plenty of calories but many report it isn’t food they necessarily enjoy.  The Chilean diet is heavy in seafood and is quite bland.  This is one of the big things the students have learned: so many of the students had the idea that south of the Rio Grande, all food is hot and spicy.  True in much of Mexico and through parts of Central America and northern South America but Argentina and Chile have very European diets.  They do big dinners very well but the day to day, routine meals are more utilitarian than gourmet.   And spice is missing from pretty much everything.

Anyway, the students were not alone in wanting a taste of the United States so the author, a retired professional cook – I love phrasing it like that; I was a short-order cook at a grill; if it’s grilled or fried, I’m your guy – put together a meal befitting of the southern United States.

The menu:  fried chicken, mashed potatoes, cream gravy, two vegetable stir-fries (one a package bought from Unimarc with a wide variety and the other broccoli and tomatoes).  I was disappointed in how the potatoes came out.  I think they were old and, though they ended up tasting good, they were rubbery and sticky.  Too much starch.  And they’re also now covering the toaster.  Smothered in gravy, however, they were excellent.

I wondered, briefly, if my neighbors were irritated by the damned foreigner cooking ethnic food.

I badly miscalculated how long this would take to put together.  I graded papers until about 5:30 for a 7:00 dinner.  At 6:45, I knew I was in trouble.  The students arrived with me still in gym shorts, slippers and a t-shirt.  So very like I was cooking at the Bobcat Grill.  I told the students to help themselves to drinks and continued working.  By 7:45 we had dinner and it really came out well if I do say so.  I absolutely nailed the gravy.  Best cream gravy I’ve ever made.

Mary added a chocolate cake, baked on Sunday afternoon, that was a big hit.  The two gentlemen at dinner at three pieces each and likely would have kept going if not for the two ladies laughing at them.

Before and after photos:

BeforeIMG_6452

After.  I have to admit feeling bad; Mary cleaned the kitchen so well before she left.  Pretty wrecked at this point.IMG_6455

A student ate another piece after I foolishly took this photo thinking them done.IMG_6453

Best of all, there are leftovers.  Exam tonight, much grading over the weekend in the Elqui Valley.

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