At the end of April, I wandered out of my perfectly squared box and stepped into a different realm.
My friends Felix, Taylor, and Paige were sprawled across the futon and bed when I arrived at Felix’s dorm room. I sat down at the desk and whipped out my laptop, casually conversing and working as we relaxed that Sunday afternoon. While comfortably lounging around and attempting to do homework, Felix received a call from his mom. After a couple minutes of catching up, his mom bursted into tears, sobbing about how much she missed him and wanted him to come home. Taylor looked up from his laptop and said, “If she cooks us dinner, I’ll bring us there.”
Isn’t Felix lucky that he lives only a half an hour away from our college?
45 minutes later, us hungry college students pulled into a quaint town where main street equates to the liveliness of the place. In a of couple turns, we parked outside a charming barn-red house with white trimming. I took shortened steps as Felix bounded up, nervousness of the unknown made me hesitate.
We stepped into the aroma of frijoles (beans), rice, beef, chicken, fruits, and Valentina sauce. Felix’s mom greeted her son with a bear-hug and a beaming smile.
Taylor, Paige, and I sat at the dinner table while Felix and his mom chit-chatted away in Spanish and chopped fresh mangos, apples, and melons. I slowly gazed around the house, pictures that captured dear memories hung across the walls, their couches held permanent seat indents where many loved ones have sat over the years, and planks of wood and tools sat in the corner since his parents have been working on remodeling their kitchen.
“Mom, Sage can speak Spanish,” Felix voiced. A smirk etched across his face as he turned and looked at me for my reaction.
“¿Se puede?” his mom asked.
“Sí, estoy aprendiendo español por cinco años ahora,” I answered.
The wrinkles around her eyes folded as a smile overtook her whole face. “You can speak Spanish well,” she said through her toothy smile.
“My mom has never heard a white person speak Spanish,” Felix whispered to us.
I grew up in a town where white people predominantly lived. My high school’s student population is 93% Caucasian (stat found on Wikipedia). I’m not saying that this was a bad thing. Actually, I loved where I grew up and couldn’t be any happier that my parents decided to live there. But my home town lacks one thing.
Now hearing from a woman that’s full of culture, tell me that I can intertwine myself in one aspect of her Hispanic lifestyle made my heart smile. I never had an opportunity like this before.
His mom placed in front of me a plate heaping full of Mexican rice and a burrito that was as big as my forearm. I sliced into my burrito and took my first bite—the juices of the grilled chicken slid down my tongue; the cucumbers, tomatoes, and lettuce bursted fresh droplets with each chomp; and the random zing of an unknown spice surprised me and sprung tears into my eyes.
The thought, “this does not compare to Chipotle,” crossed my mind numerous of times throughout the dinner.
Felix and his parents conversed in Spanish about things he has missed while at college. He would filter back and forth between English and Spanish as he remembered that Taylor and Paige could not understand what they were saying.
Desolation filled the gaps between the bites of burrito and rice in my stomach as I realized that it would be a miracle if I could finish the burrito. (Felix informed us before we came that in his culture, it was an insult if one could not finish their plate. I was only halfway done with my burrito and I was full.) “Don’t think, just eat,” I thought to myself and munched on. Luckily, I could find some room in my stomach to stuff the last bite in.
As time ticked by, so did the conversations and the food left on the table. His mom boxed up what we didn’t finish to take back to college. A string of thank yous and goodbyes followed us as we made our way back to the car. Felix’s mom gave him one last hug before we pulled away.
As the four of us lightly chatted during the car ride back, my mind floated into the new insight I inquired from this experience.
I want to see the world.
I want to learn about different cultures, compare and contrast them from mine and find the beauty in the differences in each culture. I want to try new foods, broaden my taste buds and discover new delicacies. I want to see new landscapes, new buildings. I want to talk to people and learn what about their culture is important to them and why they abide to it.
I figuratively and literally received a taste of a different culture and now I’m hungry for more.
Felix gently squeezed my hand, bringing my presence back into the car. I returned to him a warm smile and looked at the stars, imagining about jumping on a plane and leaving my perfectly square box for good.