Each month, we at Manna Ecuador attempt to eat a 'community meal', which essentially entails us "getting ourselves invited" (ie. in most cases flat out asking for an invitation) to someone's house for dinner. Awkward is now spelled C-O-M-M-U-N-I-T-Y M-E-A-L.
October found us over at Pepita's for an impromptu meal after working with her family for 2 weekends at the river minga; score one for an actual invitation! Serena organized our November meal at Paola and Marjorie's house, a family involved in both our Apoyo Escolar and Women's Exercise classes. We brought the choclo (corn on the cob, Ecuador style), chicken breasts, and potatoes and, while Paola and her sisters cooked (and kicked us out of the kitchen) we hung out with their two huge dogs (one is actually named Hannibal Lector...great), watched X-Men 2 in Spanish, and played a mysterious 'ping-pong' game against sassy 6 year old Marjorie which was impossible to win unless you were named, well, Marjorie.
After our Apoyo families celebration dinner party last week with 14 different families, I figured we had exhausted our community meal resources for a while. Imagine my surprise when, after the last kid was shooed out of the Casa Barrial at 4:15 this afternoon, Mafe and her family surprised us all with an impromptu meal they had prepared for us. As they piled our plates high with grilled chicken, choclo, papas, and cucumber-tomatoe-onion salad, we maneuvered the tables which had moments ago hosted math homework and chess boards into a big clump in the center of the room and sat down to enjoy a meal with a kind family.
Looking around at everyone, from Mafe's mom still wearing her apron, to Lori and Amira (our Nicaraguan better-halves), to Serena and Jos fighting over who got Mark's extra chicken, I couldn't help but smile as I poured myself more Sprite. This, an unexpectedly generous meal in the middle of the afternoon, hosted in the Casa Barrial, with gringos and Ecuadorians laughing and eating, is what I've come to understand as community. And it was wonderful.