After I’d learned how to prep rice before cooking, Elvia gave me a bundle to take home. I promptly handed it off to my eight-year-old best friend to guard; I was on my way to the river for the last time, with my teenaged students. They wanted to take a group picture in the daylight; I wanted to jump off the foot bridge behind us. Just don’t dive, they urged me. No one wanted to see a girl plunge to her death on her last day in town. They didn’t even have my mom’s contact information, should they need to break the news.
I got a few of them to join me, and we all made it to shore. It was a cool ending to some very special weeks in Soloy.
The next day, the Fort Lauderdale International Airport customs officer gave me a strange look. He pulled the red plastic shopping bag from my purse. It was double-knotted and stuffed with the arroz nuevo. Apparently it’s strange to carry rice from one country to the next if it’s not packaged “properly.”
He dropped the red bag back onto the table and moved on to someone’s small dog with a bedazzled collar.
Back in Maryland, I prepared the rice and served it as I’d been served for the past two months: lentils slow-cooked with garlic and bell pepper. It’s simple; no recipe to share– just filling, natural food with a bit of salt. One-and-a-quarter cups of water to each cup of rice, and done.