Tuesday, October 22, 2013

My First Eid Al-Adha

at Two Writing Teachers!
As we walk from our car to the apartment building, H. comes bursting onto the front step, a whirl of wispy sky-blue sari and hijab.  Beneath her matching blue eye-shadow, her eyes sparkle with a giddiness that instantly reminds me of Christmas morning.  "Thank you for coming!!!!" she gushes as she leads us through the door.

Once we're ushered into the kitchen, a tantalizing mix of new and familiar sights and aromas floods my brain.  
Ooh, what are those?  
Oh boy, that's the same meat and rice she brought to school last year!
Wow, that dessert looks like just flan!

It looks like a reasonable amount of food for her family and us... until they declare that they've eaten so much all day that they're not going to eat!  All this food is for four people: me, my husband, my colleague, and her husband!
What a feast!
They grin while we take pictures of the food and giggle as we attempt to learn the Bengali names they teach us for each dish.  I can't remember them to save my life, but that doesn't stop my taste buds from relishing each new taste!

First, appetizers: something like egg rolls with an extra crunchy coating, and some little crispy dough balls.  My first tentative nibbles turn into enthusiastic mouthfuls.  Next, a delicious soup made of something similar to chickpeas (but whiter) with a special sour sauce to mix in.  H's mom absolutely glows with pride as we emit a chorus of "Mmmmmmm"s and dig in.  For the main course, the tender roasted meat and savory rice that I remember from the feast H's mom brought to school after finals in June.

Between bites, we chat about what I've read about the holiday and the family tells us about going to the mosque, visiting relatives, and preparing all the food.  Some family members actually went somewhere to butcher their own meat (an important part of Eid Al-Adha), and most of the vegetables are fresh from their garden!  As we pass food, laugh, and share stories, we are not two Christians, two Mormons, and a Muslim family.  We are not teachers, students, and parents.  We're just people learning from each other, discovering what we have in common, and enjoying time together.

And when our stomachs aren't sure they have any more room... not one but THREE desserts! I'm excited to explain to the family that one looks and tastes just like flan, which they've never heard of.  Another of the desserts is a different kind of custard, and the third is an intriguing bowl of tiny red balls, which H. keeps calling "the egg one".  All are delicious!

Excited by our interest in how the food was prepared, H's mom starts bringing plants in from the garden.  She shows us a chili pepper plant with the tiniest baby peppers I've ever seen, proudly flips through her phone to find pictures of out-of-season plants, and finally leads us out the back door, where the whole patio is covered in potted plants and trellises.  Her eyes shine with excitement as we "ooh" and "ahh" over the incredible variety of unique plants.

They told us the name of this vegetable in Bengali, but they didn't know it in English.
Does anybody know what it is?  I've never seen anything like it!
Too soon, it's getting late, and the family starts shoving leftover containers at us.  "We have much more," they urge us as we place modest amounts of food in a few containers.  When H.'s mom stops Husband from closing a container and starts shoveling in more rice with a serving spoon, we get it.  We are supposed to take ALL of the food!  They all beam as we pile it in the containers.  "Come back any time!"  "Yes, next time you must..."

Near the front door, H's dad is actually bouncing with excitement like a little boy. "We are so glad you come!" he keeps repeating as we try to thank him.

As we drive home, Husband and I can't stop chattering with that same Christmas-morning exuberance, and the same thoughts keep running through my head:
This is why I teach.  
I just made their day. 
World cultures are so cool.
What if I could connect this way with ALL my students' families?


  1. What a wonderful experience for everyone! It is so much fun learning from others around the world! Even when it is in our own backyard.

  2. The food looked and sounded good. The company sounded even better.

    Thanks for sharing this slice about Eid with us. I'm so glad you wrote about it.

  3. What a fabulous evening! The food looks and sounds delicious. I think your mystery picture is called bitter melon.

  4. Ooh, I think you're right, Elsie! The bitter melon looks just like it, & is from the right part of the world! (I should've known you'd know, you nature expert!)

  5. You've described exactly why we teach, Jennifer. I agree! What a delightful evening of warmth and friendship. At one place I taught, I spent time at each child's home, usually for a snack after school, but sometimes dinner. Each teacher at our school visited their families. It was a pleasure & each family seemed excited I was there, as you've described. You've given a special gift to this student.

  6. Jennifer, what a wonderful experience! visiting my students always fills me with joy and awe.


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