Good morning, good morning, good morning. I started my journal this morning with a tiny sketch of a yellow sunshine and wrote some words in a cursive, yellow, script. You certainly cannot have a bad day if it starts with yellow, cursive writing… right?
Slow mornings are still a thing, as are uncomfortable beds that brings tossing and turning and cricks in my back. But the slow mornings make it not matter. I rolled out of bed at six o’clock, laughed with roommate Emily about a picture from my wall that landed on her face in the middle of the night [bunk bed problems- whoops], grabbed our respective “sit on the couch and watch the morning roll in” blankets and headed out of our room. While she brushed her teeth, I started our coffee. She caught up on Spanish homework while I scribbled some things in yellow cursive.
So here we are. Simply arepas. That is what happened last night. I’ll be entirely honest with you, after my accidental five pm [the kind where you lie aimlessly in your bed and somehow your eyes close and your body doesn’t move for an hour] ended and I rolled out of my double mattressed-top-bunk around six o’clock, knowing full and well we had guests coming over at seven pm, I sat as the sun started waving goodbye and sinking behind all the brick towers that jut out from the mountainside. The street lights all blink on, like little candles lining the streets every few hundred feet until the darkness hugs out the light. The motos, which you would think were annoying, are just background lulls at this point, mixed with the crickety trucks stopping and going and the whooshing by of whatever other vehicles this city hosts. I sat and I pulled out my journal. I actually sat and dreamed for a bit, writing a letter to my “future husband” and journaling a letter to God- I didn’t plan on admitting that, not the God part, that feels entirely normal, the future husband part seems entirely too cheesy. Well anyway, I was sitting there with just the apartment lamp on, praying over some unknown human in my life and watching the light disappear, freshly showered and wearing my little brothers big, warm oversized sweater and I didn’t want anyone to come over. I was perfectly content all curled up in a chair with soft lighting and the city lulls. The roommates were still in bed and I was content to exist in my quiet.
And then our friend knocked on the door. Journal down and door opened to Lucia: the very best Venezuelan. Here is where the arepas come in. Colombia and Venezuela are both arepa places, I’m not sure what other countries, but these two are very definitely the lands of arepas. Typically, non-Colombian/Venezuelan’s do not enjoy arepas. My mother describes them as flavorless grits mashed into a pancake form. I know it doesn’t sound appealing, but arepas are a gift from God, I am certain of it. They told me it was a confirmation from God that I was meant for Colombia when I professed my undying love for this lovely food. Here is the difference, Venezuelans tend to stuff theirs and Colombians pile things on top of them. Venezuelans also use a different flour.
So Lucia is the very best Venezuelan, which also means that she makes the very best arepas. So when she showed up at our door with chicken-type-stuffing, her arepa pan and a bag of PAN corn flour, my heart forgot that it wanted to sit curled up in ball and leapt eight thousand stories high, returning quickly to welcome Lucia into our home. I love watching Lucia make arepas. One day I’m going to be half as good as her. She jokes that she never shares her family recipe, but she always shows me. I’ve tried before, but they never come out quite like her. People talk about making food with love, but Lucia makes food with love. She starts with the water and sugar and salt, all in the big ol bowl. She mixes with her hand and slowly adds the flour, mixing and adding and mixing and adding until she gets this perfect, fluffy texture. It’s methodical and I could get lost watching her create her magic. She rolls them into a perfect little ball, all while talking about school and work and English and Spanish, then she squishes them oh so gingerly into a flat circle. A perfect flat circle. How does she do it?! Then once they have little golden marks all across their white Dougherty outside, she slides them onto a plate and we all move to our small dining table, where she cuts them and adds a teensy layer of butter to the inside and the concoction is already glorious. Next we stuff them with chicken and we partake in this scrumptious food. Mom, I swear these are better than the store bought ones that taste kind of like grits. These are heavenly arepas. Granted, Colombian arepas and Venezuelan arepas are totally different [and I love them both equally]. It was an easy night. While Lucia was making magic in our tiny kitchen, Talie was hanging up herbs from the market to dry and everyone was talking and it was completely regular. I think those are the most beautiful times, when everything just melts together- there is no script of how the night will go and there is no pressure on anything. We all just did our own things in the same space together, and it was delightful and beautiful in all ways. When we all sat down for these arepas [repeatedly thanking Lucia], we gathered and sat. We laughed and smiled, going back and forth between English in Spanish and enjoying each others existence. Arepas are simple. Last night was simple; the ease and breeze of it wrapped my soul in joy.
How often do we abandon simplicity and forget how easy it is to just go back to basic. To make a meal and take part in life together. Simply arepas, simply lovely. I can’t better explain last night than telling you how beautiful it was. Now, more than ever, it is so important to be with people, to exist with them. Laugh and eat and partake in life. We were not created to live empty lives. We were created to live lives exuding joy and peace, sometimes on the edge of yikes, and hand in hand with the humans around us.
So make a simple meal, and gather with your people. Cook it together. Sit on the counter, pull up a stool and be there. Don’t force it, just let it go as it goes. Take part in the simplicity of life.