by Audrey Carver
Geovanny: (project supervisor, co-founder of Catega Kocinare) Tall, kind, and fatherly. 6’1”, balding, green eyes. 48 years old. Born and raised in Guadalajara, Mexico, Geovany spent his youth traveling, eating, and finding whatever odd jobs came his way. Never one for planning, he floated through South America, Central America, and the United States before deciding to follow his passion: food. He got a culinary degree, married his beautiful wife, and together they started Catega Kocinare in Cuenca. He has helped me every day of my job to adjust. He gave me a studio space, comfortable space, knowledge of how to cook, and gentle teasing. I will miss him sorely.
Marcela: (co-founder of Catega Kocinare) 5’2” , 45 years old, and always wearing stilettos.There is nothing that this woman cannot handle. Lawyer, professor, government official, mother of three, business-owner, and the only force keeping Geovanny’s head out of the clouds. Having overcome a brain tumor, she is now trying to make the most out of every day, and teach her daughters to approach life with the same ferocity. She says that she always has to work 3x as hard as the men in her field, since she is given 2x less respect. A force to be reckoned with. She is always willing to drive me home after a long day.
Betzy: (host mother) 5’2”, 38 years old. Brown hair, brown eyes, kind but sassy smile. The epitome of independence. Once divorced and twice abandoned, single mother of two boys, Betzy refuses to rely on men. The kindest, most no-nonsense, and thoughtful person that I have encountered here, she works to teach kids music all day and then comes home to her own. She loves to sleep in, and wanted to be a professional singer. She and her boys sold their car to get US visas, and visit whenever they can. She hopes for them both to study in the states. She makes banana bread once a week because it is my favorite and always has a cup of hot tea waiting for me when I get home.
Santy:(co-worker) 5’9”, 28 years old. Not afraid to talk about his personal life. Loves his mother more than anything, except salchipapas. Proudly and openly gay, which has caused him a lot of difficulty socially, and in trying to find employment. He has been working at Kocinare as long as Geovanny has, and makes the best patacones I have ever tasted. We have the same birthday. He refers to me as “Mi Audri-ay querida” which is sometimes the best part of my day.
Isai: (host brother) 4’5” , 6 years old. Loves french fries and beans, can eat 5 bananas in one sitting, and spends most of his time roller skating. Wants to be either a dog or Spiderman when he grows up. He stuffs his pockets with the free cookies from his school, and brings them to me every day because he knows that they are my favorite snack.
Mateo: (host brother) 4’9”, 12 years old. Hates math with a burning fury, wants to be a soccer player. Will eat my rice if I eat his salad when his mother isn’t looking at the dinner table. Loves to play Minecraft. He defended me against the neighbor who said that I did not know Spanish, and checked on me every 10 minutes when I had the flu.
David: (friend) 5’8”, 20 years old. Peruvian, but busked his way to Cuenca playing the guitar. Currently makes a living drawing portraits on the street. Secretly loves listening to Adele, wants to either become a stock broker (after watching Wolf of Wall Street), or own a fondue restaurant in Switzerland. Loves to cook. Hates to talk politics. He drew a picture of me as a gesture of friendship my first month here, and has explained latin culture when I was lost.
These people and their acts of kindness and companionship piece together the interactions of my daily life in Cuenca. The characters are diverse, but their support is consistent, and I will miss them all dearly when my time here comes to a close.