It's almost impossible to describe how vast the improvement in my surfing has been thanks to my blessed time working with Surf With Amigas. I improved more in six weeks than I did in my six months of prior surfing. The gratitude I have for the incredible women who run and teach at those retreats is enormous; I hear their voices in my head when I'm out in the surf and each wave gets better, longer, grittier... frothier. 

And what's more, the unexpected education in the kitchen was equally transformative. I have never been in the position of teaching advanced culinary techniques before, let alone within the context of another language and culture. It is incredibly challenging to work outside of your comfort zone, and I was frequently asking this of both myself and the local women whom I was managing. 

Working our way around language barriers in the kitchen at Kayu Resort in El Salvador. 

Working our way around language barriers in the kitchen at Kayu Resort in El Salvador. 

I'm definitely spoiled by the embarrassment of riches the United States enjoys; I'm accustomed to a kitchen with advanced equipment, refrigeration, and layout and it was truly difficult to work without those things. I had to adjust my expectations constantly and come up with all kinds of alternatives for grinding, liquifying, and even storing foods. 

I'm also used to a certain style of cooking, an inherent knowledge of European traditions deeply ingrained in my brain, which were so utterly foreign to the local women that I hardly knew where to start explaining. Considering my Spanish is still basic — and that culinary terms vary radically from region to region in Latin America — our communication process was... creative. I relied heavily on Google image search and hands on demonstrations before even beginning shopping for supplies.

Getting very clear with plating instructions and meal counts was essential... Never assume that a meal that you think is universal is, in fact. Sometimes even an iteration of something as "simple" as huevos rancheros can be radically different from what you expect.

Getting very clear with plating instructions and meal counts was essential... Never assume that a meal that you think is universal is, in fact. Sometimes even an iteration of something as "simple" as huevos rancheros can be radically different from what you expect.

If it sounds like it was an unwelcome challenge, I must adjust the picture I am painting: it was amazing. My own personal growth was huge, not just as a cook and a manager but as a human. I practiced patience with myself and others, observation of my complete surroundings and potential future outcomes, sensitivity for the states of others around me, communication of the most kind and effective sort, and acceptance of the limitations of a situation. These are essentially the same concepts that I practiced in the surf, and the complimentary nature of two efforts is not lost on me.

And so, with gratitude, I cook and surf onward, very much looking forward to my next opportunity to work and learn with Surf With Amigas.

 

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