The one thing I really like about where I am staying, is that I feel like I am part of a family. It takes away the pressures of being completely self-sufficient, and ensures that every experience I have will be shared, or at least recounted and therefore intensified and better appreciated. For instance, when coming home from a recent weekend of city-hopping, I loved the few moments I spent telling Daisy and her hubby about my adventures- at once practicing more Spanish but also sharing and reliving all the fun and enjoyment I'd been blessed to experience. Travel is about building relationships- with the people you meet and with the places you visit. Staying with a family (rather than renting my own place) ensures that that happens.
It's about sharing really. I don't like living alone, and although at times I need my space and I do enjoy my own company, I would rather share as much as possible than live things alone. Everything is shared in a Chilean family home. Adventures, stories, bills, laughter, meals, crockery, cutlery...
Now, when traveling, I'm not usually one to complain about the differences in how food is prepared, or even served. Different Culture, different rules and all that. Heaven knows how odd my family's behaviour and manners must seem to the hordes that have cross our threshold over the years, so I am definitely in no place to judge. The only concern I ever have, is that of hygiene.
So, those who know me well enough can imagine my facial expression (for those who don't, try harder) when seated at an amply stocked dinner table, down whose centre are various dishes of assorted salads drenched in sumptuous dressings, each with their own serving fork, upon seeing my fellow diners reach for said serving forks and help themselves to salad before putting the same, used fork, back in the salad for the next person to use. Imagine the intensifying of my expression when the next person, without qualm or flinching, does the same, with the same, used fork!
Just to clarify, these forks are not used to pile salad from the serving dishes onto the diner's plate, they are used as personal cutlery- to shovel salad from the dish into the diner's mouth. And then they are put back. And used by the next person. Et cetera. Et cetera.
So far I don't think anyone has cottoned on to how alien this community approach to eating utensils is to me. I'm not sure if this is a Chilean habit, or particular to the background of the family I'm living with, or if they are just a VERY close-knit family on more levels than I am accustomed. I'll probably never ask, and consequently never know. Suffice it to say, I soon took up the habit of piling my serving of salad onto my own plate before anyone else has had the chance to dive in. I'm still a fan of sharing, but some things, in my opinion, are still better left unshared. And yes, cutlery is one of them.