Well, it turns out, delivering food to our family wasn't satisfying enough for my neighbors, nor was the evening visit I accidentally paid them when I returned their dishes full.
So...they told my acquaintances, and my friends said I should host a tea.
Easier said than done.
I asked one of my friends what I needed to prepare for, and this was her text:
"Right away, during warm months, cold water is served. Even though it's not warm outside, you still need to serve water. After that, you can serve tea, Nescafe, American coffee, etc. (Tea in a bag is good)...do you have chai glasses? If not, we can bring ours. After that, a dessert of some sort...cookies, cake (we can bring that if you want us to pick that up today). Some people may serve another round of chai if the guests want. Some may also serve mixed nuts after dessert or sunflower seeds. Lastly, fruit is brought out. Bananas, apples, oranges, grapefruit, etc. Your daughters always do the serving, if they are there. Don't feel overwhelmed. S***lr understands. Essestials are: water, chai, dessert or nuts, and fruit. Let me know what I can bring. And remember, my girls said they will help. That's what we're here for ;)"
Even though she told me not to be overwhelmed, I was.
I asked about what type of glasses I needed to serve water in. I currently had only purchased 8 plastic glasses for my family to us. Thankfully, I had purchased 6 chai glasses at a next-door grocery store two days earlier the morning we started language, so I could serve our language helper tea. I still didn't have the obligatory fruit knives or a blanket/carpet in our room with the doshaks, so I borrowed a blanket from a friend.
I also decided that since this was supposed to be a "short" tea, we wouldn't serve dessert...only nuts. Executive decision.
My neighbor, with her twin daughters (18), one of her daughter-in-laws, and her 2nd grader came. One lady from my country came with her four daughters (3 of which were young enough to play with the 2nd grader - and they are good friends); another lady from my country came with her two daughters; there were 3 boys running around, including Caleb; Keira played with the 4 little girls, and Karis and I sat with the ladies while Kylie did most of the serving. Whew! I think that makes 20.
I was told my job was to order Kylie around, which of course I didn't have to. She did beautifully. I only had to look at her to let her know when to bring the next "course."
And even though the sitting room looked clean, we had to throw everything else that doesn't have a place yet beside the stairs.
They brought a dish over :)
It's banana pudding, sprinkled with coconuts and walnuts.
Anyway...Kylie brought out the waters, which you are only supposed to let them sip on for 3 minutes or so, and then she whisked them away on her tray.
Next, she brought out a bowl of nuts for each guest and another empty bowl for every two people for their nut shells.
While we ate nuts and visited, Kylie made tea for everyone, and then came and served on her knees, our guests first, and then the rest of us.
When she came to pick up the tea when it looked like everyone was done, one of the twins from next door and another girl went to the kitchen with her to wash dishes.
It was a good thing they did, because we visited and visited so long, that after a while, we were thirsty again from the nuts, and one of the ladies, which I know, told me that Kylie should bring water again. ;)
Eventually, Kylie picked up the waters and the nuts, and we were still visiting at our "short" tea.
My friend had told the story of Gideon in the Bible (in the national language) to explain why she had given her son that name. Another friend told jokes. We discussed how the mother and the daughter-in-law had met their husbands, and they wanted my friends to translate for me that the next time I bring food, I don't have to fill every dish. (They liked it though).
My friends told the ladies I had lived in Africa, and they wanted to know how it was different. I mentioned that the people their didn't have running water in their homes. They had to go to the well and pump. I also said their houses were a lot different and smaller. Then I mentioned that women and men spoke freely and greeted each other there. They assured me, at that point, that I could indeed talk to the male owners of the stores whenever I am shopping, but maybe I shouldn't ever speak to the oldest man in the community.
Thankfully, they gave me an open door to ask them anything culturally I wanted to know, now or in the future.
I decided to ask if it was okay if I didn't cover my hair (the daughter-in-law doesn't cover her hair, and I haven't been covering mine). They all said, "It is as you wish. There is no problem." They went on to explain that our hair is not why we get looked at. It is everything that is different from the norm...our hair, eyes, clothing, etc.
Many good conversations happened that day, but it had gone on longer than we had anticipated.
In this country, when you are ready for your guests to leave, you bring out the fruit.
Thankfully, I had bought some just in case I needed it.
I told Kylie to go and fix a tray. Everyone went to town cutting oranges, apples, and bananas. There was only one small apple left when they were done.
I whispered to my friend and asked if I could say, "Thanks for coming." It was getting late, and we all needed to feed our families.
She said, "No. You can't say anything."
So we sat.
Finally, my friend announced she had to go, and that was all it took. Everyone stood and gave the three-kiss, cheek kiss to every other person in the room; we gathered all the little girls from the living room who had played with Keira's toys; and bid each other adieu.
What a nice visit!
After dinner, Kylie washed dishes in the dark. She's there on the left. I promise.
And the next day, this was delivered to my gate :)
I peeked under and found...
And, in case you didn't notice, she sent it in a plastic, throw-away bowl, so I don't have to return this one :)