The Community that Cooks Chilli Together…

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Yes, Jim and I are in Mexico once again. Theoretically, I am preparing for facilitating my writing retreat here in February, but let’s face it we are here to get out of the cold and rain of Vancouver and come home to our southern community.

I love it here for multiple reasons and Jim and I are starting to get inquiries of how we pull this off every year and how they can do it to, so maybe we will have to create a fun seminar about this.

DSCN3159Meanwhile, here we are in our little winter paradise, but this year is hotter than usual. Lucky me that this just happens to coincide with my getting hot flashes. I have both our ceiling fans going right now, but it’s not bad enough to want air conditioning on, but thankfully it is cooler this week than last. It forced me to learn my latest Spanish word, abanico, which is a hand fan. I tend to fall in love with 4-syllable Spanish words. My first year here it was desayuno, which means breakfast. Right now, my mantra during my hot flashes is abanico, abanico, abanico. I now have a few pretty Mexican Abanicos for 30 pesos each.

So, amid all this heat you wouldn’t think I would be looking forward to eating a ton of chilli, right? But I always am. Let DSCN3121me tell you a little bit about one of the events of the season here, The Annual Chilli Cook Off.

The cook-off is run by the Rotary Club here as a fundraiser for needed projects, mostly for improvements to local schools; children and literacy being a concern, but it is also one of the town social events for the season and brings together both Mexicans and Gringos, mostly Canadians and Americans or ex-pats now living here.

DSCN3154The competition itself brings in 30 competitors for two coveted prizes for the Best Chilli Awards, one for the professional restauranteurs, and one for the amateurs. There are also awards for the Best Salsa and the Best Decorated Booth.

These awards are given by the crowds who come and cast their ballots, not by professional judges, so it does become a bit of a sales and marketing and popularity contest too. But lets face it if your Chilli sucks, no one but your family will vote for it and they might lie about who they really voted for to your face as the ballots are secret and only one ballot per person.DSCN3141

So there are 30 Chillis to taste and this year Jim and I tasted a record 17 (that’s right you don’t have to taste them all to vote… hey folks it’s a fundraiser). Wow they were good, and so different, so I had to keep track on my notes and we developed a rating system. However, not to alienate any of our friends who had entered pots this year, who we voted for will remain unstated.

DSCN3134-001There always seems to be one person who does the fatal mistake of burning the bottom. Anyone who has made chilli knows that if you burn the bottom, even a  little bit, it will taste like someone threw cigarette butts into your precious pot.  Ugh!

The chilli tent row is a cave of booths and when they start serving it is so crowded you can barely move. Jim and I luck out as one competitor never showed up for their booth and we nab the table and chairs and start a tag team system, of one holding our great spot while the other brings in more sample cups of chilli.

Most are in styrofoam cups but some are in more creative containers, tortilla shell cups, Mexican clay pots (see the ballot photo above) and one comes with the chilli on a chilli dog. Yummy!DSCN3150

Sure this is about the Chilli competition, but really its about the community and a lot of gabbing and socializing goes on, and of course the musica, from a great Mexican band this year. Later on a duo from B.C. will keep us dancing all night long.

I love the MC brother and sister pair this year. His sister speaks the Spanish and he  translates to English or vice versa. After a barrage of Spanish the translation becomes, “same in English.” And we all laugh.

Later at the dance, I find myself as one of the ones initiating a conga line with my real estate friend, Sara, her employee, Alfredo, and our favourite maid, Nana.  In no time we have dozens lined up behind us trying to reproduce our crazy moves. It was hysterical and a great work out too.

Yes, mi Amigos, the sign of a healthy community is food, music and dancing.DSCN3136-001DSCN3143DSCN3152DSCN3149 With a little cerveza and margaritas thrown in for fun.

Dining in the Dark

How was your Halloween? Scary, frightening or fun? Most of us are going to say fun, including myself, but it was also an adventure because I dined in the dark. No, that doesn’t mean that there was a power outage, or a forgotten electric bill, this was a very constructed experience lead by a good friend of mine, Kerry Ward, who is an adventure trainer.  This was not a “eating Big Macs with the lights out” kind of experience, but a posh, gourmet dining experience that was preceded by other “adventures.”

I love learning in two ways. The obvious one for me is by being told a story. The next way I like to learn is by doing it myself. Then it becomes my story. This is experiential learning, and whenever I can, I try to use this to teach others.  It might even be fun. But, sometimes you do things to expand your horizons and perceptions and get yourself out of your humdrumness. This is essential for writers and artists so they can tap that creative side that likes playfulness, where all rules go out the window.

The first part of our Halloween evening was a masked storytelling.  We were instructed to wear masks and dress in black. I preferred to remain anonymous and give myself a mask name, but most people gave their real name and told a personal story of something that frightened them and could be described as an adventure.

In the past, I have hosted ghost story sessions on Halloween, where we told our scary stories with nothing but Jack O’ lanterns lighting the room.  The stories were so spooky that they sometimes really freaked people out, but this night’s  storytelling was with the lights on and more about our experiences with adrenaline rushes, from near-drownings to being held up at gunpoint, from wild animals to black ice car slides. The scares of our lives. We were then asked to think about our future adventure.

So, that was all very nice and safe.  Myself and my 30 masked companions were now ready to sit down and have a gourmet meal brought to us, even if it was in the dark. That’s what we expected.  But like our real-life stories that is not exactly what we had signed up for. The plot thickens.

We were sent out on a bogus scavenger hunt to a hotel two blocks away. The package we received at the concierge was a bag of blindfolds. Oh! I thought to myself, I guess our dining is going to happen at this hotel. Wrong-o. We were taken back outside and blindfolded and put in a conga-line formation, with only our leader at the head of the line being fully sighted.

The adventure began as the blind lead the blind through our downtown waterfront spaces, across crosswalks, into car parks, up stairs and through lobbies.

“Slow down!” “Stairs!”Door” “Incline, going down.”

This was an exercise in communication, trust, teamwork and using your other senses that we would need later for the main event. But for now, we shuffled along, and by the honks we received from traffic, our human chain-gang of blindfolded diners made quite an unusual sight. But, hey, it’s Halloween. (Never mind that Kerry does this all year round). In any case, we arrived at our destination completely disoriented. Still blindfolded and now in a blacker darkness than outside. We were lead to our chairs to sit down at round banquet tables. Long before we got there, the smell of food was all around us and we had now built an appetite.

Unlike my expectations, where I thought that each course would be delivered as it was ready, as in traditional dining, here we were told that a three course meal with all utensils and accoutrements had already been laid out in front of us. We were allowed to eat it anyway we wanted to.

Once again, communication and teamwork was essential.

“Found a scallop at ten o’clock!”

“Beware the shot glass on the left.”

“Hurray, we’ve got ribs!” “Yippee, we’ve got chicken to the left!” “Oh joy, we’ve found chocolate on the right!” “Oh, oh, we’ve got liver.”

“I’ve got the butter, who’s found the bread?”

“I’ve got the bread and I’ll pass it clockwise, and you can follow it clockwise with the butter.”

Then there was the guess work, as in “what was that creamy stuff, next to the crunchy stuff?” It was both a collective detective experience and a primitive fumbling, yet sensual exploration. Some people admitted that they went to fingers pretty early, but I tried to stick to the knife and fork as much as I could, but the way I ate would have made my mother turn over in her grave. Thank God no one could see us in the dark.

For once the talk was completely about our experience in the moment, no polite dinner conversations. But, there was plenty of laughter and funny comments. It was to the point that I didn’t want to take the blindfold off when asked to at the end of the meal and they gradually brought the lights up.

Now this is where the dead chicken meets the road. What were we actually eating?  The chef and sous chef came out to show us the absolutely elegantly plated dishes that we had demolished like a bunch of vikings. The visual was totally lost on us, obviously, but did we guess our flavours right…

At first, I knew it was a taste I hated, and I had to go way back in my memory banks for the last time I ate it, because I have been studiously avoiding it for decades. Liver. Other than that, I actually knew surprisingly little for sure. I had no idea I had downed a quail egg with my fingers, for example, and that thing we thought was chicken… sweetbreads.  What are sweetbreads? Someone told me it was calf gonads! OMG! But I Googled it later and it is the thymus gland or pancreas of a young calf or lamb. As my vegan friends retch, I am only glad it wasn’t what my dining companion originally suggested. But there were also wonderful things like muscles in gaspacho, olive brioche, a yummy ravioli, bacon and scallops, chocolate mousse, orange ganache, as well as standards like lovely mashed potatoes, green beans and rolls with butter (served clockwise).

I think the chef really enjoyed challenging us and seeing our reactions at his reveal. Partly sadistic perhaps, but more out of curiosity I think. He really thought about textures as well as taste for us. Personally, I was amazed at how my sense of taste was not what I thought it was. We marvelled at how pretty the meal was that we had destroyed so unconsciously. We applauded him and his sous chef for the wonderful job.

So we sat with our dining table and dissected the adventure of the meal all over again, and all our crazy manoeuvers. Like when I took a scallop from a woman who was not able to eat shellfish (she had been pre-warned), and then later I thought how weird it was to negotiate that in the dark having never even seen her face, and having a scallop passed to me by hand. Rules out the window. And that was the true adventure of the evening, not how we interact with food, but how we interact with people. Isn’t that most of our adventure in life, in fact?

I love my ghost stories, but I would not have missed this scary Halloween adventure for all the scallops in the world. If you get a chance, try it!

The Mexican Chistmas Burro Boogie

Do you ever wonder what your Christmas would be like if you weren’t doing any of the traditional things you usually do, perhaps in a far away land… perhaps in Mexico for example?

I did not have to wonder this year. This Christmas eve, I spent trying to speak in three different languages: English, French and Spanish.  We were surrounded by our Québécois Mexico friends, Guy, Ramona, Alice, Luc and Joanne. Each person had different levels of fluency in different languages but we muddled through, and of course alcohol tends to help.

They took us to a restaurant in the neighboring town famous for its service where they make quite a show of it.  For example, we had seven people at dinner, so, when our orders are ready, seven waiters come to the table. They synchronize it perfectly and put each order in front of each of the guests simultaneously.

We laughed, told stories, in multiple languages, and then we walked through town where all the families were having their parties; lights, fireworks and firecrackers galore.  All night long, music, fire crackers, and party, party, party.  Everyone.  All ages. This makes for a pretty quiet Christmas morning, since everyone is sleeping in, or at least until we heard something we had never heard before.

This was the moment that I really knew I wasn’t having Christmas at home. We both heard what we thought at first was a very strange horn. Jim poked his head out the window and said, “Get a look at this, you won’t believe it.”  I did, and if I hadn’t seen it myself I might not have. To the entertainment of the neighborhood a donkey, really a burro, had gotten lose and was galloping down the middle of the street braying at the top of his lungs.  I had never heard an animal, relatively small, make such a big sound.  It was like a call to Christmas morning. With all the parades and re-creations of the nativity we had witnessed in the weeks leading up to Christmas, with a donkey always carrying a Mary and a baby Jesus, it was like the donkey was yelling its freedom from all this Christmas stuff at the top of his lungs. Everyone in the neighborhood was laughing.

After our novel alarm clock, we decided to go to brunch at my favourite breakfast place, La Casa de Mi Abuela, The House of My Grandmother.  I rode my little vintage folding bike that makes me feel like I am twelve again while Jim walked.  Despite the recession making a noticeable drop in tourism this year, the street side Abuela cafe is packed. Good food and service always attract.  There is always a range of 7 to 10 different kinds of fruits on their fruit plate and I always have to have the pancakes.  By accident, Jim and I discovered a new taste sensation.  Since the Mexicans put lime on everything, one day I tried it on my pancakes with maple syrup.  Damn if that wasn’t the best taste combo discovery I have ever made in my life. The sour lime and the sweet maple syrup compliment each other perfectly, and with Abuela’s fluffy pancakes, it is “to die for,” as my sister would say. Well I could go on about their spiced potatoes and their excellent complimentary condiments like granola, yogurt. jams and marmalades, and cookies with your coffee, but I think you get the idea.

We were also sitting beside Bonny and her partner, also here from Vancouver. She is a Jazz singer who comes here every season and will be making appearances in some of the nicer restaurants.  We make small talk and the usual gratitudes of how lucky we are to be here.  She admires my bike.  Again, I feel as proud as a preteen.  We talk about the Vancouver music scene and I mention to her that I noticed that in the women’s washroom  in the restaurant, on the back of the stall door is a fan club bumper sticker for a local Vancouver band, Brickhouse, from The Yale.  We both think this is pretty funny that it wound up here, but given how many Canadians are here maybe not so strange.

We return home to encounter the donkey across the street eating garbage at the empty lot.  I am worried for the donkey.  They will eat anything and we hatch a rapid plan to catch it.  Fortunately, we document the whole event with video and photos, and I add some music and commentary and post it on YouTube, calling it the Christmas Burro Boogie: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MszDtbqE_L4 , it has a moral to the story which I will let you discover on the video rather than repeating it here.

The big revelation is that this was definitely not a “normal” Christmas, and while I love traditions, I am very happy forging new ones and discovering Christmas Mexico style.  Feliz Navidad and Feliz Ano!

Kathrin Lake, Story Coach, helping others discover themselves through stories and to write amazing books and speeches.  See our online group coaching for a low rate and our February writing retreats in Mexico: www.survivaltothrival.com

Letting Go of a Baby Tortoise

Well we are back in our beloved Winter home in Mexico. For a full week now we are perpetually meeting and greeting all our friends and fellow snowbirds, and do the usual settling in and putting things in order.  The gringos here help each other out, and Guy lends us his van to collect supplies in Manzanillo and coincidentally also allows us to pick up our friend Danielle who is travelling through Mexico.  Like us, Danielle cannot tolerate the lack of sunshine and warmth that a Canadian winter forces us to endure, and is here to get her dose of ultraviolet, vitamin D, and give the sinuses a break.

We have been showing off our little town to her and she is much impressed.  Not just with the scenery but how we drop in on people at any time and they welcome us in.  Even people who we don’t know invite us in, as long as we say the name of someone that they do know.  This is our Mexico, filled with friends, lots of info sharing, many small adventures that give us amusing and interesting stories that would never happen back home.  One of the best for me happened to us tonight.

Tonight, while having a drink in our favourite bar at the end of the beach, a volunteer from the Tortuga (Tortoise) Shelter came in and asked us if we understood Spanish and if we would like to help release the baby Tortugas that were hatched only an hour ago.  We all jumped at the chance.  Coincidentally, Jim and I had been by the shelter two days before.  We peeked in at the fenced off section of the beach with the little flags indicating where the tortuga eggs are buried below the sand. We had often done this before, but this time we read the cards on the flags. On the cards it said “Proximo Nac.” and a date.  I tell Jim that this means the next time for their birth, but we look at the dates and Jim notices that the dates are all this week and over the next few weeks.  But we continue on our merry way, not knowing that we will be pressed into service two days  later in the early evening to release these babies to the ocean. 

Now a bunch of us gather around a bin of sand with dozens of baby Tortugas, only and inch and a half long, all struggling to get out and move forward to the ocean.  The volunteer gives us a little history.  The babies are only one hour old and they release them after sunset, about seven p.m., so that the birds won’t pick them off. They show us that in the tummy of these little creatures is the area that contains the mysterious locator that will ensure these tortugas will return to this exact spot, fully grown, in 15 years, and ready to lay more eggs each season. Over their lifetime, (which is up to 150 years old) they will hatch 900 eggs, of which only a small percent will survive.  They ask us to never take part, or condone in the consumption of Tortoise eggs (a delicacy). 

They tell us to take off our shoes and socks, and roll up our pant legs as we will be getting wet. They prepare the palms of our hands by smoothing a bit of sand across them, so the tortugas are oriented with the sands they will be returning to in 15 years.  Then we each get a baby tortuga, so small and new, placed in our palms. They try to wriggle up the mini beaches of our sand-laden palms, instinct pulling them to the ocean.  We have to keep re-placing them to the bottom of our palms or they will get away on us.  I am amazed to think that this wee creature will one day be as large as the kitchen table I am now typing at.  Out of Jim, Danielle and I, Jim is the only one who has seen the magnificence of a full grown Tortoise in the ocean, while he was sailing in these waters a few years ago.

Now the volunteers are taking us down to the ocean and explaining that we have to go to the edge of the surf with our wriggling babes, and after a wave the volunteers will tell us when to release our tortugas to their fates.  The wave comes crashing in and christens our ankles up to our knees. “Ahora!” the volunteer calls, “Now!” In we place them, and as the water from the wave withdraws the undertow sucks the babies out into the ocean, the small creatures left up to their destinies in the vastness of the Pacific.  I am overcome with emotion, and call out “Good luck!” the only thing I can think to wish the small babe that was entrusted to me for mere minutes before I had to release it. My voice is lost in the waves, but I put up a silent prayer as a surrogate mother wishing a long and happy life to this one. And that is all any of us can hope for.

I reflect how nature has prepared these little ones to go straight out into the world and handle all that befalls them immediately, unlike us humans.  After nearly 50 years I still don’t know if I am prepared for all that life may throw at me.  But perhaps we always do have everything we need. A little luck and our persistent wriggling through is the only thing we ever needed and ever will need.  Whatever our life here on the planet will be, I am once again eternally grateful to be part of the mystery, the adventure, and yes, even the struggle. For life is a vast and deep ocean which none of us can fully fathom, yet to help others, all creatures great and small, seems to give us an ethereal joy, and may be our highest purpose.

Kathrin Lake, author of From Survival to Thrival www.survivaltothrival.com

See Writing retreats to Mexico on sale now at: www.survivaltothrival.com/services/retreats

Don’t Think Just Live

Kathrin Lake, author of From Survival to Thrival documents her first Tango lessons inspired by Tim Ferriss’s book The 4 -Hour Workweek.

Tango Lesson number 7. 

Rodin's ThinkerI thought I did much better tonight in my tango lesson, and I attribute it to one critical thing. Don’t think. Just go with the lead, go with the flow.  Another example of how my tango lessons can be transferred to life lessons. Especially as women, we do tend to  over analyze everything. Perhaps that is why it is a man’s world.  Men can run it without thinking. Okay that was a little sexist joke… or not.  Perhaps the tango allows me to embrace irreverence.  The tango may not be irreverent, but neither is it at all conventional. It is about sex,desire, seduction and the dance between lovers.  It gives me an irreverent feeling because with my North American upbringing it is fun to be blatantly going for the sex appeal.  In the Argentine tango, this is all in the feet.

All my life I have been told “don’t drag your feet!”  Now I spend hours doing nothing but dragging my feet and it looks good, real good. Gabriella teaches us all the tricks, like how a slightly cocked ankle during a pause can look drippingly sexy. Subtle but sensuous.  Argentine Tango is not like ballroom tango that goes for showy effects and double take flipping of the head at every turn.  The true Argentine tango is like the new found couple in the corner of a noisy wedding reception, leaning into one another, oblivious to the others yet making subtle come-ons in their moves. What is going on there is far more sexy than the brash groom and bride, making a big production of the kiss and dip with the clinking of glasses.  That is the difference between the Argentine and the ballroom tango.

When I danced tonight with another woman who was trying to be the lead for our practice, she tells me what a great leader/dancer Jim is. Jim, my partner, is in the next level up.  I have to confess to her that we have danced very little tango together at this point. I am told that Gabriela, our teacher, with her magnificent, outrageous Argentinian personality, apparently put on a little demonstration using Jim to lead her. Jim performed it so flawlessly that at the end of it Gabriela yelled out, “Jim, take me now!”  Everyone laughed and Jim blushed to his toes, but was flattered. 

Tonight, at the end of the class, and because it is my birthday, she makes me do a demo for the class with her.  Nerves!  I started thinking, and then just decided to stop. Results? I didn’t do too badly and Gabriela is heavy on Spanish praise “Eso!” “Muya Bien!” Thankfully, there was no sexual references.  Not bad for an old girl of…never mind. But while I am here , I live.  Stop thinking people, start living.  As they say, if you are not living, you are dying.

Find out more about what Kathrin does to live a full life at: http://www.survivaltothrival.com/

Tango Lesson 4 – Stop looking at your feet

Kathrin Lake, author of From Survival to Thrival documents her first Tango lessons inspired by Tim Ferriss’s book The 4 -Hour Workweek.

Tango Lesson 4.

E and I are still the pet students because we are picking it up fast, which is both bad and good.  It means that Gabriela wants to teach us new things every lesson.  This really appeals to the side of me that likes to learn and desires variety, but may not be so good for mastery of basics. I am wondering when and if my head will explode, but it doesn’t. This time, Gabriela does teach us something that is basic to everything in dance, but which she says many long time dancers never fully get.  That is listening to and understanding the music, and how to move with it.  For the women, as followers, it is all about listening for the lead too. You then have to hope that he has a sense of the music himself.  If he doesn’t, it can be a long and boring dance.  Since Jim got me into swing dancing some years ago, I better understood that old expression “keeping me on my toes.”  A skilled lead, with a soulful sense of the music, will have you starting, stopping and doing things you never thought you could do, all in time to the music.

We learn a new fancy step, that is a double step that looks great when couples do it together smoothly.  To the outside observer you may wonder how they work so fluidly in sync, but she has to listen to his small cues with his hand on her back.  When we goof up Gabriela helps us with a new vocal cue, last week it was “ch, ch, ch!” and this week it is: “ee, ee, eee!” This is all about listening, which quite frankly I find I suck at in real life. Okay, maybe not suck at, but could be better at. 

The only thing I really want to get better at is to keep my head up and stop having the temptation to look at my feet.  If I use dance as the metaphor for a soulful life, where in life do we always have the temptation to look at our feet and therefore miss the gracefulness of life?   Maybe it’s watching TV?  We watch others while we never pay attention to what is going on around us and where we are moving? Or we watch others do what we want, like “Dancing with the Stars.” It makes me happy that I can say I am learning tango instead of watching on the sidelines.  We are our own stars. File under undigested food for thought.

I was worried that E was going to give up the Tango lessons because she is so busy, but she too is getting hooked, and I ‘m glad because she looks great doing it.  She is starting to wonder if her boyfriend may be open to taking lessons too.  We talk a little about relationships and how nice it is to be in a committed one where you don’t have to worry about anyone becoming attracted to you, or you to them.  We are just here to enjoy the dance. Phew!  A relief. More fun, less complicated.

Speaking of relationships, Jim and the more advanced students start coming in the studio. There is a big poster on the table of Gabriela’s big tango gala weekend in October where she brings in  the best of the best from Argentina (Guillermo Salvat & Silvia Grynt), to teach workshops and then the big gala dance.  Jim wants to go to the dance. I am nervous and practically beg his current dance partner to sub in for me, as I am sure I will not be ready.  She seems as reticent as I am.  The thing about dances for dancers, unlike a bar, it is considered a no-no to refuse a dance with anyone.  If they ask you, you go. We are all nervous. I convince her that we will all go together and support each other.  I’m not sure she goes for it, but I would like to see her there dancing with Jim, especially since I know E won’t be there.  Funny how we used to sit around in gyms hoping the boys would ask us to dance, now here we are practically hoping they won’t, or at least, that we will be able to keep up when they do.  Life is a circle in so many ways.  Gotta laugh, gotta love it. 

Find out more about what Kathrin does to live a full life at: http://www.survivaltothrival.com/

Second Tango Lesson

Kathrin Lake, author of From Survival to Thrival documents her first Tango lessons inspired by Tim Ferriss’s book The 4 -Hour Workweek.

Tango lesson 2

Before my BF, “E” and I went for our second Tango lesson with Gabriela I watch Jim at his beyond beginner’s class.  I jot things down as I watch and the music of the tango seeps into my pen.  The tango couples seem more eloquent than I can live up to with mere words.  I am amazed at Jim’s progress and delighted (not jealous). I want to keep watching him dance with his dance partner. I just like being on the sidelines watching two pairs of legs in tandem. I did foolishly think that he may not be able to learn tango, but watching now I see that this is always his passion. Also, the music is part of the essential equation that I forgot to factor in.  It makes all things possible.  Even if you don’t love tango music you cannot help but be drawn into it. The dancers play a chess game. If I move like this, you move like that, but if I move like this, what possibilities will you give me? It’s a taunting, tantalizing bid to outdazzle each other and see who will crack first under the intensity, but neither ever do, or if one does they both lose, so they must not, for this is not a win-lose game, this is a dance and oh what a dance!tango

Gabriela corrects Jim in what I thought was a fluid motion.  He is bouncing in his quick step apparently. Though from the sidelines tango appears elegant and romantic, like our domestic life can be all maintenance, and both take practice and communication to perfect.  But when it works, it far transcends even the most blissful parts of our domestic lives.  It is that old saying of dance being a vertical expression of a horizontal desire. Doubly so for tango. When I first met Jim he had an expression he readily shared, “if you can’t dance, there is no chance for romance.”

When E and I get started with Gabriela we start as all classes start, with the walking. Dramatic dragging of feet is intentionally alluring not lazy. Gabriela shouts to us,

“Your feet must make love to the floor.  That is the tango.”

She is impressed with our progress through the basic steps and decides to show us the Ocho.  “If you do not have your Ocho, you have learned nothing,” she says. In Spanish I know that Ocho means “eight” and indeed Ochos are figure eight like moves.  E and I pick up fast Gabriela says and we are finally given our first male dance partners to test our ability to follow a lead and practice.  This is always the fascinating challenge of couples dancing.  It is especially terrific practice for strong, independent women to learn to listen (with the body) and to not take charge. It is a great metaphor for communication that we don’t really always practice at home, but the principal outcome is the same, if you listen everything goes smoothly. But Ochos allow the woman to speak the language of seduction.  Gabriela is very impressed and my male partner who I have just met tonight asks me how long I have been dancing. When I tell him this is my second tango lesson he says, “Wow.”  My ego soars with this one syllable compliment. E and I sail out of our class thinking we are tango prodigies, but I also know better having taken other lessons.  There will be struggles. I also later realize that the thing that I found so soothing and suited to me about the tango was the slow, alluring pace.  So much less frantic than swing music. The music stays with me for hours after. I think I’m hooked.

Find out more about what Kathrin does to live a full life at: http://www.survivaltothrival.com/