Almost

I almost had a new student last week. Almost.

Here in Lima I am beginning my own business as a teacher of English. I would like it to expand to reading and writing instruction as well but what Peruvians want most is to be able to hold conversations in English and pass standardized tests such as the TOEFL. OK, I can help with that.

With business cards printed I began to advertise in local shops by pinning my card to bulletin boards and talking to some of the shop owners. I don’t want to advertise too far away because traffic here is a bear!

Later that afternoon the phone rang. An unknown number on my new cell phone! It must be a new student; wow, that was quick! I just put the cards up.

“Where are you? I am here in Calle 10. Can I come over now?” the voice on the other end asked rather urgently.

Because I am on 10th street too I answered, “Sure, let’s meet by the flag poles out front in the park.”

A few minutes later we were sitting on the park bench out front discussing English. “Tell me a bit about yourself,” I began.

“I am originally from the Dominican Republic and I am here in Peru with a construction company. The bosses at the company want me to learn English; it is the only way I can rise to the next level. Right now I know hardly any English so I want to start as soon as possible.”

We discussed how best to get started and decided on one hour a day every day Monday through Friday. Then he pulled out his wallet. He wanted to pay me in advance for next week’s classes. I felt uncomfortable with that. When I lived in Chile and began my English teaching business there I found that there were students with whom I could not work so I wanted to have at least one class before any money exchanged hands. As I listened, I also wondered if he were really a Dominican. I lived with a Dominican for three years and this voice sounded different.

The Dominican was rather insistent. He opened his wallet showing two hundred dollar bills saying, “If I pay now I will be more committed to the work of learning English.”

“Sir, I won’t take any money today and I don’t have change.” I was more insistent. “Let’s meet on Monday and see how things go.”

“OK.” We shook hands and he continued on his way.

On Monday evening I showed up at the appointed time and place. No one was there. I called the number he had given me. Wrong number. I almost had a new student. Almost.

What happened, you ask? After many conversations with family and friends here in Lima we came to the conclusion that the Dominican wanted to pay me with counterfeit bills and receive the change in real Peruvian money. I was on the wrong end of a scam. Almost.

Empanada Recipe

IngredientsDouble recipe!
2 pounds ground beef
2 or 3 chopped onions
3 or 4 chopped garlic cloves
2 T oil
½ c raisins
¼ t paprika
½ t cumin
½ t oregano
1 t salt
½ t pepper
1 can of black olives
4 hard-boiled eggs
1 beaten egg
(All of the spice quantities can change according to your taste.)

For the filling…
Soak the raisins in hot water for about an hour.  In a large frying pan fry the ground beef in the oil until browned.  Add the chopped onions and minced garlic and cook until the onions are mostly transparent.  Add cumin, oregano, salt, pepper and paprika (optional) and cook for three minutes.  Let the filling cool (overnight in fridge or just a few hours until cool).  Slice the eggs.

Dough for the crust
3 c flour
1 t salt
1 t baking powder
¼ c melted shortening
¼ c melted butter
¾ c warm milk + ¼ c warm water (or 1 c warm milk)

Mix the flour with the salt and baking powder.  Add the shortening, butter, milk and water.  Mix well, kneading until soft and flexible but not sticky.  Let rest for ½ hour and divide into 16 portions, ready for rolling out. (This number is flexible depending on the size of your empanadas)

To fill the crust…
Pre-heat the oven to 400º F.

With a rolling pin stretch each piece of dough and cut into a circle.  Begin filling the empanadas by putting the meat mixture in the middle of the dough; then add one slice of egg, a few raisins and 2 olive halves.  Wet the edges of the dough and close the dough, flipping over one half onto the other half and pinch the now moistened edges.  Lightly brush each empanada with raw egg (beaten).  Poke each empanada with a fork a few times, this reduces the inside pressure when cooking and helps prevent bursting at the seams.

Place on cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes (until golden brown).   Let cool a bit before eating.

Yum!