Last Wednesday was the day AT&T (after 5 hours of haggling and being put on the hold and transferred) had promised me that they would re-activate my internet.
Last Wednesday was the day I went back home excited to have my internet service back. Wednesday was the day I waited, and waited…and waited.
At 9 p.m. I called AT&T, waited 20 minutes, and finally got in touch with an agent. WTF is happening, you **** liars, I said in the nicest way possible.
“I’m sorry for the trouble, ma’am,” the agent read out loud from her script. Then she proceeded to tell me that there was “an error” on my order and that I had to call the next morning to reserve a new activation.
That’s when I just kind of blew up. I was half-crying with frustration and anger, over the phone and off the phone. I accused them of being incompetent dimwits without actually using those words, and said I haven’t been able to turn in my homework because of the lack of internet. “Because of AT&T, I might get a C—a freaking C!” I raged.
“There is nothing I can do, ma’am,” the agent said coolly (probably reading from the script again). She also said she couldn’t tell me what the “error” was. We hung up. “Thank you for choosing AT&T,” she said. “Pah! And no thanks to you,” I said (to myself).
I paced about my apartment, cursing and tearing at my hair. And then I remembered I paid almost $200 for my hair so I tore up an old copy of NY Times instead.
As I was pacing about, tearing up sheet after sheet and looking like a mad woman, a siren wailed outside my apartment. I glanced out the window, and I saw a police car parked outside. A police officer got out of the car with a flashlight. She was pointing it at the homeless family living in the back alley of my apartment.
There’s been a homeless family living at my back alley ever since I moved in. They live in a dirty tent. In the day, they sit outside the tent and just kind of…stare into the space. Sometimes, at midnight, I can hear them bustling restlessly about. At times, I can hear an old woman in the tent shrieking like a child, “No, that’s mine! That’s mine! It’s mine!” and I wonder if her mind isn’t right.
And now, they were being evacuated.
“You cannot be here,” the police officer declared into her megaphone, still flashing her flashlight at the tent. “Clear out.”
One by one the people in the tent shuffled out, shielding their eyes from the bright flashlight. There were no protests. They just packed up slowly while the police officer stood and watched them leave.
And I witnessed this whole scenario from the comfort of my apartment, with the New York Times newspaper in my hand, a full hot meal in my belly, and my $200 hairstyle.
My heart broke for them. Where? Where would they go? What would happen to them?
I felt majorly ashamed. And I couldn’t believe the coincidence. No, this was no coincidence. I knew God was sending me a message. He was saying, “You’re upset and cursing over the lack of internet service? Calm yourself, and take a look around you.”
And I did. It’s amazing what a fresh new perspective can do to your mood. Yes, the lack of internet was exasperating, but at the end of the day, I still had things to give thanks for.
God gave me the chill pill I needed. So I chilled out. Well, for that night, anyway. I’m still human after all.
The next day, I called AT&T again, and when they told me it’ll be another week before I got my internet again and that I had to pay $136 for a new installation kit and activation fee, I was this close to blowing up again. But I remembered the message God sent me the other night. I took a deep breath—and another chill pill.
I still don’t have internet. AT&T promised today. I’m not sure I have faith in them. But hey, I still have an apartment to return to, a roof over my head, and a fridge stocked with food. In the bigger picture, the lack of internet is just an inconvenience among the many privileges I have in my life.
As you might have guessed, I don’t actually live in a swanky area. I’ve had friends warn me to be careful on the streets, but honestly, I’ve walked out for a late-night grocery run numerous times, and I’ve been perfectly safe.
Again, I think it’s all about perspective. People might focus on the shabby buildings and the stained streets, but I love the colorful character of my neighborhood, the numerous hole-in-the-wall stores tucked between faded constructions and the intermix of Koreans and Latinos.
It’s called Guatemalteca Bakery, and it’s actually pretty close to my church, too!
Eva discovered this place. Here’s the adorable girl:
It’s close to her heart because she’s Guatemalan—or a Chapin, as they call themselves (another new thing I learned!). She texted me immediately after finding this place, knowing that I would appreciate it. We set up a lunch date here soon after.
Guatemalteca Bakery is a restaurant, a bakery and a grocery store all in one. Here’s the restaurant part of it:
Check out the crazy cheap prices!
And here’s the bakery…
Oh my God. Have you ever been to a Guatemalan bakery?
I love, love, love Guatemalan baked goods, especially their bolillos. I love them mostly because they are super cheap, and although some of the baked goods look really sweet, they’re not.
I’m still trying to figure out the difference between Mexican sweet breads and Guatemalan breads. If anyone knows, please educate me!
And finally, the small supermarket. I came across some pretty freaky-looking products:
I looked up “pacaya” when I got home and it’s a flower of a species of the palm tree. “It looks like alien’s testicles!” I yelped, forgetting that testicles are another shape.
But we were really here for the food. Guatemalan cuisine is quite different from the more familiar Mexican food. Actually, I learned that the majority of the Latino population in Los Angeles is not Mexico but Guatemala, so I’ve become more interested in Guatemalan culture and cuisine.
Guatemalan cuisine is mostly composed of corn, meats like chicken, turkey and beef, and beans and rice. Most of the meats are typically served in stews.
Eva wasn’t too eager to try strange meat organs, so we left the menu order to her. After all, she was the expert here.
She ordered the Enchilada:
Guatemalan enchilada is very different from the typical ones I’m used to. Instead of a rich, smothered roll with cheese melted on top, it’s a beautiful construction of a tostada, some kind of meat sauce, fresh lettuce, a beet-and-cabbage salad, crumbled queso, a boiled egg and slivers of raw onions.
Isn’t it gorgeous? It’s so much more complex and interesting than the other enchilada in my opinion. It’s crunchy, it’s got that sour/sweet/savory component, just the right amount of meat sauce, and brilliant freshness of a salad.
We also got a Chile Relleno with a side of beans and rice:
Again, quite different from Mexican ones. The Guatemalan kind is a deep-fried chile stuffed with a non-spicy meat-and-vegetable crumble with a vibrant, non-spicy red sauce.
I loved the refried beans. It was the best I had ever tasted!! I’m pretty sure they used lard in there—there is no way you can get such savory and flavorful and smooth beans without some good ol’ lard.
The best part was that it came with these warm, soft tortillas, which you tore apart with your hands and dipped into the smooth bean paste.
And just in case you were wondering, this is a bolillo:
It’s a big white salty roll that has a lovely crispy crust that crackles and a chewy, soft interior. If you have a Latino supermarket next to you, I highly recommend seeking this out. Just make sure they are baked fresh at the in-store bakery!
For dessert, we each had a rellenito:
It’s a fried ball made from ripe plantains and stuffed with a sweetened black bean paste. Yes, I know, I know. I’m salivating, too.
Eva sprinkled some sugar on top for us. Just for a bit of extra sweetness.
It was SO good. Seriously, deep-fried + ripe, sweet plantains + smooth, custardy bean filling + extra coarse sugar sprinkles = pure perfection. You cannot get better than that.
The filling was surprisingly alike to the Asian adzuki bean paste.
“Now these are what alien’s testicles are,” Mimi educated me.
I’m sorry if you don’t have a Guatemalan bakery next to you. The neighborhood I live in has one in every block. Jealous? Don’t be. I’m sure you have something real nice in your neck of the woods that I don’t, too.
So. Question of the Day: What is one unique thing about your neighborhood? Any hole-in-the-wall place you love?
P.S. The homeless family living in the tent may have been evacuated for a night, but they are back. I heard them today at 2 a.m. having a loud quarrel. So I guess they’re okay.