We ate cornmeal in the morning and coffee, both heavily fortified with sugar.Neli boiled the coffee loose in a pot, which made it extra delicious. For lunch and dinner we usually had some roots soaked in olive oil, either yucca, battata, sometimes small green bananas from the back yard. The yard was a small wilderness offering all kinds of fruits and other treasures buried beneath the tall grasses and lianas. At first all I could see was disorder and I tried to help by picking up the yard, but what I took to be trash often had a hidden purpose. I lifted a corrugated sheet of aluminum and found it was covering a hole, the bent and twisted screen windows scattered across the ground, I was told, were shielding delicate plants, the cut-open plastic jugs were for watering, and the faded plastic buckets were actually planters. In the end, I stuck to collecting coconuts and dragging fallen palm leaves and cane stalks to the burn pile, and gathering cigarette butts and broken plastic clothespins. After a while, sitting in back and nursing a malta, the view began to appeal to me: the acid green vegetation in the harsh tropical light softened by the clothes drying on the complicated pattern of lines. There was a desperately unhappy chow tied up in the yard that slept beneath a ply wood board propped against a palm tree. Nestor was hoping to breed him and they brought him left over rice and beans, but otherwise ignored him, as they did the skittish cat who hung around the house chasing lizards. The cat was white with striped patches and luminous green eyes. Azules como un americano, her father said. When her mother wasnt looking, I fed the dog the leathery fried steaks she made me.