Through the Italian baker, I came to meet Carmeni. Educated in Bogotá, Carmeni had married an islander, as had the baker, and now she taught special-needs children -- an ideal credential, I thought, to tutor me in Spanish. She agreed, and every day thereafter, from 9 a.m. till noon, we had "class" in Carmeni's kitchen while preparing traditional Colombian dishes such as roast-spiced fish and potato-and-chicken soup. We chopped, sautéed and thrashed through conversations in Spanish about everything: native fruits, American politics and profi ts in Central America, the occasional cluelessness of our husbands. Whenever we arrived on the doorstep of something complicated, we'd switch to Spanglish.