Special Dinner Event (English Blog #3)

José Israel Cruz


August 31, 2014

I have two other blog posts about my time in Pre-Departure Training in the process of being completed. But after tonight, I feel the need to break the chronological coherence I had planned to maintain for my blog page.

I write these words on the evening of August 25th, 2014

Hello, guys! I know many of you are curious of knowing what I’ve been up to in Pre-Departure Training. I promise I’ll give more detailed updates soon. Tonight, though, I’d like to share a little story with you. Today was our second day of training at Stanford– fifth day of training overall. The schedule and structure of the day was nothing different from the other days, except for one small feature. Instead of “6:00pm-7:00pm: Dinner”, our schedules said “6:00pm-7:30pm Special Dinner Event”. They gave us zero hints about what was so special about tonight’s dinner. All they asked was for us to show up on time. So, naturally, I arrived at 6:01 pm.

Upon arriving to the courtyard, I noticed the weirdest thing: there was only one table and 30 or so extra seats. Most of the Fellows were sitting on the floor. I noticed an empty seat at the table, but as I walked to it, a leader called on me, gave me a small white piece of paper, and told me to sit on the floor. The paper was the role I had to play in what apparently ended up being a role-playing dinner. On the top of the paper, it said “LOW INCOME” in bold, all-capital letters. The paper also had my identity. I was a girl from Bangladesh named Apurba.

Everyone in the floor with me had their own identities, most with backstories more unfortunate than mine. I noticed that the 30 or so extra seats were for those who got “Middle Income” roles. The table was for the “High Income” roles and only sat about 10 lucky souls. Once everyone was seated, our leaders started reading some statistics. “Your distribution is a representation of the world’s population,” they said. They read a few numbers to us:

High Income: Anyone winning $12,000 per year or more. This group represents 15% of the world’s population.

Middle Income: Anyone winning between $11,999 and $986 per year. This group represents 35% of the world’s population.

Low Income: Half of the world population. Living with $2.70 a day or much less.

After that, we proceeded to eat dinner:

The High Incomes had access to the buffet, which was supposed to be everyone’s dinner. They could not share with anybody.

The Middle Incomes were only allowed to eat a plate of rice and beans. They could not share with anybody.

The Low Incomes? We had to wait until the Middles were done serving themselves, and we distributed whatever was left inside the cauldron. I remind you: Low Income was more than half of us. We also couldn’t use plates or utensils. We’d grab the food with our hands or a napkin, and eat either face-first or with our hands. I remind you once again. This is half of the world’s population….

For most of us, this was the most meaningful dinner we had ever eaten. After we finished eating dinner, the Cohort shared their thoughts about the activity. The emotions, thoughts and troubles that came up during this debriefing were deep, and really deserve a properly formulated blog all in itself. For now, I invite you to just… think about it. If you want to take it a step further, I invite you to try having a Low Income dinner this week, because I recognize that there is no combination of words I can use to tell this story that can give you a perfect idea of what we as a Cohort felt, and I really hope that you may get to feel this too. It’s an eye opener.

I’ll appreciate your cooperation in this matter.

 

José Israel Cruz