Water and Potatoes

Alexandra Lines - Ecuador


November 13, 2013

One day, I traveled to a small community in the countryside with a woman from Spain, and two sisters from Italy. They were conducting an investigation into the water systems of rural Ecuador, and I went along with them to learn and observe. We talked with the farmers about how they have to walk an hour everyday to the source of water in the community, and then walk home carrying it on their backs. They were looking for support to make a better system so that they can have water more readily available in their homes. After we had a meeting with the town, they invited us into a small house to eat. They gave us bread, eggs, warm milk, potatoes and guinea pig. The townspeople gathered around us and sat on the ground, as we huddled around a table, eating the organically grown potatoes with our hands. The woman from Spain, Inma, kept asking why they weren’t eating with us. The two girls from Italy talked about how they gave us a whole mountain of food — something I had not noticed. In fact, I thought the portions had been relatively small. While I thought about little more than how much I don’t like eating guinea pig skin, Inma kept asking if everyone else was going to eat with us. After a while, she got up and gave two little girls the two remaining pieces of bread from the table. One of the girls from Italy got up and passed around the remaining eggs to the women, and took a bowl to start piling the extra potatoes into it. I marveled at the mixture of cultures – the Ecuadorians who gave us the gift of cuy (guinea pig), which is only served for special occasions, the women from Spain and Italy who worried about everyone who was present, wanting to make sure they were fed, and the North American, who thought about little more than the taste of the food in her mouth. It was very challenging for me to realize how much my culture has shaped how I think about others – I simply had not thought about sharing with everyone present. I reflected on how beautiful it was that all of the people around me wanted to share and feed each other. Clearly, I am not yet a Global Citizen, and I have a long journey ahead until I become one. But when the bowl passed by me, I dropped my remaining  potatoes into it, making a very small step in the right direction.

Alexandra Lines