Friday, May 23, 2014

the kindness of strangers.

I grew up in the Midwest. A place you can still borrow a cup of sugar from your neighbor. A place where strangers say hello to each other on the street. Where strangers will offer to share their umbrella when it rains and help you when you look lost.

There is a culture in the Midwest that I have missed living in DC. Some people will say hello to you, but usually when I say “good morning” to the familiar faces I see each day on my morning runs, I am met with blank stares and confusion. The metro is a lonely place, where rarely do you say hello to the people around you, even though you may share hours together, especially on track work days.

I, however, think taking the time to say hello to strangers is important. You never know who you will meet.  Plus, weren’t we all once strangers in a strange land? Who knows, maybe a hello is all someone needs to put their mind at ease.

There have been a number of times in my short near-adult (I refuse to admit I may actually be an adult) life, that I have been genuinely impressed by the kindness of strangers. Once, while hitchhiking in California, a man gave me $20 and just asked for me to send him a postcard after my hike. I had a couple make me dinner at their home while I was hiking in Colorado. After a half-marathon in New Orleans, someone noticed I didn’t have anyone to take me home, bought me an Irish coffee and escorted me to my hotel.

This week, I stepped off the plane in Kabul. I was self-conscious that my headscarf was crooked and did my best to keep my eyes down. I hate traveling to places without a grasp of the language and the culture, but I am here for work, and there was no time to learn Pashto. I read as much as I could about the country, its customs, and its people, but, I felt like I was really walking into an unknown land.

The plane, which was perhaps built in the 80s, slightly musky with tacky carpeting and no “no smoking signs,” landed in Kabul a bit late, after a turbulent flight from Islamabad. People started shuffling into line to wait for their hand checked baggage, and I followed suit. I looked around the landing field surprised to see that Kabul is truly beautiful, surrounded by incredible, snow-capped mountains. I pulled out my phone to snap what I thought would be an artsy picture of the tail of the plane with the mountains behind it, but was quickly scolded by a bearded man in a uniform holding a gun. I decided he was not the type to explain that I just wanted to Instagram the picture to my friends back home. I looked later and the photo was blurry, but I will try again when I fly out.

I waited for a long time before I saw the woman who had sat next to me on the plane. She asked if it was my first time to Kabul, we joked about how long the luggage was taking, and eventually I learned she worked for WFP. We talked shop a few minutes before we realized our luggage had already been taken to the “unclaimed luggage” area. She told me to follow her. I did and we were greeted by a man in a UNICEF vest. He skillfully pushed past the people returning from their spring pilgrimage. These pilgrims had more luggage than you can imagine. I have no idea what they were packing, but as I waited with my new friend, I saw huge package after package, wrapped in tarps and ropes being tossed onto luggage carts. There were hundreds of bottles of holy water. Many of the men had two or three carts full of their family’s luggage. Pushing past them was not easy, and I was quickly lost in the crowd. My new friend waved goodbye, and I saw her move quickly past all the security lines. I however, stayed behind and got the pleasure of going through four different customs security counters.

As I finally emerged from the airport, I looked at my watch. My driver was supposed to pick me up at 8:00 and it was already 9:45. I was a little nervous that perhaps he had left me. I did not see anyone with an IMC logo-ed sign with my name on it, as I had in Islamabad.

I asked someone where “Park C” was, as my instruction from the driver was to meet him there. The man I asked, who spoke very little English, directed me to a taxi.  You can imagine then the negotiations about me not wanting a taxi, the taxi driver insisting that I cannot walk to my hotel form the airport and that he would give me a good price, and me trying to explain that I had a colleague meeting me.  Eventually they understood I was looking for “Park C” and escorted me there. 

At “Park C,” it was easy to spot the standard white land cruiser of the NGO world, and I checked the license plate with the information I was given. I stood by the car for a few minutes, and a man next to me explained in, what I assumed to be, Pashto something, I think about the driver’s whereabouts. But he could have been commenting on the weather. Or on my beautiful face. Or on Cabbage Patch Dolls.

Eventually I walked back into the airport and found a young man, sans beard, with western-style dress. I asked if he spoke English and he said yes. I then asked to use his phone. He looked so upset when he explained he had no credit, but quickly called another man other and insisted he give me his phone. These two men, mind you, certainly did not know each other.

Eventually I got ahold of the driver and thanked the men who had helped me get ahold of him. The driver explained that when I had walked (right past him), he assumed I was an Afghani woman. I felt good about my ability to blend in, and better that I had finally found my ride.

Throughout the whole experience, I never felt worried or lost. I had nice strangers, all along the way, offering to help and making sure I made it to my end destination.

Even when I feel furthest from home, I am continually impressed by the kindness of strangers.  I only hope I can return the favor.  Maybe when I get back to DC, I will find someone lost, who doesn’t speak English, and I can lend them my phone. If not, I will at least continue to say hello to strangers. Nothing like a smile on the metro to make you feel like you are back in Omaha, and make the track work seem a little more manageable.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Preparedness Time

Though National Preparedness Month is September, it is really always "Preparedness Time."

Monday, September 24, 2012

we danced, we laughed. we ate. (despedida part 2)

As preparations started, I met with a woman in town to discuss the food at the party. I wanted to hire her and a couple friends to do all the cooking. She was the wife of one of my friends, but I hardly knew her, so I asked her how much she would charge. At a somewhat steep-seeming cost, we agreed and went about making the shopping list.

It was clear when making the list that she did not have a lot of experience throwing big parties. Some of the things on her list would be way too few, others, like 40 kilos of potatoes seemed pretty steep.

So I took the list to Mama Luisa, who I knew knew how to throw a party. She looked at the list and laughed and asked if I had made it alone. I explained I made it with the woman cooking for the party. Mama Luisa just looked at me blankly. Why had I hired someone to cook? Of course Mama Luisa and my other friends would be doing the cooking. I explained that I did not want any of my guests stressing about preparing the food, and that I wanted to be able to enjoy the party. Mozambican party preparation can often start at 5 the day of the event, and I wanted nothing to do with that. I wanted to blow up balloons and string them in my trees.

Mama Luisa called in Pastor Ricardo and explained what happened. He then called in a few neighbors. Soon, it was a full fledged intervention. They group decided that I was no longer the Dona (in charge) of my party, but just the coordinator of its events. They were taking charge and I had to agree. They called the lady I had spoken with and told her it was wrong to try to charge me. They organized a plan and agreed to meet the day before to make the pig's marinade and made me a good list for my shopping.

I set about making a condom piñata (made of a condom, painted to look like an oblong rainbow colored globe) and made a grab bag for guests to have a party favor. I was determined to add some American party flare.

The days before the party were busy. I had to pick up firewood from one lady and bring chairs from the Pastor's house. I helped slaughter a pig. (That in itself was a huge ordeal including but not limited to: a dog attack, painful squeals on the part of said pig, and my invitation to a usually men's only ritual of the first bites). I wanted a new dress, so I had to sit patiently as my dress lady took her time chatting with her friends while finishing my hem. I went to sleep the night before the party worried that it would pour, that no one would come, and that the rice was totally burnt.

Saturday, the day of the event, I woke up early and squeezed in a quick run before 6 when Melita was diligently on time and already getting the fire started. I joined her and started peeling the 20 kilos of potatoes. As my other friends arrived to help with the cooking we were all given one pot to man. Obviously I do not know how to cook anything right, so I was given dish duty (only after having first been given salad duty and Celeste decided I was cutting the lettuce too small). I washed dishes and set the table. Then I put up balloons in the trees and hung up the piñata. It was starting to look like a party.

Though I had told people to arrive around noon, 12 o'clock rolled around and I was still sneaking tastes of the food as we finished getting everything ready. The energy came back on around 12:30, so we went to set up the speakers I had borrowed for the event. It did not take long to realize we were missing a few cords and a DVD player to actually have music, so we divided up the errands and I sat and started to receive guests.

Eventually we got the music going and Celeste started the party off with a speech and then put me on the spot to make another. Then everyone took a turn talking about how I had truly become a Manjacaziana. Though it was hard to hear people making speeches about me leaving, it was really wonderful to have everyone together.

After a huge lunch, which everyone loved – especially the “festa rice,” rice with carrots and green peppers, and a number of other of my favorite dishes that people had brought for the pot luck (I think there was a bit of a competition to see which dish I would serve the most from, so I ended up eating a lot so as not to seem like I preferred one over the other. The ladies helping me cook knew I was partial to their special dish, which I told them to please set aside an extra bowl for me to keep this week – tihove is made from corn and peanuts and is just wonderful), we set in for the games.

I got to spin all the kids around for the piñata, and with 9 year old Aderito I regretted spinning them according to ages-and even more doing the piñata after lunch. Eventually it was broken and everyone ran at he loot. Sylvester, I am proud to say, got two full pockets worth and gladly shared a tootsie roll with me.

Then one of the guests led a fierce game of musical chairs. It got a little ugly there in the middle, but it was so fun to see everyone, kids and adults alike, laughing so much.

Then I did the grab back. A little fighting over the kids who got crayons versus those who got the water guns, but I think just cause it was so hot that day and the water guns were awesome. Irma Alice, the head nun, got the soccer ball which she thought was ironic and I found to be just perfect as I know she will share it well.

After a procession of capulanas and a little fashion show between myself and Emilia, the party evolved into a private discotheque with Mama Isaura showing off moves I didn't know could come from such a quiet, polite, and church-going woman. Eventually, Linda, the new volunteer in Manjacaze, and I were the only two left belting out to “Love is a Battlefield” with ladle microphones.

All in all, the party achieved exactly what I had hoped. We laughed, we danced, and we ate.

It is very bittersweet leaving, and I am in many ways not yet ready. But I can say that a threw a pretty awesome going away party, and I know thinking about it will make people, including myself, smile for a while. Especially when I think of Mama Isaura bustin' a serious move.

nao. nao da nada. (despedida part 1)

In Mozambique, if you are throwing a party, you better have meat.

You don't talk about how fun the party was last weekend. How much you danced. How beautiful the bride was. You talk about how there were two whole cows killed! Two! Plus chickens.

I have been thinking about having a going away party for some time now. I had to. Parties in Mozambique, like the US, need careful planning and saving. I was not about to have some mediocre party. I wanted people to really enjoy it.

At first I talked with Melita about my options. I envisioned an American style bbq, complete with checkered tablecloths.

She was not about to have us eating corn on the cob at my going away party.

After a lot of thought, I decided to buy a pig. With the addition of a couple chickens and some fries, I was on my way to having a successful party.

The problem was, the pig set me back about half of what I had planned to spend on the whole party. There was no way I could provide drinks, bathtubs full of rice, and a nice bean stew as well.

So I met the tradition halfway. As I invited people, I explained that my party was going to be a pot luck. At first people just looked at me like I was crazy. I was inviting them to a party where they had to cook something and bring it? What is this crazy girl doing now.

But eventually, enough of my friends understood that I really just wanted a fun, laid back party with lots of food and dancing. They helped me spread the word.

I started inviting people. People were not too excited that it was a despedida, but when I told them we were killing a pig, their faces lit up. Everyone seemed worried about what I would eat (the Jewish vegetarian). I explained that hopefully they would bring something delicious to share with everyone.

I invited my closest friends and my family in Manjacaze. I didn't want the whole town coming, though I knew many people would hear about it and just show up. I invited twenty or so people. I planned for about fifty.

When I invited Papa Nhampule, my guard, he looked very concerned. I explained that I was just having a party to celebrate my two years here and I wanted all of my favorite people there, so he needed to be there with his wife. He just shook his head.

We are killing a pig! I explained.

He looked down. “Nao, nao da nada.” Why? I couldn't understand why this was so bad. He explained he wouldn't even want a party with a whole cow. He didn't want to go to my despedida. He didn't want me to go.

I laughed and told him I had to go. He laughed as well and assured me he would be there.


I have moved a lot in the last eight years.

Each year, at the end of the spring semester, I would sit with my roommates, have a bit too much to drink, and battle to fit all of my accumulated stuff into bags and boxes that could be stored in my sister's living room over the summer. Thanks Beck and Brian for putting up with that bag of hangers. I know it was ridiculous, but buying new hangers every year? Get real.

I find myself moving yet again, and for a number of reasons it is much harder. Instead of saying goodbye to friends for the summer, I am saying goodbye to a family. And I truly am not sure when I will return.

That is the first question people ask me these days. “Oh you are leaving?! Already! But-when will you be back.”

I have to answer honestly that I do not know. And I do not like it.

I don't like it that I won't get to see Sylvester loose his bottom teeth or Bernardo start high school. I won't get to continue to watch my REDES girls grow and become more sassy and independent. I won't get to gossip with my lady friends each morning or joke with the women about the market about how much I like cucumbers.

Leaving Manjacaze is not something I am ready to do. It does not seem like two years have already passed. Though I often sat wondering how time could pass so slowly, I am left thinking about where the time has gone.

I think Peace Corps is one of the few programs that really focuses on your integration into the community. There is great value in becoming someone's family. But it makes it that harder to leave.

Even when I left for Mozambique, I knew a time line. I was leaving for two years, but then I would find myself back with my friends having taco night and drinking IPAs. I was not really saying “good-bye” to anyone or anything.

Don't get me wrong here. In a lot of ways, it is time for me to leave Mozambique. If sustainability is what we are working toward, we have to eventually be comfortable handing our work off. And I know I am leaving my projects in good hands. But I can't help but treat certain things like my babies.

The jammin' will continue. The ladies are motivated and are excited to continue without me. But I worry that they won't know how to access the markets or utilize the profits in a productive and sustainable way.

The nutrition center just got a great grant from PEPFAR which will help it to get support groups established and perhaps some continuing nutrition education for the women who come through. As much as I know it is in a great place, I will miss shelling peanuts with ladies and playing with their babies as I get to know them, their families, and their challenges.

REDES is handed off to a new group of volunteers, similarly motivated to include Mozambicans in the planning and implementation of our projects.

I know there are people taking care of my projects, but these tasks, jobs, efforts have been my life for the past two years. I sometimes wake up thinking of a good REDES session or a new way to discuss hygiene with new mothers. I am sometimes kept up at night because of the thought that maybe we didn't boil the jars long enough and there is mold growing on them.

Someone will do it, though. Someone will stop by and kiss the kiddies at the casa de acolhimento. Someone will make sure my girls still have thread and that they are practicing their presentations for school. Someone will gossip with all my ladies. Someone will make sure the work continues.

Like any family, eventually, you do have to appreciate that everyone is personally capable. I treat my projects like my babies. It is hard to let go of your babies. Just ask my mom.

food blog

Every once in a while I consider changing this blog into a food blog. But then I would just join the ranks of hundreds, maybe more, food blogs out there. Sure-mine would have a catcher, based here in Manjacaze, but it just seems over-done.

Plus, who would be here reminding everyone about bee justice?

With that said, this is a special blog post dedicated to a couple of the most delicious things that I have made in the last two years.

I should warn everyone reading this that if you try it at home and want the same delicious results as I have had, best to really go to town with the spices. If I say 5-6 cloves of garlic, I mean it! When in doubt – spice it up.

A word about buying things in Mozambique: take advantage when you see something out of the ordinary. There are some markets that just stock things that you do not usually see. For example, in Xai Xai you can buy ginger. Inhambane is the only place I have ever seen herbs for sale. Indian lojas tend to stock things like feta cheese, raisins, cooking chocolate, lentils, black beans, garbanzo beans, interesting spices, oatmeal, and the list goes on. I have convinced a man in Manjacaze to stock butternut squash and he sometimes surprises me with some red peppers. Other than that, at markets as nice as the one here in Manjacaze you can find staples like lettuce, garlic, onions, cucumber, green peppers, and sometimes eggplant. At smaller markets you will find onions, annoyingly small garlic, tomatoes, and maybe a variety of leafy greens. Sometimes you will find ladies selling wild mushrooms from their yards (which should be thoroughly cleaned as they are really sandy and chewing sand makes even the best dishes completely inedible).

Fruits are seasonal except for bananas and papayas (the latter you can only get from people with trees, they are rarely for sale in the markets) There are more kinds of bananas than you could imagine and each one has a different purpose. Monkey bananas are great in fruit salads (as are others but these are my favorite). The small finger bananas are what you should go for if you are looking to smear some peanut butter on it. The bigger bananas go brown fast and work great if you are making muffins or banana bread. Papayas come in short and squat, orange varieties and longer yellower varieties. I like the orange ones, but to each her own. Mango season is late December to March, and you should make your jam then cause you will miss them a lot come August when all you can find is imported, over-priced oranges. Pineapples are best around March and April. Avocados are huge here and ripe around March to May, unless you live in a cooler spot and you get lucky with a longer season. Passion fruits are usually available on the EN1 (the highway) most of the year. Tangerine season is delightfully long and starts around May and goes til August or so.

Grow your own herbs! Herbs are hard to come by and make a huge difference in your meal preparation. Basil, dill, rosemary, and cilantro are the basics. Mint, oregano, and parsley are also nice. They really do not like the heat of summer, so keep them in a shady place and give them lots of water and TLC.

Once you have your groceries, look at what you are working with, Usually, you can make something delicious from about 50 mets worth of produce (about $2). If you are entertaining Mozambican guests, be sure to serve your “caril” (sauce) with rice or xima. I tend to make tasty veggies and eat them with some fresh bread or Agua e Sals (crackers found just about everywhere in Moz, thicker and less salty than a saltine, and really delicious with just about anything). Pasta salads are also really easy and though my Mozambican friends first thought of them as an incomplete meal, they are growing to enjoy them, as I throw so much in there they like the variety of tastes in each bite. If you have a friend who grows rice in their machamba, keep them close. Fresh rice makes an ordinary meal extraordinary.

Okay so for some recipes:

Garlic Eggplant
2-3 small eggplants
5-7 cloves of garlic
2 small onions
olive oil
black pepper
rock salt
10 or so basil leaves
Cut up the onions pretty small and the garlic even smaller. If you are lucky enough to have a garlic press, use it! Cut the eggplant into pinky-sized cubes. In a pan, heat up the oil a bit. Toss in the garlic and onions. Let them get going a bit, but not too long since eggplant takes a good minute to cook, and then add the eggplant. Keep an eye on this as you want it to all cook evenly (which is tough if you are working with irregular electricity or even worse if you are on charcoal). Add a pinch or two of salt pretty early on and a lot of black pepper soon thereafter. I like to just cover the whole thing with fresh ground black pepper. Once the eggplants are soft, turn off the heat and add the basil. Enjoy with Agua e Sals like a dip of sorts or with pasta or rice. If you want you can add tomatoes or some greens if you have them. This is great with greens as well (add them just before the eggplant is finished). Some like the tomatoes but I think they take away from the integrity of the eggplant.

Ginger Black Bean Dip
an inch or so of ginger root
7-8 garlic cloves
1-2 onions
2 cups of black beans
3 or 4 piri piris
olive oil
juice of 2 lemons
Soak the beans overnight. If you are looking to save energy, soak them in hot water. Cook them until they are nice and soft, breaking open a bit. Once they are finished drain any extra water. Put them into a bowl and add chopped ginger, garlic and onions. Mash it all together until its dip like. Add some lemon juice, olive oil, and piri piris (hot peppers). Enjoy with home-made tortillas or good ole Agua e Sals (who at this point should really be sponsoring this blog). I usually also chop up some carrots and cucumbers to dip in there.
You can also add an egg and a little flour to the mix and make some killer bean burgers.

5 tomatoes
5 cloves of garlic
2 onions
olive oil
lemon juice
black pepper
When tomatoes are cheap (June – August) take advantage of them! Make gazpacho, salsa, and brushetta. Cut up the tomatoes, garlic, and onions. Mix together with olive oil and the juice of a lemon. I, obviously, like to put in a lot of black pepper and a little salt. Fresh basil is key, I would say double the number of tomatoes and that's how many leaves of basil you should chop up and add (or more si quiser). Enjoy with fresh market bread. If you want to make this a full meal, boil yourself an egg. The juice that you are left with once you have eaten all of it makes an awesome salad dressing, but it will not keep more than a couple of days.

Veggie Stir Fry
4-5 garlic cloves
an inch of ginger
soy sauce
2 tsp spicy mustard
1 onion
¼ cabbage
2 carrots
a handful of green beans
1 green pepper
spaghetti pasta
olive oil
piri piris
Get the onions, garlic, and ginger going in the olive oil. Add about 5 tablespoons of soy sauce. Cut the veggies in medium sized pieces and add them all at about the same time, last for the green peppers, green beans, and piri piris. Add a little water if it seems to be dry or more soy sauce if you can afford it. Add in the mustard and make sure it gets really mixed in there, it will make your sauce thicker and give it a nice kick. Add cooked pasta in as well as a handful of cashews and mix it all up so the pasta really looks like real Chinese take out. Enjoy. If you are getting fancy you can get yourself some fresh camarão (shrimp) and add that to the mix. Also, all of these veggies can be substituted for whatever else you have on hand; I just do not recommend tomatoes. Something about soy sauce and tomatoes does not go well together.

Creole Butternut Squash
one butternut squash
olive oil
Tony's Creole Seasoning (to be sent in a care package from home)
Skin the squash and get the insides out. Cut it into just bigger than bite sized pieces (or whatever you feel like really). Put it in a pan and cover with olive oil and Tony's. Put in the oven (read: dutch oven) and cook until its soft. Try not to eat the whole thing in one sitting-one squash is really a lot for one person. Plus this is delicious cold or thrown into a salad the next day. This recipe also works with wild pumpkin and is a great way to impress your neighbors that you know how to cook abobora (pumpkin).

MSG Popcorn
cooking oil
Benny's Caldo
This is not really a recipe, just a really great idea (thank you J-Mills). Add caldo (chicken stock) to your popcorn instead of salt. It might be bad for you (research is very unclear on this), but it tastes so good.

This is stove-top granola, for all of you out there without ovens. Melt butter (about 4 tablespoons for a small box of jungle oats, I think 500 g, of oatmeal) and sugar (depending on how sweet you like it, I do about 2-4 tablespoons for that one box of oats). Add oats. Stir constantly so that the oats get all sticky and coated and delicious looking. Add some vanilla (I only get the cheap imitation kind so I use a lot), it will make a nice sizzling noise and make the room smell awesome. Add some cinnamon (about a tablespoon). Add raisins and cashews if you have them. Substitute roasted peanuts if you rather. Shredded coconut is also a great addition. I like to also add a little salt once it is all said and done.

I hope this gets you all thinking about the delicious food I am currently eating and a little jealous. Tonight, I made a really tasty salad with carrots, apples, raisins, cucumbers, and dill. I could probably have a whole blog just about salads, but I think now I should return to writing about justice for those with not voice beside their buzz.

Friday, August 3, 2012

what's mine is yours. what's yours you should share.

I sometimes just sit and think about my mom's pantry.

There are some things I know you can find in there today: tortilla chips and an unopened jar of quality salsa, a variety of boxed cereals, walnuts and almonds and raisins a plenty, a few shapes of pasta, black licorice, English Breakfast tea, and the list goes on. On certain days you can find a jar of artichoke hearts, some chocolates, goldfish crackers, and maybe-if I have not been home in a while- Trader Joe's trail mix.

No one in Manjacaze has a pantry like my mom.

But then again, people here do not really have pantries. The idea of having a stash of food, I have learned, is foreign to most people here. When you have extra tomatoes from your machamba, you give them to your neighbor. You might trade for their extra peanuts. You might just be thanking them for them always letting you use their well.

But it isn't just food. Americans like to have things in excess. We buy things when they are on sale, even if we do not need them. We like to have 5 different pairs of black dress shoes, because we think we need them. And plus, those patent leather ones were too cute to pass up, but I really need flats to go with that sun dress.

Mozambicans do not have things in excess. If you have two of something here, you give one to your neighbor. Melita, who does my laundry, always makes fun of how many t-shirts and skirts I have. Once she said, look I have never seen you wear this dress, you should give it to me. She was right. And I did.

This is a society of giving.

Perhaps its the traditional African tribal culture that remains or influence from years of foreign communism. Either way, Mozambicans are extremely collective. What's mine is yours. What's yours, you should share.

If you showed up at my parents house around 7 PM when I was a kid, my Mom might have sent me to answer the door. If I yelled back that it was some random neighbor kid selling popcorn for his Boy Scout troop, my Mom would have said to tell him to come back later.

It was not that she did not want to help, but getting all of us organized for dinner was enough of a trial, you did not want to come around dinner time. It should be mentioned, that my Mom always supported the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, school fundraisers, kids going on mission trips. She was a good door to knock on.

If a cute eight year old in a Brownie uniform showed up selling cookies in Mozambique, she would most likely not have much luck. No one really has extra cash for cookies on a random fall day. If, however, she showed up around dinner time, she would be invited in and could be guaranteed a delicious meal.

People here look after each other. If someone is sick, everyone in the neighborhood helps to do their laundry and cook for their family. There are no concerns about where the kids are, because they are somewhere, and eventually someone will send them home to have a bath. People often have to walk very far out to their farms. If you get caught in the rain, you can stop at someone's house, even if you do not know them, and be sure that you will be taken in for the night.

At first, people “pedir-ing” (asking) for things annoyed me. No you cannot have my shirt that I am wearing. I cannot give you my hair. I do not have any sweets with me and if I did I would be eating them. But then I learned to embrace it. If I am walking down the street with a snack, I offer some up. When I am in the chapa and someone next to me buys bananas, I gladly accept on. Why not? He has a whole bunch and I do not have any.

Collective societies work because people trust that everyone is in agreement about them. Its the classic commons problem. If you have commons for the cows to graze, everyone must utilize it only their fair share or the commons will become over-used and no longer feed anyone.

Here, cows and goats graze anywhere. Chickens roam around and I have no idea how the little capulana strip tied to their wings helps them get home, but that is the closest thing to a marker they have. No dogs have collars and if one wanders into the yard, it is alright for him to nibble on your scraps from last night. No one claims that the fruit from the tree near their house is theirs, kids who climb the tree get the best mangoes or the biggest coconuts.

It is pretty refreshing. In the US, you know you have a good relationship with your neighbors when you can borrow a cup of sugar or an egg. Here, everyone borrows from each other. If one person has a big pot, the whole neighborhood knows and will borrow it when their families come to visit. If you have some luxury item like an electric oven or a cake pan, you can expect it will be put to good use. It is not a huge favor, it is just life. Why wouldn't you share?

Well if it is peanut m&ms, I understand. I don't really share those either.