the spirit of food

riftvalley_Panorama1

(The rift valley)

The hungryskier blog started as a blog that looked at the eating habits of the ski culture. It has now morphed into whatever I want it to be. I often times would look at how we relate to food from a utility aspect and from and social aspect. Now I think to myself, does our relationship to food depend on our physical access to food? I do not have a good relationship with beets. I cannot lie. I do not like them. I feel like I am eating red dirt. But then, could our surroundings and social experiences change our relationship to food? Could my experience with Kenyans alter my view, taste, appreciation, and how I treat food? YES.

 

While in Kenya I ate beets and they tasted good. BOOM. My dad would be so proud. It is not a surprise to come home to find beets boiling away on the stove spilling deep red water all over the counter. When I am in a different culture, I do not give myself the opportunity to not eat something. It is not polite to leave food on your plate in many cases. I eat what I am given. But this time it was different. i more enjoyed the beets put in front of me. Maybe it was the way they were cooked. Maybe it was the company surrounding me. Maybe it was the atmosphere of joy and a foreign family that changed my taste palate. Our relationship to food dictates how we utilize food.

DSC_0409

 

 

 

(even the elephants take family time)

Through the the lense of our paradigms, we may assume food is only a vehicle of social joy and experience when you have the resources to let it be. We could assume that those who have less use food more for sufficing their bodily need and do not let it morph into a social experience. This view is both right and wrong. When we were feeding orphans, they did not hesitate to begin eating. They did not get in groups and socialize over the aspects of their meal. But it was also a social time. They came together and smiled and would talk. This time every day had not just become and feeding time, but a time to eat with friends. Families are the same. Despite the drastic differences in income, the way a family sits down to dinner in the US is very similar to the way a family sits down in Kenya. They came together, said grace with grateful hearts, and ate as a social unit. There was discussion and laughter, smiles and frowns, and a commitment not just to the food, but to the group that we were sitting in.

DSC_0327

Food brings life. It brings life in the physical but it is also a conduit for life in the spirit. You can see the light in people grow brighter as they prepare, eat, and clean up a meal with each other. A couple friends and I do this every time we are together. We prepare, cook, and clean the meal and it brings joy and life to us. Not only do we get the nutritional life through the food, but we get the light of life in the sharing with one another. There is a reason a pretty big historical figure told us all to come together to break bread. There is something beyond nutritional substance that goes on. It transcends cultural, socio-economic, and man made borders. It goes beyond explanation. It goes beyond species too.

DSC_0039

more to come soon 🙂

 

all pictures property of Benjamin L. Crosby

 

they eat more kale

 

DSC_0043

 

I hate to break it to you Vermont but Kenya has been eating more Kale for a long long time. In fact it is their staple. It gets shredded and cooked with some corn or it can be done in God-only-knows how many different ways. There might be some lemon or lime juice on there and some other seasoning and it tastes great. This IS what they eat. We have variety around here but there… they eat what they have to.

DSC_0194

Mid-week we went and visited the different schools around Nakuru that have been aided into existence by CCO and Everyone’s child (3 primary and 1 secondary to be specific). It is amazing looking at 1000 well behaved kids sitting in front of you. It is even more amazing to see how much they want to be at school. It is so overused, but you do not know what you have until its gone. Before these kids could not go to school. They were stuck in the cycle. They were never to get out. Then they had the chance. They are not going to complain about how hard homework is because school is their ticket to a better life. In fact, for most Americans, school still is a ticket out to a better life, but we just do not see it that way anymore. It inspired me to see a drive an motivation in these kids. Traditional economics would say they are poor because they do not work hard enough so higher wages or better jobs are not allocated in their direction. That is false, they are poor for other reasons but we could all learn from the motivation of one of these kids. (above are some orphans from “Kiti” with the members of our trip)

DSC_0281

The hardest day for me was when we went to one school in a town who’s translation mean camp of fire. This school was hot. The ground was red and your footprints looked as if they were on the moon. This town saw serious fighting, destruction, and bloodshed after the 2008 election fighting. Many orphans ended up at this school with nowhere to go. All of the students at this school get fed and for most, it is the only meal of the day. There are a large number of orphans there as well. Helping to feed these kids will stay with me forever. The divide should be connected. For all of those who help and support feeding kids especially in places far away, it is real what you do. It can change everything for a kid and their family.

DSC_0287

The meal is nothing over the top. Very simple but to these kids it lets them sleep at night and helps them to concentrate in school. This community also has to walk over a mile to get water that is dirty. Everyone’s Child has been working to get a borehole dug to bring clean water to this community. The effort has been held up by some of the many problems that can face a development project so pray it will be completed as soon as it can.

I will post again tomorrow with more from the trip. I will leave you with a picture. I hope you look into this picture and you see the beauty and wonder of the hand of God. It is here, it is there, it is everywhere, and it is in many places that we seem to forget. We do not forget because we are bad people, but let us forget one less time as we go on.

DSC_0330

 

 

 

 

 

Please forgive my bad grammar and typos. This was done quickly and I am quite tired from the travel.

All photos are the property of Benjamin L. Crosby.

 

What time is it? What happened to sunday?

***Post from Monday uploaded late***

I consider it a blessing that I enjoy leaving my comfort zone. As I spoke last time, the door opened for me to be able to go to Kenya. That time is now. The winter has proven to be moving faster than anticipated. Finals came, finals ended, graduation went by, and the life of a full time snow sports supervisor took over. The past couple months have been wonderful but I do not know where they went.

I am currently typing this while sitting on a bed looking out my window as acacia, avocado, and banana trees sway in the breeze. My left arm has a burn not matched by my right from only a couple hours sitting front passenger on a drive. We flew into Nairobi last night. The trip took many hours. It started with a 1pm flight from Burlington, VT to Detroit. Detroit then took us on an Airbus 330 to Amsterdam.  From Amsterdam we were on a Boing 747 to Nairobi. Leaving on Saturday it is now Monday. We got into Nairobi at 9:00 pm last night and with the time change and the flights… I do not know what happened to Sunday.

I felt oddly at peace driving from the airport. The warm breeze and the slight scent of burning trash has become a familiar atmosphere. The generosity and love of other people will never cease to amaze and inspire me. From the moment we got off the plane, met our driver, and were on the road, I felt safe and welcome. The insane driving on the wrong side of the road, constant beeping, and swerve tactics no longer make me feel the least bit nervous but add a joy to the moment. We stopped at a gas station to buy water. Bottled water… no big deal, right? We take for granted so many things in our lives. I am not saying this to put our western culture down, but to shed light on our blessings that we ignore. The plight of diarrhea in many countries is a serious issue. When a bacterium is ingested and we get diarrhea, it dehydrates us. To combat this illness we must drink water. What if the water we need to rehydrate is what got us sick in the first place?

 

There are three wonderful young women on the trip with me who attend Harwood. It was interesting because tonight the family with whom we are staying with thanked God for bringing us here. I could tell some of them were not sure how to handle that statement. It was the same way when I was in Honduras this past spring. Some members of the team almost felt slighted because God was getting the thanks and not them. Here is the perspective I want to show. If you live in one of these places and God is the center of your world, like many of these people, you don’t throw that statement around if you do not feel that way. They are saying that you are a gift from God. They could not bring a more immense explanation of their feelings. I know the three will be bringing back home more than they expected.

 

Internet here is not a constant. I will do my best to update as often as possible. I will try to post pictures of the local flora and fauna and cannot guarantee any of me. Feeling after first couple days: Amazed and humbled with how big this world is and the majesty and beauty that there is yet to find.

I am using a painfully slow internet cafe connection and could not get any pictures to upload. Pictures to come later.

Post Hiatus Post…

It s amazing how taking a few weeks off in the summer leads to months of no posting. Oh well. Such is life.

For those who care that much about my life… I got home from Honduras, had my sister’s wedding (beautiful!!! I would share pictures but I don’t think it is necessary), hiked in the mountains all summer, started my last semester, and here we are! That was a quick 5 month narrative.

On a different note… I am always amazed at how we can be humbled. Humans have amazing abilities and amazing potential but we mess up with stuff all of the time. We assume we have complete mastery over our lives and the universe and I find this proven wrong daily. Sometimes for the good and sometimes for the bad. I can try to take control of my day and say that I will have full say in what I do. I can try, but life is so interconnected with so many forces acting upon it that to say we understand it all is foolish.

I was offered to assist a development project in Kenya. Awesome. I love working on development and helping others. The traditional economist would say that it is out of selfish motivation that I help others… I would say it is because I have been charged to do it and it is the right thing to do. I realized that I would need to go to kenya to truly understand the project and its realm of possibility. This is when a friend was already going to Kenya in February(www.everyoneschild.net). I now have a plane ticket. I did not concoct the means and the situations that came about for this opportunity though. Some things are out of my control. Sometimes when doors open, we can walk through or ignore them. But is it coincidence that something that I have been wanting to do for years now falls on my lap?  I doubt it.

I find it interesting that my blog title is the hungry skier and I am going to an area of the world (again!) where people are hungry and food is not abundant. ABUNDANT… that is a word I want all of you who are actually reading my blog to ponder. What do we have that is abundant!? Water, Food, Money, plastic crap, and lots of things. What do we not have in abundance? Time, patience, maybe love, maybe compassion, faith? In all I have done, I have learned to look to those with less, to see what we lack. I am sure when I go to Kenya I will learn that I have little love. I will learn that I have little faith. I will learn that I have little compassion. I will learn that I have much to gain.

In our society, what can we gain that will actually be of benefit. Will the iPhone 5 or the new car really advance our life? Will our perspective ever change? Will my perspective ever change to understand what I have?! And then… will this new perspective shed light onto what I and we need? What is bigger than us? What transcends our our lives and has broad impacts.

My apologies if I went too deep. I am in a fairly reflective mood at the moment.

I leave you with this: What can we learn from this girl?

 

 

Work, Work, Work

So it has been a very busy hard week. We left Copan last Wednesday for the drive to San Pedro Sula to meet the rest  of our team at the airport. Naturally, their plane was late. The long bus ride and the bumpy road made some grumpy attitudes but they were quickly relieved when we saw our friends. The amount of luggage was insane. Two vans carried all of the luggage including our clothes and project gear while the van carried the noisy gringos. We were heading south on the Pan American highway to the area of Taulabe. We stayed/staying at this  farm coop called CEASO and it was very interesting. The farm has alternative agriculture practices and works to improve the quality of food and life for those who participate.

It was in this area that we started our projects. There were many class projects raining from efficiency testing in sugar production, to women’s self defense, to my Computer Lab project. Our project was changed drastically right off of the bat. There were some questionable activities (I will leave it at that) that happened on the road to the school we were going to work at. The other groups who were going to work there were moved to other schools but our project stayed. UVM let us continue but we had a heavily armed police escort to and from the school (sorry mom). We picked up the computers and brought them back to our place to figure them out and load the software. The government had bought these programs and hired a third party to set them up. The third party destroyed the computers with passwords, blocks, and files that made them impossible to use due to the fact that they abandoned the project without giving any info about the computers. Luckily Josh is brilliant with computers and it only took 3 days for us to get through the junk, reload the operating system, and try to salvage the computers.

Because of the conflict in the community, we were cut to only have tuesday to set the lab up, wednesday to teach for a couple hours, and thursday to finnish teaching them how to use computers… Yea… I was praying for strength. We spent all day tuesday setting up the lab and it looked like we actually knew what we are doing (it’s not about knowing, it’s about giving the impression that you know:)

Wednesday came with us teaching 9th graders how to use the computers. 15 minutes into the lesson, the power went out and never came back on. In case you were not aware, it is very difficult to teach computers with no power. So we did the best with what we were given. Today we taught teachers and students. We take for granted computer access in the united states. It is amazing watching adults and children struggle to find letters on a keyboard when we just cruse through writing a paper. The day went very well though. The students were very enthused and had a fun time. The teachers did well though they did not learn as quickly as the students. Were were also able to set up a connection in the community with a computer technician to maintain the lab and provide lessons. Awesome!

Josh and I did the best we could with what we were given. We took unusable computers and create a working lab and taught the basics of computer care, Microsoft word, and how to research on an encyclopedia. There is now a computer contact in the area and the ability for the school to utilize the lab in their studies. Josh and I are very pleased with what we accomplished and really hope that this school takes ownership of this lab and uses it to its potential.

The food has been good but I had some solid stomach aches earlier this week. Because of this I have lost my appetite for most meals which I guess isn’t horrible. I heard the food will become more familiar for the last week. We will be in some other communities that I have heard have rich culture so that will be very exciting.

Honduras is beautiful. The people are kind and they have a sense of humor that makes me smile. Our bus driver is one of the funniest people ever and even though I don’t speak spanish and he does not speak english. I will try to continue to update as soon as possible with more photos and more stories!

 

Farming on black diamonds

I do not have a lot of time for this post but yesterday we went to some hot springs. On the way to these hot springs I was able to see the state of agriculture in the area. In Vermont and the United States, we have been blessed with rich agriculture land to grow our food on to meet the growing needs of the populous. We take food for granted in the United States and I am not pointing the finger because I know I do. Our insatiable need for foods also impacts countries that we never think about… like Honduras.

There are lots of crop lands by the coast in Honduras that can be farmed very well. The problem with this is that most Hondurans are not able to use this land for their own agricultural production to meet their own needs. Companies like Dole and Chiquita own much of this land and use it to grow fruits (mainly bananas) to meet the needs of the US and European Markets. What is left for the majority of Hondurans to farm is marginal soil on less than marginal land.

I was able to see this yesterday with my eyes. We are in the mountains. Mountains with little flat land in the valleys. There is no land that we would consider “grow-able” land but in the eyes of the Honduran farmer, the land needs to grow food. Being a skier I was looking at the land and comparing it to the trail grading system of the ski resorts. I saw many crops on land not only green grade, but blue grade, and then what blew my mind was a couple of slopes that could be considered black or double black diamond trails. Some of these slopes surpassed 35 degrees most likely. These are the slopes that farmers have to plant on to feed their families. These are the slopes that they have to pour fertilizer on to get a decent yeild. These are the slopes that bring the soil and pesticides down into the watershed with every rain. This water is what they drink. It upset me and it depressed me. I could not imagine having to climb these slopes to plant maize (corn) or coffee or anything else. The soil is full of clay and the vegetation struggles.

What is the solution? I do not know of any solution but I feel that knowledge of these issues cannot hurt. I wish I could show more people how the externalities of our way of life can impact the very ability for others to have half of the things we call “necessary”. Pictures unfortunately do not do justice. Seeing it with your own eyes does not even do justice.

Central American Living

Life in Honduras is interesting. It is normal. It has a faith and a passion. Today is sunday and the folks of Copan Ruinas have two cares -> Church and football (soccer). If they show a greater passion for one, I couldn’t tell you which.

I have had the opportunity to meet locals and travelers in this historical town near the Guatemala border. All of them have a work worn look but a smile and glow about them. All of the men wear jeans, a button down, and a cowboy hat when they work so you can spot the rows of white hats walking down the street blocks away. The streets are cobble stone with little “tuk tuks”  (taxis) flying up and down the hills bring people up and down to and from the downtown. Picture five people stuffed into a cart the size of a golf cart screaming around bumpy corners but with only a single front wheel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The nightlife has bars and restaurants. The bars hold the younger ones and the gringos while the local restaurants have authentic Honduran cuisine that is excellent. The local beats blast from the subs of tens of vehicles circling the roads doing nothing more than blasting beats. Dogs roam the streets looking for trash or other dogs while kids pay with the ones they like and adults sit on the steps talking about whatever it is adults talk about.

I had the opportunity to to go to Mayan Ruins yesterday which were amazing. The immensity of them was humbling and the history of it all was fascinating. The amount of arenas and temples with the millions of volcanic rocks stacked on each other made you realize the work that went into it. Apparently they would rebuild them every 52 years in line with the calendar and they would be built larger and more beautiful. Now the roots of 400 year old trees wind there way through the stones and nature has claimed much of what once was clean stonework. You see plaster hold the loose rock in place so rain and weather does not destroy any more of the structures. This has been the highlight of my trip. Central America is the black sheep of the west. The “developed” governments scare people away when the culture and history is waiting to be explored and experienced.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have been learning spanish with a tutor for 4 hours a day this week. From having no background in spanish, I can now say that I can communicate. It is not pretty or eloquent but I can get by. I will be starting my projects later this week and will try to keep you guys updated. Internet is not a given here so I will do what I can.