Saturday, September 4, 2010

I’ve taken a load off!

Well, I’ve been back in the States for just over a week. So while I jump back into grad school classes and catch up with friends and slam away on my final reports for Save the Children and look for a job (and that’s just my schedule in the first week!), I’ve started to notice ways in which I don’t quite fit into my DC life like I used to. Not least because I seem to have shed about ten pounds since I left!

I know what most people want to ask first, and the answer is no. I ate plenty in Bolivia. The food was great, and cheap, so I was always willing to treat myself to something sweet or a little snack when I felt puckish.

So what was different? For starters, the choices! At my home (which I miss terribly!) we ate traditional meals centered around meat and potatoes, just like most Bolivians, and most US residents for that matter. But in Bolivia everything was fresh. Almost everything was brought in from the nearby countryside, or at the farthest from the valleys a few hours away. Things were not soaked in preservatives and additives. They were just straight up, plain old ingredients that were also often organically grown because pesticides are unnecessary and fertilizers expensive. Since I got back I’ve been unable to stomach heavily preserved and additive filled foods. I crave fresh fruit (especially the mandarins! How I miss the mandarins!)

What a travesty that in our country eating fresh, organic food has become a privilege of the economically elite! I can’t afford to buy only fresh vegetables here and must settle for using canned tomatoes and frozen peas and canned corn. What a topsy turvy world North America is, when compared to the realities of other continents!

The other reason I think I’ve lost so much weight is that Bolivians follow a different meal schedule. I would eat something small for breakfast, maybe bread and a mug of tea at 7:30 or 8:00am. A little after noon would come the big meal of the day, a three course lunch. First the soup, which would fill me up quite a bit, then a “second” that consisted of a large portion of meat with a large portion of potatoes and/or rice plus a sizeable (in my house, at least, due to my landlady’s health consciousness) portion of vegetables. For desert we would almost always eat mandarins or oranges. After work I would sometimes grab something to eat, but just as often it would be something small like breakfast was. There was usually no formal evening meal. My landlady swore that this was good for body, because digestion slows down at night, especially in the cold of winter and with the high altitude.
All in all, I think they may be on to something. (After all, the Aymaras were forcasting the El Nino effect for millennia and “Western” science only started being able to do that about 20 years ago!) It’s been great to get home to my new-again old clothes that I couldn’t wear when I left. There's all kinds of stuff that I forgot I owned while I was wearing the same few things for three months.

It’s for sure. Sometimes travel isn’t an entirely “expansive” experience. And, I don’t plan on fully returning to my previous DC life. Some changes, like my renewed love to healthy foods and exercise, will just have to stay!

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