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Two Dragons welcome the sunrise with an improvised dance atop the Andes. Photo by Ryan Gasper.

Potatoes

As a kid eating dinner, my close friends and family always guilted me into (trying to make me) eat all of the food on my plate. They talk about kids that do not have food to eat, and how lucky you are to have that extra food on your plate. But, it is never a realistic, visible issue — hungry kids, that is. Or it was not, for me, until the I was in Q´eros for a week.

Before the trek began, our instructors told us that we would only be eating potatoes for the entirety of the trip. I believed them to an extent, and thought that they were overexaggerating so that we would not be shocked by the lack of food diversity. I thought there would be a few vegetables here and there, as well.

It turns out that they were not overexaggerating. I ate potatoes for every meal on the trek. Ocassionally, it was potato soup, but even that was a rarity. It was incredibly difficult for me, as I am privileged to a diversity of foods in my normal life. Yet, as much as I struggled, I realized that the people of Q´eros did not have the ability to think about their lack of food choices. They had to feed their families, and there was only one kind food that could satisfy their needs at such high an altitude this time of year.

For me, I watched families with five, six, or seven children, all go above and beyond to meet my needs. They opened their homes up to a complete and total stranger, and were completely welcoming. They shared what little food they had with me, and offered me a place in their homes for me to sleep. It was humbling to experience something like this. It is a trek and and week that I will never never forget in my whole life.

Now, when I see potatoes on my plate, or even extra food, I have a different thought process than I did before. I can actually appreciate the privilege of having that food, and I can understand what it is like to not have the leftovers. As we are leaving in just 11 days from now, I know that I will share these lessons from Q’eros with all my friends and family, as even for them, hungry kids is probably not a realistic image.