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Andean priest and spiritual leader, Don Fabian Champi Apaza. Photo by Tom Pablo, Andes & Amazon Semester.

Broccoli Breakthroughs

I have never been a fan of broccoli. I kind of think it’s the worst. But after three weeks of eating the one vegetarian option of eggs and rice for nearly every meal, the sight of something green on my plate was nothing short of a miracle. I was still eating eggs and rice, but now I had freshly harvested broccoli between my bites of fried egg. And it actually tasted really good. As I got settled into my routine, I learned that not only would I be eating broccoli every day, but I would be devouring an array of fresh veggies. My meals, from now on, would be accompanied by broccoli, carrots, and celery, to name a few. All grown right out the back door. Was my new home, a veggie farm in Colpapampa, Bolivia’s version of heaven?

Maybe. But the delicious greens don’t come out of nowhere. They require daily hours of planting, watering, and harvesting. My host family has taught me that not only is much dedication required to get the veggies from the ground to the table, but that preparing the greens to sell is yet another project. While sorting celery with my host mom, I learned that the stocks shouldnt be too thick and the leaves should not have even the smallest specs of brown or yellow (the pile of unsellable celery goes to the animals). While helping sell broccoli on the street, I learned that you have to cut just the right amount so that you can sell all of it, because if you have leftovers for the next day the customers will notice that they are not freshly cut. My host family’s dedication to their business is truly inspiring, as even the incoming results of the presidential election last Sunday only deserved attention once all of the veggies were cut, sorted, and ready to be sold.

While planting lettuce the other day, I realized how much I have begun to relate my own experience to vegetables (maybe I am eating so many that I am becoming one…). As I covered the tiny roots of each leaf with dry soil that one of my host parents would soon come by to water, I thought about how the growth of the lettuce is not all that much different from my own. My roots are strengthened and my leaves are brightened when I absorb the water and nutrients of those around me. Right now, this takes the form of my host family, my fellow dragons, and all of the other people we have had the privilege of learning from. Maybe my spirit animal should really just be a homegrown veggie? Or maybe Bolivia is causing me to completely lose my mind? Either way, I’ll take all of the nutrients you’ve got.