With a group of university students from Canada, we took a trip to Mizque. Mizque is about 4 and half hours south of the city of Cochabamba. It is a small city and yet, like other parts of Bolivia, it is rich in a culture of hospitality. I encountered this hospitality through a simple exchange of words and gestures from an older Quechuan woman in the community of Buena Vista.
We came to the community of Buena Vista to do some community outreach. In the hope of building a relationship with Buena Vista, we did three things. The first thing was to give health check-ups to kids as well as adults and then give medicine to those were sick. The second thing was to play with the kids in Buena Vista. We did parachute games, blew bubbles, and played games jump ropes. Then, the final activity was to distribute bags filled with flour, oatmeal, rice, pasta, and oil to the neediest families. It was during this final activity that I had my encounter with this Quechuan woman.
After playing many games with the kids in the hot sun, I sat down on a stoop in the shade to rest for a while. Along side of me, there was an older Quechuan woman who was sitting down. She was probably escaping the afternoon sun just like I was doing. She asked me in Spanish, “What are you going to give me?” I responded, “ My love, kisses, and hugs.” She started to laugh and gave me the biggest smile. She then told me to get closer to her and put my head on her shoulders. Then, she said, “We are friends.” I continued to rest my head on her shoulders until she got up to be in line for the distribution of food.
I share this one story from this trip because it made me think about the hospitality that this woman showed me. She noticed how tired how I was because I immediately found shade and sat down; I was chugging water so I could re-hydrate my body; and my eyes began to close as soon as I sat down. She knew all of this out from watching my body language. From this act of observation, she offered the only thing that she could give me, her shoulder. It was a simple and humble gift that I gladly took after being in the hot sun.