Remberto and Esther rent out space to a beautiful Quechua family. They have a store and a tire repair shop, but their families also own some farmland about an hour and a half outside the city.
When we were sharing with the family outside their shop one morning, Leo mentioned that we would love to see what the farm is like, and they invited us to help harvest fava beans.
So, Monday morning, bright and not-as-early-as-the-Pastor-would’ve-liked, we drove off through the mountains to find the farm.
We really had no idea what to expect as we were bouncing up the one-lane dirt roads, but the views just kept getting better and better.
I honestly have no idea how Remberto knew where to go, but he got us there! As we arrived, the neighbor came out laughing, so surprised that we had made it!
She was preparing the Oka (a type of potato that is sweet and unlike anything I had tasted before), and her sisters were harvesting little naturally freeze-dried potatoes called chuño.
They had lots of sheep that were loosely tied to bushes. Elias was a bit disappointed that they weren’t friendly. He’s used to the goats on my parents farm that LOVE to be pet and loved on. He tried his hardest, but the sheep didn’t want anything to do with him.
The fields that needed to be harvested were a short drive away, so we all piled in the car and headed to the fava bean and oat fields.
The views from the family farm were unreal! The hills were dotted with little earthen buildings, farm animals and piles of oats waiting to be threshed. The family had rented a tractor, and 3 men were using it to thresh the oats from the chaff. It was fascinating to watch!
We walked along the road, and Elias was thrilled to see a mama and 5 baby pigs, cows, sheep, horses and ducks!
Along the road was a dug-out stream that they would use to both irrigate the fields and get water to the animals. It ran from a spring uphill, and instead of using hoses, they had little channels running from the main stream. When they needed the water to run a certain direction, they would simply block off a part of the stream with gravel and water would start flowing where they wanted it to go.
After spending time taking in the views, we got to work harvesting the beans.
She showed us which ones were ready to harvest, and we started right in.
In between each row of fava beans, they planted herbs and little flowering plants to help bring bees to pollinate.
After a good 2 hours, we collected 3 huge bags of beans, and then found a shady place to peel them. Even Elias got in on that!
Then, she was off to cook! She invited us over to the family’s compound, and it was like stepping into a museum. The long, dirt structure had different rooms for different families, but one common kitchen. There was a pump for the well, an herb garden, a rack for drying the sweet potatoes, a little fence made out of sticks, a row of tobacco plants, and a tree that housed around 50 hummingbirds.
The sunken kitchen was small, steamy and warm. The thatch roof was covered in soot, and the light that came from the one lightbulb took a minute for our eyes to adjust to after being in the bright sun.
They had a gas stove, though, so even though you could tell they used to cook with wood, the gas didn’t smoke up the kitchen.
The biggest surprise wasn’t the electricity or the gas, but the guinea pig coop under the shelf. Elias loved watching them play, run and eat the fava bean peels. They keep the guinea pigs, not as pets, but a an amazing source of protein. Being winter in Bolivia, the little animals spend all their time in the warm kitchen. They don’t reproduce much during the winter, so we found out that we wouldn’t be eating them for this meal, but in the summer months, they get eaten. We have heard of this, of course, but had never eaten guinea pig before.
The women cooked the fava beans, potatoes and rice, and then we took everything down to the field where the men were working to share the meal together.
The women set out blankets for us to sit on, and we all ate our fill out of the communal bowls, piled high with food, and spoons shoved in the side for anyone who wanted to use them. We all grabbed the beans and potatoes with our hands and shared the spoons to eat the rice with. I watched as the men carefully peeled the beans and potatoes before eating them, and then tried my best to copy.
The conversation took off in Quechua, and I tried my best to not just stare at everyone as they were talking, but it was such a beautiful language to listen to.
I also just couldn’t believe that we were able to share a meal like this: on a farm, in Bolivia, eating food that we had just helped harvest.
The family was kind, and asked simple questions of us… Leo loved answering and sharing his life.
We loved watching Remberto come alive in that setting, as well. He commented that being in that setting fills him up. He could just sit by the stream, and let the sound of the water be God’s voice to him. You could tell that he is well respected by this family, and in the car ride back he told us that they were asking him a lot of questions about Jesus/church and why the Vineyard is different (more about that topic in another post).
We were just so honored to be invited to share that space with them. They had never really talked with a gringa before, and never thought that they would ever have foreigners on their land, let alone sharing utensils and a meal on their blankets with one.
We came away from that day in awe of how hard-working and cooperative the families are. They come together and work with and for each other’s well-being.
As we left, they piled our vehicle with a bag of oka and fava beans. Truthfully, we ate both of those foods the entire rest of our time in Bolivia, in a variety of different ways.
That day also started a beautiful friendship with the family. They have 3 kids… 2 smart, hilarious boys and a precious little girl. We had so much fun with them over the 3 weeks!
Also… there was a striking difference for me between the indigenous in Bolivia and the indigenous in Colombia. The Bolivians are so proud of their indigenous roots. The women, “cholas”, proudly wear their traditional clothing. They are smart, funny, hard-working women. Unashamed of their heritage. It was empowering for me to be around them. As a gringa, people always treat me differently, but these women weren’t afraid to look me in the eye, make fun of something, laugh with me, and share.
I am still so humbled and honored to know this beautiful family.