I was hosting a guest, drinking maté on the porch, and complaining about life when an old student called to ask if I would like to eat chipa so’o for dinner. She comes from an extremely poor family of 17, so I assumed that she was selling them and said of course.
She and her brother came over to my house on their motorcycle with two big pieces and told me that they were a gift. No, I wasn’t allowed to pay – her older sister had just remembered about me and they were a token of her appreciation.
I am completely humbled/shamed/bowled over by the generosity I am shown here at times. How do you accept a gift of food from a family that almost cannot feed itself (I’ve seen the kids take home leftovers from school)? This is a family that was almost unable to bury an unborn child properly because of the cost of wood for a coffin. Food – especially food with meat in it – is the most valuable gift they can give.
How do we have so much?
It’s considered bad luck to return an empty plate here, a tradition I find charming, but it takes me longer than usual to return things. I finally returned the plate a couple weeks later with a pile of pancakes on it. I feel a little reconciled with the world, but a pile of pancakes for me does not have the same importance as two slices of chipa so’o has for them.