Notes From Bolivia

Drew Wilkins is a former Worldwatch staffer who recently spent three months working with nurses at a rural university, la Unidad Académica Campesina, in an area known as Carmen Pampa, northeast of La Paz. These commentaries are adapted from a blog he wrote while in Bolivia.

May 3

The Inca Empire is the birthplace of the grain quinoa (pronounced keen-wa), so coming here for me is like a pilgrimage to Mecca, the Wailing Wall, and the Vatican all rolled into one. Bolivians eat very little of this highly nutritious food, using it only occasionally in soups and sometimes drinks. This is a shame, due to the prevalence of malnutrition. One can only hope that this “grain that fed the Incan armies” will make a comeback in its native land. I’ve decided to do my part by eating enough for five or six Bolivians.

I also love platanos, or plantains. The best plantains are the ones that look like they’ve been run over by a truck—all black and gross, preferably covered in fruit flies. That’s how you know they’re ready for frying. Mm-mmm. At first, I thought the ladies in the market were trying to unload the bad ones on me. Then I realized they were giving me good plantains but just charging me too much. Then I realized they were giving me good plantains and charging me the right amount, but that I was just giving them too much money because I can’t add and speak Spanish at the same time.

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