Humbling Hospitality Experiences

1) I once did a focus group with women in rural Tajikistan, talking about increasing hunger and food insecurity. The women told terrible, desperate stories, of burning fruit trees for warmth and watching their kitchen gardens wash away in heavy spring rains. At the end of our discussion, three different women invited me to come home with them for a meal. They did realize the irony; one woman said, shyly, “I don’t have any fruit or sweets, but I have bread and tea.”

2) In 1997, I went to Jerusalem for Thanksgiving. My wallet was stolen. I told a Palestinian shopkeeper in the old city what had happened to me, and he took me into my shop and made me a cup of tea. Then he told the managers of the shops around me what had happened. Shop employees came, and brought me money. Small amounts – 5 or 6 shekels (about $2) each, but these were not people who had a lot of money. They brought me, a rich American by any standard, money, because I was alone in their country and needed help.

3) When my husband and I lived in Turkmenistan, we had a good friend, Katrina, who was a Peace Corps volunteer. Her host family treated her as a true daughter, and she reciprocated their affection. When the government marked their house for demolition, she helped them as they packed their things and got ready to move to the apartment they were being given in return. In the same period, I was re-posted to Tashkent. Katrina’s host family was determined to have us over for a meal before we left, since we’d never eaten there. We would be leaving before they moved into their new place, so they had us over to their house.

They had us over for dinner as their house was being torn down. The house had been two stories, but was down to one. It was raining that night, and the roof in the living room leaked, since it wasn’t really a roof; it was just the floor to the second story. Katrina’s host mom moved us to the kitchen, and sat us at the kitchen table while she made lamb pilaf and salad for us. We ate, all together, in the corner of the warm damp kitchen.

You can always find a way to give, if you want to.

Photo Credit: Turkmen soda pop, taken by me