I awoke yesterday to a beautiful clear sky and wandered up to Doña Maria’s with a piece of our firewood to reheat my leftover tortillas from the night before. At six in the morning, only Doña Maria and her daughter were up starting the fire and making breakfast. They greeted me warmly and allowed me to spread out my food on their stove. After five minutes I had a warm pile of revitalized tortillas and returned to our house to eat and begin our last day of final interviews.

It makes me smile to look back in my journal and see how worried I was that we would be unable to find the stories that we needed for a documentary. Being a novice to both conducting my own research and to documentary film making I had no idea where to start or what to expect. I am able to smile now because after two months we have conducted in depth interviews with twelve families with various back grounds, all at different levels of poverty. The stories that we have uncovered and the depth of which we have been able to delve into them in such a short period of time has far surpassed my initial expectations.

Without a doubt the only reason that we have had such incredible access to the financial lives of families here is because of the generosity of a couple families in the community. In the first few days Doña Maria’s thirteen year old son led us around to Grameen borrowers homes. Without his help these families never would have welcomed us as they did. We were also quickly taken under the wing of Antony and Rosa, who in age are our peers but already run a successful family. Rosa has shown us the ropes of survival while Antony has served as a personal translator for the families that only speak the local language of Kachiquel. Without their help we still would be getting “gringo prices” at the market and never would have tapped into the poorest of the poor’s stories due to the language barrier.

After eating breakfast, we spent the day at Antony and Rosa’s house filming their final interviews. When a fast moving lightning storm interrupted for a couple of hours we felt comfortable spending the time conversing and laughing over the thundering of the rain on their tin roof. Being able to feel at home in this community has lent itself to the quality of our research and to the power of my own personal experiences. I can only hope that we will be able to weave the stories that we have collected into something as powerful as I have witnessed here. This, of course, is the life goal of any documentarian.
I have always been told that my great grandfather, an Italian immigrant, never made much money because my great grandmother always packed him such extravagant and delicious lunches. This appreciation, bordering on devotion, for good food runs deep through my family’s veins. Without a doubt, I bleed the same blood as my great grandfather.
Living under a dollar-a-day, which means living on tortillas, rice and beans for two months, may seem like a ridiculous choice to impose upon myself. However, through pushing myself so hard through this experience, to re-evaluate even my deepest beliefs, has given me invaluable perspective on my own life and what I am meant to do with it. 

I have never considered my family wealthy nor do I think that we eat lavishly or in gross proportions but now I can fully appreciate how lucky we are. The small peak at the effects of eating such a minimal amount, in terms of the effects of the diet on my body, the time demanded to cook over an open fire and the realization that the little food we do have here would be a feast for some of our neighbors, brings new appreciation and relative value to every bite I eat. 

When I return home I am still going to cook my family the dinner of Mexican Spicy Roasted Shrimp and Potato Stew with Pollo a la Miel and homemade Focaccia with crumbled blue cheese that I have been planning for a week now. However, I am also going to devote myself with every ounce of my sole to helping people like Rosa Coj Bocel and Carlos (Chino) have more than just salt and tortillas on their kitchen table each night. Finding a way to do this through the power of food would be all the better.

Carlos (Chino)
Here is what I mean about the power of food...

 Check out what Whole Foods’ philanthropic organization, Whole Planet Foundation, has been able to achieve through building up microfinance in the developing communities that Whole Foods sources their products from. They also funded our project so I guess I am already one step closer to my life goal of fighting poverty with good flavors. 

...And yes for those food lovers out there here are the recipes for the dinner I’m making for my family (from some of my favorite blogs). Eat well and do something for those that can’t! 

Mexican Spicy Roasted Shrimp and Potato Stew – The Spiced Life
Pollo a la Miel – The Spiced Life
Focaccia with Bleu Bheese and Caramelized Onions – What We´re Eating

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