Before I moved to Peru with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, I was told that it is common for female volunteers to gain weight while abroad, though male volunteers often end up shedding some pounds.
The two female JVs with whom I live–Mallory and Susan–seem to be doing just fine and look no worse for Peru’s wear. I thought I was in the same boat until a conversation I had with Henry, the principal of the school where I teach, a few weeks ago.
“Brian, I wanted to talk to you about lunch,” he said.
I started to panic. Some of the teachers eat school-provided lunches they pay for. Though I do not fall into this category, I’ve struck up a friendship of sorts with the ladies who prepare the food. Sometimes if there is extra, they beckon me to the serving station and give me a “free lunch.” It turns out there is such a thing.
But it seemed I had been caught red-handed. I began to stammer an apology to Henry, who in turn looked confused.
“The other teachers and I have decided we’d like you to start eating lunch here,” he explained.
“Oh…thanks!” I replied. At 6’3″, I can be a pretty hungry little bear, so for me, more food is exactly what the doctor ordered (the doctor to whom I’m referring is me). Though I was already eating an official lunch in the parish cafeteria each day, I figured another one at school couldn’t hurt.
Henry smiled and went to spread the good tidings to Mateo, the other JV who teaches at Fe y Alegrìa High School.
I assumed the teachers were just being nice, trying to welcome us further into their fold. Later when I was revelling in my good fortune, however, Mateo explained the real reason for our fourth meal of the day–our colleagues were worried we had grown too thin.
I’m not actually a doctor, but I can say with confidence that I have a healthy diet in Peru. Our community often buys fresh vegetables at a local greenhouse, and my fruit and protein intake is probably better than it ever was in college. It is likely that any weight loss I’ve experienced is the result of living two miles above sea level–something I didn’t experience in Wisconsin–rather than malnutrition.
But if my coworkers want me to be their Oliver, dare I argue with them?
No. I dare not.