Story of the Day
Backpacking through the African mountain kingdom of Lesotho, I carried a staple of food with me just in case I couldn't find something to eat. I always had a few cans of spaghetti, crackers, peanut butter, and jam.
I was browsing through a local market one day when I chanced upon a jar of peach jam. I could find tins of apricot and strawberry in every corner store but this was the first time I had seen peach. I grabbed it.
For the next few weeks, when I was feeling the need for a little treat, I would carefully remove the lid and spoon a bit on to a cracker along with some peanut butter. Mmm, delicious. I didn't share it with anybody. It sat safely in my pack, taken out on only special occasions.
One cold and cloudy afternoon, I was waiting for a local bus. As much as I tried to dismiss my shivering, I was miserable. It seemed that the bus would never arrive.
It started to rain and very quickly the drizzle turned into a downpour. Everybody scattered for shelter. I took cover under a makeshift bamboo food stand with an old woman. I was drenched and quickly searched through my pack for some dry clothes.
In my desperate haste to avoid further discomfort, I forgot that the jar of peach jam was buried in my clothing. One forceful yank and my precious delicacy crashed to the concrete, smashing into pieces.
As often happens when traveling alone, the vultures of self-pity descended. I looked down at the raindrops, the mud and the morsels of peach and mourned my loss.
And then, in the corner of my eye, I noticed an old woman approaching. She looked up at me, down at the jam, and then back up at me. Without hesitating any further, she walked towards the fruity mess. Quickly, she bent down and retrieved the half of the jar that was still intact.
Still stooped over, she stuck two fingers into the jar, scooped out the remaining jam and placed it into her toothless mouth. Carefully, like fish bones, she spit out the shards of glass and smeared her finger along the bottom to extract every last drop. She studied the shattered container until she was certain that there was nothing left.
The empty jar in hand, she turned to walk away. I reached into my pack and offered her my cans of spaghetti and crackers. She accepted. However, before I could give her the peanut butter, she scurried off and I watched as she guided her hungry grandchildren back into their humble hut.
My bus arrived shortly after and, as we drove off, I looked back and saw her grandson wiping the food from his mouth. I knew then that peach jam would never taste the same to me again.