It’s a good thing that seats are preassigned on United Airlines. If they weren’t, I might’ve arm-wrestled to keep the seat next to me open on the red-eye flight from Lima, Péru to Houston, TX. I had visions of stretching out across that empty seat in order to rest and relax and contemplate the magnificent journey that I’d just taken.
Then I saw him steering my direction and I promptly reorganized my reading materials and my carry ons into the overhead bin and under the seat in front of me. He was polite enough and I was too tired to converse so it was a while before I recognized the synchronicity that was unraveling. I don’t remember how the conversation began but my ears caught fire when I heard, “I am interested in Indigenous peoples’ worldviews and their use of ecosystem resources to maintain health and wellness, particularly plants and fungi used in traditional medicine.” Seriously? “Yes, I was in Péru studying food security amongst the Quechan population.” I immediately looked over both shoulders to see who the jokester was that had turned this guy loose on me.
This was Dr. Eduardo Jovel, a professor at the University of British Columbia and an ethnobotanist in the faculty of Land and Food Systems. He was in Péru with a graduate intern studying food systems of the native people that ranged from food diversity and how increased economic security can affect the consumption of processed foods.
I, on the other hand, was in Péru on more of a spiritual quest while paying attention to all of the foods being cultivated and consumed along the way. Dr. Jovel talked about his clinical and scientific research. I told him about my social experiments looking at the capacity to eat well (healthy and local foods) within a food stamp allocation and the idea of conducting a crock-pot camp to support busy families in their quest to be eat more nutritious meals. He mentioned other fascinating work like examining plants that have mercury chelation properties. I shared my knowledge of a cultural biologist in my community who has contributed to the preservation of heritage foods and is sometimes called the father of the local food movement. We conversed about Community Supported Agriculture.
Seven hours later as our flight touched down in Houston, I hadn’t slept a wink but felt like I’d be engaged in conversation with an old friend. Despite what I’d learned from Eduardo, perhaps the real lesson was to be open to this type of synchronicity. Although I did meet my husband on a United flight 21 years ago, I don’t interact with all of the good people that come across my path everyday and the truth is, I have something to learn from everyone.
I’m sending Dr. Jovel a link to this post and am hopeful that I can stay up to date on his Péruvian project and his other research. And who knows where that might take us because after all, our paths crossed for a reason!