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The Hospitality Artist

The Hospitality Artist

Hello and good day!

We left our house in Puerto Ciruelo, Peru early. Our friend's home was a two-hour hike through the canyon that is the district of Huarango. On the way out of town, we stopped by our friend's sister's home. She lived on the outskirts of the tiny city, several blocks uphill from the Chinchipe River.

I knocked on her door. My wife stood by my side. When she opened the door, we saw into her humble home. It was a nice-looking house from the outside, well built with concrete, painted beige, and with a small balcony sticking out from the second floor.

The floor in the living room was dirt. The lights were turned off and it was dark in the front room.Several chickens strutted and pecked.

he sister came out with her daughter. Both were barefoot. She gave us a sweet smile and waved for us to follow along. We walked up a long steep hill with the Chinchipe river behind us. It was the first sunny day in more than a week. The rain had been very hard for many days before.

In town there were paved sidewalks that ran underneath overhanging roof edges. Out of town, the dirt roads were sticky, and our feet sunk in. Sometimes the suction of the mud was strong enough to pull off a sandal or a shoe. I was wearing sandals, and by the time we arrived, both of my feet were filthy and covered in mud.

Halfway through the hike, the sister's daughter began to complain that she was tired. She was crabby and whiny. I offered to carry the little girl on my shoulders and the mother accepted.

The sun shined strongly, and mosquitoes feasted on my legs. We trekked along dirt roads through giant, quiet, breathtaking countryside.

Rolling bright green hills, up and down, covered by agriculture, tropical fruit, the mooing of cows, wind rustling leaves, dogs barking, dirty feet staining my shirt, sweat torrenting down and burning my eyes, a little girl leaning on her forearms on top of my head.

We hiked up one last hill and the path curved to the right. There was thick, deep, bush to our left. On our right was a downhill slope that dropped off and gave us an expansive view of a huge and lovely valley. We came to our friend's gate, and I set down the little girl.

He saw us from his farm and called out. "You made it! Come in! But be careful of...." I was so excited that I came rushing towards him before he could finish his sentence. There was a thick rut of mud running under where the fence opened. I stepped into it and my leg sunk to my knee. My other leg found a dry hard strip on the side.

I was in a strange straddling position with my left leg angled up from my hip and bent at the knee with the foot on dry ground and my right leg buried in mud. I couldn't move. Our host came over to give me a hand. He pulled me out, but my sandal remained in the rut. The rest of my party edged along the side of the pit and made it through cleanly.

"Sit here Adam," said my friend. He sat me in a chair in front of his house. He kneeled and stuck his hand into the mud to fish out my sandal. His wife came over to welcome me.

Their house was nothing more than an aluminum roof up on four thick corner posts. The rooms were nothing more than spaces divided by hanging curtains. The kitchen was a long wooden table lined with sheet metal. The table had cinder blocks filled with smoking wooden embers. There were pots on top of the cinder block holes and fire came up from the holes heating the bottom of the pots.

A woman, my friend's mother, was working a hand grinder that was screwed into the kitchen table. She collected yellow dough from the grinder with one hand while she cranked with the other. The dough was ground, dried corn kernels, and as she collected the dough, she formed it with one hand and set it on a plate.

My friend's wife dropped the freshly ground corn cakes into a large pot filled with oil and fried them over the wood cinder block fire. Out came tortitas de choclo, golden brown fried corn cakes, our appetizers.

Meanwhile, my friend had filled up a plastic tray with water and was crouched down in front of me. He grabbed one of my feet and began to rub it with water. I instinctively pulled my foot away. It didn't feel right to have this man washing my feet.

"What are you doing?" he asked. "You can't wash my feet," I said. "Why not? You are my guest." "Yes, but we are friends, and we are men. We don't wash each other's feet. I will wash my own feet. Please."

He looked at me with sympathetic eyes. "Adam, you would do me a great honor if you'd allow me to do this. You are a guest in my home. I want to take care of you."

I looked over at my wife for advice. She raised her eyebrows, curled her bottom lip, and shrugged her shoulders. She was saying yes. I looked back down at my friend. He was awaiting my answer. "Ok. Go ahead. And thank you."

I stared out at his farm. His house was at the top of the property in the middle of a cornfield. The land ran down hill and flattened at the bottom. Corn gave way to stepped, bright green, rice paddies, and beyond the rice field, there was a cacao and fruit orchard.

He rubbed my shins with both hands. He massaged my heels with his thumb and index fingers. He rubbed the bottom of my feet with the palms of his hands. He ran his index finger between each one of my toes. It was a thorough cleaning.

When he was finished, he rinsed my sandals and put them back on my feet. "There you have it. Clean," he said. He threw the water from the tray into the cornfield and carried the tray back behind his house to put away with his other supplies.

I will have to continue with this wonderful show of hospitality tomorrow because I am running out of space for today.

However, before signing off, I'd like to tell you about a great book called Linchpin by Seth Godin. The thesis is that anything can be art.

To make an impact in life and business we should treat our work and daily activities as if they were artistic creations, things of great worth and beauty. The people who do that become the linchpins of society and receive above average compensation, both monetarily and spiritually.

My friend was a hospitality artist.

Thank you so much for your time today.