We met Jack and Jane Zeigler in Santa Cruz, Bolivia in 1991, at the Arenal Hotel, where we all were staying. We and the Zeiglers, were working on agricultural projects with VOCA (Volunteers in Overseas Cooperative Assistance.) Jack, the head of the Department of Food Science at Penn State University, was conducting a feasibility study on opening up a pork slaughtering plant in Santa Cruz. Jane, the daughter of farmers, taught school and was assisting Jack. Marty and I consulted with poultry farmers, helping them to improve their skills in poultry husbandry.
We spent most of our free time with the Zeiglers, dining together, touring Santa Cruz and traveling to other areas in Bolivia. On some occasions we accompanied each other to various sites. Abraham, a farmer whom Jack and Marty visited, was extremely pleased with Marty’s suggestions. When Marty mentioned that his father’s name was Abraham, he said that he knew that Marty was sent by G-d. When we noticed a group of school children playing soccer with a beat up ball, we scoured all of Santa Cruz for a new soccer ball, which delighted the children.
The Zeiglers invited us one weekend to visit a neighboring community, Samaipata, and look up an Austrian sculptress whom they heard about. We trekked across the hot desert to find her home. I purchased a small piece of pottery and they bought a terra cotta figurine of a mythical female character. Since this was an intricate piece, they were worried about getting it home without breaking it. I suggested wrapping the “Lady” in their underwear.
When we stopped for coffee in Samaipata, someone brought the proprietor of the restaurant a bag of apples. She suggested that we return in a couple of hours for freshly baked strudel. We accepted her invitation and happily devoured her delicious strudel. Jane was cautious about eating only foods that were cooked or could be peeled. She’d order bottled water “san hielo”, without ice, and no familiar with the restaurants in Samaipata, stuck to their own rations of bananas and granola bars.
One evening we treated ourselves to steak at a prestigious restaurant in Santa Cruz. The salad was mouth watering and Marty proclaimed that he was going to eat that salad even if we didn’t. We all ate the salad. The four of us enjoyed onion soup and banana crepes flambeau, at a French bistro in Santa Cruz.
Jack and Jane were very closely involved with their family, and in the community where they lived, and with their church. They were both extremely gracious hosts, when we visited them at their home in State College, Pennsylvania. Both had excellent culinary skills. Jack surprised us with creative breakfasts and Jane cooked everything else.
We’ve been in close contact, but it had been quite a while since we were able to get together. When we visited them this January, Jack showed us the changes in State College. He is still involved in Food Science studies at Penn State University. Jack told us that with globalization and with food coming from all over the globe, much of the work that Penn State is doing is in analysis of imported foods.
Now Jane seemed to be almost completely dependent on Jack. She probably didn’t remember us. I so wanted to show her the beautiful hand knit alpaca sweater I wore that that I had bought when we were all together in Santa Cruz.