Monday, January 4, 2010

A little diet help, for you squemish types

A parking lot restored my faith in humanity this morning. More specifically, two people in a parking lot.

I was buckling in the kids, following Joel's pre-op appointment at the pediatrician's office, and I heard the sickening crunch of metal against metal. The woman two cars down had backed into another car. The woman ran out of the car, crying, "Oh, my God, I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry. Are you okay?" Even from my respectable distance, I could see her hands trembling.

The other woman said, "Oh honey, it's nothing. Just a scratch."

The first woman sniffed, "Are you sure? I'm so sorry, I'm so---"

"Honey," the other woman said, "Happy New Year. It's fine. I promise." And then---and then!---she gave this woman a hug. As the two strangers embraced, I could see the tension waft away, like smoke from an extinguished candle. I have to admit, I sniffed back a tear or two.

Deep down---people are good.

This made me think, of all things, back to 1997, when I traveled to Hong Kong with a group from college. I was a senior, in the midst of my student teaching, grabbing one last adventure before graduation.

Our job was to be conversants for students at a middle school, providing language practice and cultural exposure. I'll freely admit that this was an excuse for my main goal---seeing the world.

Hong Kong reminded me of a British Southern California. Lush and balmy, it smelled of the sea, yet buzzed with the energy of Manhattan. Yet, everywhere hung a pervasive dread, like dark bunting, for the citizens were awaiting the advent of Chinese Communism.

As it turns out, life changed only in minor ways since the changeover in 1997, but at the time, nobody knew. It was a bit like watching the Berlin Wall grow from the ground, brick by soul-crushing brick. What light would be blocked---and for how long?

One of my goals when traveling was to be an adventuresome eater. Some of my fellow Americans were whiny, moaning about their desire for McDonalds or "American Chinese Food." Philistines.

We were in Asia, for God's sake, and I wanted the real deal. We went to a vegetarian restaurant which served chicken and beef flavored tofu dishes, which was odd, but whatever. I used chopsticks militantly, even though they provided forks for the "foreigners." I had dim sum, and yes, I ate this with hearty gusto, and asked for seconds:

Chicken feet: Hells. Yes. 

We went to Guangzhou, China on a one-day visa, and visited a local marketplace. I made children cry with my creepy white skin and saw turtles, bats, dogs, cats, chicken, alligators, fish, tarantulas, mice, rats, possum, jellyfish, and beetles for sale. To eat.

Although I considered eating the beetles, I instead ate two fish eyes.

They looked kinda like this.

In all of this, my stomach did not revolt, churn, or protest. On our final night, the middle school had a "thank-you" banquet, and they served "American" food--including macaroni and cheese, casseroles of various sorts, and hot dogs.

Oh. My. God. It hit me at the downtown marketplace a few hours later. My stomach contracted as it never had before. I said a hasty goodbye to my friends, and took the subway, alone. Hailed a cab, alone. Returned to our dormitory, alone.

I don't speak a word of Chinese.

Once at the dorm, I curled into a ball and threw up in a garbage can. The smell was inhuman, and I vaguely remember putting the can in the hallway.

The next morning, I found myself tucked into bed, a glass of water on the table. I heard scrubbing outside my door, and saw a friend of mine scrubbing away at my vomit. I had not put the garbage can outside. I had dumped the can, and all my hot-doggy puke right in the hallway. I was too sick, I guess, to even care.

"Oh my God, I'm so sorry," I croaked, as the odor of my own puke hit my nostrils.

"Honey," she said. "It's okay. Really." Then, she patted me gently on the back. "Don't worry about it," she said. "I'm just glad you're feeling better."

People are good. Really, really good. I helped my  friend clean up after me, grateful that somebody was willing to take care of a foolish young girl a long, long way from home.

However---Chinese macaroni and cheese? I'll take a pass on future helpings, thanks.

This is my first, incredibly long-winded attempt at Memoir Mondays. Check out the other entries and thanks to Travis for hosting!



Travis said...

This sounds insanely brutal, and it made my stomach turn a bit just reading it.


Thank you for your Memoir!

You just got a new follower!

Sarafree said...

You are brave. I couldn't do the chicken feet or the eyes. But I can certainly see how the American food made you puke! Thanks for helping me keep to my health intentions. I'll just think of those chicken feet when I want to pick up a snack.

Alicia (aka Dr. Mom) said...

oh my gosh - those pictures were making my stomach hurl!! You live with more gusto than I, girl!! Anyway, I loved this post. One minute your warming my heart and the next - talkin' 'bout vomit. Thats what I love about this blog!! :)

Ms. Wanda said...

Yes don't you just love trying food from other countries. I have been to Europe a few times and I try if at all possible to not eat anything American:) Those eyeballs, hmmm I don't know you got me on that one:) Love your memoirs!

Rebecca said...

I'm not very adventuresome when it comes to food. I'm a scardey cat. But, you go girl for trying new things!

DUTA said...

I was also moved by your story about the two women at the parking lot. It's not everyday that we meet with such kind human behavior.

With your food experience in Hong You you could appear on those TV surviving shows and win.

adrienzgirl said...

Oh Good Golly Miss Molly! There is NO adventure in my food. None. I have a texture thing...don't even like Jello cause it's jiggly. Yack!

But, the touching part of this was awesome! Truly inspiring. And the rest? Well, it just helped me get through the rest of my diet today! :D

Ms. Moon said...

Okay. So I've never eaten fish eyes and probably won't, but I will say that I go nuts when we're in Mexico and I see people running for Taco Bell or TGIF. American people, of course. Who usually just got off a cruise ship. WTF? I weep when I eat my last bowl of sopa de lima before we leave.
Anyway, people CAN be genuinely good and tender towards each other, even strangers, which is one of the many small miracles I am always thrilled to observe.

SamiJoe said...

oh girl!
your blog just gets better and better!~

and i love that woman for giving that lady a awesome. so awesome to witness!

Alex said...

Love it when strangers hug it out...

As per pewking overseas, in Bali I only threw up after I ate their McDonalds. Go figure.

blueviolet said...

Wow, that really was kind! I too believe in the innate goodness of people. :)

Cat said...

I love that you're an adventurous eater.

AudreyO said...

Wow, what an experience. I had food poisoning once and it was the worst experience ever. But isn't nice when see such nice people in the world? It really can renew your faith in humanity.

Corrie Howe said...

You are much braver than I. And anyone who cleans up my puke is a life long friend.

Muliebrity said...

I think I may be having a setback. This would have probably been more interesting tomorrow. Today, just disgusting. lol

Kiera said...

Not a story as good as yours- but once i was in london and decided to get some african food from a street vendor (?) Later that night i was totally under the weather and wondered why. my friends were like, "well you ate GOAT FOR LUNCH." should've read the signs!!

Daffy said...

I have no doubt that the next time macaroni and cheese are in front of me I shall think of this post.

Thank you for all your wonderfully funny comments in my pond. I'm sorry I'm just now joining you here. Don't know where the heck I've been...suffering from a crainial rectal inversion most likely.

Nicki said...

Yeah, I think most people definitely are good at the core... and it seems like too many people get caught up in being angry and impatient. Its nice to hear positive stories like this, where people let their good shine through!

michelle said...

I thought I was an adventurous eater. But eyeballs? Hmmm....

Sometimes folks do let the light shine through.

Love the new pict and design.

Nikia, May and da kids said...

I ate tons of seafood, sea creatures, water monsters, you name it, if it came from some body of water I ate it in Asia. So it was kinda like being back on my comfy island Rock. It was safer than eating dogs, lizards, bats ... I take that back. i have ate those things to. When in Rome, ... = )



Minivan Lover said...

I am so imporessed that you ended up at your own dorm. After watching nearly every episode of the Amazing Race, I can't imagine how hard that actually must have been!

Traci said...

Two wonderful stories and you are right. People are good. It is so easy to look at the tabloid headlines, the local news -- if it bleeds, it leads, etc. -- etc. and forget that. Thanks for the reminder.

I will praying for Joel this Friday. Lots of love coming his way.

Cinda said...

What a great idea...Memoir Monday! Yours reminded me of my trip to Hong Kong. Same type experiences minus your horrific-experience. Ugh. Yes, I agree, people are generally nice. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

nice post. thanks.

kys said...

I, too, believe in the innate kindness of people. Also, I believe that you are adventureous.