Saturday, July 10, 2010

Oranges are green

One thing I’ve learned as I’ve traveled to a few countries in this world is that some things are the same and not everything is different. Then there is the area between, things that remind you of home.

I have a sickness that has plagued me for the last 6 months: homesickness. It really didn’t make a difference if I was in Minnesota, South Dakota or Tanzania, I just really missed Dutch Harbor. I’ve been homesick for a while now. This disease has caused me to become somewhat of an anthropologist, in the sense that I compare and contrast every iota to the existence that I know best, living in Dutch Harbor.

There are the little things that are the same: the ocean is still blue, the grass is still green, and small town life is the same (if there is a new person in town, we know the color of their shoes 20 minutes after the plane landed).

There are the big things that are different that remind you you’re “not in Dutch Harbor anymore.” Things like: that racial rainbow is gone, and you’re the main attraction of all the village children, seeking candy, crying “wazungu” (foreigner), that whole language thing, manners, accidently pounding with the left hand, and green oranges.

While green oranges may not initially strike one as a major cultural difference, you’d be surprised. I say this because green oranges remind me of the one thing that is different in every country I’ve visited so far, and that is food. It doesn’t matter if you’re only going to McDonald’s in London… oh, bad example.

But my experience with food has been interesting. There have been times when all I wanted were buffalo wings in Egypt, or applesauce in Senegal, but it just wasn’t possible. Instead, I learned to love the food I found. Since being in Tanzania, I’ve been [probably] clinically overdosing on the quantity of rice consumed. However, a surprise that I’ve found is that I really really like ugali, which has a similar consistency to polenta.

Before coming to Tanzania, I had the honor of listening to Logan gush about all the foods we were going to eat and how much he loved chapatti. When I got here, my body was so overloaded on starch and carbs, I could barely digest the stuff. But after a few weeks, I love it too. When we go to the village for breakfast (some days we just eat in our hut), we always have two chapatti and chai (tea).

Now, it’s time to talk about chai. When visiting Turkey, I had caffeine withdrawals from my daily 3 or 4 cups of coffee. But during this time, I grew to love Turkish çay (pronounced chai). Turkish çay is very sweet (mostly sugar). After leaving Turkey and going to Morocco, the mint tea that everyone had was as equally stocked full of sugar, and only once or twice did I have a café au lait (90% lait – milk). When we went to Egypt, I was distraught to find a lack of tea, but thus began my love of instant coffee. After drinking Nescafe for 6 weeks, I have an appreciation of instant coffee that I will never loose. I share one of my most memorable travel moments with Nescafe. I was traveling in Israel with my friend, Justin, in Dec 2007. We decided to stay at Ein Gedi, a bump-in-the-road town near Masada on the Dead Sea. I woke up on Christmas Eve morning, went out to our little balcony and sat there drinking my instant coffee looking at the morning sun from the east on the Dead Sea. And with my host family in Senegal, I was more than overjoyed to find a tin of Nescafe sitting next to my half-loaf of French bread and slice of Laughing cow.

Between the instant coffee and super sweet tea, I have discovered both new vices and new comforts while traveling. These comforts always make traveling a little easier. Sometimes, all you want is AC, a hot shower, and a power outlet, but that’s not always available. When those comforts of home aren’t available, sweet tea and instant coffee will cure any homesickness and remind me why I love being on the road so much. And surprisingly, even though the oranges are green, they are still succulent.

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