Thursday, September 20, 2007

Food Shock


Our Peace Corps training prepared us well for language, living conditions, disease, safety, and some cultural differences. It didn’t prepare us for Food Shock; what we would experience food wise after being left at our new village, on our own.

In Manunu I now realize we lived in a protected food bubble where our host families were told the types of balanced meals to prepare for us, and were generously paid for our room and board. This combined with a competition between the villagers about who made the best meals, created a sort of Samoan gastronomical paradise and spoiled us for what was to come.

The Peace Corps dropped us in Iva with all sorts of stuff, but nary an scrap of food, nor any instructions as to what we might expect about eating. (Sorry, we did have a class on edible native plants and instructions on a kerosene stove, should we want to order one.)

Thank goodness for Samoan hospitality and their disdain for starving people. Our Iva host family gave us food, and continued to give us food. The same food they grew and ate. Lots of it. The food is simple, consisting almost entirely of taro, breadfruit, cocoa, papaya, bananas, fried dough, raw dough, and some fish. Samoans may be known for their generosity, but not their cuisine. We were hungry most of the time. We were experiencing Food Shock. We finally rode our bikes into town where we discovered a store that sold crackers, peanut butter and jelly. Currently, our main stables.

We are slowly working out an arrangement whereby we buy such things as eggs, vegetables, bread, mutton flaps, rice, and other specialty foods for us and them while they prepare us one meal a day. The family cooks on wood and lives in the back. This seems to be working out, but one never knows what may be lost in translation.

We are living with a wonderful family who treats us like royalty, but their lives are very different from what we have known. No food goes to waste. What excess they give us is fed to the children afterwards. They told us that they live like Jesus.

Several other Peace Corps Volunteers from our Group 78 have also experienced food shock. Some say they are hungry all the time. Maybe my ire is more at the Peace Corps for overlooking this important aspect of adjusting to village life than anything else.

No comments: