There was a time when my husband and I were trotting around the globe, portable water-well drilling rig in tow, putting in wells in very remote locations.
We were in Indonesia for about three months, drilling wells in numerous places, and in our off-hours, exploring local haunts and sampling local foods. We were in the frontier province of Indonesia, not in a developed center of trade and commerce like Jakarta.
Jayapura was the name of the small town about a half an hour’s ride from where we were based. We’d go there and sample foods in the outdoor bazaar. Often the fare was fried. I’m not sure if this was the historic Dutch influence or the Indian influence, or the influence of some other country entirely.
Whatever, it was good, and generally safe to eat, even if we did see a cockroach or two scuttle past the booth. The wildlife added to the adventure.
One week we were really out in the boonies, putting in a well for a clinic run by a husband-and-wife Indian team of volunteer doctors. We ate our meals with them because they were hosting us and because there was literally no other place to eat. There was no community nearby; these people were just out in the middle of nowhere. (Why the clinic there? I couldn’t tell you. Apparently someone decided it was centrally located to someone!)
The wife doctor did the cooking. Every meal was the same: rice and beef in an Indian curry. Now let me tell you, that curry was hotter than anything you have ever experienced. I had flames coming out the base of my skull after eating that stuff. Not really, but you get the idea. It was super super hot. I did manage to eat the first meal, but after that, I truly couldn’t eat it.
I grew up the minority in another culture, and I am hyper-aware of the importance of honoring other people’s ways and customs. I didn’t want to offend the doctor by not eating her food, but I actually just couldn’t manage it. I put a couple of small chunks on top of the rice on my plate, cut them into tiny pieces, and ate them with the rice. This reduced the heat somewhat, and I survived like that the whole week.
And that is my lasting memory of the Week With the Doctors. I do not remember anything else at all.
Hurray for white rice!