Thursday, August 28, 2008

Point of View

Point of view makes a difference in how each person approaches life.
I went out for lunch yesterday to meet some of the other women who live in my apartment complex.

I came home wondering why people think I need an ayi-- a woman who cleans, cooks and shops (full time of course), a cell phone (I’m eyeing my husband’s blackberry, but it doesn’t make sense to get one at this time and I’m home almost always anyway), a driver (yes, a driver for a car we don’t own because we won’t buy one here). Their pov is it is impossible to live without an ayi.

I’m not a picky eater. Yet I’m not the bravest with trying new foods either. They raved about how good the restaurant was, oohed and awed over the meals. We each chose an entre--placed the dishes in the center of the table and ate family style. I have a hard time eating things that still look alive. Sorry. I can't do it. The food was interesting, yes, but I had a plateful of food when we finished. At least no one ordered (or the restaurant doesn’t serve) 5 snake soup.

The following are some of the foods I've seen that some think are wonderful, but I hope hope hope to avoid. Anteater, jellyfish, snake, python (I know it is a snake), rat--that is what they looked like, seahorses, caterpillars, turtles, those special eggs that have stuff growing on the outside, the other special eggs and I won’t mention what they contain, and crocodile. (My kids disagree and would try some of the above--my kids ate food in other countries that I wouldn’t eat either.)

I’ve hardly cooked meat since we’ve arrived. I have no desire to eat any meat. Walking through markets AND grocery stores and seeing animals slaughtered is hard on my appetite. Any hints on vegetarian cooking would be appreciated.

It is useful to see such a huge range of viewpoints as I meet so many different people. It helps me create characters who are very different than each other. It reminds me that the most interesting characters have unique characteristics and have reasons for what they do.

There are more ways to view the world than I can imagine.


Christy Lenzi said...

Tell me you're kidding about the cooked rat.

I suppose if one grew up with an ayi and never lived without having an ayi do all those things, it could be very upsetting to one's lifestyle to go without, so they are surprised at your lack of interest in having one. Maybe that's how I would react to my neighbors if they didn't have a computer, phone, radio, tv, microwave or car.

You're right--it is interesting to see how differently people view the world. Nice post, Sarah.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I enjoyed this post!

For cutting back on meat, I mostly rely on things like tahini and hummus, but I'm guessing those might not be readily available. Beans in general, too, though.

Sarah Blake Johnson said...

Sorry, I wasn't kidding, Christy. The rats or rodents--I didn't look closely--weren't cooked yet. They were for sale to be prepared however people prepare them. Walking through some of these markets is not recommended for someone with a sensitive stomach!

These women (mostly Americans) had not grown up with an ayi. I think they are surprised that I haven't hired one when it is fairly affordable ($350-400 a month for full-time help) but there for a lot of other things that I'd rather spend my money on. It is easy to shift into the lifestyle of having servants for some people. I'm not sure I could handle servants (or several of them-yikes) in my house all the time. I'm a private person. I understand how it can make life easier.
I have some good stories from Brazil--I'll share them with you sometime, though not here.

Tahini and hummus? Haven't seen them. Even wheat flour isn't common. Beans are a rare import food. Luckily we shipped a couple 25 pound bags--for when I cook Mexican food. (I can make great tortillas.) There are a few stores where I can buy good quality (and safe to eat) meat. The problem is I've lost my appetite for eating meat.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting thoughts. I'm also a horribly picky eater (you probably know that, hehe) -- and I definitely can't handle markets where there are strong sights and smells. I know that even in England (northern England, especially), the smells got to me and I stopped eating meats and dairy. (Well, I still ate Good Humor bars, heh).

We eat a lot of pasta with veggies (or stir fry) -- do you have access to pasta? Or olive oil? Or tofu? ;)

Angela said...

Oh... I miss the food but I lived in the North. We got a lot of food the neighborhood markets....wonderful flat bread, an old man roasted sweet potatoes, bbq meats... okay, I'm drooling I've gotta stop.

Yes, I had a hard time with the markets too, at first. Here's what I did. I asked my friends and they pointed me to the markets where the restaurants buy their food. Larger, cleaner, indoor (maybe more expensive but you won't notice it) 20 minute bike ride instead of a 2 minute walk (but hey, you have a driver).

It was soooo worth it!

Sarah Blake Johnson said...

Angela--flat bread--sounds good, but I haven't seen it here. I like getting out into the local areas, the "real" China. Most people I know avoid those areas and send their maids to do all the shopping.
It would be so much easier if I could communicate better. I feel like an idiot. Half the time I just hand them the money and trust them. I am learning the hand symbols for numbers and that is helping.

I shop at the neighborhood market (the wet market) for fruits and vegetables. I'm concerned about the sanitation for meats.
This market (where the natives shop) is across the bridge, about 15 minutes walking, 5 minutes if I bike. I MUST find a way to carry things on my bike. Some sort of rack.

I also shop at a little store on our island. (This is an ex-pat island and we are kept kind of separated.) This little store is great for some things. There is also a shop in our apartment complex that sells imported foods--which I don't buy, except for cheese.

I've found one nice larger market (Carrefour) which carries everything I need, but it is a 20 minute drive away by taxi or the shuttle that the apartment runs a few times a week. There is another one, about the same distance, but other direction, I need to check out.