It's not every day you're offered a grasshopper at dinner or flying ants (still flying around in the bag!) as a snack. But traveling the world brings lots of unique and unsavory experiences. And the last time I came across an unwelcome guest in my food, I simply chuckled inside, remembered the story and drank up the orange juice kindly offered to me in the remote area of Tunisia.
There is a story about travelers becoming accustomed to their surroundings. Here's the illustration I heard over twenty years ago as I was preparing to go overseas:
The first time traveler will not eat their soup if they see a fly in it. The second time it happens, they will take the fly out of the bowl and eat their soup. Then third time it happens, they will simply push the fly to the side of their bowl and eat around it. By the fourth time, they mix it in the liquid meal and eat up!
It's very rude to not accept food offered to you when traveling, especially when invited to someone's home. Many times, the homeowners are honored to have a guest and spend hours prepping to make the experience memorable for all. I've sat on many chairs, on dirt floors, and in cars eating things I wasn't sure I wanted to know their identity.
I'll never forget one particular long climb up a long memorable set of stairs in Romania. I was living there for the summer with another American girl and we were invited to a special dinner. As we walked up the endless stairs, I caught a whiff of something awful . . . not uncommon in third-world countries. As we got closer and closer to the front door, I soon realized the stench was getting stronger. Low and behold, what made me cringe up those flights of stairs was my soon-to-be dinner. And it would have been nothing short of disrespectful to not at least eat some of it.
This past March I spent a couple weeks in Tunisia, Africa. One of my favorite memories was visiting a remote farm where a special needs young boy was learning how to care for animals. He was beyond ecstatic about our visit and his family was absolutely LOVELY!!! Smiles across the board the entire time.
The boy's mom brought out a snack and drink. I quickly learned on this trip that Tunisia had the BEST fresh squeezed orange juice so I was excited to see it filled up in my glass. I wasn't sure what was on the platter coming my way. I happily found out I was about to eat fresh goat cheese and dates . . . what a wonderful afternoon treat. As I picked up my tall glass of yumminess, I saw a little fly who's orange bath had ended his short-lived life. So, what did I do? Well, after 23 years traveling, I chuckled and drank that fly right down.
It's not like Starbucks. You can't give it back to the person who made it. You can't complain about poor service. You can't call the FDA to report poor sanitation. I realize we have high food safety standards in the U.S. - and rightfully so . . . but those are nonexistent in many situations I find myself.
The question on the table (or in the drink - ha!) is whether or not to eat the fly. When other's feelings are at stake, what do you do? Do you put their needs ahead of your's even if you experience a little discomfort or inconvenience? Do you keep your mouth shut when others' can't keep their's closed? Do you take a step back and let others go first?
Hopefully, you won't be faced with eating bugs, but remember that a little sacrifice no matter how big or small can make a lifetime of a difference in someone's life. Get out of your comfort zone - it's good! It stretches you. Grows you. Challenges you to see life differently. And you might even be able to swallow more than you think!