Living in a Foreign Country

As my Dad put it, I’m living in a “Foreign” country with a capital F. Things are very different here. Very, very different. Really different. Wow. I was on a high full of things are awesome, but now things are a lot less awesome because my stomach is telling me it’s not awesome. I had a thorough cleaning out 3 days ago when I ate something….I’ve narrowed it down to 3 possible suspects: some melon that I bought at a supermarket that had a different taste (maybe it was actually bad already), some guava fruit that I had at an Indonesian’s friend’s house (it was possibly unwashed), or lumpia (a soft spring roll) from my neighbour that was bought in the morning from the market, but it was now cold and there is meat in it. Anyways, I was thoroughly sick, and now I decided to completely start over and buy more “North American” foods. And It’s not like I’m running into KFC, Dunkin Donuts, Pizza Hut or McDonalds for the “North American” food, which actually exist here, because their food isn’t what I eat in North America and so I’d probably have an equally long time in the kamar kecil (literally “small room”, meaning where the toilet is).

It’s harder than you think to find “North American” food. There really isn’t other grains immediately present besides rice or noodles. It took me a long time to figure out there is bread here that isn’t sweet bread, and that there are noodles here that is not instant or rice noodles. I bought bread, and it tasted so, so, so good. Oh my goodness.  Dairy is also very different here. You CAN find things, like milk and cheese, but the milk is UHT and gross tasting, and the cheese is Kraft singles, or bland tasting mozarella (so says Asnate). My friend told me that I can actually get fresh milk from a cow delivered to my house, so I have to figure that out. And I did find one brand of yoghurt, and it actually is natural and is not skim and then full of pectin or weird thickening ingredient and it also has no splenda or aspertame or your favourite chemical sugar substitute (I feel for you, Beth!). So that was a treasure. I think that it is just a matter of time before I figure out where to find things that my stomach is used to, and which I think is an important part of my diet….

I do like the food a lot here, so I’m looking forward to trying more things, but in talking with friends, I realized that I’m going to have be careful here. It wasn’t just the food poisoning that set me off, it’s been more this constant hard air bubble/nagging ache in my stomach and absent/abnormal B-Ms for 2 weeks that’s upsetting me. And now I think I know what it is: MSG!!!!! This evil chemical flavour enhancer is used by everyone here, and I’m allergic to it! WHY????? So basically, now everytime I go out to eat, I’m going to avoid food that it already made, and then literally stand in front of the Pak or Ibu who is cooking the food, and say, “Silakan, tidak pakai micin”, or “Tidak pakai penyedap rasa, tolong”. Because they’ll probably try to slip it in if you don’t keep watching, like sometimes you get a still little bit of sugar in your tea when you say “teh tawar”, or “tidak manis” (not sweet). (They LOVE sugar here.)

And also, it’s probably also the fact that I’m eating more meat now, something that was almost completely absent for around 5-6 years in my diet before coming here. Yah. So I’m going back to being vegetarian, unless it’s impossible (technically speaking, I would be a ‘flexitarian’, then, as Jordan would say). The impossibility of being a veggie can happen a lot here; ‘vegetarian’ is not a regular concept in Indonesia, and when I’m a guest, I like to try things. Also, I have to be more choosy what warungs to eat at, as a lot of places don’t have a vegetarian option. So at least I know the possible sources of my problem, now. I hope….! Sante!


4 comments on “Living in a Foreign Country

  1. Jordan says:

    I wouldn’t call meat eaters “flexitarians”, I would call them “more awesome”. Glad to hear you are feeling better!

  2. Alice says:

    Oh hon, I hear you! The food is the hardest to adapt to. Everyone I knew who spent time in India got violently ill their first week there, including me. After that my stomach got more used to things, but I still had to be really careful all the time. Only eating things you’ve watching people cook in front of you is a great plan. Of course there it’s super easy to be vegetarian and people actively respect you for it, for the most part. I had a really tough time trying to stay veg in China though, so I’m impressed that you’re even trying to do so in Java. In the end, the food was just about the only part I liked about China so I embraced the meat (as long as I ate in fancier restaurants).

    If you do end up getting milk delivered to your door, you might want to do two things: strain it through a fine sieve (there are often little twigs and stuff in it), and heat it to boiling before putting it in your fridge. I had milk delivery in India for a while and the locals were very adamant about both those steps. Can you get water buffalo milk? That would be higher fat, which could help your calorie intake if you’re having trouble with other foods.

  3. amanda says:

    im glad you’re feeling better Joz! I miss you tonnes and Im sending you happy tummy vibes ~ I think you’ve got a good plan food-wise, plus I can send you whatever you heart desires via the wonder of Canada Post..

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