A Taste Of Gratitude

May 25, 2009
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There I was, seated at a gigantic round table piled with plates of food from outer space, to put it euphemistically. Did I really endure an 18-hour flight for this? Nevertheless, I was not going to allow such a petty thought to disturb my trip. It’s not everyday I get to sit in an upscale restaurant with waiters in roller blades in Thailand. Acknowledging the obstinate muscles in my face, I forced a smile that probably appeared as if I had stuck a banana horizontally in my mouth. I pondered for a while and finally decided I would give the edibles a try. After all, I had promised my mother I would restrain myself from being a picky eater for this vacation.
A beautiful Thai waitress on roller blades suddenly plopped a coconut juice bowl filled with mystery objects onto my plate. My heart loosened when I noticed that the elderly woman next to me was sipping the liquid with glee. (I later found out she had lost her artificial teeth and only the juice was soft enough for her to consume). As I allowed the warm liquid to melt in my mouth, the tour guide made way for conversation. “I hope you enjoy the healthy swallow spit in the juice ”, she remarked. Realization hit me at a slow pace and when it did, I panicked like no other. My stomach did a flip and so did my smile. After nearly choking to death, I ran my flowered napkin across my lips as if wiping my mouth, and took the chance to sputter the repulsive slime into my napkin. This routine continued on with the ant eggs and many others. By the time dessert arrived, my napkin had collected about one whole pound of food.

Suddenly, I felt something damp rub against my arm and glanced down with horror to see my napkin leaking. Miscellaneous liquids glided across the flower prints of my napkin as pea-like objects skittered with impatience and others popped out of the wet areas like blooming daisies. Having no recourse but to excuse myself, I bolted to the restroom and dumped my bloated napkin into the toilet. As I flushed, I wallowed in guilt as I watched the food go to waste. My earlier witness of the impoverishment of Thai civilians and elephants allowed me to appreciate everything I had. I thought of how important the swallow spit coconut juice would have seemed to that starving girl sprawled on the ground in search of rusty coins, or how glorious the ant eggs would have appeared to the emaciated family huddled in palm tree leaves. My thoughts then transitioned to how disgraceful I would react if my parents congratulated me for keeping the “promise” of eating everything on my plate. Well, let’s just say I did not have to worry about the latter because a moment later, a woman rushed into the restroom with a bloated napkin just like mine. Her hair was draped across her face but I knew that necklace, that shirt, and that watch. Standing before me with the identical expression of guilt, was my mother.





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