Oh Fuck, I Ate Shit Again…

“She want to know…why you not buy anything in here!” I’m at a night market with a group of university students. They are staring at me accusingly, almost pouting. “It’s very cheap!” I can’t bring myself to buy a plastic animal figurine made in China or a cheesy old-lady hat, and I feel terrible. They brought me here with such pride.  So when we get to the street food section I am overly enthusiastic about wanting to try things… here is a way to participate in the market. They point to some skewers and I sweep my arms wide: “Sure! Yes! I love chicken!”

We take the skewers and a steaming soup with huge seashells over to the tables on the side. I feel festive and local. They all watch me as I’m about to take a bite. “This is a very special food in Vietnam!” Right before biting I smell something familiar–its what I smelled before I bit into tube-shaped meat with brown stuff inside, sitting on the ground with some locals in Laos . . . and they were giving me the same eager, expectant look. It’s the smell of a toilet after someone else has just gone–not the thing itself but the ghost of it. I choke back the gag reflex as I hear them ask, “how do you feel?” and like last time, I don’t have any choice.

5 months later in Yangon I will tell this story to a group of Kiwi backpackers I’m sharing a taxi with. “Oh fuck, I ate shit again” … and we will all howl with laughter.

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