I’ve been back in New Zealand this week honouring a commitment I had to work. When we signed up to come to Timor Leste I knew I’d be going back in late May and I thought, great, I’ll be well and truly ready for home.
Turns out I wasn’t. I quite literally dragged my feet and my suitcase like a petulant child to the airport and the trip via Darwin and Sydney just seemed interminable.
Don’t tag me as some heartless monster who feels nothing for home just yet. It’s been awesome being back and seeing the people I love and being at least a simple phone call closer to others, and heck even the cold weather hasn’t been too much of a downer, but leaving Dili felt like I was ripping up the very new, very tender roots I’d only just begun to lay down.
If you’ve been taking note you’ll know I’ve become overly interested in food, so it’s no surprise that one of the best moments in the last week was eating liver and bacon and creamy mashed potato for brunch. Every bite was a treat, the $71.00 bill for 3 of us, less so. I’ve yet to crack $70 for a weekly grocery shop back home. It doesn’t take long to get used to $2.00 frozen chickens from Brazil.
Speaking of food, Mark’s been conducting a little survey with the kids who are in doing work experience. I’ve spoken before about malnutrition being a real thing in Timor Leste but there’s nothing like a real example to hit it home. The WHO suggests 2200 calories is just about right for growth and development and health. Mark’s rough and ready survey had these kids at between 800-1200. He said what are you eating everyday? 2 slices of bread, rice and chicken for lunch, same again for dinner. Maybe a glass of milk. It’s no surprise then that the organisation he works for has identified the need for lunch and snacks during training courses.
Which brings me to my greatest realisation since being back. I’ve always been a pretty grateful person. Absolutely conscious that things are much worse for other people in other places and that, by and large I was pretty lucky to be born when and where I was. But I’m not sure I’ve ever really grasped the idea of privilege the way I’m looking at it now.
All that paleo, keto, Weight Watchers, sugar free, fat lite, fasting, eat to your blood type, vegan, pescatarian bullshit is ONLY possible when you have a CHOICE about what you eat. I see giant bags of sugar in the supermarket, and I know I’ve got friends who would feel faint at the sight of all that “white death”. That choosing to be a vegetarian because you’re ethically opposed to farming and morally affronted at the thought of eating animal flesh is a luxury that a vast number of people in the world simply don’t have.
And I’m not saying don’t do those things. Embrace any food fad you wish. Be passionate about eating less meat and dairy and be concerned about the state of our waterways. But consciously understand and value that having that choice is a privilege that doesn’t extend to everyone.
I went to Raglan last weekend and found a “terribly chic” little boutique (aren’t they all) that sold solid bar shampoo. I like it cos it smells good and takes up less room in my bag. The woman behind the counter gushed “oh well done, by buying this you’ll have saved 8 plastic bottles”.
I may have said something like “where I’m currently living plastic bottles may be saving lives”.
I was thinking about the 100 kids at the preschool up in the village where there’s no kitchen, no toilets, no running water. And the women I see in the culverts along the road doing their washing in the grimy run off. I was thinking about the children who die of diarrhea (world-widediarrhea kills 2,195 children every day—more than AIDS, malaria, and measles combined). And how we buy water, giant blue 5 litre bottles for a dollar. When the average daily wage is $1.50.
Later that night when I got back to my sister-in-law’s place I ran the tap in the bathroom and I cleaned my teeth and wandered out to the kitchen and got a glass of water. And just cos I could I chose a chocolate bar over a carrot!
I’ve never been more conscious of being privileged.