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How to Survive Food Poisoning

9 May

The best tactic would be to avoid food-poisoning, but this is not possible in India.  You can get food-poisoned in expensive restaurants and be perfectly safe on the streets.  After eating street chaat for months, I finally succumbed to a bowl of Tom Yum at the Tasty Tangles restaurant in DLF Mall and a bowl of miso ramen soup at the restaurant in the Metropolitan hotel.  (Don’t eat east asian soup in India!  It’s never fresh.)  Those experiences were worse than the time that I ate 3-wk old chicken soup.

The effects of diarrhea will not be immediate.   The next day will be deceivingly good.  But if in the off-chance that you know you have gotten food-poisoned, take activated charcoal tablets.  These things absorb anything you’ve eaten recently out of your system.  If you can’t find activated charcoal tablets at the store, then you can make some by burning toast and scraping off that black gold.

The first sign of things gone wrong will be fever and pain that will have you in a fetal position.  Sleep through this.  In fact, treat this condition like the flu: sleep and drink liquids as much as you can.  Then you can start yourself on the BRAT diet.  Bananas, Rice, Applesauce and Toast.  Also eat yogurt.  I scoffed in everybody’s face when they suggested the yogurt, because you’re not supposed to consume dairy products, but somehow this is the lone exception.  Yogurt is okay.  And even good, because it contains the probiotics.  Drink Gatorade for the electrolytes.  But do not make the mistake I did and fast.  For a couple of days, I drank only Gatorade and ate glucose biscuits because I felt too sick to eat.  This created worse-looking bile (green liquid!) and introduced acid reflux to my ear, resulting in a weird ear sore.  Not quite an infection, but it felt like one.  After putting everything under the sun into my ear to make it go away, I finally realized that it was part of a stuffed up sinus and would go away naturally when the sinuses did.

Getting food-poisoned in India is worse, because there are no bland foods to eat.  Everything, include the salad, is drenched in masala spice.  The rice is even oiled up.  I think this is why it took me so long to recover and why I lost so much weight.  There will not be a day when your stool is suddenly normal.  For me, I didn’t have to poo for a couple of days and was quite worried about what was going on inside my stomach and if I would suddenly explode when the time came.  You will have to make the decision that you are well and then start living life.  Stay strong!  And don’t take Immodium!  Cipro is a nuclear bomb for your stomach and should be avoided unless you have chronic diarrhea.

Guide of Foods Okay to Eat (Not Scientific at all!)

  • chicken (preferably without skin, but don’t sweat a broiled chicken.  Lightly fried is okay too, but try to avoid it.)
  • any kind of soup
  • pasta, without sauce
  • rice cooked in water
  • boiled eggs
  • I’ve heard that you’re supposed to avoid raw fruit.  (But bananas are apparently okay.  There’s exceptions to everything!)

Burger King kicked McDonald’s Ass

11 Jun

BK on the Prado. Offers Wi-Fi!

Add this to your list of “Only in Bolivia” (well, what makes Bolivia uniquely Bolivia):  McDonald’s went out of business here.  Yes, even though the Bolivian diet is essentially the McDonald’s diet (meat and potatoes and friedness…and also similar to the chicken mcnugget, you don’t know what’s going into those salchipapas and chorizos), Bolivians don’t give a hoot about McDonald’s.  It’s not even considered a luxury or status item, as in most countries.  It seems that American culture has reached Bolivia:  most of the programming on TV is American, subtitled; there’s a fake Hard Rock and MTV store in La Paz; Playboy jeans and accessories are worn like Chanel.  But when it comes to food taste, Bolivians have told me that they’re very particular about it. Bolivians like to eat Bolivian food and nothing else.  Guacamole and tortillas have yet to make a breakthrough here, despite the fact that every cholita is selling avocados and choclo.

Enter Burger King.  They have succeeded where McDonald’s has failed.  Burger King is perhaps the only popular American franchise here in Bolivia (I have seen a Subway and a fro-yo place, but there’s only one branch), and it’s not even that popular to boot.   A friend of mine from Cochabamba, Bolivia says that Burger King was able to survive here b/c they actually changed their menu to match Bolivian tastes–the burgers even taste Bolivian-style (which is more flavorful and spiced than in the U.S.).  My gringo friends tell me the opposite–the burgers at Burger King don’t taste as good as the U.S.

I went to BK for the first time today.  The burgers were delicious.  I haven’t been to BK since I was 10, when they had the 99 cents Whopper and my family bought 4 and ate those in the parking lot every weekend during the summer.  So my memory may be faulty, but these tasted pretty much like BK burgers, unique cuz they’re flame-broiled.  The lettuce was a little yellow, but it was clearly not a Bolivian-style burger, which would be a slightly flatter patty, more fried/blackened and spiced.  BK was also wonderful, b/c it offered free Wi-Fi and has a large selection of coffee, desserts, fried chicken, etc.  I will be going back.

The First Post…and it’s about food.

19 Nov

Eating fried fish under a gorgeous rainbow

Oy, it’s been almost two months since I’ve been in Samoa and I’ve been promising for one that I’d put up a blog “tomorrow.” Apologies. What can I say for myself after two months? I’m very tan, slightly mutilated by mosquitoes and coral, and still learning what it means to be Samoan. I’ve also had a string of crazy, random experiences, which I would’ve never predicted. I wrote to my friend Anh about one weekend in Samoa and she remarked that it was an ulimate Agnes-like sentence. Judge for yourself: “I’ve been hanging out with Mormons, met Miss Samoa, got on Samoan tv as part of the audience for Samoa’s first variety-show, hiked off the beaten-path on the side of a waterfall with a one-eyed local with a machete and a gun leading the way, swam in the warm Pacific, and lost a lot of stuff, of course.” And that’s only half of it. I’ll try my bestest to write as close to real-time as possible.

But please don’t think life in Samoa is always high-octane. It’s a slow, relaxed beach-life, which is inducing madness for someone as restless as me. I’m never the one to sit on the beach and read, but as I drive by roads on Samoa, anytime of the day, all I see are people sitting in fales, just sitting and hanging out. People are very okay with sitting and waiting. It could be the national pastime. Almost all shops close at 2 p.m. on Saturday and all day Sunday, so your weekend could be shortened to just a few hours on Saturday. Very few restaurants exist in Samoa and they are only in the capital, but the restaurants are closed on Sunday. Funday Sunday is also Snoreday Sunday in Samoa. It’s a big feast after Church and then naps all day long.

The excitement begins rather early on Sunday, around 6:30 a.m., when the boys begin preparations for the to’onai, or Sunday Feast. It’s a giant spread of taro, breadfruit, chicken, mutton flaps, fish, and a series of coconut-based dishes that are all baked in an earth oven, an umu. Everything is made from scratch, which is why the whole process can take up to 3 or 4 hours. The boys build the oven by lighting rocks, they scrape and strain the coconut for cream, they climb trees to gather breadfruit, and they weave baskets to carry the food in. When they’re finished cooking, the boys drink a few bottles of vodka, beer, whiskey (on an empty stomach!) and nap. Then they wake up around 2 p.m., eat, and take another nap.

Here’s a video of the to’onai at my landlord’s house:

And other random photos:


Mr. Samoa 2009 being seduced by a fa'fafine (tranvestite)

Hiking through a trecherous slope