I can’t decide whether it’s a disadvantage that I can manage to go without food easily. Unlike others, I don’t get irritable when my blood sugar starts to dip when I haven’t eaten in a while. I don’t have to eat immediately after I get up in the morning. I don’t have to interrupt my schedule—or others’ schedules—to make sure to feed myself. I can float and eat when it’s convenient.
Definitely an advantage. Or at least a convenience.
But I do know when I’m hungry.
And I’m starting to get hungry now.
I’m moving in a bit. All of my bags are packed, and I’ve sifted through my emails and marked the unimportant ones as read.
There’s a duka down the street where I can get chapatis for 200/= each. Naumba chapati mbili. Mia nne, sindiyo? I can do this with my nascent Swahili.
Cash in hand, I walk out the gate and down the street. It’s perhaps too late for breakfast, but too early for lunch. Mama Freddy’s should be empty.
But it isn’t. It’s actually quite busy. Uncharacteristically, I turn around and head home. I don’t want to practice speaking in front of so many strangers.
I move, settle in. I have no idea how I’m going to feed myself, but I don’t want to spend the time or money to go into town for food. It’s 1600. Maybe I’ll just go to bed…
I’ve moved in with Alfred, a friend of Adam’s. His cousin Daniel is staying here this week, too. Alfred owns his own safari company. Daniel is studying in Dar.
Daniel’s wandered in and out as I’ve settled in. I was really only worried when he made a motion to open the drawer where I’d put all of my, well, drawers.
He comes back in.
‘I’m making rice. You are welcome.’
‘Yes, I’d like that,’ I answer without hesitation.
We sit down at the table together later. Daniel offers me to serve myself first. Stealing a line from Mitch Hedberg, if the rice were what someone would do with a million dollars, I serve myself the ‘donate it to charity’ portion.
‘Please, have more!’ he insists.
Not wanting to offend, I scoop a generous pile of rice onto my plate. There are pieces of cut potato in it, spices. I top it with what Tanzanians call ‘vegetables,’ a mix of boiled greens, shredded carrots, tomatoes, maybe pepper, and onions with a hint of salt-vinegar marinade. It’s delicious.
He’s also made a fruit salad of fresh ripe mango, watermelon, banana, and avocado.
I try not to eat as ravenously as I feel the need to. We talk about his studies, about learning Swahili. About families and religion, Moshi and Boston.
It’s such a grace, this meal.
I finish my first plate of beans and vegetables. He offers me yet more. ‘Karibu sana.’
‘Asante sana,’ I help myself to more, appreciative of a culture in which it’s polite to leave a little on your plate, indicating that you’ve had enough and are full.
When you haven’t, empty plates speak in silent dining conversation. I always enjoy the unspoken communication of decorum at meals via plates and silverware. In the West, I indicate that I’m done by neatly aligning my fork and knife in the eight-o’clock position on my plate. The server comes to clear it. I excuse myself from the table and fold my napkin on my seat. The server comes to refold it. There are no interruptions, and conversation can continue casually as the diner and server fulfill their duties, the one to enjoy and the other to wait.
Here, empty plates indicate bellies that aren’t full. Karibu sana, you are welcome. Enjoy. Eat more.