Halfway through lunch, I remembered it is Thanksgiving, my favorite American holiday. Largely because it draws the whole family together – which is, in my case five people – but also because it is so unabashedly about food. Even being a vegetarian (pescatarian) I get excited about it. Last time I had a Thanksgiving was 2004.

Today’s Thanksgiving meal, I really was thankful for. The owners of the guesthouse, one of whom is an old lady currently suffering from a bout of malaria, explained to me that there were no vegetables, no eggs and no fruit for sale in town. (I bought two pineapples, one ripe and one unripe, I gave the ripe one to one of my most fascinating informants.) So for lunch: rice, one sardine (in a rather unappetizing tomato sauce) and supermie instant noodles with MSG-flavor packets cooked in. Believe me, those flavor packets are good. They can make you want to eat, well, rice and noodles.

I decided I would drink Nescafe – milky coffee mixture – along with the food partly for the calcium in the powder and partly, well, to keep my stomach working with the absence of vegetable matter.

I sat there sweating under the tin roof in the midday run, with a feeble breeze coming through the windows. Sweat rolling down my legs and mosquitoes biting away – skirts are cool but leave you vulnerable!

I’m not being sarcastic when I say I’m ‘thankful’ for the meal. I’ve had much less appetizing. And it’s just a fact of life that there is no market or transport up here to bring produce to market. The kiosks used to sell eggs. They no longer do. Beans, greens, fruit used to be more plentiful because there were more cars, there were more civil servants to buy them in Indonesian times. The lack of rain is not helping the situation!

The Nescafe was an especially nice addition. I could pretend I was drinking Thai iced coffee. The sardine didn’t even taste as bad as I thought it would!

The big holidays are coming up here: November 28 – the day of the unilateral declaration of independence in 1975 by Fretilin (which not everybody is so eager to celebrate) and the day of the Immaculate Conception, a holiday which I only learned about moving to Portugal and then reading online about it. This day celebrates Mary’s immaculate conception, not that of Jesus !! (Which makes sense cause Jesus couldn’t be conceived on the 1st and born on the 25th.)

P.S. The following day I had a veritable feast after having gone to the market in Baguia, which I was intrigued to see, has cashew fruits for sale. My feast: salad, bean stew, fried eggs, and rice. Mmmmm.



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