Eating Like a Poor Person

Image from UWI newspaper


Update 07/19/2014:
Since I’ve given up on trying to upload audio for the photo voice project, I’ve decided to transcribe the recordings I already made to try to give you the full story. These were some of my observations after about 36 hours in Trinidad:

Things are going well, I guess, besides the shocking cost of food, the trip to the grocery store, and not being able to get what I wanted to eat. I have a University of the West Indies publication, and there’s an article that says the mortality rate from diabetes is higher in Trinidad than in North America, and that has the quotes above and below about roti. It’s a little scary, knowing I’m supposed to experience the culture of Trinidad, and food is such a large part of the culture. (I wonder what the results would have been if my doctor had done blood work and taken cholesterol tests and body fat measurements one day before the trip and upon my return. It wouldn’t be as bad as that episode of The Doctors where a doctor lived off of nothing but fast food for one week and aged about 15 years, right?)

I think the sheer cost of food is another contributing factor to the high diabetes rate. It’s weird for me feeling like I have to eat like a poor person. I’m careful about what I eat, but I never spend an enormous amount on food. I felt the cost of oatmeal was comparable—not as good as what I pay for oatmeal in bulk at Rainbow Blossom, but way cheaper than a canister of Quaker oatmeal from the store. Beans and rice were comparable to what I would see in the states, but my Lord, the produce! It was shocking how much that costs. They wanted what would’ve computed to $0.83 USD for a plum. That’s not a pound of plums; that was for a single plum. And I had a conversation last night about why this is. It turns out a lot of the produce is imported, and it feels crazy to be in the tropics and not be shopping in an open-air market where I could grab food that’s locally grown. To me, that’s unthinkable.

So I’m thinking a lot about food here and food scarcity, and having to eat like a poor person. I bought oatmeal, rice, beans, eggs, bread, four kiwi fruit, and broccoli. Broccoli is my only green vegetable for about the next week and half, so I hope it lasts. And the options on campus are actually worse than the ones at UofL; they’re more limited. So I can see why the rate of diabetes here would be really high.

I’ve also realized this trip is not made for healthy eaters. Everyone seems to think that as a college student, you live off of pizza and chips and cokes. The social coordinators told me to buy enough packaged food to last three weeks. Packaged food???? (Insert confused face here.) I don’t eat that stuff. There’s no cold cereal in my house, no chips, no “healthy” granola bars. I go to the grocery store every week because I run through produce. I like to eat lots of leafy green things, and I don’t like them to cost a whole lot, and they do here. I find that very problematic, and evidently, it’s kind of problematic for the country, too.

Update 07/16/2014: I’ve learned that my audio files may be unusable. It may be that I have to wait until I return to the states to change the format of these files. Very unfortunate and disappointing and would make this new experiment a total flop, but I’m working on it.

Listen to the first 4 minutes. And I know I said I would post things as they happen, but I have this “fat Tuesday” category, so …


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