The day before yesterday I chose to “order out” for lunch, something I was told I could do if I didn’t want to eat the cafeteria food. So, My second day here, I thought I’d try it. I asked the admin assistant if I could order out. She said, “Sure John, what would you like? Pizza? Burgers?” If I was really perceptive at this point, I might have thought something like, “Gee, I guess that’s what the other guys from the states must have eaten.”
So, eventually lunch time rolls around, and I go to find the food. It was set up in the cafeteria, and one of the nicest tables. But, the Pizza Hut box was not the only thing present — there on the table was a gilded paper placemat, a gold-edged china plate, fancy silverware, a Coke and bottled water. Now, the bottled water is kind of a requirement for people from the States, because the biology of the water here could make me useless for a large chunk of my expensive company-sponsored stay, so that didn’t bother me. What bothered me was that, unlike yesterday, my team didn’t sit with me. I felt like I was being treated like the lord of the manor, or something, a role I am very uncomfortable with, and the lunch separated me from from them in ways beyond the culinary and into the social. I vowed to myself not to order out again for the remainder of my stay.
Yesterday, I ate in the cafeteria again, using the plastic plates, etc. My team sat with me again, with questioning smiles. I had some awesome korma and other Indian food. I was asked several times how the orderd-out food was, and if it was to my liking. I said the veggie pizza was very good, comparing favorably to that back home, but that this lunch food was really much more to my tastes. This brought a more relaxed easy smiling to their faces. The food was more spicy than last time, but well within my chile-loving tolerance. In fact, I must have passed some spicy food test, because they all looked at each other as I cleaned my plate and then said that if I liked that, they would like to go to dinner with me and take me to a nice spicy Punjabi restaurant. I felt more like a co-worker and friend after that meal, for the first time since arriving.
Needless to say, I ate at the cafeteria again today with my new friends. Thanks be to God!