Living In a Third World Country (Part 4: Clean Your Plate)



I had mentioned earlier in, Living in a Third World Country (Part 2: Getting Settled), that we stayed with an American couple for a couple of weeks, while waiting for our own house to be ready and our crates to arrive.  We had to stay with them for around two or three weeks, and while there was plenty of room for us in their house, it still wasn’t 100% comfortable for me.  This wasn’t my house so I always felt like I had to be on my absolute best behavior.  I wasn’t really happy being in Trinidad yet, and I felt like I had to put on a happy face while I was there.

Parker and Donna had been missionaries for the majority of their lives.  They lived and worked in Thailand for many years before moving to Trinidad where they had been for around 20 years.  Parker was the director, and taught different Biblical topics at the San Fernando School of Preaching and Teaching, and Donna passionately taught music there also.  They both took there jobs very seriously and were very well respected there.  It wasn’t long before I felt the same towards them as the majority of anyone who ever met them would.  They were and still are a very cherished couple to many, many people.

That being said, I can’t say that this was how I felt about them to begin with, and it took a little while before I did.  Don’t get me wrong, I always appreciated them and was thankful for everything they did for us during those first several weeks, but at this point, I needed to be coddled and handled very carefully or I lost it and would start crying, again.  I know, I sound like a big baby, and I was!  I am not denying that one bit.  I was always a very sensitive child and in this particular situation, I was extra sensitive.

Parker, for me, was just easier to get along with in the beginning than Donna.  I don’t know if he felt sorry for me and made a point to be extra kind, or if he was just scared of me, walking on egg shells around me, so as not to set off the overly emotional teenage girl living in his home.  Either way, I don’t remember having too much of an issue with him in particular.

Now, Donna, on the other hand, she was and still is, I’m sure, a very strong willed woman.  She was tough, and strong and to be honest, she scared me a little, and if I wasn’t living in her house, with her rules, we probably would have gotten along swimmingly from the start.  What is funny about the whole thing is that the stuff that really irked me the most, while I was there, is the same things that I make my own children do now, like keeping your bed made and room clean, and picking up after yourself after you eat.  I mean really, can you imagine having to make your own bed and put away your dishes, WOW, was I ever mistreated.  HA!!  I have one particular story I want to share that describes the whole atmosphere perfectly.

Every place has critters that tend to enjoy the comforts of our homes, even if we don’t particularly enjoy their company.  In Trinidad, ours was the dreaded sugar ants.  You know, those teeny, tiny black ants that tend to get in your sugar or cereal.  Well, one afternoon we had been invited over to eat lunch at Parker and Donna’s house.  I took my regular seat, to the right of Parker, who sat at the foot of the table.  The food was blessed and it began making its way around the table.

Everyone began eating and I took a couple of bites of my food, including a bite or two of some peas.  While I was chewing and rather enjoying my peas I began peering down into my plate, I realized that something wasn’t quite right about the peas I was enjoying so very much.  As I took a closer look, I realized that, sure enough, these weren’t your ordinary peas, nope these peas were extra special.  As discretely as I possible could, I got my mom’s attention and directed it to the peas on my plate.  As she studied them, she came to the same realization and confirmed my deepest fears, that wasn’t pepper mixed in with our peas, nope, those were ants, not just a couple of ants, there were enough ants in those peas to give you the protein you needed in order to survive for a week without food.

We informed Donna of this and she examined them and decided that they were not ants, it was just pepper but she sure didn’t convince me and I don’t think she convinced anyone else around the table of it either, but being the respectful individuals that we were and knowing that in this house you completely cleaned your plate, we continued eating.

I was so proud of myself when I finally finished that last bite, so proud, that I pointed it out to whoever it was that was sitting to my right, which couldn’t have been but a couple of seconds of bragging triumphantly.  As I settled back into my chair with a proud sigh of relief, I glanced down, one last time, at my plate. To my astonishment and horror, there was another serving of those ant peas.  I wish I could’ve had a picture taken right at that moment of what my face must have looked like as I tried to figure out where in the world these things came from.  Manna from above was not an option, and Donna was at the opposite end of the table, there was no way she served it to me.

This bewilderment, on my part, only lasted a second or two, it became as clear as crystal, as soon as I glanced to my left. See, the quiet little man, sitting to my left, who had decided he wasn’t going to eat his peas, he was going to be brave and defy the woman sitting on the opposite side of the table, regardless of the consequences or at least this was what I thought as I watched him not eat his peas, while I forced mine down.  No, this man, seeing that I was able to keep them down, while I was turned to the right, bragging about finishing mine, dumped his, on my plate, and then sat, just as proud and triumphant as I had been five seconds earlier.  It was written all over his face.  Parker had won, he was still in good with his wife, and he knew good and well that I would eat those peas without a word, which I did.  You would think that this would’ve angered me but oddly enough, it just endeared him to me more, because now we had a moment, a secret, and a story to tell.

As the months continued on, Parker and Donna, easily became my family.  I adopted them as my grandparents and I adored them and still do today.  One of my proudest moments was when Donna asked me to teach her a song.  She new the basics to it but needed help with the alto.  She was a very strong alto and so for her to be asking me for help was one of the proudest moments for me.  I loved sitting next to her during church or anywhere we went.  She is one of those people that when she hugs you, you had better take a deep breath and brace yourself, because she hugs like a bear.  It was the same when she would hold your hand, tight and strong.  I love them dearly and they will always hold a very special place in my heart.



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