I have a major gag reflex… When I was a kid, there were many foods I wouldn’t eat because of the texture- if something was too mushy or soggy or whatever, it would trigger my gagger. My biggest issue was if food reminded me or looked like WORMS.. I have NO idea where this psychological imbalance came from. But if anyone mentioned that a food looked like worms, slugs, or bugs, I instantly lost my appetite and would start gagging at the thought that my food could possibly resemble those nasty wiggly slimy atrocious things. I had to excuse myself from the table multiple times so no one would have to witness the unpleasant hurrling affair.
For example: Spaghetti. I would be just fine eating my lovely plate of pasta, then all the sudden my mind would think about worms or some gross creepy crawly and right then and there I would start to dry heave. I couldn’t even eat gummy worms!! Well.. still to this day I won’t eat gummy worms.. Gummy bears however– no problem.
Yeah. I know. Weird.
Can’t explain it, just a weird quirk as a child. Now being an adult, I still have odd food texture things sometimes, but I’ve been able to tolerate and control my gagger so the upchucking has been to a very minimum.
However that was put to the test when offered to eat plump beetle larvae…
(Lord help me!)
For the past few months I’ve been living in the plains of the Amazon jungle in Ecuador. Before coming I knew that I would probably eat some funky things. The first week I ate a handful of live ants! (but that was on accident) One of our Ecuadorian friends, Marco, came to the market with us to buy Gusanos a.k.a beetle larvae, for his wife who was sick. Apparently those fat worm thingy’s help with sore throats and cure pneumonia. Not sure how much I believe that but this is coming from a person who grew up with western medicine. I suppose when you grow up in the jungle, you find your medicine in a variety of things.
Marco asked me if I have tried Gusanos before, I said no but internally I was saying “Heck to the NO and please don’t make me!!” He insisted that I try it because it would give me a better understanding for the culture and what living in the jungle is like. Attempting to get my way out of it I said, “But Marco, I’m not sick. I don’t need it.” To which he responded with a little chuckle and a smirk on his face.
My gagger was already going.
I can’t do this. There is no way I can do this.
Oh my gosh I’m going to vomit.
Lord Jesus take the wheel!!!!!
Having a slight (not so slight) internal freak out moment on our car ride back from the market, all I could think about was my tendency to dry heave and gag really bad. Eating bugs is already gross, but to add-on to my texture issue, I knew that I was going to have an episode of endless dry heaving and it was not going to be pretty.
Marco had me hold one of them; as it wiggled between my fingers I shouted “Marco! No me gusta!!!” He laughed and really got a kick out of my frenzy. A few hours past and Marco came with a prepared pot of roasted Gusanos on top of boiled potatoes. Bon appetit.
That very moment, as I looked at those yellow roasted plump worms, tears started to swell in my eyes. Not because I was upset or scared, but because it took all the will power in me to not have a fierce gagging occurence. My friend Tina, who has eaten many odd things from her Ecuadorian friends have offered her, looked at me and saw the torture in my face. She said to me, “You don’t have to do this. You have a choice not to if you really don’t want to.”
Yes I do.” I said.
What?! The words came out before I could even think about my offer of opting out!
But it was true. I had to. Although one of my worst nightmares since I was a kid was happening, I knew I had to step out of my comfort zone. I knew my tendencies when I was grossed out and I really didn’t want to embarrass myself in front of my friends. But I had to face the uncomfortable and eat them. I had to because of Marco.
I had to because Marco wanted to share something from his culture with me. He wanted to show that he valued my experience here. It was a testament of his friendship towards me. (I also think that he wanted to watch me freak out and laugh at me haha).
I had to because I also wanted to show Marco that I care about him and where he comes from. I had to because I wanted to show that I respect him, value him, and appreciate him.
Many people back home who are following my journey via social media responded to my worm eating show and said, “I could never do that!” But I have to disagree. Yes you could. It’s nasty, it’s certainly not the first choice of an appetizer, and it’s an uncomfortable situation. But when you are shown love from someone who went out of their way to share something with you and is so excited to have you experience something that is familiar to them, you find it in yourself to surrender your self-comfort. You find it in yourself to take part in their joy. When it comes to doing life with people, you somehow find the strength to indulge in making them happy and show your appreciation for them. Even if it gets your gagger.
Being here in Shell Ecuador gives me plenty of opportunities to raise up my white flag and surrender my comfort and to choose others first before insisting on my own way. I definitely do not do this perfectly, but I am seeing that when we value people, it does not have to be done in some extravagent way. It can simply be done by engaging. Engage in their realtiy. Engage when you would do things differently. Engage even if its extemely awkward and uncomfortable. Take part in the people around you, it speaks volumes.
The Worm Eater.
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