Sights and Sounds

Life has moved along at a slow pace here on the island. Some days are enjoyable and rewarding but every so often it feels like I am in a prison. My body is stuck on this island. Boats and airline schedules are constantly delayed by weeks or months. I have very little control, I just hope to get off in June at the absolute latest.

Along with the loss of mobility, I am almost always in a state of hunger. Living here for months has allowed me to reflect on my hunger. The hunger is almost like a sound that is always present. It can be quiet and dim after a substantial meal but it is never completely disappears. At some point the inevitable happens and the sound starts to blare so loud that it affects every aspect of my being and it cripples me. In those moments I just lay curled up in bed, whiling up the energy to go out and get food.

Preparing a Taro patch for planting with a family of boys.

There came a point a few weeks when I was so frustrated with the repeated failings of the chicken coup that I realized I had to kill a chicken in order to improve my situation and not feel as terribly hungry as I did.

Empowered by the potential of the opportunity that lay ahead, I went for a walk and found a wooden pole in an abandoned house and broke the pole into an arms length piece with my machete. I then put on my running shoes and shorts and began to hunt, using the pole like a boomerang that doesn’t return. As I jogged through the forest, I listen for the chickens and when I heard one I sprinted after it, surprising the chicken and launching the wooden pole at it to make it fall over so I could reach down and grab it.

I ran for two hours through the island’s reserve, sprinting through the jungle after chickens and throwing the pole. At the hour mark I laughed at myself. I worked hard in university so I could run around with a pole trying to catch a chicken. After studying the chickens behavior over the last few weeks I have learned about the various sounds they make when they are comfortable and in distress, their range of speeds, group dynamics and how far they can fly when they need to evade. Despite running myself to the point of exhaustion I still had not been successful in my hunt. Defeated, I walked home and showered. I realized there was still enough light for me to set a trap for the chickens before they climbed a tree to roost for the night.

I set my trap using a screen door that my borderline alcoholic housemate broke off our back door and some fishing line plus a stick. I cut up open a coconut with a machete and put some strips under the trap and lay on the floor fifteen feet away with my book, wishing for a nutritional myrical to occur before sun down. To my luck a good-sized chicken began eating the coconut! I waited until it was deep inside the trap and then pulled the line!

Whoom!

The screen door fell perfectly on the chicken, pinning it to the ground. The bird started clucking wildly and I reached cautiously under the door and grabbed the chicken by its legs. I looked into its eyes and felt bad for the chicken; I was about to end its life. I took a moment of silence to be grateful for its nutrients. Once I killed the chicken I began the long process of pulling out all of the feathers. After that was done I took my machete and cut off its legs, head and cleaned out the organs and lit it on fire to burn off any remaining feathers; Voila c’est fini!

Many days ago I already had thought about the possibility of this moment and came up with the best meal to maintain the nutritional content of the chicken. A soup!

Soup is really an incredible thing. The water holds in all of the beautiful nutrients in the bones that is normally lost if I were to fry it for example. My late grandfather use to be a chef in Detroit and when ever I visited him he would make the most incredible soups. He would probably laugh at the recipe I created below.

The following is a soup that you can cook at home if you want if you want to enjoy some Beau-food to quiet your hunger!

Step 1: Read Julia Child’s my life in France to appreciate the bird properly and the art of cooking.

Step 2: If you are actually going to cook this meal and enjoy it to its full extent its probably best not to eat too much during the day. Everything tastes better when you are hungry. Under normal conditions this meal probably tastes sub-par if not terrible.

Step 3: Obtain a whole chicken using whatever means are necessary and clean the chicken. Depending on your hungry level take off the skin or leave the skin on.

Step 4: Cut the chicken into segments. 3–4 pieces perhaps.

Step 5: Add boiling water. Up to you how much. I think I used 5 cups.

Step 6: Cut up a potato if you live in North America or climb a tree and pick a breadfruit if you live on a tropical island.

Step 7: If you are lucky enough to have an onion, cut that up and add it in. Also add a few cloves of garlic if you have that too.

Step 8: Add a bit of salt, maybe a conservative spoonful and half a spoon full of chili flakes (important).

Step 9: Allow the pot to boil and then simmer for a while. Make sure the potatoes or breadfruit and chicken is done before you turn off the heat.

Step 10: Add cooked rice if you have any. Up to you but I found it adds a lot of life to the soup.

Step 11: If you don’t need to eat the soup immediately let it sit overnight in your fridge and take the fat off the top. If you would like to eat the soup right away enjoy!

I have never done cocaine before but when I had this soup at about 9pm that night it had, what I imagine, a similar effect on my body.

My energy levels shot up right away, my mental health improved massively and I felt a lot better about every aspect of my life. The noise in my body was almost gone.

I have had this soup five times now in the last two weeks. Sometimes I use a fish if I have one or I obtain a chicken if I am lucky. Each time before taking my first spoonful of the soup my hands shoot up into the air like I have accomplished something great and something that I deeply value. I had no idea how important food was for my wellbeing until it became a limited resource. Before I have a meal now I take a moment to be grateful for the food I am about to eat and it brings me a little bit of happiness.

Perspective is an interesting thing. In the past I have found it is so hard to develop a true perspective for something without the actual experience. For example, I have read a fair amount of work from black authors in the last year but I still have very little of an idea of what it is truly like to be a black male my age in North America.

One benefit of my current position is it gives me some ability to experience things I would have never done willingly in Canada and allows me to attach myself to a new perspective if only for a short while. Even though at some point every day I tell myself “Adam, life will not always be life this, things will get better, it is a statistical fact.” I am grateful for the experience to gain this new appreciation for food and personal space that I would not have developed otherwise.

One thing I have not really talked about are the social dimensions that exist within the place that I currently call home. It probably deserves a separate post so I am going to hold off but the bottom line is I have very little personal space. Any food I do catch I have to eat in my room quietly because young men are always around, generally drunk off a coconut home brew, and will eat anything in the fridge or on the stove. I left my room for a few hours yesterday with all of my valuables in my bag because my room doesn’t have a lock. When I came back someone had gone into my room and eaten my powdered milk and Wheatabix I have literally been rationing like an astronaut stuck on Mars (two pieces a day on odd days of the week). I was surprisingly upset this morning when I noticed my loss.

I don’t think it is realistic for the readers of this story to starve themselves in order to feel a version of chronic hunger and attach themselves to a new perspective and appreciation around food but there are many other ways to touch on what that could be like. Months ago I read Half a yellow sun by and really enjoyed the different narratives around the Biafra war in Nigeria and it was one the first books I had read that spiked my interest around hunger and conflict. It is probably not a terrible place to start.

Disclaimer: I just wanted to point out that community members do bring my house food sometimes and there is still canned meat at the shop that I can buy (I bought it once and felt a brick in my stomach for a few days, I will probably buy it again). I am not dying, in fact I have gained maybe five pounds since the foundation of the soup and I exercise every morning. I am just very hungry almost all of the time, but this is arguably similar to many young men I know back in Canada. Also, the young men here are not constantly drunk, just on weekends and some week days at my place many of them come by and drink with my housemate because I don’t live with my grandmother or extended family like they do at their home.)

End notes: Some music I have been enjoying is the Yesterday New Quintet EP, I listened to it while writing this thing. If you like jazz check it out and thank you Mike Jones.

I have read a book or two a week for the last few months. Considering I couldn’t read for leisure for about three years I am really enjoying myself. Some of the best were…

White Tiger by

It is a story about systemic poverty and classism in India in the 2000s. A young mans story about breaking into the middle class and beyond. It showed me how poverty can by like having pair of handcuffs chained to a wall and the fictional story highlighted how heavy a weight individuals who manage to make it out of “the darkness” carry when they migrate to a city.

Shoe Dog by Phil Knight

This book is fantastic if you are interested in the story behind Nike and following the rollercoaster of starting and growing a company. I loved this book and have thought about the external conditions that made Nike possible during the 70s for months after reading. It is an honest account of Nike’s past and the founder, Phil Knight, does a great job at conveying the story.

Mountains beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder

One of my favourite books about a doctor who refuses to accept the status quo in healthcare and dedicates his life to the poor and underserved. It highlighted how challenging a career in global health can be if one actually wants to make a substantial difference. According to Tracy Kidder, Paul Farmer is incredible, almost like a modern day Jesus. Maybe he will respond to my emails one day.

Age of Ambition chasing fortune, truth & faith in new China by Evan Osons

I really enjoyed this read and so did Obama apparently. I am very interested in China’s history in the 20th century and where it is going in the next fifty years. The author does a great job connecting personal stories from different people living in China and ties it in smoothly with overarching themes. Some chapters are stronger than others, the pieces on censorship and the inner workings of the Internet in China I found very interesting. Reading Orwell’s 1984 before would be a cool lead-in to some of aspects in this book.

Half a yellow sun by

I’ve already mentioned a little bit about this book but I thoroughly enjoyed learning about Nigeria’s history around that time period and a war that I didn’t even know had occurred. The story is told through several different character narratives and they are all intertwined to create a vivid picture. It touches indirectly on how economic oppression can lead to conflict and overthrow the ruling group and it goes into how hunger and food security contributed to the outcome of the conflict.

Bonus!: The Serpant and the rainbow by

This book is not for everyone. It is a story about zombies, Haitian history, medical anthropology and voodoo written through the eyes of a Harvard Botanist. It took me five years to read but when I finally got around to reading it I loved exploring the concepts around medical anthropology and how the unnatural can become the natural. This book made me Google the benefits of applying medical anthropology in a clinical setting and I used a framework designed by Author Kleinman (Paul Farmer’s mentor) to work through a clinical case I had at the time. In other words this book changed the way I work through and understand health. This would be a great read after finishing Mountains beyond Mountains because they are both based in Haiti but approach health and the political situation in Haiti at that time in different ways.

In closing, if anyone wants to join a WhatsApp book club I would be very keen to have you on board, the current membership consists of only myself. I’m about to read either “Better Angels Of Our Nature” by Steven Pinker or “The Gene” by Siddhartha Mukherjee or “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou. Hit me up if you want to read one of those and then talk about it after. I also have a kindle so the possibilities go beyond those three books.