Life in a backpack: …and a belly full of bread 8/22

Day seven of my three month European backpacking journal

Monday, August 22nd, 2016

I’m terrified that I cannot fully emerge into the cultures of the countries I visit. I cannot eat their food. I hate food. It makes me sick.

Food is supposed to make me healthy, strong, and happy. However, for the last year, food has made me ill, weak, and scared. There must be something wrong with me. I saw the doctor, scheduled labs, and sat through MRI scans of my abdomen. Not cancer. Not hemmeriods. Nothing. He suggested a vegetarian diet might make me feel better.

This is why I am a vegetarian. No more throwing up. No more unsolid, lightly colored stool. I have gained weight again.

This morning I sat in the common room of the 11th Hour Cinema Hostel, drinking a morning cup of free hostel coffee. From where I sat on the couch, I heard the sound of sizzling bacon from the kitchen around the corner. The delicious purfume of frying bacon stirred something monsterious in my stomach. I wish I could eat meat, and it drove me mad because I could not.

So many of these countries are tied together in a main course of pork, chicken or beef, and I can only eat the side dishes, scraps, and rabbit food.

Can you imagine watching your family eat Christmas dinner while you’re outside in the snow, watching from the window? Can you picture only being able to hear the murmur of their voices and see but not smell the food? That’s how I feel. I am lonely.

If food is supposed to draw people together, does it separate me?

This last week I’ve watched my brother Chris and good friend Ben eat delicious local delicacies. I saw Chris lick the spiced meat sauce from his lips and Ben sit back and pat his full belly with satisfaction.

I looked at my own plate of bread and cheese. I felt like a peasant watching a feast prepared for kings…

I never thought food would make me cry, but it did. Salty and wet child-like tears pooled in my eyes as I stared across the room at the two German friends eating their strips of bacon. Quickly wiping away the tears from my eyes before anyone else came into the common room, I opened “Everything is Illuminated” and pretended to read, but I couldn’t concentrate.

I felt so ashamed for being upset about something, that on most days, I take for granted. I felt as if I needed to blame God or someone for isolating me in such a way. But most of all I felt angry.

I’m sick of asking grocery store clerks to translate the ingredients list on the packages.

I’m sick of watching the confused faces of street venders when I ask, “Is there meat in this?”

I’m sick of seeing the look of sympathy on people’s faces when I explain that meat makes me ill.

I’m sick of being afraid of being blamed for making the choice of not eating meat.

Not being able to eat a good meal that isn’t full of carbs on a regular basis has made me cranky, and it reflects in the way I’ve interacted with Ben and Chris, especially when our plans don’t go exactly right. This is not how I’d like to experience Europe. I need to eat something.

When we left Budapest, it was cold, rainy, and I was miserable.

The last of Spanish dirt, washed away by Hungarian rain.
Bus to Vienna was crammed to the max. Nothing like being a pillow for a complete stranger, who can’t speak English.
Lost in the streets of Vienna, trying to find Hostel…
Finally made it! Three hours of being lost, we made it!

11:53 PM

My mood has drastically improved! After spending an evening with our new friends from Manchester Katrina and Aaron, I found myself forgetting about food. We met them at the 11th Hour Cinema Hostel in Budapest, where (mostly) Aaron was devouring an entire large pepperoni pizza in the common room. They were traveling to Vienna on the same day we were, and after watching a bootleg version of Star Trek Beyond, we became quick friends.

Aaron loves pizza too much, and I swear he’s a Ninja Turtle. Keeping up with all of the funny things he said was impossible (just about as hard as breathing through my laughter at of his jokes). Here is a very poor sample of the funny things he said tonight:

“My girlfriend Katrina is only religious sometimes. Every time she enters a church, she does that sign of the cross thing that looks like you’re trying to catch a bug but can’t quite get it.”

Both Katrina and he are history majors, and are currently studying the subject at University. Aaron’s dream is to move to America and teach medieval history. Katrina’s dream is to teach high school age geography and history.

Since it is so late, and I need to publish tomorrow, I will do a more in depth feature on tomorrow’s entry. For now, I will just say that we all wish we weren’t going in separate directions…

Here are some photos to end the entry. Guess what, more pizza! For tomorrow’s entry, please click here.

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