Hunger

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Sometimes food bowl ain’t all that. Coos (pounded millet) and a few baobab leaves.

Hunger

n. (mass noun) – a feeling of discomfort caused by a lack of food, coupled with the desire to eat.

I eat much less than I did a year ago but I am much less hungry. Is this contradictory? Only if you define hunger as something objective and tangible, as much of the development industry does. I suppose Stop Hunger Now has more of a ring to it than Stop Malnutrition Now.

Hunger, it seems to me, is a relative term. You can have a chubby well fed person who is ‘suffering’ from hunger much more than his emaciated neighbor. Who in this scenario is more deserving of help?

Last year I was constantly wracked by thoughts of food. I had never been in an environment where I couldn’t satisfy my brain and belly’s culinary desires at the drop of a hat (or dollar). Furthermore I had never been in an environment where pounded millet and a few leaves constitutes a meal. My calorie intake was more than sufficient, and higher than most of my neighbors in the village of Ker Sait Maram, yet nobody ever appeared mentally strained by their meager diet whilst I gorged myself on whole packets of biscuits when i had the chance as an attempt to dampen my obsession with my stomach and quell my minds grumblings about the lack of food my stomach was having to process.

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My ten year old host brother Sering caught a monitor lizard late one night. Protein!

I wonder why it is that this year I don’t get these hunger ‘pains’? Why I’m not wracked by thoughts of food constantly? Why has my obsession with my stomach lessened? I think my mental and metabolic transformation is in part a product of time – it is harder to miss the delicious varieties of foods available in America the longer you are away from it. The memories loose their vividness, the tastes no longer linger on the tip of your tongue. Another thing which has helped is that I am better prepared. I always have some emergency protein bars or peanut butterin case the food bowl in our compound is particularly sparse (not much of a problem now as it is just after rainy season and we had a good harvest this year, but come April things start running out). I also think that the fact that I fasted for some of Ramadam this year has helped my outlook towards food. Once you have gone sunrise to sunset in The Gambia in July without food or water whilst working in a school, having a bit of a crappy lunch doesn’t seem like such a big deal.

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Millet. So much millet.

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Coos. Only.

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