<h1>Month: May 2012
01May 2012
Last year I had the opportunity to go to Kenya to work with our sister organization in Nairobi.  I was very excited because this was my first trip to the African continent. One evening, our hosts’ graciously invited us to dinner to the most famous restaurant in Nairobi I was told.  Upon entering the restaurant, we were confronted with a huge charcoal pit.  This must be hell I thought. Carnivore is a meat specialty restaurant and it is referred to as the ultimate ‘Beast of a Feast’.  Whole pieces of meat are roasted on traditional Masai swords.  Carvers then move around the tables carrying the Masai swords laden with different prime meats and carve unlimited amounts onto the plate in front of each guest.  The feeding frenzy doesn’t stop until defeat is signaled by lowering the paper flag perched in the middle of the table. What was I going to do?  The sight of all the roasting animal flesh was making me nauseous, yet I knew I was being watched and I did not want to insult our hosts.  They were excited to see me try delicacies not available in Canada: camel, ostridge, alligator etc.  Do I adhere to the principle of ahimsa and not participate in the meal or do I follow the principle of santosha and accept what is put in front of me? In this case, my conscious choice was that contentment takes precedence over non-violence.  This is what I did to mitigate the effects of my actions.
  • Made a statement before the meal started that I am not a big meat eater but was looking forward to trying something new.
  • Asked for my own flag, as I was sure that I would be the first ‘to surrender’ and did not want to interrupt everyone else’s meal.  To my relief, this made everyone laugh.
  • Engaged in conversation, to extend the time before I lowered my flag.
  • Accepted only very small portions of each meat variety so as not to waste but did try every one.
  • Had my hand over my plate most of the time so that the servers would not give me any additional unwanted portions.
  • When asked, made a statement about which new delicacy I enjoyed most.
  • Having ‘saved face’, I finally lowered my flag.
The universe, having put me in this situation also allowed me to observe the behavior of others.  The word that immediately comes to mind is ‘overindulgence’, the unchecked desire of excess. It is true that the sheer amount of food that was available was staggering but more importantly was the amount of food that people were eating… frantically, greedily. The sheer overindulgence in food in a country where there is so much poverty was disturbing. Perhaps this experience then had more to do with self awareness through restraint rather than ahimsa or santosha?  

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