It is said that you can remove the girl from the village, but you cannot remove the village from the girl. I grew up in a very small town in Kenya. Maybe you grew up in a small town too. But my small town is better than yours. How do I know this? How many Olympic and World record winners hail from your small town? I grew up in Eldoret, the home of too many Olympic medals to count. As you can see, I am very modest about my small town. Despite its world-class athletes, there are certain worldly things that had not made their way to Eldoret when I lived there.
When I moved to the United States, my brother decided to take me to a sushi restaurant. Prior to this, I had no experience eating Sushi. It wasn’t the chopsticks that phased me.Anyone who has gone through the 8-4-4 system and has had classes ranging from tailoring, cooking,carpentry and animal husbandry will not be intimidated by two wooden sticks. The fact that I cannot sew, draw, or make furniture just goes to show that despite Baba Moi’s best efforts, some students just cannot be helped. My sincere apologies to Baba Moi*.
When it came to sushi, the thought of eating raw fish, whether wrapped in rice and seaweed or not, just did not sit well with me. Nonetheless, I decided to try something new. I am glad I did, because the sushi was actually quite tasty, and remains one of my favorite foods to this day.. One of the side dishes was thinly sliced, pickled ginger. I added that to my sushi and it was even better. Next to the ginger was what appeared to be a small lump of avocado. I found it odd that the restaurant served avocado in such small quantities. But, being new to Japanese dining, I assumed that it might be a cultural thing. I scooped a spoonful of “avocado” and put it in my mouth.
Perhaps the first inkling that something was wrong should have been the fact that one of the patrons, an old lady, who saw me put the “avocado” in my mouth, instantly tensed and gasped. The next few minutes seemingly occurred in slow motion. While I was trying to figure out why the old lady had had such a strong reaction to my eating an avocado, I finally understood what the phrase “to drink from a firehose” meant.
It felt like a firehose had been forced into my mouth, and with nowhere to escape, the fire had gone up my nose and ears. My eyes watered, my ears, for lack of a better word, screamed. My throat was on fire. I reached for a glass of water, desperately trying to calm the wasabi induced inferno in my head. The old lady who had seen me ingest the whole thing had this pitiful look on her face. The kind you have when you wish you could have stopped something from happening- even though it happened so fast that you couldn’t possibly have.
To this day, I steer clear of Wasabi. It has been more than a decade since that incident occurred. But I remember, my throat, nose and eyes remember. The girl who grew up in the small town will not go anywhere near the innocuous-looking fiery Avocado.
*Baba Moi was an alias used by most Kenyans to describe President Moi, Kenya’s second president.