Today my colleagues and I were invited to a Boodle Fight with some of our host-nation counterparts. The Boodle Fight is a tradition in this country that builds esprit de corps (team-building, in modern business parlance). I’m not sure how far it dates back. The cooks would prepare as much food as was available. Then they would set a long, narrow table (or a floor) with long banana tree leaves upside down so the stem side faced up. The banana leaves are pretty long, and they’d put down as about one for every four people, with the leaves laid out end-to-end with the stems aligned. They’d then cover the stems with rice, and then they’d cover the rice with the other food. This could be noodles, fish, adobo (beef, pork, or chicken made with a local gravy), calamari; pretty much anything that could be cut into bite-sized pieces. Water would be set nearby each eater’s station in a cup or a glass. Once the food was in place, everyone would file in, wash their hands by pouring water dipped with a ladle out of a bucket. Then everyone would line up at the table.
At the leader’s signal, everyone would commence eating. Did I mention everyone eats with their hands? Yes, the glass was the only utensil available, and you ate the food straight off the banana leaf. In the past, whomever ate the fastest literally got the most, so in that sense it could get to be a kind of fight. Today a roasted pigs’ head made an appearance at the table, it didn’t last very long! In my handful of experiences with Boodle Fighting, there has always been more than enough food. Sometimes our hosts have to go find someone else to finish eating the food. It’s certainly a fairly quick way to eat a lot of food.
Now for the food critic portion: I usually eat the rice and the noodles. The noodles are about like spaghetti, just cut shorter. Today the cook put some sort of spice on them which tasted great! I like the adobo, but the cuts you tend to get here contain a lot of fat (not much goes to waste in this country). Without utensils it’s difficult to trim the fat, so I didn’t eat a lot of the adobo today. The fish and calamari was reportedly good, I didn’t fight very hard for the seafood, though.
I’m thinking about importing the Boodle Fight home. I think I’ll use some sort of finger food to substitute for items we Westerners tend to eat from a dinner plate, though. I’ll probably use pizza and finger sandwiches.
The second significant event today occurred while I was making coffee at the team house. I’m not normally at this particular station, but I’ve been here several times a month or so ago, and I’m always billeted at one particular team house here. As I poured water into the coffee machine, one of the guys who lives here more permanently asked if I’d looked into the reservoir before I’d poured.
"Of course I hadn’t," I said. "Who does that?" I figured something was up, that seemed like an awfully odd question.
He then explained that last month they’d found a dead gecko in the reservoir. Apparently it had become trapped, died, and it’s spirit had slipped away some time well prior, as the poor lizard was fairly well decomposed before one of them found it. One of the co-workers complained of being sick for two days just due to the mental image. One of my teammates mentioned there’d been a film on the coffee and a slightly odd taste. No one really suspected anything, though; they thought it was just the water.
Naturally I asked if it’d been in there the last time I’d been here, and they assured me it certainly had been. So there you have it, my teammates, co-workers, and I had all been drinking dead gecko coffee for who knows how long!
I think I’ve just developed another new habit–I’ll check the coffee machine before pouring the water into the reservoir! At least while I’m still in this country!