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Australia_flag

That vegemite stuff is like axle grease

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I don’t look back and think “Oh my gosh, Australia had great food.”  The only thing that really stands out is I hated that vegemite stuff.  I tried to like it, just because I knew it was such an important part of the culture, but I really think you kind of had to be raised on that to like it.  I actually brought a little jar home just because I had to share it with everybody so they can see what it was I described as axle grease.  That’s what it looked like to me.  It’s very good for you, but I didn’t like it very much.  They even mix it in water in baby bottles for the baby.  That’s what I mean you have to be raised on it to really like it.

Dutch national flag of the Netherlands, Holland,

Teasing on a Dutch farm

 

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I moved [to a new family] after like six weeks.  The first family that I was with was very different than I had grown up — very strict, black and white is a good way to put it.  Upper middle class.  And they would go here and they would go there.  I didn’t have enough money to do all of it.  Part of it was I wasn’t fitting in with their lifestyle.  Looking back I think maybe I was harder on myself, but it ended up well.  I still keep in contact with them as well.  A very nice family but very different than what I was used to.  I maybe didn’t give it enough time, but I think it worked out best that I left.  It was my choice and not theirs.

That was absolutely different [meeting second family].  They lived on a rebuilt farm that was in kind of a small village off of a village.  It was 12.5 miles from my school, which was in the next decent-sized town and I biked that to school every day.  They had sheep, lots of sheep, and they had pine trees which were their hobbies, and a compost pile in the backyard.  They had an old car that was older than I was and three older siblings, although one was in America for the year, one was home only on the weekends, and I had a brother that was there all the time with me.

The first day with my new family, the people I call Mom and Pop, was so different.  I was in Holland for six weeks.  When I got there we had dinner and I went to go sit in the living room with the family and my Pop said to me, “plogen”,  so I had to go get my dictionary.  I came back out with my dictionary and I looked up “plogen, plogen”, what does that mean.  I remember he said you’re not allowed to do something, and I looked up plogen and it’s ‘tease.’  They were teasing, and I said, oh, this is going to work!  And that worked much better.  Mom and I sat and looked at picture books and art books that night.  I was accepted right away.

Flag of Thailand

Mmm, that’s good oyster sauce!

 

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It’s not really very Thai to call people out on things that are embarrassing.

I’m sure that it must have happened like once or twice I said something kind of funny and my friends were like, “ha-ha,” they would laugh explicitly at me.

But my parents and people like teachers wouldn’t say anything generally.  They might correct me but they would never say anything or give me the actual definition of what I said.

There was one thing though that actually happened after I got back from Thailand and we were hanging out making some Thai food. And in the Thai language, any kind of liquid like soy sauce and fish sauce and things like that, they preface it with nam which is the word for water and liquid.  So fish sauce would be, like, nam pla and nam siew was soy sauce.

And so they have oyster sauce. And the word for oyster is hoi.  It’s the word for like any generic type of shellfish.  It also happens to be a very vulgar way to refer to female genitalia.  I see the analogy there, you know, but it’s a common word.  People use it and say it all the time.

But when they say oyster sauce they don’t say nam hoi, they say sauce hoi, and it’s because nam hoi is, well, the glib female genitalia.  Apparently by the time that I had made it bake to the United States I still had been calling it nam hoi.

So I can only imagine how many times I’d said that cooking in the kitchen with my host mother and she had just, you know, bit her tongue and didn’t say anything.  So, I say, “Oh my God!”

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Flag of Finland

I heaved into the North Atlantic

 

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I kind of drank too much when I came back to the States.

They put us on a cruise ship from Helsinki to Copenhagen.  You leave out on a Friday and arrive at the dock Sunday morning.  So and it’s really kind of a party barge, and we didn’t have state rooms.

They have up on the upper deck retractable ceilings, and at night they would just pull those shut and you just kind of grab one of these wrestling mats and grab a blanket and a pillow.  I can remember that when you got American dollars, they’ll serve you.

So I thought I would try to have one of every kind of drink I could think of, and that didn’t sit too well.

I ended up heaving it all into the North Atlantic.

But oh boy, you know, the school of higher education.  That was a good trip.

I think one of the things about Finnish people is they’re a very private people. They really don’t share their views and their opinions and their emotions that readily.  You know the thing, too, is my Finnish mother, she cried when I left, and to this day I’ve got a picture there at the dock.  I thought that was probably the sweetest thing was somebody crying cause she was gonna miss me. She came to like me a lot, I guess.

 

Ken Young Leaving Finland

Ken Young Leaving Finland

 

I think I was ready to come home.

Yeah, I was ready to come home because, you know, it’s kind of like vacation.  I was ready to get back to my routine, because most of our lives we spend working and even as a kid we spent a fair amount of our time in our routine with our school and with our family, and to go over there and do that was awesome.  Two months was good.  I’m always amazed that kids can go over there on a full year’s program.

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Iran flag

Eating Chicken in Iran, 1964

 

English: Chicken in public market, Mazatlan, S...

Image via Wikipedia

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Iranians are very, very polite if nothing. 

I mean, just the essence of diplomacy and grace.  And so very few people were going to say anything that could ever be perceived as offensive.

There was one time that I remember though, when I must have surprised them.  They kept a few chickens out in the courtyard, and we would usually have a hard-boiled egg in the morning for breakfast, which I’m assuming came from those chickens as a rule.  Every now and then we would have chicken for dinner or lunch or whatever, and they served the chicken with the head and the feet cooked with the chicken as well.

And it was the guest of — oh God I still remember it — the guest of honor’s prerogative to have the head of the chicken.  Oh man.  So that was a little challenging to negotiate, and finally I just had to say, “I just can’t do this.”

It’s odd because as a child I grew up in the country, and we had chickens and we slaughtered them and ate them all the time.  But I guess I made some kind of comment about, “was this one of the chickens that had been out there?”

And then they started teasing me, and they would tease me unmercifully about did I feel the same way about breaking the eggs as I did about eating the chicken?  (Laughter)


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