When you are overseas, people often advise you to just eat or drink whatever you are offered, as it may cause offence to refuse. I try to subscribe to this, but my Timorese friends / work colleagues are very good at politely offering me a lot of things I don’t want.
For example – food:
Mana! Please! Would you like a banana? – Oh no, I’m fine. Thankyou (I hate bananas, they are mushy and gross).
Mana! Please! Have a coconut! (from about five different people in half an hour) Oh no, I’m really not thirsty (I hate coconut, it tastes *rancid*).
It makes me argue: Is it *really* more polite for me to take a sip or bite of something I know I don’t like, make a face and then leave the rest of the item, therefore wasting it? I’m not a good actor; I just can’t pretend I like food I don’t like.
Mana! You should dance! (at 11 in the morning, at a work function, to Indonesian pop music) Oh no, you guys dance, you don’t need me (It’s 11am for Christ’s sake. And it is taking all my strength to sit in this chair and not run far far away from that bloody music)
Mana! We want to go to a party tonight! Would you like to come? – Oh no, I think I will stay and sleep (We started partying at 11am, is there something in those coconuts you’re drinking?)
Mana! We are going to the beach! Isn’t it great? – Uh, yeah (uh, no – we came from the work function so no one has swimmers, it’s dirty grey volcanic sand anyway, and hello it’s lunchtime and there is no food here. Can someone please take me back to town so I can eat?*)
- This last line makes me sounds fussy, but I did actually eat the regular three meals we got. Bananas and coconuts were extra snacks, so I felt I could reasonably refuse them.