Just Give Me Cereal
For most of the day, my stomach can accept spice, oil, new textures and all different adventurous flavors. At those times, apart from my height and my skin tone, I can blend in with the locals.
But at breakfast time I’m a wimp. I just want toast or cereal. It’s a stretch for me to try a fried dough stick or soybean milk before 11am, let alone the spicy noodles or pickled cabbage that are popular breakfast foods here.
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When I was first settling in to life in East Asia, before I spoke much of the local language or could even identify the local food, I was pleased to discover a version of muesli (cereal) available at a small local supermarket. They even sold it in large plastic containers, so one pack could cover early-morning nutritional needs for me and my husband for several weeks at a time.
It might sound strange, but a familiar breakfast gave us a sense of contentment and safety. With breakfast taken care of, we felt able to face the day, with all the grammar confusion and communication embarrassment that make up the usual life of a language student in a foreign country.
Things Change Fast in Asia
All was going swimmingly until one week I went to the supermarket and couldn’t find the muesli. I attempted, with gestures and shaky, limited vocabulary (and very little grammar) to communicate my distress to a shop assistant. She understood my distress all right, but claimed no knowledge of any breakfast cereal ever existing in this shop. It was a dead end.
Discouraged, I headed back to our apartment to start a long online journey of research into other breakfast options. I returned to that supermarket several times over the next few weeks, in vain hope of tracking down a healthy, familiar breakfast option. Sadly, there was never any sign of it.
One day, around three weeks after my breakfast dramas began, I went to have one more look for muesli. To my surprise I discovered the supermarket was no longer there. Well, that put things into perspective.
Make the Most of Every Moment
In the years since, I have been thankful for that little shop, and what it taught me about breakfast: what is most familiar to me may not always be available, but there will be a way around it. My husband and I have lived in four different apartments in three different cities since that first one, and although our breakfast options have been surprising at times, we have never had to go without.
I also appreciate the second lesson of breakfast: if I find something I like, I should make the most of it right now. Things change fast in Asia, and there are no guarantees that the person, the shop, or even I will still be here a few weeks from now.
Rose grew up in Scotland. She met her husband there and they moved to East Asia together in 2007. Since then, Rose has developed a love for new languages, good noodles, and deep friendships that cross cultural and linguistic barriers.