Surviving The Welcome Feast

I remember the way she looked up at me – her large almond-shaped eyes were filled with a conflicting fear of the unknown shrouded by a sense of wonder. My travels in India took me to a secluded village somewhere along the Ganges River – if I thought being in India was a culture shock, I can’t imagine what it must have been like for the villagers who have never seen a Caucasian person in their lives. They were so honored at having a visitor that they prepared a huge feast to warmly welcome my arrival. Unfortunately, in trying to be a respectful guest, I indulged – albeit with much hesitation – and got terribly sick in less than an hour after the welcome party and stayed ill for six months after my trip. In retrospect, I definitely saw the warning signs – the Ganges River isn't exactly well-known for its clean waters. Still, what should you do when you’re faced with such a situation? Honestly, my advice is to do what you can to protect yourself. You don’t want to be disrespectful – however, experiencing a moment of awkwardness and guilt is significantly much better than risking your health.


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  1. […] Surviving The Welcome Feast | Catherine Hall Catherine Hall. High-Art Portraiture & Lifestyle Imagery. HOME; ABOUT ME; CATEGORIES. PORTRAITS; GUEST POSTS; WEDDINGS; TIPS + TRICKS; MY FAVORITE THINGS; MY REFLECTIONS; FROM THE STUDIO; TWiT PHO… […]

  2. […] Surviving The Welcome Feast | Catherine Hall Catherine Hall. High-Art Portraiture & Lifestyle Imagery. HOME; ABOUT ME; CATEGORIES. PORTRAITS; GUEST POSTS; WEDDINGS; TIPS + TRICKS; MY FAVORITE THINGS; MY REFLECTIONS; FROM THE STUDIO; TWiT PHO… […]

  3. When I went to India to pick up my adopted son, Atharv. I did really well avoiding the things that I was supposed to. Until at the airport in Delhi my son wanted a mango juice from the cart. When the plane started to board, I quickly downed the remainder of the mango and threw away the cup. Instantly I knew I had made a mistake, and my stomach started rumbling as soon as we got into the air on our 9 hour flight back to the states.

    • Samavathi

      Mango juice from cart is “The stupidest” decision even if you have been living in India from childhood. You could have gone for bottled Mango juice found every where.
      By the way which airlines did you take? was it a private jet? I am not able to find an itinerary that is less than 20 hours!

    • Oh no Dan! This is actually something I would do – after being cautious for so long – make a careless mistake. It happens to the best of us. I can only imagine how awful the flight must have been!

  4. Samavathi

    Dear Ms. Catherine Hall,
    Did you ever get to find out what disease or germ made you sick? 6 months ? That doesn’t sound like problem from food.

    I am pretty sure you would have been served well cooked food. If it was chicken or goat meat then it would probably would have been over cooked .. there is no rare and medium rare grading in Indian recipes and beef is out of question.

    By any chance did you happen to drink water from that place? ’cause people who were born in India presently working in USA when they go home… drink bottled water for few days till their body builds up resistance..even then some of them fall sick for 2-3 days with fever if they have not been to India for 3-4 years.

    The travel itself would have taken you to many different places in the country. You would have noticed that, apart form different language, food and clothing style, every state has its own climate that is drastically different form its neighboring states’. Exposing your self to so many different conditions in short period of time might be one possible reason.

    About your question what you should be doing in such a situation. Explain to your host that you have to travel and you were not sure if your body can tolerate the change in food. And then to keep company eat only the safest foods like steamed rice with curries that involve boiling (you can ask the host for recipe before tasting). Always always drink boiled water or carry bottled water along.

    • Hello Samavathi, Thanks for your concern and advice. They never found out what was wrong with me, only hypothesized that it was some sort of parasite. I agree with you that it was most likely not the actual food but the water used to wash the uncooked food presented to me.

      Thanks for your travel tips regarding how to handle the food offering situation – they are very good. I only wish I read them prior to this trip :)

  5. Catherine,
    I am very sure, I would have got the same warm welcome from the villagers. India is known for its hospitality, especially in the villages; Its definitely not coz you are a Caucasian. I completely agree with Samavathi, You should have done your homework on do’s and dont’s.
    I am just curious..of all your trip to India, you have a portrait of a crying child in your display ??

    • I did have a guide on this occasion and, ironically, he is the one that told me the villagers would be extra excited because I had a unique appearance. My blog has several images of India – in fact some of my favorites ever taken. The crying child is just the most recent. This image was selected because I found the girl to be quite beautiful.

  6. Hello Catherone, I just discovered your blog and I’m addicted already! This photo speaks a 1000 words! Amazing!

    • You made my day May! Thank you. Stay tuned for even better content in 2012 :)!