Peace Corps Part deux: Moroccan Nights

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

10 scrambled, 10 hard-boiled and 1 for good measure

For the past few months blog post have been few and far between. It's not because I haven't had anything too say: Taroudant and Morocco are incredibly interesting places and I could write about these places and my experiences until even my mother would get too bored to read any more. I haven't been writing because I have been busy, a problem I never had in Mauritania, getting to know various association in Taroudant, moving in to my own place and playing basketball. I realize that the following article that I wrote for our internal Moroccan Peace Corps newsletter, doesn't necessarily fill the role of a blog but I think that some of you might find it interesting. I'm sure others will find the article appalling. Anyway here is what happened on the evening of February 4th.

If you have never joked with your host family about your ability to eat 20 eggs, to finish a half-full tajine or to eat a blazing hot pepper, then your name is not Samuel G. One day his host father asserted that Sam couldn't finish 10 eggs, Sam countered that he could eat 11. His host father replied that perhaps 12 was within Sam's range and pretty soon the challenge escalated to the host father stating that there was no way that Sam could eat 20 eggs. This prompted Samuel to make a vow. A vow that he would prove his host father wrong and eat not just 20, but 21 eggs. In addition to personal fulfillment, they made a bet, or what Sam thought was a bet after his limited Arabic and his host family's rooster impersonations. The terms: If Sam could eat the 20 eggs, his host family would give him three roosters; but if not, then Sam would give the family his recently purchased, nice acrylic Spanish blanket. After discussing with region-mates, a Peace Corps training session was chosen as the venue for this bet. Juan Camillio Mendez Guzman, sensing a chance to prove his mettle, jumped at the opportunity to compete and the spectacle was scheduled for Thursday, February 04, 2010.

The preparation began after the usual 7:00 pm dinner when a troop of volunteers went to a local hanoot to buy the 42 eggs necessary for the competition. Upon returning to the “Auberge du dernier lion del’Atlas,” eggs were scrambled and hard-boiled and placed on two plates. Each plate contained a carefully crafted ring of ten scrambled eggs encompassing another ten meticulously shelled hard-boiled eggs and topped off with one last glorious, un-shelled hard-boiled egg set perfectly in the center of the feast - it’s brown shell glistening in the fluorescent lights of the Auberge dining room - just as Sam had envisioned the dish during that fateful conversation with his host family.

The competition started at precisely 10:04 pm amidst a crowd upwards of 30 Yd’ers eager for a break from the monotony of Peace Corps training. Samuel later commented that the initial crowd was almost overwhelming and he was glad for Juan Camillio’s attention-drawing charisma to deflect the attention. However, the loyal fans who stuck it out until the end made a huge difference. Side bets also played a critical role in providing motivation, or as Sam put, “ I love rising up to a challenge.” Gambling also played a role in Juan Camillio’s partial success. His entire strategy consisted of doing whatever it took to eat more than 17 eggs, which was the bet placed by the author who doubted that Juan could eat more than 17 eggs. He ate 18.

The match really started to heat up around Egg 15 when Samuel initially started shaking. A few eggs later someone observed his shaking and Sam kept his trademark cool and flatly stated, “I’ve been shaking since Egg 15.” The scrambled eggs had disappeared quickly, but the last few hard-boiled eggs, especially the yolks, were the real struggle. Sam remarked at one point, in response to unrealistic advice from the peanut gallery to chug an egg, “You don’t understand the yolks…man.” As Sam dealt with his final eggs, it was a solo effort. Juan Camillio had already gracelessly bowed out, his work as the pacer done. After a strong start he had been struggling. He nearly vomited, was shaking uncontrollably and even took his shirt off, much to the dismay of the crowd.

If an egg has ever been eaten slower than Sam ate Egg 19, this author has never seen it. In fact, one observer took a long break from the competition and was shocked to return and find that Sam had only finished one egg in the meantime. The final Egg 21 was especially dramatic as Sam crumbled the entire egg into pieces approximately the size of a grain from your favorite Friday couscous meal. He then proceeded to eat each grain of egg, one by one, in a process that seemed to take almost as long as the most drawn out training session. One loyal supporter later remarked that the final egg took, "so fricking long." Nonetheless, Sam persevered and after 1 hour and 19 minutes of continuous egg-eating - he finished his plate. He would later comment that for the final two eggs he had, “absolutely nothing on my mind.” When someone asked him what he would do next he replied, “I am going to eat an orange, then I am going to walk upstairs, and say hello to people.” That remark was immediately followed with a confused look and comment, "man that was a stupid sentence." Sam then remarked with a well-deserved smile, “ hey, I just won three roosters!”

Reactions from the Moroccan crowd were mixed. Malika, our language coordinater said, “This is dumb.” Amina, a new Arabic teacher, said that, “Americans are crazy.” I think that anyone who saw the competition would be forced to agree with her assessment. Aziz, the hotel owner, said that this was a zwayn adventure, but that he had once seen someone eat a scorpion and that was crazier. Aziz then suggested that Samuel follow up the 21 eggs with 22 oranges. He also generously brought out some oranges for the crowd who alternated between hunger and nausea as they watched the gladiators struggle to achieve their goals.

Numerous observers astutely noted that eating 21 eggs was not healthy and the competitors' post-match feelings supported all of the aspiring doctors in the audience. Juan Camillio reflected after the contest that his mouth tasted like a sponge and that if he stood up he felt, “Eighteen eggs rolling around in my stomach.” One witness observed that, “Juan looks worse than he did last night.” A reference to the previous night's activities in which another volunteer's birthday was over-celebrated by many. At the time of the contest Juan had been sporting one of the least attractive moustaches in the history of bad Peace Corps facial hair. As some egg became stuck in the mustache, one especially astute observer noted that, "eggs in a mustache are not appealing." Samuel’s first comment post-match was that he felt “xayb… I just feel bad. Not full, my stomach doesn’t hurt. I just feel bad.” He also remarked that, “If I had to do this frequently, I would hate my life.” Readers will be happy to note that the next day both Sam and Juan felt fine, although slightly full. Sam observed he felt pretty much how he would have felt if he had just eaten four or five eggs.


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