This Refugee Week I am taking part in Act for Peace’s Ration Challenge. For seven days I am committed to eating the same rations that a refugee receives in Burma. The rations are: 3,500 g of rice; 280 g of split peas; 250 g of fortified flour; 155 g of fish; 40 g of salt and 125 ml of vegetable oil.
Because refugees can add to their rations by cultivating a garden we are also able to add supplies that we have ‘cultivated’ by getting sponsorship: $200 raised adds a condiment; $300 adds a serve of vegetables; $400 adds a portion of fruit; $500 adds a serve of protein; and $1000 adds a bonus item to the value of $5.
Two and a half days in I am not hungry, or feeling very deprived. But I am feeling a little bored at my lack of menu choice. 3.5 kg of rice over the course of a week is a lot of rice! I had bowls of plain rice for breakfast on Sunday and Monday, and rice fried with chilli for Sunday lunch and dinner, and I am already very, very over rice.
Today, Tuesday, I had some tuna mixed with my rice and simply adding that little bit of fish made the meal exciting. (I think I would do much better on this Challenge if the rice was replaced with rolled oats. A week of porridge for breakfast would be much easier for me. Is that just a cultural thing?)
So the first thing I have discovered by doing this challenge is how astonishing is the variety of food I am normally able to eat. I don’t simply need to fill my stomach – the food I usually eat is tasty as well as filling.
The second thing I have discovered, or rediscovered, is how long it takes to prepare food if all I’ve been given is the basics. On Sunday night I started to make soup with the split peas. Rather than making a single serve of soup, I decided to use half my rations and make multiple serves of soup. What I didn’t realise was how long it takes to break split peas down. In the end I had some more rice for dinner while I waited for the soup to cook – which took three episodes of Doctor Who plus the forty-minute Sunday night ABC news bulletin. It’s been a long, long time since I made soup from scratch, and I just wasn’t prepared to spend that much time cooking. I’m going to appreciate labour-saving foods and devices when this week is finished.
But I am quite proud that I am managing to feed myself. On Monday night I had the soup that I’d made the night before and chapattis that I cooked that evening. The soup was a bit bland but the chapattis were wonderful! I suppose I didn’t really make them from scratch, the flour had been milled for me, but I still had a sense of achievement.
I haven’t been missing coffee as much as I thought I would. I had a horrible headache on Sunday night, and on Monday morning I took a couple of pain-killers (I know they weren’t in the rations, but I was desperate). But now, on Day Three, I’m feeling fine. I have, however, decided not to go for any runs this week. That might just be sheer laziness on my part, but I’m not sure I could resist the post-run temptation to eat a piece of fruit or some vegetables.
As I look forward to breaking this ration fast on Sunday I am aware of how minuscule my response to the world’s refugees is. I’m living (mainly) on rice for a week. It’s absolutely nothing! But the important thing is the money that I’m raising, more than $1000 so far. Overall $250,000 have been raised by Act for Peace and that will feed 1157 Burmese refugees for a year. There’s no way I could donate $1000 myself, so I’m excited to have raised $1000 from my kindly friends and relations. If you haven’t donated yet and would like to, go here. And thank you!