The Expat Diet

Both the Travel Channel and the Food Channel have a lot to answer for.

They have raised traveler’s expectations about all the wonderful food and drink to be found in the far corners of the earth.
Take it from me, a former resident of both Mexico and Thailand, that the culinary glitter wears off after just a few days as a strange eater in a strange land.
It’s true the local beer is always cheap. But it’s also always lukewarm. You have to pour it over ice. And that ruins it for some people.
Street food in countries like Thailand and Mexico is fun to sample. But do yourself a favor the next time you’re tempted to eat from a cart on a busy soi (street) in Bangkok — observe how dishes, bowls and utensils are washed. They ARE washed, no doubt about that — the interesting part is to see how one small tub of water makes do for both washing and rinsing, and is never changed during the long, hot day and into the sultry evening.
One last thought . . . Third World countries may be big into freshness and organic, but that means they typically use night soil.
If you’ve ever sampled a piece of tripe that was not quite cleaned enough, you know what I mean . . .


The food overseas is amazing; it’s spicy, exotic and raw.

The food overseas is inviting — it may take you all day to gnaw.

An expat who isn’t too choosy can feast on all sorts of strange buns.

But if he ain’t careful he’ll wind up with such a bad case of the runs.

The food overseas never costs much — that is if you eat like the folk

who live in that country. Believe me, a Big Mac is just a sad joke.

I will not eat bugs or weird fungi, not even if locals insist.

3 things that an expat should not do are eat crap, complain, or be kissed.


NSA Approved


Allison Croghan, at Fox 13 News.
Allison Croghan, at Fox 13 News.


On a whim I sent away for a self-inking stamp that prints: “N.S.A. Approved.”

That was about 2 years ago.  Since then I have stamped about one-hundred one dollar bills, right over George Washington’s portrait, and mailed them out to various people – most of whom I don’t know.

I’ve sent stamped dollar bills to Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Rand Paul, Mitt Romney, Brad Pitt, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Jordana Green, Calvin Trillin, Stephen King, various ministers, pastors and priests, the Mayor and City Council of Provo, Robert Kirby and Paul Rolly at the Salt Lake Tribune, members of the Supreme Court, Orrin Hatch and other members of Congress, and the Head of the National Security Administration Keith B. Alexander; and have only ever heard back from one of them – that was from the Norwegian Ambassador in Washington, Kare R. Aas. He thanked me for my “thoughtful item”. I got the feeling he didn’t know what to do with it, or what it meant.

This week I decided to carry on with this eccentric project by sending stamped dollar bills to most of the news staff at Fox 13 News in Salt Lake City. The list, which is completely arbitrary, includes:

  • Zach Whitney
  • Ben Winslow
  • Damon Yauney
  • Allison Croghan
  • Big Budah
  • Kerri Cronk
  • Annie Cutler
  • Matt McDonald
  • Bailey McMurdie
  • Hope Woodside

Things I’m wondering are:

  • Do they open their own mail?
  • If someone else opens their mail, will they even get the dollar?
  • How will they respond when I send this blog to them as a News Tip?
  • How deep does insanity run in my family?
  • How long does it take for a letter to go from Provo to Salt Lake?
  • Will the USPS deliver all ten letters at the same time?

Why am I doing this? Pure mischief. Unabashed self-promotion. Curiosity. And maybe I’m making a political statement.

Stay tuned for further developments . . .

The Student Loan.


(Inspired by a segment on the Jordana Green Show)

I wish I’d had a college savings plan when I was young;

I would not now be dodging bill collectors, getting stung.

For I defaulted early on when after graduation

My student loans turned into one gigantic aggravation.


It’s not that I determined to go belly up for spite

Or that I was resolved to embezzle and take flight;

But what was I to do when my degree in English Lit

Left me for a steady income totally unfit?


I asked for an extension to find use for my degree,

But got the kind of treatment that would please Simon Legree.

Considering the penalty and int’rest that still accrue

I’ll have this thing paid off when sky and sea have lost their blue.