Today I had an ice cream cone.
I really love ice cream. In fact, some of my favorite summer time memories revolve around that sweet creamy stuff. Summer nights at Grandma’s house and Poppa would always break out a carton of cookies and cream as a bedtime snack. Waiting for that week in early summer when all of the frozen novelties at Kroger went on sale at 10 for $10 and having a freezer stocked with Dreamsicles and Drumsticks all summer long. Late summer date nights at Coldstone. Four entire summers spent scooping ice cream and mixing shakes at the Twist in exchange for tips and lots of smiles.
Today was the first time I have had ice cream since we left our orientation site three weeks ago.
It’s not necessarily for lack of access. There are plenty of street vendors with pushcarts willing to scoop ice cream onto a small cone for a few zatos. Some days it’s tempting, but I had been forewarned of the gastrointestinal damage that could be caused by a seemingly innocent scoop of street ice cream.
But today I went into the capital city with Henintsoa and Olivier and it was pretty hot so we decided to splurge on some ice cream. (We went to an actual ice cream store, no worries.)
And that double scoop waffle cone filled with rich, coffee flavored ice cream was delicious.
I realized once I got home that those three weeks without ice cream were in fact the longest I can remember going without ice cream in recent history. My college cafeteria had no less than three flavor choices available at every meal. Even the smallest of US towns usually boasts a seasonal ice cream shop. At camp this summer, a ninety minute drive from “civilization”, our semi-truck food delivery each Saturday morning always contained a few gallons of ice cream. And I have eaten ice cream for dinner more times than I am willing to admit.
I slowly began to realize that the ice cream I ate wasn’t delicious because there are secret Malagasy ingredients. After a three week hiatus, it simply tasted like appreciation.
It’s a new taste that I’m just beginning to get accustomed too. There are familiar traces of it in each sip of filtered water I drink. And in the mounds of rice with meat and fresh vegetables we eat every night. And in the anti-malaria medication I take every morning. And I’ve never taken a bite out of my Chacos, but I can imagine they taste a little like appreciation, too. They keep my feet protected from the hot pavement, uneven cobblestones, and sometimes bits of broken glass on the side of the road.
And while the taste of appreciation is delicious, it’s also a bit bittersweet. Because there are a lot of people here who have gone much longer than three weeks without ice cream. There are people who don’t have access to water, let alone filtered water, at their homes. People who go to bed hungry. People who can’t afford medications or treatments for life threatening diseases. And people who walk kilometers a day without shoes.*
My life thus far has been very sweet for reasons far more numerous and significant than an abundance of ice cream.
And for that I am so thankful.
A year from now, as I transition to life as a single post-grad, living with my parents, working, saving to pay back student loans, and worrying about things like gas prices and health insurance, I hope I remember today’s ice cream. At a time when my own society might tell me I’m “broke”, I hope I remember what appreciation tastes like.
*(Note: To reduce the risk of stereotypes, please realize that there are also other people who are comparatively very well-off. The capital city is home to many electronics stores, expensive restaurants, and large homes. There is wealth here, but its distribution is by no means equal throughout the population.)