This Little Piggy Had None
"Now celebrating my one year marker - it's time to share"
It’s coming up on a year since my trip to India. It was at this time, last year, I was packing and preparing for a month away. I would be living out of a duffle bag and a backpack, and had no idea where exactly I was going. I had not booked any accomodations other than my first few nights. I was going to feel it out and go where the wind took me (which, honestly, was one of the best decisions I ever made.) India changed me; my heart, my mind, and my body.
Feel free to go back and read my blogs about Varanasi, Jaipur, my trains rides, the Taj Mahal, and more.
However, there was one part of my trip that did not make it into my blog reel, and really for no other good reason except that I never got around to writing about it. However, I am now coming up on a year since I decided to completely cut pork out of my diet- and I think it is a good enough time as any to share my reasoning behind that (because I definitely get asked about it enough.) I skip on bacon at breakfast, no more ham at Easter, and I have to say no to the pulled pork at a cookout.
You see, the last place I would travel in India before heading back to Mumbai to catch my flight home, was Goa. Goa is extremely different than the other parts of India that I explored- and I was looking forward to hanging out and writing on the Arabian Sea, with big palm trees and ocean air (and that I did.) The beautiful Portuguese-inspired architecture was beautiful in the pictures I had seen and the food sounded delicious as well. But, I wasn’t prepared for what else would come from my stay in the southern part of India.
One of the best things about traveling alone is meeting new people. I mean, a month alone in another country just, kinda, pushes you into talking to strangers, more than you would normally. During my time in Goa, a couple days in, I came across a local who was more than happy to take me around and show me the area. (Don’t tell my mom that I’m off just trusting strangers to drive me around in their cars… but that is exactly what I did.) He seemed really nice, very cool and young like me. An adventurous guy who loved where he lived and wanted to meet new people.
We sat out on the beach one night, and chatted for a while about life. He enjoyed traveling, he worked for his family’s fish business, enjoyed music, and he was gay (but afraid to ever let his family find out due to strict laws in India and being disowned by family). He was incredibly intelligent and loved a lot of the same things that I did. However, one of our main differences was that he was Muslim and I, Christian. We sat on the beach that night, discussing our religions. The similarities and differences between the two of them and how it had impacted our view of the world and such.
It was in this conversation that we got on topics like ISIS and Donald Trump. Of course, being American in any other country usually means a conversation about Donald Trump at some point! But, he shared with me how much he hated ISIS, and how he hated that America viewed Muslims as such. He shared with me the virtues of his religion, and things like not eating pork because it is unclean (which is also true in the Christian faith, except now it is ok because Jesus’ blood covers it- along with many other things.)
I asked him if he had ever been to America, particularly New York City, and told him that I would surely show him around if he ever decided to. And it was then, that he said he would probably never be able to come to America. Perplexed, I further questioned him, and he told me how fearful his family was towards Americans. How they would never let him go over there because of the way that a Middle Eastern Muslim is viewed. And, that even if he could sway his family or go against their concerns and wishes, that he would probably have a really hard time being granted a Visa.
Here was a young guy, so much like me. Who wanted to quit his family’s business, be open and free in who he was, and travel the world. He wanted to feel safe, and his family feared for his life. The same way my family had shown concern about me visiting India.
I didn’t stop eating pork that day because I became Muslim.
I didn’t stop eating pork that day because I became vegetarian.
I didn’t stop eating pork that day because of healthy dieting. (although that’s a plus)
I didn’t stop eating pork that day because pigs are cute. (although they are!)
I stopped eating pork that day because I set up an altar in my wilderness. As many did in the Biblical times, I made a point to remember this very moment. To carry it with me as a reminder of what God was teaching me. A paradigm shift had taken place in my mind and heart.
I grew up being fed fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of differences, fear of hearsay. But, what I was learning was that we must learn what it means to embrace differences and diversity. To see people and individuals as that, and not as extremist groups, or “dangerous” “opposing” religions. That a woman with a head covering is not a terrorist. That we have homegrown fear and ignorance running throughout our veins and we cannot settle in that.
Everytime someone asks me “Why don’t you eat pork?” Everytime I have to ask for a pork substitute at brunch, I’m reminded of him. I am reminded how blessed I am, and I’m reminded how not to judge another person before getting to know them. I think about my own life, and the way that I see people. Humanity. Diversity. How we are all one, and we are all trying to figure out this life. And how often we hate that others can speak for us, that they become the example of who we are.
I don’t eat pork, because it’s a sacrifice. It’s a reminder. It’s my altar. It reminds me, almost daily, to take a walk in another's shoes... and to never think I know it all or that I have, somehow, arrived. Always seek truth.