What was the worst meal that you ate out of politeness?

Answer by Joshua Tucker:

Once I visited a labor camp with my Dad and brothers when we were out in United Arab Emirates. If you don’t know what labor camps are like, they are basically squat shelters that immigrant laborers live in while they build their project. They are disgusting and inhumane – no one should ever have to live in them.

This is the most authentic picture I can find of what resembles a labor camp. However, out in UAE, temperatures are around 30 °C and can easily reach 50 °C – needless to say, there are no air conditioning units in these shacks.

Anyway, back to the story – We went into the camp accompanied by someone who had allowed us the access (these camps are shut off from society because they don’t want all the Western expats to see the abominable conditions that their laborers live in, because it reflects badly on the government – somewhat like the situation in Rio before the Olympics.) We gave the laborers some basic supplies such as bags of rice and lentils and other non perishable food items, and then they invited us to stay for lunch. We went inside the dark rancid room, where about 20 other laborers all crowded in and invited us to sit on the bunks around the room. Even to this day, I can’t describe just how awful it was. The curry that they served us was days old and I could see the flies sitting on it. We ate it down, as not to offend them, and they were smiling and laughing and being amiable. It also didn’t help that only one of them could actually speak English! I came close to being sick, but managed to hold it all down. God, that was a hard day. We played cricket with them, and they made us Indian sweet tea – which was actually very nice.

I’ll never know how so many people around the world live in conditions like that in such oppressing poverty. It was a day that deeply moved me – the kind of day that you’ll never forget.

What was the worst meal that you ate out of politeness?

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