can’t keep from changing, my brain’s bending

Victoria Tran-Trinh - Senegal

November 7, 2009

As a female here in Senegal, I am often asked if I know how to cook. This is just one of several questions that are posed to me on a daily basis which require in my answer “Aux Etats-Unis, je suis vegetarienne.” People are quick to accept my explanation of why I eat meat while in Senegal, which is that the factory farms, battery-cage facilities and all the abhorrent practices that go hand-in-hand with these places do not really exist here. I have had a few very interesting discussions with people on the issues of animal cruelty. However, while I am obliged to mention my ex-veganism almost every day, the morals behind it have been pushed far into the back of my mind. I assure my questioners that yes, my meat-eating will come to a cessation once I return home, but I had almost forgotten why.  Wednesday morning, I received a powerful reminder.

Since I am here for the year in lieu of college, I’m trying to supplement my “field education” with a lot of reading. Wednesday morning, I was reading Zoë Weil’s Most Good, Least Harm, in which she explains her principle of “MOGO” – Most Good. The idea is that by making conscious and ethical choices in life, one not only finds inner peace, but creates peace in the world around them. Ms. Weil wrote a truly enlightening chapter on making good choices with food. Aside from all the typical “meat is murder!” discourse, she explains carefully and captivatingly the health benefits, huge environmental benefits, and most importantly, how the food we consume affects the people who inhabit the earth with us. She not only reminded me of why I choose to be a vegan, but caused me to reweigh my convictions to see which is the most critical reason.

It amazes me that I could hold this book in one hand and fervently, wholeheartedly agree with what I was reading, while holding in the other hand a baguette stuffed with cow. (Although I have gotten used to eating meat, I still secretly think of it as “flesh” and refer to the meats by their previous animal names.) Being immersed in a different culture has greatly shown me my ability to adapt and change with my surroundings. I find myself frequently questioning what is truly “me” and what I‘m just used to saying is “me.“ Veganism, for example, is obviously a strong conviction of mine, but I was able to let it go with relative ease. However, the ethics are obviously firmly embedded within me. What is static and constant as part of my person? Is there even anything at all? These are questions that I’ve never really thought about before my GCY experience, and I’m very glad that I’m now starting to think about them.

Victoria Tran-Trinh