Read Part 5 HERE

I had dug myself into a hole and there was no getting out.

I’ve been singing nothing but praises about the Karen in this series of articles, but they are still human and as such, far from perfect.  The imperfection of that particular night: their rice wine.

Authentic Karen rice wine. Would not recommend.

I felt like I was drinking some kind of alcoholic vomit out of a small, plastic blue cup.  It sounds harsh, but that isn’t meant to be an exaggeration, it’s literally the closest thing I’ve tasted  to vomit without actually throwing up.

To be fair, it may have been because I was the furthest away from the central camp that I would get on my trip, and the village I was visiting was small and remote.  But the rice wine they had brewed up was difficult to keep down.

My mistake was this: to be polite, I had a sip, smiled through gritted teeth, and told them I liked it.  Being a direct people, they took my word for it and couldn’t help but serve me more and more.

One translator was in the room with me, and we didn’t know each other very well.  I was staying the night in the home of an elderly couple, and the toothless grandfather was the one snickering as he gave me more rice wine.  I think they just wanted to see the foreigner get a little drunk.  The whole room was packed with kids, grandkids and friends who were all digging into the staple rice-based meal.

I was witnessing a type of family culture not so common in the West.  I’m not particularly critical of western culture, but it was interesting to see a community that thrived off constant interaction with one another.  The entire village would raise their children, and a neighbor would be just as influential in a child’s life as would his uncle or aunt.