In traditional Chinese culture people used to greet one another with the phrase "have you eaten yet?" It was a way of demonstrating to the other person that you cared about their physical well-being. And of course, since Chinese culture was also hyper-polite, the proper response was always "yes, I’ve eaten," no matter if you’d just gotten up from a 40-course banquet, or hadn’t had a meal in days. To say "no, I haven’t eaten" would oblige the other person to then feed you, which is might not be something he truly wants to do. In modern urban China, this phrase is rarely heard anymore.
But I’m in Thailand now, at a conference in a resort in the mountains above Chiang Mai. There are 600 people here. Over the course of the past 7 days, we have developed our own, slightly modified version of that traditional Chinese greeting. It is "have you gone down yet?" Some kind of microbe has attacked our merry band here, and easily 75% of the conference participants have been hit with a 24-hour bout of, shall we say, gastro-intestinal distress (bacterial or viral; food-borne or air-borne, no one has been able to figure out. Kneeling at the throne, I like to call it. Each morning, as we gather for our conference sessions, we are anxious to find out who’s still up and who went down in the night. Hence our greeting.
I managed to be one of the privileged few who escaped the ravages of this bug. I chalk it up to my Pakistan-born-and-bred industrial-strength immune system. Truth be told, there were not a few folks who wanted to see me go down, and thus each morning people would come up to me with an expectant grin and ask "have you gone down yet." When I would say no, they’d harrumph and walk away! No fair.
Well, to be honest with you I did stumble. One day I ate two big plates of chicken curry, followed by a bag of M&M’s. My stomach responded with the gastro-intestinal version of the "you have performed and illegal operation" computer message. I’ll leave it at that.
Time to pack my suitcase and move on to the next place: Back to Chiang Mai city for 3 days. I’m beginning to feel like a drifter!