March 17, 2004 - Vegetarian Baby: Peace Corps Medical Officer Paul Wilson worked and ate in Papua New Guinea

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Papua New Guinea: Peace Corps Papua New Guinea : The Peace Corps in Papua New Guinea: March 17, 2004 - Vegetarian Baby: Peace Corps Medical Officer Paul Wilson worked and ate in Papua New Guinea

By Admin1 (admin) ( - on Wednesday, March 17, 2004 - 4:15 pm: Edit Post

Peace Corps Medical Officer Paul Wilson worked and ate in Papua New Guinea

Peace Corps Medical Officer Paul Wilson worked and ate in Papua New Guinea

Dad Around the World

By Paul Wilson

I had been consuming whole and organically grown foods for several years before I met my wife, having lived in a rural setting in northern Minnesota doing organic gardening and harvesting, growing my own food. I lived mostly on whole grains, fresh dairy products and fresh fruits and vegetables. When I met my wife, she was not even remotely vegetarian, and she is fond of the irony in her saying, "I corrupted him." Those who know her now know that it's ironic because she's staunchly vegan and a tireless promoter and supporter of the vegetarian movement.

When she became pregnant with out first child, she announced one day that she wanted to raise our child vegetarian, no dairy. I'd noticed she'd had her nose in a book, Vegetarian Baby, for about a week, but I really didn't think it was anything too serious, knowing her eating habits like I did. I told her that I agreed it was the healthiest way to raise a child, and as long as we made sure our child got the nutrients s/he needed, I was all for it. Since then, I've become much more involved in my daughter's diet, and I'm as concerned about nutrition issues as my wife, maybe more.

Because I work for the Peace Corps (not a volunteer, though both she and I were volunteers at different times and in different countries) we travel a great deal , living overseas and moving from country to country. Around two years ago, while living in Papua New Guinea, my wife announced that she felt we should go vegan. Though I make lots of jokes about living on sticks, seeds, leaves, and stems, I deserve some credit for suffering through those early months and many failed food experiments with hardly a world of complaint. I am a frequent cook, and a pretty good one, if I do say so myself, but my wife was determined to make our vegan diet as varied and interesting as it was before giving up eggs and dairy. I must say she's done well keeping us all healthy and well-fed.

People often ask if it's hard being vegan overseas. In some countries yes, and in others, no. PNG was easy with all those fresh fruits and vegetables and imported Australian health food. But Mongolia has provided us with more of a challenge. We order some organic foods over the internet, and I, especially, have to contend with cultural issues. I spend a lot of time out in the field, traveling through the Mongolian countryside for up to 14 days at a time. Though I bring nuts, peanut butter and dried noodle soups with me, I am still faced with offers of mutton, horse, and beef cooked in every way imaginable. I do the best I can weighing my hunger in 40 below zero weather (extreme cold does make a difference in what you're willing to accept), my food stores and cultural sensitivity.

As a father, the hardest part for me has been finding things outside the house, snacks for my daughter to eat. I don't always have something with me when the mood strikes, and my 3-year-old seems to get hungry at the most unusual times and places. It's hard to know what's vegan and what's not living in a foreign country where the labels could be in Mongolian, Chinese, Russian, or German!

Also, I want Kalli to have her own identity. It's important to me that being vegan is not just my or my wife's idea. I want her to be aware of what it all means when she says, "I'm a vegetarian." (She uses the terms vegetarian and vegan interchangeably.) She is growing in her knowledge and understanding of the concepts, I know, because she has begun to ask which of our friends is veg, and a common theme in her doll and stuffed animal play is "pretend you're a vegetarian".

Most of all, I want to be a consistent role model for her. That's what being a veg dad means to me.

--Paul has worked as the Peace Corps Medical Officer in six countries and lived in and traveled to many more. He hails from Cass Lake, Minnesota, where he and his wife, Melanie, and daughters, Kalli and Mackie, expect to settle down after their world travels.

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Story Source: Vegetarian Baby

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Papua New Guinea; Food



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