Here is a shot of a man preparing Betel Nut Quids. Quids is the technical name for these betel nut filled parcels he is so carefully assembling. It is a tad bit ironic that he is preparing the betel nut in such a methodically manner with latex gloves, almost appearing to imply a level of sanitation…. take 5 steps back and you are standing in a makeshift stall assembled from obvious pieces of remanent wood at the opening of a narrow trash strewn street which we would call an alley in the states. This HIGHLY ADDICTIVE Myanmar past time is very much like a form of chewing tobacco. It is derived from the areca palm which produces a soft, it is refered to as Betel Nut. The nut of this palm is chopped up and slathered with a slimy lime solution ( that cannot be good), then wrapped in the betel nut palm leaf ( a quid) occasional additional tobacco and or other spices are added to enhance flavor and effect. Betel Nut pod is then placed in the mouth between the cheek and the gum like chewing tobacco in the USA. People who I have met have tried it says it kind of taste like eating soap… mmm appetizing!!
Then the most charming part of this national phenomenon is the wretched red spit which is EVEYWHERE and people spit it out randomly, walking down the street (right in front of you), taxi drivers just open their doors and spit, men… women… young.. old it doesn’t much matter. When the urge strikes I guess you have to just spit. Just watch your step its EVERYWHERE!yuk! Germ-a-phobs beware!! You will find the spit stains everywhere and anywhere, sidewalks, stairs, trash cans, walls, dripping down car doors. These are the days you are praising the Gods for monsoon season that brings the daily down pours and near floods that washes away the crimson remnants. Here is where you are not of the local custom and you strap on your rain boots that you had your wonderful mother send 9,000 miles because along with the tilde wave of people’s spit God only know what lurks in the constant sewage filled rain water. In this instance I do not make like the locals, I throw on my wellies and fly my ” she is a foreigner flag” high and proud!! lol!!
It really can be quite distracting and nerve-racking, people will be talking to you while gargling this mouth full of red muck, it’s not as if I can actually understand them without the mouth full of chew but it definitely add insult to injury.
I understand it is a cultural norm but if you ask me ( to which no one has) it is quite disgusting habit. And let me tell you, it is hard not to be preoccupied with people’s oral health, when some have these blood red stained, rotten teeth. Just maintain eye contact .. Pretend like you don’t notice and hide the horror from your face … Nothing to see here just keep it moving!