I believe that there are over 100 ways to cook rice, and that although people might tell you that their way is the best, it is really just a personal preference.
I think I first realized the importance of this belief when I left home my junior year of high school to spend a year in Tunisia, Africa. As a young child, I was a huge fan of rules. I felt gypped because my parents were not very strict with my upbringing, and I, therefore, created a lot of rigorous rules for myself. I allowed myself to only bike to the end of the street; to only eat sweets on very special occasions; and to only go to sleep once I had completed all of my homework. At the time, I was convinced that my rules were necessary not only for myself, but for all of my friends as well. I secretly looked down on my friends who had not created such rigorous lifestyles and felt a hidden pride in knowing that I was living life as it should be lived.
I carried this personal belief through all of middle school and the beginning of high school, but things changed once I went to Tunisia. Living with a family I had never met and attending a school where I was the only American among hundreds of Tunisian students stressed my belief system and brought out an emotional side of myself that I had never before encountered. I had to learn how to “go with the flow” and accept the fact that Tunisians were not Americans and certainly did not share the same lifestyles as I did. That did not, however, mean that their ways of life were wrong. Although Tunisians often ate desert with tea before dinner, spent a lot of time chatting endlessly with family members, and even prayed five times a day, they were still humans and had the same core needs and desires that I did.
Being a fervent Unitarain Universalist, I had preached of equality and interdependent existence for many years, but my stay in Tunisia helped me realize that I had never come to personally embrace these ideas myself. I had forced myself, by one of my rigorous rules, to treat everyone with compassion and to be open-minded, but I had never actually believed that other peoples’ lifestyles could actually be right. My exchange year in Tunisia helped me realize that, in fact, everyone is right—whether it’s a Tunisian, an American, or simply a member of your own family—there is no “wrong way” to do anything!
I now know that there are over 100 ways to cook rice, and although every way is different, you will always end up with slight variations of the same fluffy, gooey, and delicious grain.
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