Having recently moved to Thailand, I've realized how much training my taste buds need to acclimate to the culture, particularly through the food!
There is the chili for one thing--and the mixture of tastes all at once bursting on your tongue. Take my current object of fixation--pad thai. Thai style fried noodles, which I think I have had at the cafeteria and different other places more than thrice since being in the country.
There are the tofu and shrimp bits on the side. The leeks and corriander sprinkled liberally. The hints of lime juice, a tinge of tamarind, and the bite and crunch of the peanuts mixed in linguini-sized rice noodles. And then, the chili--on the side. And if you prefer, some brown sugar--to taste.
Practically having pad thai is in a way my little way to remind myself how I really have to be open to the food and culture how strange it is. Although I am surrounded by different nationalities--and in fact have found my group mainly though from China--the discovery of the country I am in still calls out.
Being away from Bangkok (which they call "town" from here in Pathumthani), the urban jungle seems a surreal dream that has melted away. Towards the end of the day, you can even hear the crickets, the voices hollering in different languages (and the cricket bats of the Pakistanis, Indians and any others who play nearby). And in the mornings--there is the tinge of the rain and earth from the night before.