Saturday, April 12, 2008

Countryside Delicacies?

One of the unfortunate aspects of living in Taiwan is that whenever I go back to America, I don't have any crazy stories to tell about wild animals like international workers in Africa do. Nor do I usually eat anything all that unusual.

However, this morning one of my neighbors invited me to go out for breakfast this morning. We each had  a bowl of noodles ... and a small plate of dolphin meat on the side. I could only eat a few small pieces. Afterward, a few other acquaintances told me they find dolphin meat too "offensive" (new word for me in Taiwanese as well as Mandarin). I more or less agree with their assessment. Dolphin meat has a horrible aftertaste that sticks around long after the eating is done!

Tonight the same neighbor invited me over to his house for dinner, which I already ate, but I still joined them for a small bowl of beef tendon in soup. The soup was excellent, but it was hard for me to crunch away on the tendon, which you are supposed to eat all of. Then I was introduced to the speciality for the evening: rat meat from his family's farm! I only ate 3 or 4 tiny pieces. The way his wife prepared it, it was actually much more savory than the dolphin. If I hadn't known what it was, I could have eaten a lot.

I think my stomach is beginning to hurt. I hope I don't get sick tonight.

Next up: rabbit (which my neighbor raises back on his parents' farm) and venison, also available just down the street.

Neither my neighbor's wife, who is a Hakka from Northern Taiwan, nor their three daughters had anything to do with the rat meat. Nor do they eat the rabbit.

Monday, April 7, 2008

It Stinks Here

One of the distinguishing characteristics of my home here is that the glass face of my first floor with its sliding/screen doors faces south. In the winter my front porch basks in warmth because the harsh winter wind comes down from the north. In the summer it is cooler because the wind switches direction and blows in softly from the south. This, in contrast to other team members, whose homes face north and perhaps have more dirt blown in during winter.

All this took a nasty turn for the worst yesterday when I got home late in the day from my working day trip up to KeeLung. Before settling in for the night, I opened the sliding door of my second floor bedroom, but recoiled in disgust at the odor that was reeking in from outside. I figured at the time it had to be from the dogs across the street.

However, I learned today from an inquiring neighbor that the disgusting smell emanates from a large quantity of rotting crops that were dumped a few kilometers from here. Until yesterday that folks that lived to the south were the blessed recipients. Now, the winds have turned. The stench is amazingly intense in spite of the distance. I have to keep my first floor doors closed. And I suspect the smell might well endure into the hot summer. I feel sort of like Jonah after the Lord took away his shade tree:

Then the LORD said, "You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labor and which you did not grow; it came into being in a
night and perished in a night. And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?" Jonah 4:10-11

April 12 Update: After the local branch of Taiwan's Environmental Protection Agency intervened earlier this week by issuing a fine and a threat, the people responsible for the above have been cleaning up. No smell for a couple of days now!!!