Sunday, February 17, 2013

Life in the Kitchen Part 3: Bullying Little Animals

Here at the restaurant are 5 birds which I raised from the time they were babies. They attract quite a bit of attention from some of the customers. Two of the birds garner more attention than the others, but I’m still somewhat attached to four of them. While I was away in the US, this place became their home.

This past week, then, it made me angry to pass by the cages and either catch in-the-act or after-the-fact children 欺負小動物 “bullying the little animals” by poking them with sticks and even kicking the cages. They tried feeding them inedible items ranging from tree leaves to raw coffee beans. 很沒有規矩!

Sadly, in some cases, the children were only following in the footsteps of their adult parents. On two separate days I found cigarette butts in the cages, as well as betel nut 檳榔。These would have come from the so-called adults.

Speaking of the adults, this afternoon, the last day of winter vacation before children go back to school, I picked up 78 cigarette butts from the adjacent restaurant parking lot (about 12 spaces). I’m sure I could have found more if I had kept looking! And a few days ago while driving back up after having running errands, it seemed the car in front of me was throwing a different piece of garbage out of the window every 20-30 seconds. What classless lowlife. Hopefully, the litterbugs/bullies/gangster types only constituted a small fraction of the customers who visited over the Chinese New Year.

Life in the Kitchen: Temporary Restaurant Workers

I’m here as a volunteer part-time dishwasher to help keep things going over the busy Chinese New Year rush. In order to get most of the rest of the work done, the restaurant hired 3 students (and the little sister of one of them, who although not a “hire” has been helping). Here’s their breakdown:

1. One gal, a 15 year old high school student, comes from a single parent home. In Taiwan, after a divorce, it’s usual for the kids to live with the father. That is the case here. Unfortunately, however, this young lady’s dad is the hospital living out his final days with liver cancer exacerbated by drinking to excess. He could pass away any time now I’m told.

2. The oldest student, a third year high-schooler, comes from a home where the father drinks and sometimes beats him. His mom is a foreign bride from Indonesia (as is the mother of the other two girls). After the young man accidentally got burned by some spilled hot water earlier in the week, I wound up taking him on two different days to the hospital to get his arm wrapped. I was surprised that on the first day when I took him to the emergency room, when he presented his medical insurance card they collected less than USD $1 for the payment. The second visit, they didn’t collect anything. I learned for the first time that for low income families medical costs are drastically reduced.

I believe these grassroots, working class peoples, and especially their children, hold a special place in God’s heart. Jesus loves the little (and not so little) children. May He bless and continue to provide for them and their families.

Life in the Kitchen Part 2

I awoke another night last week around 1:30 to look up and see something flash quickly from left to right across my chest. Not wearing my glasses, I couldn’t focus clearly, but I thought I saw two little bulging eyes. I yelped, waking my wife. Both of us then heard the pitter-patter of rapidly moving feet. A rat! (here in Taiwan known as a money rat). It had just leaped off my chest.

We pulled out the luggage and boxes underneath the bed where the rat had ran, but found nothing. Then we saw a small crack we assumed he had slipped into. We went back to sleep.

A few minutes later we heard the pitter-patter again. We turned on the lights to see the rat looking down at us from atop a tall shelf. As we watched and tried to swat at it in vain, it was apparent it had absolutely no fear for us. It ran back into a crack we couldn’t reach.

Living in a remote location in the middle of the night, going for a rat trap was impossible. So I put out some peanut butter on a piece of paper and waited to smack it if/when it came out. However, I was unprepared for the rat’s sheer speed as it zoomed out, grabbed the peanut butter before my eyes, turned around and whisked back to shelter all in a split second. All before my hands could begin the downward motion with the weapon I was carrying.

We then prepared a trap using fly paper on a piece of cardboard and went back to bed. Within minutes the rat was caught in the fly paper, but before we could react it had ripped the sticky paper taped to the cardboard away, and taken it back with him on its run back to shelter. Just minutes after that, we looked up to see the rat staring down at us from atop the coffee maker.

Around 5 we gave up and I opened the door in the hope it would simply leave the room. It must have eventually, because we didn’t hear it again. The next day I rode into down and came back with some sticky traps. In five days it hasn’t come back to the room, although I did catch a glimpse of it in the shed outside.

Life in the Kitchen Part I

A week ago, on New Year’s Day, leaving our room and coming out in the darkened workroom around 1:30 am (windows but no door separating it from the outside), a bat swerved, just missing my head twice. Normally viewed as a harbinger of darkness in western culture, the bat is a sign of blessing in Chinese/Taiwanese culture: the second character in the Chinese word “bat” sounds like the word for blessing. Hope everyone had a Happy Chinese Year!

Life in the Kitchen Intro

A few months ago I cruelly joked with my wife-then-fiancé that while  visiting my parents in America she would be staying in a cage in the basement, coming out only for meals and for housework. Never did I suspect that upon our immediate return to Taiwan, it would be me/us temporarily living in a small room in the family restaurant right off the semi-enclosed kitchen extension used for chopping vegetables and washing dishes! Having said that, I must admit the room is newly and nicely designed with beautiful wooden floors in the Japanese style.

Well rested from a trip to the US, and just starting to look for employment again back in Taiwan, I volunteered to be a dishwasher for the 9 days of Chinese New Year (plus the prior weekend) in my wife’s family restaurant in order to help get them through the crazy holiday rush. The next few entries record a few episodes from this time.