Wednesday, August 8, 2007


That is not a euphemism or a metaphor. I really did eat dog soup last night- willingly. Before I had ever eaten dog soup, I looked forward to the day when I could write on this blog: " I ate dog. And I liked it." But I have to be honest, I didn't like it and I don't think I'll ever eat it again, unless of course I get stranded on a desert island with nothing to eat but dogs.

Eating dog soup is kind of like eating dog breath. That's what it smells like. And this dog was well prepared. It was quite tender, but also stringy. The fatty bits were really really disgusting because they tasted more like dog breath than the rest of the soup. Maybe that was because they took longer to chew and the spicy sauce disappeared from the taste long before you could swallow it.

But fear not, animal lovers! For those of you who are outraged and disgusted (finish reading this before you call PETA, please) there has been karmic pay back. This morning I puked up little chunks of dog and had dog breath myself. And now it's coming out the other end. It seems as though I was never really meant to eat dog.

*I guess I should add a few cultural notes here to put the experience in a little more context:
Koreans have been eating dog for a long time. It's a dish that is eaten on the hottest days of the year (to help cool you down) and it is supposed to increase male virility. In Korea, people don't eat pets or strays off the street, but instead there are special farms that breed dogs for the purposes of eating. I can't speak to the treatment of the dogs that are raised on the farms because I really don't know. I've heard rumors that the dogs are beaten before they are killed to stimulate the flow of adrenaline, which is supposed to be really good for the male endurance, but I don't know if that's true. And well, actually, I don't know too many people who actually consume dog meat...

This is what I found about dog meat in wikipedia:

Gaegogi literally means "dog meat" in Korean. Gaegogi, however, is often mistaken as the term for Korean soup made from dog meat, bosintang. It is made from a specific breed of dog that differs from those breeds that are kept as pets. The distaste felt by dog lovers, particularly from the West, with respect to eating dog has made this dish controversial in recent years. About two[27][28] to three[29] million dogs are consumed in South Korea every year that corresponds to more than one trillion South Korean won[28] ($1 billion at a rate of 1 USD per 1000 KRW).
The consumption of dog meat can be traced back many years. Dog bones were excavated in a neolithic settlement in Changnyeong,
South Gyeongsang Province. One of the wall paintings in the Goguryeo tombs complex in South Hwangghae Province, a UNESCO World Heritage site which dates from 4th century AD, depicts a slaughtered dog in a storehouse.
Use of dogs for meat and the methods of slaughter used have generated friction between dog lovers, both Western and Korean, and people who eat dogs; the conflict occasionally breaks out as headline news. During the
1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, Korea's capital city, the South Korean government asked its citizens not to consume dog meat to avoid bad publicity during the games. The controversy surfaced again in 2001 when the 2002 FIFA World Cup soccer games were held jointly in South Korea and Japan.[30][31] The organizer of the games, under pressure from animal rights groups such as PETA,[32] demanded that the Korean government re-address the issue, but little changed. Another part of the controversy stems from the methods of slaughter, which include beating to death by clubs (common in the countryside) and hanging (offenses in Korea under the Animal Protection Act 1991[33] although it does not include dogs as animals for human consumption[34]), in order to get more adrenaline into the flesh to make it taste better. However, such methods are no longer common in industry, where generally instant electrocution is employed because of economic reasons.[29] In 2007, a South Korean online dog meat retailer opened in April but closed in July due to a flood of demands to the local officials to "shut down the site for illegally selling dog meat."[35] A government official said, "Under the food sanitation law, animals that are not examined according to livestock processing regulations are not allowed to be sold as food... However, we will not be taking strong measures to regulate the practice since we have a tradition and culture of eating dog meat and many people enjoy it."
Today in
Korea, a segment of the population enjoy bosintang, literary “invigorating soup”, for its supposed "medicinal" properties. Dog meat is also widely believed to keep one cool during the intense Korean summer. Dog meat is also believed to improve male virility,[34] although there is no medical evidence to support these claims. Many Korean Buddhists consider eating meat an offense, which includes dog meat. Unlike beef, pork, or poultry, dog meat has no legal status as food in South Korea, which has caused the industry to go underground, with no official guidelines to address concerns over hygiene and animal welfare.[34] Some in South Korea and abroad believe that dog meat should be legalized so that only authorized preparers can deal with the meat in more humane and sanitary ways,[36][37] while others think that the practice should be banned by law. During the FIFA World Cup, in the face of foreign pressure to ban the sale of dog meat, a group of prominent South Koreans wrote an open letter in support of dog-eating.[38] South Korea's top soccer official said that FIFA had no business interfering in his country's eating habits.[31] Supporters of dog-eating held rallies against FIFA[39] and launched a campaign to promote dog meat.[40][41][42]
Many younger generations of Koreans are starting to abhor the practice of eating dog meat, and instead are treating dogs as pets rather than a source of food.[43][44] According to a 2006 survey, among 1025 South Koreans,[28] 81% of those in their fifties, 67% of those in their forties, 64% of those in their sixties, 59% of those in their thirties, 60% of teens, 46% of those in their twenties, and 55% on average have ever eaten dog meat. 64% eat dog meat 1 to 3 times per year, 17% 4 to 6 times, and 11% 7 to 10 times. This amounts to an average of 4.6 times per year, at 300 grams per incident. 75% think dog meat should not be banned, and many demand the improvement of the sanitary conditions rather than animal welfare.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

If it's BAD news....

Keep it to yourself. I don't want to know. I've had about all I can take.

snapshot from a lazy tourist

This was honestly one of the strangest vacations I ever went on. Strange because I was in another country and should have been interested the unique cultural activities and sites it has to offer, but actually if you were to ask me about Taiwanese food, history, culture, aboriginal communities, etc. I would have absolutely nothing to say to you. Maybe this was because the dumpy beach town I stayed in had absolutely nothing distinctly or uniquely Tiawanese about it- the food and tourist kitch was mostly from Thailand, everything else was kind of generically East Asian. Maybe I've just kind of become dull to East Asian art, culture and cuisine because I experience it everyday, but I really couldn't be bothered with another taoist, confucian or buddhist temple; the roasted innards, smelly tofu or squid-on-a-stick that you can find at the street stalls in night markets; the cultural relics or even the fine art.

All this is not to say that I think all East Asian cultures are the same; for to say that would be a great error that would prove to the world that my stupidity and arrogance have gone beyond the levels of your average Western tourist. But can't a girl be bored by it after three years and numerous cities in several countries? I have, after all, visited Seoul, Busan, Fukuoka, Osaka, Beijing, Ghuangzhou, Macau, Hong Kong and Taipei, not to mention a very few southeast asian cities (which are in some ways more markedly different from notheast asian cities).

All that was just to say that this was possibly that laziest vacation I've ever taken and my curiousity about Taiwan was rather limited to discovering its natural beauty as opposed its cultural beauty. And Taiwan, when you leave the polluted cities and suburbs, has quite a lot to offer in the way of natural beauty.

This is the southern most tip of Taiwan in an area called Kenting National Park. There is no public transportation around here, so I rented a scooter in the dumpy, generic beach town that reeked eerily of Ocean City, Maryland and that scooter brought me here, to a point which overlooks the coastal mountains and coral reefs that can be found not far off the coast of the island.

I spent four days on beaches like this, and I didn't even get a sun tan! Seriously, for the first time in my life I wore so much sunscreen that my white skin is nearly the same color as it was in the winter- that's after spending a week in a tropical country! Guess I've decided that cancer is not the way I want to go out.

As you might imagine, I did almost nothing last week, as it was really too hot to move much during the day (unless it was out of the ocean and into a shady cafe). The beaches in the main town are run by the eight year old urchins of the hotel gangsters. The urchins patrol the beaches on atv's and try to charge tourists exorbitant fees for using the beaches. That kind of sucks, but after one day, you can easily avoid them and at night, the beaches are totally empty and may be even more pleasant than they are during the day. Especially since it is past the urchins' bed times.

I've just run out of steam.... I did have more to say, but more bad news has reached me via telephone, and I'm distracted... more later. maybe.

20 Reason to Stay in Bed- Every Day

Yes, I dropped off the face of the earth. I wasn't sure that I was ready to write honestly about how my life was going so I decided not to write at all. Everything that came out felt negative and bitter and the whole world was just feeling a little overwhelming. Well, the whole world still feels a bit overwhelming, and scary and just downright unfair, but I guess it's time to stop hiding and let some people in on what's going on.

Not long after I wrote the post about the GS getting sick, I got a bit sick myself. Not physically, but the stress of living so far from my family and friends, a job that is on good days mildly annoying and on bad days gives me terrorist thoughts, a relationship that requires a lot of energy and patience (which I am quickly running out of).... You get the picture. I was really depressed. So depressed that I spent about a week weighing my options for suicide, throwing temper tantrums that would surely rival those of any tired and angry 2 year old, and being downright nasty to nearly everyone I came into contact with, including many friends who only wanted to cheer me up.

I have obtained contact information for a therapist, but have not yet called. I don't know why really. I obviously can't handle whatever is going on in my life myself, but I haven't brought myself to do it just yet.

I am so frustrated about the fact that there hasn't been any more information about the GS's condition. I have no idea how sick he is, but he is still asymptomatic, so he continues to live in denial about his medical condition. He is working so much that I haven't seen him much at all in the last 3 weeks. In fairness, I did just spend a week on vacation in Taiwan, but I came back on Tuesday and haven't seen the GS for more than a handful of hours since I returned.

To make matters worse, the situation for undocumented workers grows more dangerous by the hour here in Korea. As of August 1, the government expanded immigration powers to the regular police force, so now any Officer Kim could pick the GS off of a street corner (before the regular police could only pick up an undocumented worker if he or she had committed a crime other than a visa violation). Since Wednesday, we know of more than 200 workers who have been picked up. The number is likely much much higher than that, since those numbers come through our friends sending in reports, not any official source.

And the activists we know who have left or have been deported are being harassed by police as soon as they leave Korea. The best example of this is our friend Anwar (the first president of the migrants' union and spent a year in detention here for serving that post), who was arrested twice on his way out of the country. Once in Singapore where he was held only temporarily for questioning about his anti-government activities and then again in Bangladesh were he was held a bit longer, charged with a crime and is on a sort of probation where he has to check in with the Bangladeshi police in his hometown until his court date.

So needless to say, I am really worried about the safety of the GS in addition to his health, which he is doing nothing to take care of. I've stopped nagging as it only gives me more stress when I beg him to do something and he ignores it...

So today I as I write, I feel sad in a deep down sort of way, though I'm not sure of the specific reason. I'm a little lonely, a little bored and a little bit of unsure what I should be doing with myself since I don't have to go to work today. I know the Rev.Dr.Mom and NSLS are going to be worried when they read this, which I suppose is one reason why I decided not write for a while.

I'll get a post up about my trip to Taiwan, including some pictures (really, I took my camera), which I shouldn't be so depressing... I hope...