Wednesday, February 07, 2007

you learn something new everyday

I've been reading a series of essays in this book entitled "One World, Many Cultures."

It's interesting. In a span of two nights, I believe I got more information about how other people from other parts of the world perceive their world. Want a sampler?

Initiation of a Massai Warrior

The Massai people are a semi-nomadic tribe living in Kenya and parts of Tanzania in Africa. Just like in the Philippines, they believe in circumcision. But whereas Filipinos claim its for hygienic purposes, the Massai circumcise their boys as a rite of passage to manhood.

What struck me the most is how much ceremony it takes for them to circumcise one child. It will take three days, and the circumcisee will have to undergo the rituals of being insulted, frightened and finally, circumcised without anesthesia. A circumcisee must not whimper or show pain or fear. Their honor as a man and of their family depend on it.

They believe that circumcision should be painful for it symbolizes the break between childhood and adulthood. It is a taking leave of the past and an aggressive way of facing the painful world ahead.

With all due respect for their culture, it does make sense --- this use of pain as a symbol for growing up. It does feel like breaking away and yet breaking down is not an option. I can't help but feel they've got the concept right.


Lovely Art of Killing

The Chinese are exceptionally innovative. Having been around for centuries probably helped them discover myriad ways of dealing with all types of carcasses to be turned into food or leisure items. I guess, they had all the time in the world to discover these things. :) Not for the queasy, I tell you.


Baby Mice

There is a certain delicacy in a province of China where a common house pest reigns supreme. Some restaurants in one part of the region have caged mice which they encourage to procreate. And of course, given the nature of mice, they do create countless number of baby mice. Now, newborn mice are usually still quite pinkish or white and only as large as the last segment of your little finger.

This Chinese specialty involves harvesting some of the baby mice and preparing a complicated sauce with herbs and spices. Then, with a chopstick, our mainland gourmands dip the baby mice into the sauce and eat them alive. Hmmm.. squirmy.


Fur, anyone?

Hares are quite common in China. The short-haired ones are killed commonly enough for food, but the long-haired hare are killed for their fur. The measure of a good fur is how less the amount of hair will fall off when you rub the skin. The latter are the ones that fetch a good price.

So one specialized way of ensuring good fur is as follows:

The furrier makes use of just one instrument - a long metal rod flat at one end and covered with a wooden handle on the other. This rod is heated until it is seething red. Then he takes the hare and caressses its spine. This soothes the hare and it soon settles down, its eyes turning a bit sleepy, and... raising and twitching its tail which in turn exposes its anus. At this split second moment, the furrier jams the rod into the hole and as the hare opens it mouth to scream, rams the rod out through the mouth. This unusual and surprising death secures the hare's hair in a death grip.

Good fur, bad death. Long-haired hare anyone? I didn't think so.

In any case, a Chinese guy wrote this. I'll get back to you on the name because I quite forgot it with what such impressionable details he presented. So this essay was not meant to be discriminatory. It was just a documentation. And I'm saying this in case anyone accuses me of taking amusement from racism. Believe me, I'm not. Next time, I'll tell you about the weird things Pinoys do to cook their food. :)

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