May 29th, 2011 | Published in China - Cultural Differences
Since it basically feels like summer again, and warm and sunny and nice, I have started jogging again over the past month.
Unfortunately, however, the track and soccer field in the middle of town has been torn down for a new housing development, leaving no public space for working out in the entire city, and no soccer field except two that are inaccessible to the public because they’re at schools.
There have been upset people in town and annoyed people, and there appears even to have been a store that protestied the demolition of the arena by refusing to move their stuff out of the store (their store is built into part of the stadium walls, so they’ve got to go). But mostly people have just dealt with it and started doing ridiculous things, like running in circles in the big apartment park that I live in, or braving the walkway by the river, which constantly has motorcycles zipping along it (even though it’s for pedestrians). I’m in the latter category.
Yesterday when I was coming home from my run it was a beautiful, hot, sunny afternoon. After a few days of rain, people seemed to be celebrating by doing laundry. The faces of the buildings were collages of pinks and greens and blues, sheets and shirts hung out to dry.
Apparently the small scuzzy restaurant on the corner nearest my building had decided to air out their kitchen, too, because as I was walking home I heard a crash from inside the doors, and out came two rats, squeaking madly, with a couple short young cooks in white, but grimy, chef’s coats in pursuit. A girl came out after them, smiling happily at the entertainment. Another rat came running out. I noted that their refrigerator unit appeared to have been pulled away from the wall.
The rats appeared stunned by the sudden sunlight. They ran towards the street, and then ran back towards the shop, but the cooks were chasing them around, and there was nowhere to go but the street or the restaurant. This went on for about 40 seconds, I’d say.
The two Chinese guys were wearing the blue flip-floppy things that I wear in the shower and occasionally when I’m hanging out at home, and that you sometimes see on poor guys from the villages who have come to town to beg, on old ladies out for evening walks, or on extremely casual cooks with questionable personal hygiene. My suspicions of their poor hygiene were confirmed when the shorter guy, with long orange hair reminiscent of a hedgehog, managed to stomp on the head of one of the rats, leaving a smear of blood on the step of the restaurant.
It was a good hit. Even though he was wearing soft rubber flip flops, I got the impression that he had hit some kind of nerve or perhaps given the rat a concussion. It sort of flopped around helplessly for a sec before the other short guy in the grimy white smock gave it a good stomper, crushing it with much more authority, which was easier, now that it was immobile. A little more blood sort of splattered out, and one of the cooks sort of kicked it onto the sidewalk. No time to dally; there were two other rats to deal with. This is all while they’re wearing these flimsy little fucking flip-flops, mind you, which if you were going to ask me to stomp a rat to death I’m not even sure I would do it in combat boots, for fear some globule of rat gore would fly up and hit me in the eye, or something.
The next rat had been pretty much cornered next to the entrance to the restaurant, but it was evading death by flip-flop by virtue of a motorcycle and a few crates of garbage that it was running behind. There was a crack in the wall that would have been amply big enough for the rat to run into and perhaps even re-enter the restaurant, but for some reason it didn’t seem to see the escape route and instead just kept running back and forth madly, trying to escape the blows that rained down around it. The cook had now picked up a crude wooden stool and was attempting to smash the rat with the seating area, and eventually succeeded, crushing some part of the rat’s hindquarters, thereby stunning it, thereby allowing the death blow to be dealt with said crude wooden stool with relative ease by the cook in the grimy whitish-gray smock with the hedgehog hair and the blue rubber flip-flops and the questionable personal hygiene.
Which left rat three. I should note that at no time during this ordeal has any of the onlookers, besides perhaps me, reacted to this scene with anything other than complete absorption and apparent delight. The two stocky young pasty-faced cooks are laughing and grinning and moving about with great enthusiasm, and the very pretty young girl who works as a waitress and is wearing a one-piece blue-and-white uniform advertising some kind of Chinese beer on the apron, and a couple of other onlookers, have seemed pretty much totally happy to be witness to this brutal rat massacre, and I have to admit that even though I find rats repulsive, and in this case I was especially repulsed because I had on many occasions enjoyed the fish and snail dishes at this rather overpriced “cheap restaurant” (so the window claims), I too enjoyed the show, and couldn’t help smiling every time the rat again evaded the pudgy little cook guy. There was something really funny, and gross, about the little rat managing to escape him because of a pile of trash and a motorcycle. But the others seemed to more think just funny.
The glee of the audience is important here because at this point a motorcycle driver, who had just been parked on this corner waiting for fares, decided that he wanted to have a go, and joined the fray. This proved the rat’s undoing, because with the pudgy hedgehog-haired cook guy on the outside of the garbage and the motorcycle cabbie wearing a white helmet on the inside, they were able to do a pincer motion, thereby, through pure strategy and superior cognitive ability, eliminate the rat’s chances of escape.
It was the moto-cabbie who did it. He sort of poked at the rat with his toe, leaning his body back and stretching his foot forward in a jabbing motion because he couldn’t quite reach past the trash and the motorcycle with his full flat foot, and something about that quick sharp poke totally wrecked the rat’s game, and that was it, it was stunned, and the moto-cabbie sort of dragged the rat out by clamping down on its rear end with his toe and clawing backward with his sneaker, the way you might try to trap a dropped roll of toilet paper with your foot if you didn’t want or couldn’t get up from the toilet seat, and then he, and it wasn’t so gross to me, somehow to see a person actually wearing shoes to do this, stomped the rat sharply, obviously killing it.
Everybody seemed pretty proud and celebratory, and I did notice one woman who had stopped to watch the hunt immediately continue on her walk after the death of the third rat, looking somewhat perplexed and troubled, and I too decided to move on, sort of trying to forget about it but also feeling that this kind of made me less afraid of rats, in a way, and more confident that the next time I encounter a rat in my home (if there’s a next time) I’ll know how to kill it, as in the past I’ve always been afraid to try the stomping method with rats, out of a fear, mostly, that blood would splatter everywhere the way it does when you stomp a fat and juicy bug.
I’ve also been thinking about studying Buddhism lately and thinking a bit more about what it has to say about treatment of life forms and thinking more critically about my consumption of animals and how I still have no way to really justify it that is in any way ethical, but I’m not all the way there yet.
I also decided promptly after witnessing the rat killing never to eat at that overpriced restaurant ever again. And also not to talk to those pudgy little hedgehog cooks any more. I always thought they smiled a little psychotically whenever I went into their restaurant, and the service was terrible.
In a completely unrelated note, I have learned how to play a Taylor Swift song on the guitar and how to sing it, after one of my students shared his almost total obsession with the American country-pop singer a couple weeks ago. (Many students have told me they really like her songs and I try to teach stuff they like, and they like nothing more than learning songs.) This is, needless to say, a serious blow to my sense of manhood and my trust in my own musical taste, but even worse is the fact that after I learned the song I actually kind of liked it, which is very confusing for me.
I also recently learned that the reason so many old Chinese men have hideously long hairs growing out of moles on their faces is because Chinese medicine teaches (supposedly) that plucking or removing those hairs can make the mole cancerous. I had previously, and erroneously, it turns out, been told (by a foreigner — the recent correction came from a Chinese) that it was because they thought those disgusting long hairs were good luck. This is typical: it’s amazing how many things I’ve had to re-learn multiple times about Chinese and Chinese culture, because of poor translations, miscommunications, or just bad information. It’s funny, because if I had stayed here for just like three months and then gone home I could have talked like nonstop about China and it probably would have all been garbage. It’s entirely possible that that’s still the case, although I hope not.
All for today. End of trans.