I’m squishing up a baby bumble bee, won’t my mommy be so proud of me…

Deep fried bees, originally uploaded by coming2cambodia.

Yes folks, I ate deep fried bees while in Japan. I think this is a good first step on my way to eating tarantulas while in Cambodia. I have to say, they were not bad. Mostly, they were just fried and salty and a little squishier than I had expected. Also, it was worth it just to watch Jason gag one down.

 Jason eating a bee

 Clare eating a bee

More about Cambodian Spider eating traditions: (also, visit frizz restaurant where all this information comes from for a wonderful culinary class and their website for all kinds of information and more about spiders as food and wine):

First unearthed by starving Cambodians in the dark days of the Khmer Rouge “killing fields” rule, Skuon’s spiders have transformed from the vital sustenance of desperate refugees into a choice national delicacy.

Black, hairy, and packing vicious, venom-soaked fangs, the burrowing arachnids common to the jungle around this bustling market town do not appear at first sight to be the caviar of Cambodia.

Spider

But for many residents of Skuon, the “a-ping” – as the breed of palm-sized tarantula is known in Khmer – are a source of fame and fortune in an otherwise impoverished farming region.

“On a good day, I can sell between 100 and 200 spiders,” said Tum Neang, a 28-year-old spider-seller who supports her entire family by hawking the creepy-crawlies, deep fried in garlic and salt, to the people who flock to Skuon for a juicy morsel.

At around 300 riel (eight US cents) a spider, the eight-legged snack industry provides a tidy income in a country where around one third of people live below a poverty line of $1 per day.

The dish’s genesis is also a poignant reminder of Cambodia’s bloody past, particularly under the Khmer Rouge, whose brutal four years in power from 1975-1979 left an estimated 1.7 million people dead, many through torture and execution.

For the millions forced at gunpoint into the fields, grubs and insects such as spiders, crickets, wasps and “konteh long” – the giant water beetles found in lakes near the Vietnamese border – were what kept them alive.

“When people fled into the jungle to get away from Pol Pot’s troops, they found these spiders and had to eat them because they were so hungry,” said Sim Yong, a 40-year-old mother of five.

“Then they discovered they were so delicious,” she said.

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Country bars in Japan?

Good time Charlie’s country band, originally uploaded by coming2cambodia.

Sometimes this blog is about human trafficking or Cambodia. This post most decidedly is not.

This post is about how I spent my last night in Japan in what I consider to be, in my limited experience, Japan’s primer Country Bar: “Good Time Charlie”. Also, to make the night even more special, it was right after the Sunshine Festival where country bands from around Japan and around the world had come to play together.

Who knew that you could find a county bar in Kumamoto Japan? I am serious. Here, look and see for yourself.

I realize that the quality of the footage is not very good—it was a dark bar. But you can at least here the music. That is, in fact, Good Time Charlie singing with his band!

Since it was a very busy night at the bar, we shared our table with 5 Japanese men who worked at some communications company. The men were all very nice to us; they shared their whiskey, talked about their lives, shared their love for country music, and danced. Technically, only one guy danced, but he did make me happy. I can’t say that his dancing was true country line dancing. More, it was a mixture of country line dancing, R&B, and his one unique twist. After the cover band played (Meghan’s ), he shouted out to them (and the whole bar heard): “MY HAPPINESS”. It was very sweet. He was obviously enjoying himself. And, so was I.

Who would have known?

Japan trip

Jason, originally uploaded by coming2cambodia.

Head over to my Flickr account for lots of pictures from the Japan trip to see Jason. There are lots of pictures from Kumamoto, Nagasaki, digging and eating bamboo and even a couple pictures of deep fried bees (and us eating them).

Sushi

Sometimes when you like a cuisine and then go to the place it is from, you realize that it is not nearly as good at home as the real thing. I can’t say that the Japansese sushi was so much better (admittedly, I only went to cheap sushi place). The best part, however, was the little conveyor belt that the sushi traveled on.

Japan vs Cambodia

Japan had this amazing sense of order to it. Everyone knew how things worked (except me). There were lines and places to buy tickets and things. The traffic flowed according to the law. Everything had its place and there was a place for everything.

In contrast, I have come home to the last of chaos. There are laws, but no one follows them. Lines barely exist. There is not set way of doing things or getting things and more often then not, you have to just move with the crowd and try not to get trampled.

Amazing how in the land of order I was lost, and here in the land of chao where nothing works right everything seems to make sense.

Nagasaki Peace Park

Nagasaki Peace Park, originally uploaded by coming2cambodia.

When I was working in Moldova, I would teach 3 weeks of each year for each grade (5-11) about peace and resolution conflict. This looked different depending on the age. Fifth graders learned about sharing. Ninth graders learned about date rape and rape in general. My seventh graders learned about the need for world peace and they learned to fold origami cranes. First we would have story time and then we would work on cranes. I was amazed at how some of the children, so far removed from WWII, Japan, Origami, cancer, or war could take such a liking from this lesson and Sadako’s story. But they did. I know that there are many versions, but this is the one I told.

“Some of you may already be familiar with the origami crane as a symbol of peace, and more specifically the tradition of ‘1,000 Cranes for Peace.’ For those of you who are not familiar with the origins of this tradition, it lies with the story of Sadako Sasaki. Sadako was just two years old when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. While she suffered no immediate injury, the effects of her exposure caught up with her some ten years later and she fought a courageous battle with leukemia. After she had become sick, Sadako’s best friend told her that the crane, which is a sacred bird in Japan, grants a wish to someone who folds one thousand paper cranes. After hearing this, Sadako immediately began folding cranes for her one wish: to get well again. Her health gradually deteriorated and Sadako began to wish instead for world peace, that children could live safe from the effects of wars. Sadly, she did not finish. When Sadako died in October of 1955, she had folded a total of 644 cranes. Her classmates folded the remaining cranes in time for her funeral. This tradition has continued and the paper crane has remained a symbol of peace for children around the world.”

How many times can a heart break?

Feet from the epicenter for the Nagasaki A-Bomb explosion, originally uploaded by coming2cambodia.

On Monday a nation founded itself stunned at the shooting on the VT campus. Over in Japan, the news came quickly as well and by Tuesday I was hearing the snippets of news and confusing information coming out. Wednesday night, when the story seemed clearer, I read about it in the NY Times and I watched the news (in Japanese). As everyone, my first thought was of shock and horror. My second thought (or maybe first when I learned he was an immigrant) was “oh shit—the backlash”.

Yesterday I went to Nagasaki, a city that 62 years ago we dropped an atomic bomb on. I stood at the epicenter of an explosion that killed about 75,000 of the cities 240,000 residents were killed instantly. Another 75,000 were injured (some of whom died later).

I went to the Peace Park and watched as a class of children read poems about peace, about their wish for the future, about those who had died. I watched as they hung the paper cranes they had made in on of the many places for wishes. I thought about how young they were and the world they were growing in. I visited the Museum, which I think was done wonderfully. It was painful, and moving, and sickening– just like the whole experience.

The whole thing breaks my heart.

It breaks my heart that we live in a world where people get so lost and so angry that they feel killing others in a massive school shooting will help.

It breaks my heart that when the nation sees this man, this boy—they see his nationality and his immigration status first.

It breaks my heart that President Bush could stand up in front of VT and talk about the tragic and senseless loss of life without ever being able to make a connection to the tragic and senseless loss of life that he is instigating and supporting in Iraq.

It breaks my heart that since the bombing of Nagasaki, the United states has considered using nuclear weapons again (both in Vietnam and in Iraq’s first war). Although, at least in this case, I am heartened that we didn’t.

It breaks my heart to think about Agent Orange that we did dump over Vietnam and Cambodia during that war. The effects of this are still playing out today as it is carried in the genes and causes worse birth defects the further down the genetic chain. (So, the great-grand children years to come will be paying for what we did to their great-grandparents in years past). Shame on us!

Maybe this is not a paradox I would have seen if it had not been for timing. Maybe reading about the shootings in Virgina made me more vulnerable to experiencing the pain of Nagasaki. In any case, I can’t be helped but be touched at the out pouring of support for the families and students in VT, while at the same time be horrified that we do not have that same empathy and sympathy for the victims of war (both our own soldiers and that thousands of innocent civilians of other colors that our war, this American war, is creating).