Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Of Dog Meat and Joel Brinkley

(This post is dedicated to Stanford Professor Joe Brinkley who in February wrote a rather bizarre column pontificating why Vietnamese eat dog. I've deliberately decided not to include graphic photos and details.)

“Walking your dinner?” two long-time Vietnamese American friends said when they saw me walking my dog, Dee Dee.
Dee Dee at about two.
It was a Vietnamese in-joke, a pretty funny one, if I may add. However, on that day, I couldn’t laugh, couldn’t even manage a response other than a sheepish nervous grin.

Dog meat consumption somehow has been associated with Vietnamese people, but not as I remembered growing up in the Mekong Delta region of southern Việt Nam. It still carries negative connotations. The perception towards those who eat dog borderlines xenophobia.

"I'm going to call for the dog catcher if you don't stop crying" was a commonly-heard threat to get a child to stop crying, and it worked for this was no ordinary dog catcher. He was catching dogs for meat. Furthermore, he was 'bắc kỳ,' a northern Việt Nam native who was 'different.' He wasn't one of 'us.'

A good part of my childhood was spent in Rạch Sỏi, Kiên Giang Province, a relatively large Mekong Delta coastal town with a good mix of ethnic Chinese and Khmer or Cambodian people. This is my mother’s side of the family. I was born in Tân Châu, An Giang Province, my father's side of the family, not far from the Cambodian border.

The main highway from An Giang to Kiên Giang passes by a town called Tân Hiệp, about twenty minutes from Rạch Sỏi.

Unlike elsewhere in the entire Mekong Delta region, Tân Hiệp’s residents were predominately bắc kỳ, and Catholics. And without fail, each and every time the bus stopped in Tân Hiệp, it was pointed out that the people in this town ate dog.

And that became the stereotype about northerners eating dog.


Tân Hiệp has one of the biggest Catholic dioceses in Việt Nam
It may not be apparent to outsiders, but the cultural divide, and the associated misgivings, between northerners and southerners can be quite a gulf. It was further widened by the years the country was divided, compounded by Catholics versus Buddhists tension during President Ngô Đình Diệm administration (1955–1963).

When Việt Nam was partitioned into two halves in 1954, for fear of retribution and persecution, partly fanned by US-engineered propaganda, nearly one million northerners, 85% Catholics, migrated south to join the now US-backed regime under President Ngô Đình Diệm. Hence those who settled in Tân Hiệp were known as 'bắc kỳ ông Diệm,' Mr. Diệm’s northerners or 'bắc kỳ 54,' northerners who migrated south in 1954. 

The typical dog catcher in the towns and villages neighboring Tân Hiệp was a man with a bamboo shoulder pole and two burlap bags. He either caught the dogs, often rabid and/or sick, that people no longer wanted or bought them from those who were desperate for money.

He was seen as a sinister outsider trading in cruelty who occasionally performed a thankless job of removing dangerous dogs. How the dogs were butchered and consumed were subject of many bizarre stories full of xenophobic conjecture.

Culinary historian Erica J. Peters, in her Appetites and Aspirations in Vietnam: Food and Drink in the Long Nineteenth Century, wrote that “dog meat was eaten on occasion by some Vietnamese, but much less often than one would think from the extent to which the French identified being Vietnamese with eating dog meat.”

According to The Guardian’s Kate Hodal no one knows exactly when the Vietnamese started eating dog, but its consumption – primarily in the north – underlines a long tradition.

Unlike the bountiful Mekong Delta, northern Việt Nam is less fertile whose winter could be bitterly cold, and even snows on occasions. Southerners often surmised that northerners resorted to eating dog out of the need for protein in their diet and a desire for variety.

When the victorious communist north united the country in April, 1975, libraries sprung up everywhere; free books were given out, partly as an effort to indoctrinate formerly capitalist southerners, but also to reacquaint southerners with their estranged northern cousins.

I took to the libraries like a duck to water, reading anything and everything I could get my hand on. I remember reading about the living conditions in northern Việt Nam during the brutal Japanese occupation, especially in the winter of 1944 and 1945. Between 400,000 to two million died of starvation. It was known as the Vietnamese Famine of 1945.

There were many stories of Hanoi residents fighting with each other over crumbs tossed to the sidewalks by Japanese soldiers and French colonialists. All the dogs were eaten, even the starving ones with nothing left but skin and bones.

Subsequently, I read many more stories of harsh winters and failed-crop years when dogs became the main course in northern Việt NamDog meat consumption may have been borne out of necessity, but has devolved into a delicacy, often consumed exclusively by men during drinking binges.

"Operation Passage to Freedom"
Northern Viet Nam's Refugees Boarding US Navy Ship in Haiphong, 1954
(Photo: Wikipedia)
After 1975 my family moved to a rural village outside Rạch Giá to work as farmers in order to avoid the watchful eyes of the new communist government because my father was a member of the old regime. One of the neighbors gave me a beige and white puppy as a welcome gift. We named her Kina, an 'American'-sounding name because of an uncle who had raised three German Shepherds, and a few other purebreds, given to him by his American military advisers. They all had non-Vietnamese names.

I loved that dog. We had quite a bit of land where rabbits and other livestock were raised, which Kina loved to chase as a puppy. She also loved to go hunting field rats, which we ate. (Second part to this post will be on field rat consumption.)

The monsoonal flooding season of 1978 was particularly severe, partly due to the excessive damming of the tributaries that flood water used to escape to the South China Sea. The prolonged inundation of the land wiped out not only the crops and fruit trees, but also the livestock for there was no dry land for them to shelter.

We were at the edge of starvation, forced to cut down to one solid meal a day. Other meals were essentially watery rice porridge, complimented with fish and sweet potatoes from previous year’s harvest. Towards the end we even ran out of sweet potatoes.

Early one day, my dad told me we would have to get rid of my beloved Kina because we could barely feed ourselves. I protested to no avail, but understood their decision. Worst of all, I had to lure her onto the canoe so we could take her to an army garrison nearby to sell.

The soldiers were national army regulars (bộ đội chính quy) who were sent there in preparation for the invasion of Cambodia to drive out the Khmer Rouge. They were northerners.

I cried all the way home and many days afterward. I was about 13.

To this day I can’t bear reading any stories about dog meat consumption, and the reason why I couldn't laugh at my friends’ funny crack upon seeing me walking my now-12-year old mutt, Dee Dee. You might say I’m still traumatized by that experience.


Dee Dee, who is now 12, with Dumpling, the cat.
PS: Some time later my father was invited to a village chief's party where dog meat was served. Both my mother and I anxiously wanted to know what it tasted like. His response was "Everything tastes better with garlic and lemongrass. Besides, I was too drunk."

Monday, December 16, 2013

What Nelson Mandela Taught Me, a Vietnamese Refugee, About Justice and Reconciliation

Seeing and hearing Nelson Mandela speak at the Oakland Coliseum on June 30, 1990 was a DNA-changing experience. He had saved me from becoming a flag-waving anti-Communist Vietnamese immigrant.
To the thousands of Vietnamese refugees arriving in the 1980s, Ronald Reagan was not just the 40th President of the United States, but also our "savior," our champion against communist tyranny and oppression. Or so we thought. I was destined to become a Republican in order to repay a debt of gratitude to him, but then I learned about apartheid South Africa.
For someone who had risked his life escaping Communist Vietnam, it was difficult to fathom that while Reagan was professing to fight communist tyranny and oppression, his administration was aiding and abetting racial tyranny and oppression in South Africa.
I arrived in the Bay Area at the end of 1981 as a 17 year-old refugee during the height of the anti-apartheid campaign on
This "Press Aide" badge has been
with me at all times since 1990.
college campuses, especially at UC Berkeley. Initially, I didn’t yet have the wherewithal to understand what was going on until I enrolled at Merritt College in the Oakland Hills in 1984.
Many of those involved in the Third World Student movement at UC Berkeley and San Francisco State University had now become professors and instructors. Merritt College Chicano Studies instructor Froben Lozada was one of them. He taught a class called “Racism in America.”
I took the class out of curiosity and interest in history and politics. I was still on track to become a Republican so Lozada and I had many fights, even though my English wasn’t quite proficient enough for political debates. For whatever reason, he took a liking to me. He directed me to books, literature and films about the Civil Rights Movement, the Farm Workers Union, the Black Panther Party and, of course, South Africa.
I was shaken to the core. I grew up in what was then the Republic of South Vietnam or ‘free’ Vietnam, America’s ally in Southeast Asia. USA was “Number One” to us. America had come to Vietnam to hold against the tide of communist tyranny and oppression. She could do no wrong.
A moment forever etched in my mind occurred when I found out many black soldiers suffered racist abuse at the hands of their white comrades in Vietnam, and then came back to what amounted to second class status in America. It took me days to shake it off.
Then came the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986, which had been championed by then-Oakland U.S. Congressman Ron Dellums. When President Reagan vetoed the bill in 1985, which had been passed by both the House and the Senate, it dawned on me that his anti-Communism stance was all politics. South Africa’s racist brutality took a backseat to geopolitics. (The veto was overridden by both Houses of Congress shortly after.)
From that day on, Froben Lozada became my favorite teacher, whom I continued to keep in touch with until the early 2000s. Lozada died in January of this year at age 83, a fighter to the end.
I went on to take part in the Anti-Apartheid Movement at San Francisco State University, where I had transferred, as well as other civil rights issues. When Nelson Mandela walked out of Victor Verster Prison on February 11, 1990, I felt a sense of jubilation and liberation as if I had lived in South Africa.
Upon his release from prison, Mandela and his then-wife, Winnie, embarked on a 12-day, eight-city tour of the United States, which included a visit to Oakland, California on June 30, 1990. I signed up to work the event as a volunteer.
With previous experience working for the Merritt College student newspaper, I was assigned to work as a “Press Aide.” I was able to see his easy smile and folksy manner up close before he took the stage to a rapturous welcome, an indescribable atmosphere.
For a newly-arrived immigrant, one who had escaped his country by boat, it was an experience and a memory that possibly nothing will rival for as long as I live.
After the victorious North Vietnamese overran South Vietnam in 1975, uniting the two halves into the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, a communist state, purges and persecutions were carried out against those who were part of the American-backed regime, of which my father was a member.
Millions of Vietnam’s southerners suffered. As many as two million took to sea to escape, to find a better life. I was one of them. Like all Vietnamese refugees, we had resentment and hatred for the regime that forced us out. It had become our sworn-enemy even though we were fellow Vietnamese.
But when Mandela came out of prison after twenty-seven years, his words portrayed none of the resentment and hatred for his jailers or the regime that had tried to kill him. His message was one of reconciliation, of rebuilding a new South Africa inclusive of those who had oppressed and brutalized non-white South Africans. No purges and persecutions. It was a shocking revelation. 
What I learned from Mandela was that hatred and resentment only poison your own mind, not your enemy’s.
The following year, I was able to put aside my apprehension and fear of communist Vietnam. During that time, visiting Vietnam was seen by many in the overseas Vietnamese community as aiding and abetting an enemy state, which needed to be brought down. But I went back to see my family for the first time in eleven years. I was part of the first wave of former boat people to have done so.

This post was originally published at Hyphen Magazine. Would like to thank Momo Chang for coaxing it out of me. Without her persistence and patience, it would have taken me another year to finish it, Mandela's 1st death anniversary.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Useful Village Idiots of Việt Nam

Within thirty minutes of my arrival two men in olive-green uniforms had taken a seat at our coffee table, helping themselves to cigarettes and iced tea.

Man #1: He’s your son?

My father: Yes. He just came home from America.

Man #2 chimes in: I thought you had only one son (pointing to the picture on the wall).

This photo was taken in 1981, after I had left.
L to R, top row: My mother, younger brother and my father
Bottom row: My youngest sister, my third-generation Chinese-Vietnamese maternal
grandmother who was born on Phú Quốc, which is now a resort island, and my younger sister.
My father: Well, he had run away from home. We didn't know where he was until recently.

And so my first conversation with my father in almost eleven years kept being interrupted by two complete strangers who had invited themselves into our living room. Somehow I managed to ignore their presence. Perhaps it was because I was more overwhelmed by seeing my family again after so many years.

Once the men in olive-green uniforms had left, after about two hours, I asked my dad, “Who the heck were those guys?”

“Local security busy-bodies, useful village idiots,” my father replied, without missing a beat.

Prior to the official lift of US travel restriction, Vietnamese with US citizenship, on a limited basis, were able to apply for a ‘family visit’ visa. Through luck and timing, I got myself a visa and some money earned from casting work for the film “The Joy Luck Club.”

After eleven years of occasional letters and telegrams, I was about to see my family in person. Giving the lack of private telephones in Việt Nam at the time, I had no way to inform them of my arrival. I was paid by director Wayne Wang’s film company on Thursday, purchased the plane ticket on Saturday and off I went back to Việt Nam the following Tuesday.

Việt Nam today is a far cry from the Việt Nam I visited in 1991, after ten years in the U.S., and almost two years in refugee camps. I was part of the third wave of boat people, leaving Việt Nam in 1980 with 303 others on a river boat, aiming for the South China Sea.

Hồ Chí Minh City sidewalk barber, 1991

I found Sài Gòn, now Hồ Chí Minh City, wasn't much different than the last time I saw it in 1980. Though “đổi mới” reforms were in full swing, almost everything else looked like leftovers from before 1975. Streets were clogged with older motorbikes, Lambretta vans and bicycles, with occasional older model American cars, used Toyota vans and Korean buses.

The most visible change, however, was store-front shops and sidewalk cafés. Almost every house along the main thoroughfare from Tân Sơn Nhất International Airport leading into the city center was selling something. This was đổi mới in full bloom, the 1986 historic policy shift that helped usher in economic development, taking war-ravaged Việt Nam to where it is today.

Due to limited lodging available in HCM City and transportation to where my parents were, I needed to stay overnight or until I could arrange for transportation ‘home.’ On top of it, I only had a vague idea where my parents had moved since I left, so I needed a private car, and assistance, as I went searching for my parents.


Hồ Chí Minh City, 1991
Photo: 
Giáo dục Magazine
During this period, unless at international hotels, in order to sleep overnight non-residents were required to report to the local police and be registered with either a Vietnamese national ID card or passport if overseas Vietnamese. And since I did not know anyone in HCM City, I was introduced to the cousins of a colleague in the U.S. who took me in as their ‘cousin.’

I, and the husband of the family Vinh, my new cousin, spent literally the next whole day looking for a private car with a driver, who could take us to the Mekong Delta, six hours away. Through Vinh’s contact, the coffee shop owner on his street found us the car and driver.

A young man about 15 came to our house very early the next morning, informing us that we had to walk to the car because the street, more like an alley, where we were was too narrow. I asked the teenager what kind of car it was. He kept saying something like ‘Fan Cong,’ but I couldn't figure out what ‘Fan Cong’ was.

It turned out to be a 1967 Ford Falcon which had rusted beyond recognition, looking as if it had been demolished on the set of “Mad Max” and put back together by a back-alley Dr. Frankenstein. Yes, I was going to ride for six hours in a rusty 1967 Ford Falcon from HCM City to the Mekong Delta.

1967 Ford Falcon
Photo: how stuff works
In addition to the non-functioning speedometer, it had no working head or tail lights, and the windows on both sides were also broken. Before jumping in I asked the driver, who turned out to be a former soldier in the South Việt Nam Army with one eye missing, how he would be able tell how fast he drives. He simply said, “Oh, you kinda know how fast it goes.”

Off to the Mekong Delta we went. The one-eyed former South Việt Nam’s soldier was in the driver’s seat with his teenage sidekick in the front passenger seat. Vinh and I took the back seats.

That Ford Falcon was flying, whose horn sounded more like a cat with fur balls stuck in its throat. Have I mentioned the car’s speedometer was broken? Good thing Việt Nam’s roads were deserted then.

About halfway through the six-hour trip, to my horrors, the sidekick took over the driving duties. I asked where he learned to drive a four-wheel automobile. He pointed at the floor and said, “This one.” Whenever the car hit a bump, a metal sheet at my feet would slide, revealing the asphalt through the floor.

We were covered in a layer of dust by the time we reached Tân Châu, where I was born. Tân Châu sits on the banks of the Tiền River, the Mekong’s main tributary in Việt Nam. In the 1960s and 1970s Tân Châu was a major stop for cargo ships going up to and from Cambodia, which is about twenty kilometers away. It's was a smuggler’s paradise

From there on, I had no idea where to go for many of the landmarks – shops and public structures – were no longer there. The Mekong Delta, due the annual flooding, is notorious for erosion and landslides. Both the Tân Châu’s old public market and the Catholic Church where I attended kindergarten had fallen into the river years prior. So did the main road leading up to Cambodia.

Many things had changed by 1991 but not as dramatic yet that the village culture where everyone knew each other was still intact. So we stopped the car every few kilometers to ask people if they knew who my father was and where we could find him. Lo and behold, we were able to locate my family.

When we reached the house, a general merchandise store out front, which we were told belongs to a “Mr. Hong,” my dad’s name. For whatever reason Vinh, my new cousin, decided that it would be better if he came into the house first. (Vietnamese address each other by first name.)


This was my parents' house, which since has been given to
my youngest sister
Walking into the house, meeting my mother, Vinh said “Is this Mr. Hong’s family?” My mother responded yes and asked who Vinh was. “Your son from America is back to see you,” he said. In disbelief my mother told Vinh, “I don’t know who you are, but don’t say such thing, please leave.”

At that point Vinh asked me to come in so my mother would believe him. I walked in to the house and said, “Mother, I am home.”

My mother screamed, running into my aunt’s house next door and said, “Can you come over to see if that’s my son? Is that him for real or I'm seeing a ghost?”

I had to reassure my mother that I wasn't a ghost. At that time she started to cry. I held my mother tightly as we both started to cry. When I left Việt Nam in 1980, it was a clandestine people-smuggling operation. Everything was hush-hush. I had joined my father to work on the boat some six months prior, so when I left, I didn't have a chance to say goodbye to my mother or my three younger siblings.

The Le Clan
Center is the matriarch, my paternal grandmother
Within minutes we had a circus of onlookers outside our door starring and a Việt Kiều, an overseas Vietnamese, the oldest son of Mr. Hong whom nobody knew existed. Soon after the two men in olive-green uniforms showed up and helped themselves to our cigarettes and iced tea.

My parents’ house was located at an intersection leading down to a ferry crossing, so there were a few shops, including coffee shops and drinking places catering to a steady stream of customers throughout the day. Many eateries in Việt Nam’s small towns pull triple duties: Coffee, noodle soup and rice porridge in the morning, simple working men’s lunches in the afternoon and drinking parlors in the evening.

Being a small town, there wasn't much to do. My days consisted of visiting relatives and ancestors’ grave sites during the day and sitting around people-watching in the evening.

One night a fight broke out among a group of drunken young men across the street. Soon everybody was milling around, anticipating a fist fight, which, unfortunately a common occurrence in rural Việt Nam.

Then a tiny man in shorts, barefoot and bare-chested, showed up with what looked like an old World War II Carbine. The gun was as tall as the man himself, who was trying to make his presence known but nobody seemed to care. He was just standing around with the gun slung off his shoulder.

Me to my dad, “Who’s he and why does he have a gun?”

“He’s the local security chief,” my dad deadpanned.

“Is he going stop the fight?”

"Nobody’s afraid of him.”

“But he has a gun!”

My dad laughed so hard, which I thought was odd, but not sure what to make of it.

“Yeah, he has a gun, but no bullets.”

Incredulous, I asked, “What’s the point of having a gun without bullets?”

“Would you trust him with bullets?”

Good point. The man with a WWII rifle without bullets was another useful village idiot.

So who were these men? Often times they were ne'er-do-well sons of those who, overnight after 1975, had become local leaders. The uniforms, the glorified titles were a means of livelihood through payoffs and shakedowns for men who otherwise couldn't hold down a job.

More importantly, they were obedient and loyal cadres who had no qualms carrying out the dirty work, even against their own neighbors and friends, making them useful to the powers that be.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Sừng tê giác, răng cọp và tại sao người Châu Á ăn động vật hoang dã đến tuyệt chủng

(English version of this postRhino horns, tiger teeth and why Asians eat wildlife to extinction.)

Cơn sốt của em trai sơ sinh của tôi không hạ nhiệt với thuốc thông thường. Vì vậy, mẹ tôi quyết định sử dụng một loại thuốc  bà tin rằng đã hiệu quả cho bốn người con lớn của bà. Bà mài răng cọp trong một cối thuốc đá nhỏ, thêm một vài muỗng cà phê nước, sau đó cho em tôi uống chất lỏng màu trắng sữa.
Răng và móng cọp bán như bùa hộ mệnh để xua đuổi ma quỷ
Nguồn: Wild Asia


Em trai út tôi chết vào ngày hôm sau. Nổi xung, ba tôi lấy răng cọp và ném nó xuống sông sau nhà.

Răng cọp đó là một vật gia truyền, món quà cưới mà ông bà ngoại tặng cho ba mẹ tôi khi hai người kết hôn. Ông bà ngoại lúc đó là chủ trại cưa tương đối giàu tại thị trấn Rạch Sỏi, tỉnh Kiên Giang. Chính tôi đã đeo răng cọp này lên đến hai tuổi. Người ta tin rằng răng cọp không chỉ có tính chất dược liệu, mà còn có cả sức mạnh để tránh khỏi "linh hồn ma quỷ," mà tôi cần bảo vệ vì tôi là con trai đầu lòng.

Theo truyền thuyết, rừng tràm U Minh, giữa hai tỉnh Cà Mau và Kiên Giang, ngày xưa có rất nhiều cọp và răng đó đến từ một trong những con cọp ấy. Trong thực tế, răng cọp đó có thể là chiếc răng của một con trâu, heo rừng, hoặc thậm chí là một con chó lớn. Không ai bao giờ hỏi lý do tại sao những con cọp đã bị giết  như thế nào, hoặc thật sự nó có tồn tại hay không.

Khi chúng tôi chuyển đến một ngôi làng nông thôn bên ngoài Rạch Giá, chúng tôi phát hiện ra một vài cặp cò trắng di cư đã xây dựng tổ trong một cụm cây tràm trên đất của gia đình tôi. Hàng ngày tôi và em trai tôi không thể chờ đợi để kiểm tra tổ cò. Chúng tôi chộp lấy những quả trứng ngay sau khi cò đẻ. Một vài lần hai anh em tôi đã bắn hạ một vài con cò bằng súng cao su. Sau một vài năm, chúng tôi nhận thấy các cặp cò không còn trở lại, nhưng không hiểu tại sao.

Vườn Quốc Gia Tràm Chim Đồng Tháp Mười
Gia đình tôi là gia đình nông dân nghèo chủ yếu sống nhờ vào các loại rau cải và cá. Chúng tôi nuôi gà và heo, nhưng  là khoản đầu tư, hay tiết kiệm của gia đình. Những quả trứng chim và các loài chim rừng, rắn và rùa thường bắt được, thậm chí chuột đồng, là những món ăn đặc biệt. Khi chúng tôi đánh bắt cá, chúng tôi bắt và ăn tất cả, từ lớn đến nhỏ. Trong mùa lũ, một loại cá được đánh giá cao là những cá con bởi vì nó không có xương, đặc biệt là cá lóc con.

Cá lóc con được nuôi cho các trang trại cá

Để làm cho một bữa ăn bao gồm
cá lóc con, gia đình của tôi quét sạch bốn hoặc năm bầy cá lóc tương lai.
Cá lóc
Ngu
ồn: Bạn Nhà Nông


Chúng tôi cũng ăn nhiều thứ vì mới lạ, vì hiếm có của chúng. Quan trọng hơn, chúng tôi không hiểu làm thế nào không ăn trứng hoặc bắt cá lóc con sẽ có lợi cho chúng tôi. Chúng tôi nghĩ rằng nếu chúng tôi không bắt, thì người khác sẽ bắt.

K
hái niệm về bảo vệ động vật hoang dã hoặc bảo tồn thiên nhiên không phải là một phong tục, thói quen trong đời sống hàng ngày

Sau gần 11 năm sinh sống tại Hoa Kỳ tôi trở về Việt Nam lần đầu tiên trong năm 1992 và tìm thấy kinh tế gia đình tôi tương đối khá giả, không còn phải bám vào đất để sống. Không lâu sau khi tôi về đến nhà, cha tôi nhắn với những người bán hàng trong chợ gần nhà ông đang tìm kiếm món lạ, đặc biệt, ví dụ như rùa, rắn, chim và cá lớn.

Ông đã khá thất vọng khi tôi nói tôi chỉ muốn ăn rau muống luộc cá rô kho tộ. Tôi muốn hương vị bữa ăn đơn giản nhất mà tôi nhớ khi còn nhỏ. Gia đình tôi không hiểu rõ lý do tại sao một người đàn ông trở về từ một quốc gia giàu chỉ muốn ăn như nông dân nghèo.

Cá rô kho tộ
Cuối cùng họ từ bỏ cố gắng để hiểu tâm lý tôi và tôi không biết làm sao để giải thích cho họ rằng các loại thức ăn ngon không nhất thiết phải đắt tiền hoặc kỳ lạ.

Bất cứ nơi nào tôi đi trong những ngày sau đó, tất cả mọi người muốn tôi ăn thức ăn "ngon nhất," mà luôn luôn bao gồm rắn, rùa và chim. Quan điểm cho rằng động vật hoang dã có giá trị trong thiên nhiên hơn trên đĩa không dễ hiểu bởi vì nhiều người đã không nhìn thấy chính mình trực tiếp, hoặc thậm chí gián tiếp, chịu trách nhiệm về đánh bắt hoặc giết chết động vật hoang dã như vậy. Họ chỉ thấy mình là người tiêu dùng, lý giải rằng nếu họ không mua rắn, chim và rùa, thì những người khác sẽ mua.

Tôi hồi tưởng lại với em trai tôi về thời thơ ấu của chúng tôi và khi tôi giải thích cho lý thuyết của tôi về lý do tại sao những con cò đã không quay trở lại cụm cây tràm của gia đình mình, đã khó tin, nhưng tôi có cảm nhận cậu ấy có chút cảm giác tội lỗi. Tôi cảm thấy áy náy vì những gì chúng tôi có thể đã vô tình làm khi còn nhỏ.

Nhiều người thân của tôi ngày hôm nay, bao gồm cả thế hệ trẻ, tận hưởng các cơ hội xa hoa mình với thuốc trường sinh và thịt rừng, những gì năm mười năm trước khi chỉ những người giàu có thể mua được. Họ có một ý niệm mơ hồ rằng thuốc trường sinh có thể không có gì huyền diệu, nhưng tin rằng nó sẽ không làm tổn thương để thử chúng. Tuy nhiên, họ sẽ không cảm thấy hoài cổ, hoặc sẵn sàng vi phạm luật pháp đối với động vật kỳ lạ nếu và khi chúng không còn được bán trên thị trường. Đối với họ, chỉ đơn giản muốn làm một cái gì đó khác đi thay vì một bữa ăn ba món hàng ngày mà họ có thể đủ khả năng bỏ tiền ra mua. Không hơn không kém.


Cơm bình dân
Có thể mất thời gian cho giáo dục bảo tồn đi sâu vào đời sống, để trở thành một phần của nền văn hoá, và thậm chí còn lâu hơn cho pháp luật hiện hành được thực thi mà không bị vi phạm. Đáng buồn thay, đã quá muộn để bảo tồn con tê giác và voi hoang dã cuối cùng của Việt Nam. Hiện tại nhiều loài đặc hữu của Việt Nam và các nước láng giềng Đông Nam Á đang nằm trong danh sách có nguy cơ tuyệt chủng.    
Sự thèm muốn vô độ của những người mới giàu của Việt Nam đối với các thứ kỳ lạ đã không gây hại đến di sản thiên nhiên của Việt Nam mà còn đe dọa đến những loài động vật ở một lục đia xa xôi là Châu Phi. Thật là kinh khủng khi 587 con tê giác của Nam Phi, và 35 con ở Kenya, đã bị giết từ đầu năm 2013 đến nay để lấy sừng, hầu hết trong số đó được nhập lậu vào Việt Nam, nơi một bộ sừng của một con tê giác có thể được bán với giá US$ 1.000.000.
Business Insider: Giá sừng tê giác đắt hơn cả vàng

Chỉ cần tưởng tượng: trên trung bình, hai con tê giác đang bị giết mỗi ngày vì một tin đồn rằng sừng của , tuy là chất keratin giống như ngón tay và ngón chân của bạn và tôi, đã chữa khỏi bệnh ung thư.