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  • jhboisselle 4:57 pm on September 26, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , comparison, ,   

    Animal Flesh…Yum! 

    [Note: This text, authored by Gennady on another site, has been re-posted for the convenience of Asiapod readers. Please contribute comments, but note that Gennady himself may not have access to them for weeks at a time.]

    Animal Flesh… Yum!

    About three months ago I made a decision to drop vegetarianism as a life style in order to be better prepared for dietary changes upon my arrival in China. Little did I know that would be one of the best decisions I could have made. Being omnivorous has not only allowed me to adapt to the culture with much greater ease, it has also helped me manage my own health and conditioning while I’m here.

    Before coming to China, my vegetarianism was the subject of many discussions with concerned friends and family. I don’t know how many times people have suggested to me that vegetarianism in China would be easier than in the states. Looking back, I think that idea came from lofty dreams of Kung Fu monks in flowing robes eating simple diets and being in harmony with nature and all that other hooey. Maybe it came from the fact that Chinese restaurants serve little bite size pieces of meat with vegetables, as opposed to brick like slabs of animal sinew the size of my leg on a plate with a side of starch.

    No matter where the idea came from, what I’m trying to get to is that vegetarianism in China is much harder to maintain than in the states. This is because almost every dish is cooked in either meat stock, or has bits of meat in it for flavoring. This isn’t to say that vegetarianism is impossible. I’ve met quite a few who make it work, but they usually make more compromises than their American counterparts.

    Ironically carnivores in my group have been eating more vegetables here than in the US. This is quite simply because the Chinese cook vegetables very well (with or without adding meat). According to my roommate, the Chinese are a bit perplexed at why we Americans eat so many raw vegetables due to their lack of taste. I find both styles to be delicious, but my roommate does have a point. I have yet to see a child in a Chinese restaurant refusing to eat their vegetables.

    Personally, I’ve taken to unabashedly eating dead animals whenever the chance presents itself. This has mostly centered on health and time constraints. In his book “A Tooth From The Tiger’s Mouth”, Tom Bisio states he’s observed that some vegetarians need to eat constantly in order to compensate for the energy they aren’t getting from meat (page 125 for those playing along at home). From my own experience, I’ve noticed the same thing. By eating meat, I have drastically decreased the volume of food that I consume while still maintaining weight and energy levels. Two fist sized dumplings, stuffed with chicken, beef, pork, bamboo, and mushrooms can tide me over for 3 hours of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practice. I couldn’t have eaten so little and done so much as a vegetarian. This not only saves money, it saves time. I can eat small quick portions and get moving.

    Am I a bad person for going back on my morals and eating at the expense of other sentient beings? To many people I probably am. Then again, I wear clothes made in sweat shops, I buy regularly from corporations with records for workers rights abuse and disregard for the environment, I consume at an unsustainable rate, and live a life of privilege and wealth that extraordinarily few people in the world will ever know. Was I really a good person while I wasn’t eating animals?

    Probably not.

  • Tatianna Jasmine 4:10 pm on September 7, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Bus, comparison, , , Pho, ,   

    First day in HCMC 

    This will be a simple journal style entry about my first full day in Viet Nam, with no fancy structure or catchy title.


    Today was challenging. For starters, I did not sleep at all last night. Jet lag has gotten the best of me, and I was super exhausted all day. During orientation I was trying hard to stay awake and alert, but I must admit that I drifted off quite a few times. During our walking tour of Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), I felt super weak as if I had not eaten all day (although I did have breakfast). The humidity in HCMC is killer! I have never sweated so consistently in my life!! I tried my best to stay hydrated, but it seems that the only remedy for my ill feelings was a cat nap. Now that I have complained my butt off, I can talk about all of the awesome things I experienced today. After orientation, myself and the other students had a group lunch at a restaurant called Pho 2000. Pho seems to be the signature food of Viet Nam; Pho is a noodle soup served with either beef, chicken or vegetables. Based on my experience back in NYC with Vietnamese food, I decided that I did not like Pho. Although it is not my favorite dish, having the authentic taste in Viet Nam has made me much more fond of Pho. After lunch, I took my first bus ride back to my dorm hall. There are a few differences in the way HCMC’s bus system operates compared to the MTA in New York City. For starters, passengers do not hold metrocards/tokens, and there are two employees on the bus. The driver is solely responsible for driving, while there is a second person responsible for walking around the bus at each station and collecting cash payments of 4.000 VND (about the same quantity as 1 U.S. quarter) from each passenger. Navigating the streets of HCMC can be difficult. There are hundreds of motorbikes on the road at any given time; therefore the second worker must help guide the driver around the motorbikes as the bus pulls into each station. Getting on and off the bus is also quite the task; the bus never comes to a complete stop it simply slows down as passengers jump on and off. While there are differences between HCMC and NYC transportation, there are also a few similarities. Passengers can press a button to inform the driver that they need to get off the bus at a specific station. Passengers can choose to sit in very similarly styled seats, or stand and hold the silver poles. Passengers can enjoy the comfort of an air conditioner, or simply open up a window. One of the most profound similarities between the two systems is the use of the bus as an extension of the market place. Women sell their food products on the bus as they ride, or even before a bus pulls out of the main terminal. Initially, I was shocked by this and did not recognize that NYC public transportation is also an extension of the market place. On any given day in NYC, you can find children selling candy bars, performers show casing their talent for a quick buck, and bootleggers selling DVDs at super cheap prices. Because of my vast experience with public transportation, I felt silly when I assumed “transportation culture” would be a completely different experience in Viet Nam. Nonetheless, I am so excited about all of the experiential learning that awaits me. Stay tuned for more of my rambling on just about everything!

    • TJ
    • DougReilly 7:49 pm on September 7, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      I think there are a million different kinds of Pho, so it might be a matter of experimenting to figure out what you like best. Also the pho in Hanoi will be different than the pho in Saigon…anyway you’ll have a hard time not trying it many more times! I like your observations of public transport. It will be interesting again to compare to what it’s like in the north. Doug

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