"No... no Max. I'm pretty sure a black boy didn't kill your hamster."
Today I was teaching a unit on PETS, which is always an interesting lesson with my students. NO ONE has pets here! EVERY single class is the same. "Who has a pet? No one, okay." Then little Sarah raises her hand and says she HAD a pet, but it died. Then Adam raises his hand and says he's had 2 pets, but they've both died.... and so on. Why do they die? The kids never know. Max told me today how the mommy and daddy hamster went to the mountain.... then a black boy killed his hamster. After some discourse, I think the black hamster (who was a male) killed the other hamster. Is the black hamster alive, you ask? No. The awkward moment always comes when we reach the page we have to list everyone in the class and ask that person "Do you have a pet? What kind?" So today I had 11 names waiting for a 'NO' next to them and the kids looked at me like, "Are you really gonna make us ask eachother?" If people DO have pets in Korea, they're small.......... especially dogs.
I wasn't gonna write about this, because I didn't want to think about it. But there was a horrific image branded in my memory that nearly caused a breakdown a few weeks ago. I was getting ready for school when my dogs started whining. I didn't know what they were whining about b/c they had eaten and gone out. Then I thought I heard a dog growl. I knew it wasn't my neighbor's little yapper, this was a BIG dog. I heard the growling a few more times, but dismissed it, because you do see the occasional Husky around. For some reason, that breed is acceptable as a pet here. Think it's the blue eyes. Well as I walked out of my apartment, in my nice little floral, linen skirt.... thinking only of the innocent things in this world and how much I love Korea...... I heard another growl. I turned to see a white pick-up truck parked in front of my house. There were 4 cages in the back, which only took up half of the truck's bed in total, and were gruesomly PACKED with large, beautiful dogs. Beautiful, beautiful dogs looking at me with the saddest eyes I've ever seen. They were smashed in so tightly they couldn't budge, faces pressed up against the cage, legs distorted around other dogs. Some were whining, some growling, some numb in shock. I was numb in shock. I couldn't move. My first thought was, "Who would do such a thing? Why do they treat animals so badly here?" Then I realized. There's a plethora of restaurants around my apartment. I've heard you can go into "any" restaurant and ask for dog, which is slightly more expensive than beef and "very healthy in summer to keep you cool.". They only eat cats when a person's "very sick". Because westerners frown on this particular kind of meat, they don't advertise it openly.... I don't understand why it's any different than a cow, pig, or chicken... just taught. Buddhists in India will drive a busload of people off the road rather than kill a sacred cow. I prefer not to kill any animal, especially for FOOD this day in age.
... So I was standing there in shock. Couldn't move, felt it was physically impossible. Then I thought, people leave their keys in the ignition all the time here in Korea. If anything's worth getting deported over, this is. But where do you bring over 50 traumatized dogs who are large & don't know how to survive in the wilderness? They were probably chained and abused their entire lives. They were obviously "bred" for eating b/c they all looked exactly the same. Not sure which breed. Gorgeous, brown hair. Agh. I didn't even know HOW to get to a mountain by car.
Suddenly, 2 'ajumas' (older women) came out of a small restaurant, laughing and talking, with their permed hair, high-heels, and red lipstick. I looked at them with utter disdain. They walked up to the driver's side door and finally stopped talking when they realized I was staring. There was nothing I could do. I walked away. I could only walk away. THEN... the other night a woman invited me up to a pool hall (which turned out to be similar to pool, but the tables had no pockets... b/c the kind with pockets is "for girls".) Her English wasn't that good, but she said, "Do you like dog meat?" I said, "WHAT?!" and she quickly repeated, "Do you like pork? Do you like pork?" Reminds me of the time my parents tried to get me to eat squirrel by telling me it was chicken. ..... I don't eat animals, period.
I suppose dog meat is MUCH more popular in the summer, because I hadn't actually been exposed to this aspect of their culture until recently. Today, after Max told me about his hamster, I told him about my 2 dogs. He said, "My cousin has MANY dogs. BIG dogs!"