Before I get to the title story, I have a little, um, business to take care of.
The day my last post went live, I got this notification via e-mail.
Okay, so The Hook liked my post, you say? Yes! But that’s not all. Look closer. Um, there’s a list of his previous posts, you wager again? YES! Gosh, you guys are good! Keep going! You’re hot! Hot! Hot!
You have no idea what I’m on about (now)? Oh.
The first post, people! The first post! IT’S THE HOOK’S BIRTHDAY!
I clicked on that link because I was curious about the date, and for whatever reason, I assumed it would be later this year. Oh, how wrong I was! His lovely wife informed me (and the rest of the readers) that it was recently past. 25 February, to be precise.
Well, Vampire Lover AKA The Hook’s wife did write on his birthday proper, but I missed it. I just could not understand how. True, I do not often get to my PC every day, sometimes for days in a row, but The Hook’s blog, like a couple of others, is RSSed. Therefore, I am (supposedly) notified of all new posts, I railed in my head. So how did I not get to see this one?
When I found out that I missed his birthday nearly three weeks later, I went a little, um, ape in my response to Marcy’s (Orples’ brain mama’s) comment in my previous post and a comment I made on some unrelated post on The Hook’s blog.
The Hook has two blogs.
I have RSSed ‘The Book of Terrible’ because ‘You’ve Been Hooked’ is based on The Hook’s interests i.e. comic books and science fiction. I am not a comic book fan (excluding Commando, Westerns, Archie and a couple of ‘toons.) I am not a SF (sci-fi) buff either. So I only read ‘The Book of Terrible’.
On his blog ‘The Book of Terrible’, The Hook writes terrible posts. No, no, I do not mean his style of writing is terrible. His posts are about terrible things, mostly. I like that. Because sometimes, I froth at the mouth over those issues, too, but only to my little circle. It’s heartening to see that there strangers across the globe who feel the same. I’ve got to admit that I am equally hooked on The Hook’s rants. He’s funny when he cuts like a knife. *giggle*
When drafting out this snippet for his birthday, and gathering together all my data, I realised that The Hook’s birthday was mentioned on his blog that I do not read i.e. ‘You’ve Been Hooked’. And hallelujah! I finally got to the bottom of how I missed The Hook’s birthday.
So now that you all know what I am all in a tizzy about, let me tarry no further.
I may be late, but the wish is just as heartfelt, Hook! This is no occasion for the usual characters in your posts; only the classiest of celebs for you.
Thank you also, for being a responder to all the comments on your blog. (That’s kinda important to me). Oh, for being a great sport, too! 🙂
Have a wonderful year, Hook!
And now we return to our regularly scheduled programming.
::: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: THE MAIN ACT :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :::
First, please look at this picture.
Have you composed yourselves? Yes, that is a scorpion I am about to sink my jaws into. No, it is not made of plastic.
During my time in China, I used to attend the annual food festival (duh!) in my city. Years earlier, I had seen heaps of crickets and grasshoppers in Bangkok, but was too chicken back then to try something that looked far from “just like chicken!”
The very first year I attended the food festival in my city in China, I saw these creepy crawlies being sold. To be eaten. I had heard aplenty about Chinese eating scorpions and voila! I was presented with the opportunity to blend in with the locals. I shuddered when I first saw the varieties of creatures on display. I went through all the stalls with more “normal” food, but my mind was on these things. An hour or so later, I had psyched myself sufficiently and I was ready to gnash my fangs.
I picked out four “items”. Let’s look at the photograph once again now.
In my left hand (that is, on the right side of the screen), I have a black scorpion and a centipede. In my other hand, white scorpions and crocodile meat.
As you will notice, some of the white scorpions are missing on that skewer and that’s because I had already eaten three when this picture was taken. They were deep fried like the centipede, and I liked the crunchy feel of both – the centipede and the white scorpions. They did not have a discernible flavour. As for the barbecued crocodile bites, just like chicken! I kid. The croc meat (is there a word for it, anyone?) was very tender, but it felt distinctly striated. The more obvious taste was that of the spices sprinkled on them.
So you’re thinking, “Okay, they’re all dead meat. (Ha ha!) So what, huh?”
Well, dear friends, they all look dead in this picture, but the big black one? Notice the mild apprehension writ on my face? Oh, you can’t. Because of my handiwork.
Well, I was a little scared. For good reason. That big, black scorpion was alive. Apparently, this variety of scorpions tastes better and is healthier if eaten alive. Who am I to question Chinese philosophy when the rest of the globe is going gaga over ginseng and gingko? So I opted to have the big daddy as per the chef’s recommendation.
Now all these creatures are bred for consumption, so they aren’t like their evil wild cousins who deliver the kiss of death. I understood that much.
What got lost in translation was the bit about tearing into the tail first because …. well, read on.
I was intimidated by the occasional, ever so slightly swerving sting. Common sense would dictate getting rid of that which bothers one the most, right? I was too busy being scared to think straight. Which was a good thing really. Because that fright came in handy. I ate one set of legs on one side easily. As I gently clamped my teeth down on the second set on the other side …
WHAM! The <expletive of your choice because my repertoire is lame> thing stung me on the left corner of my mouth.
I slammed hard on the panic button and I began to hear the angels strumming their lyres. I had just one Chinese colleague (who barely spoke English) with me because all the other colleagues I had gone along with that day were not as stupid brave as I was to try any of these things, and they wandered off to try out other foodstuff. So barring one known, flailing, nervous wreck, I had complete strangers around me and they …. they merely laughed. Yes, LAUGHED at my reaction at being stung. That got me very angry.
Here, I was dying and these people around me were laughing?
Within minutes, a huge crowd swarmed around me as I sank to the ground. My mouth hurt like a mother. I could feel my face get warm. I thought it felt swollen, too. Not a known English speaking soul around me and my pleas for “Hospital! Doctor!” fell on uncomprehending ears.
Suddenly, I heard someone speak English. An odd accent (for China), but it was English alright. Hallelujah, they speak English in heaven, I thought.
As I opened my eyes hesitantly, I noticed a distinguished looking gentleman crouched at my side. He forcefully assured me, “You are okay. You are okay.”
“St.Peter, I’m NOT okay. I’ve been stung by a BIG scorpion!”, I blubbered.
The gentleman patted my arm gently and kept repeating, “You are okay. You are okay. I am not Sant Pedro.” in an accent that began to make sense after a while.
I also realised I hadn’t gone anywhere and was still on terra firma. Quite literally! I was on the ground. I sat upright when I felt a little better.
As I patted the corner of my slightly throbbing mouth, the kind gentleman went on to explain that there is no venom in the sting of these scorpions, but it still discharges a “liquid”. (A dry sting apparently is deadly for a scorpion. Irony much?) The discharge doesn’t kill or paralyse humans, merely discolours the area within a 4-inch radius of the sting point.
And the discolouration is the same deep, shiny black as the scorpion. Great. I’ll live, but now I’ll look like I got into a brawl with someone so hammered, he (women don’t punch, they pull hair. I think.) couldn’t tell my eye from my pie-hole. Wait, it gets even better.
That stain that I (proudly) wore would last for 6 months, he explained further, and would start to fade off after that. Stay with me, people. There is a good ending to this saga, I promise ya.
Remember the smart gentleman who reassured me he was not St.Peter? His name is Dr.Aprile Pazzo. He is an entomologist-cum-toxicologist-cum-something else as well, and he was visiting from Turin, Italy. He was mighty thrilled (in a mad scientist kind of way) when he saw me after I got stung. He had come to China to study this very effect. He said he had seen this – a non-venomous scorpion sting – in clinical trials only and he was in China at the time to research Chinese scorpion stings.
He requested me to accompany him to his hotel to make further notes. I believed him, and along with three worried colleagues in tow, I went back with him to his hotel.
Oh, he went nuts! He photographed away! A dozen or so full frontal shots and from various other angles. Distant shots and close-ups. All above shoulder only, folks. Just sayin’.
Then, he called his colleagues back in Turin and yammered on excitedly with free hand flailing, the way Italians do so well.
Now here’s the best part: Dr.Pazzo’s colleagues had not seen a “real life specimen” either. Ever.
So they wanted to see me and put me under the microscope or in a Petri dish or whatever these research types do at Dr.Jekyll Central.
They offered to fund my entire trip. From the south of China to the north of Italy. Did I agree? Is that even a question?
Before I left, I was not excited about the trip to Italy really, because as my family and friends know, Europe is not my cuppa really. (Asia has my <3.) What made me say “Si, si, si“…. what? Not like that! Dr.Pazzo told me I would be the focus at some entomology conference. I would be featured in some medical publications. Now tell me, what woman does not dream of being a centrefold? Get in line, The Lancet and The New England Journal of Medicine.
In China, I got two months off at the end of the academic year (June and July) and I went to Turin then. O Shroud of Christ, thank you for moving over to make place for the new star in town back then.
I had my mind on something else divine though. Turin is the home of Ferrero Rocher. Sigh!
Until I went to Italy three months later, life continued as (un)usual for me in China. I got stared at even more after that because of the prominent, black patch at one corner of my mouth. It was quite pretty, actually. I think I might have even talked to little Ebony. 🙂 Little did the gawpers I encountered everywhere know that I was someone famous. Well, in the world of toxicology, at least.
Shortly after my memorable experience at the food festival, Dr.Aprile Pazzo went back to being a Man in White, um, in the lab in La bella Italia. He kept in touch constantly until I saw him and his buncha boffins in Turin a few months later. Each time he called and chatted politely, and enquired after my health tenderly, I knew he was merely concerned about half my face, not the rest of me. I did not care. My mug took me places! Pun definitely intended.
Incidentally, Dr.Pazzo has the following message for all of you.
“YOU GOT PUNK’D, SUCKAS!”
Aprile Pazzo in Italian stands for April Fools’ Day.
P.S.: Cheerful Monk adds a footnote to every post acknowledging those who comment on her previous post. She also links the commenters’ names back to their own blogs.
I like both these practices of acknowledging the time and effort made to comment, and the free advertising! So I’m doing what I do well – being a copycat!