Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Christmas and Boonie Dogs

On Saturday, December 9, the faculty and staff of PIBC (Pacific Islands Bible College) gathered on a beautiful beach at Andersen Air force Base for our annual Christmas party. Snorkeling, volleyball, and a game of “Sneaky Santa” (where you can “steal” a gift up to two times) were part of the activities. Proceeding across a small meadow, we made our way to a “hamburger” joint where we enjoyed some quintessential American food with “Guamish” nicknames, such as the Bamboo Burger, the Boonie Dog, etc. It was here that a cultural difference became interestingly apparent.

After ordering, Eric wandered over to a Chuukese staff member and asked, “What did you order?” The Chuukese guy casually responded, “I’d like to get the Boonie Dog but I’m not sure how they prepare it here. It might not be very good if they don’t cook it right. I think I’ll get the fish instead.”

At first, Eric was thrown by the response. After all, how difficult can it be to cook a hot dog? The menu was plain enough: “Boonie Dog: Served on a sesame bun with fries.” Then it hit: our colleague was thinking literally and understood boonie dog to refer to real dog (yes, as in ruff- ruff). Guam is loaded with “boonie dogs” (boonie = wild) and this guy was taking what was written on the menu at face value, “Boonie Dog.” This was a logical conclusion given the fact that dog is a normal part of the Chuukese diet.

Eric and this gentleman proceeded to have an interesting conversation about the eating of dog. Eric, knowing some nationalities prefer certain kinds of dogs, asked, “Do some dogs taste better than others?” The answer was, “No, they are all delicious.” “Does ANYONE have a dog for a pet?” Eric questioned. This was met with a hearty laugh, meaning, “What a preposterous idea, of course not!” Our Chuukese friend then relayed a story of a man who had come from Guam to visit friends in Chuuk. The man arrived with his pet dog (can you see where this is going?). His Chuukese hosts were probably assuming he was bringing the dog as a gift—for eating—kind of like a potluck or hostess gift. As the man and several of his Chuukese friends sat around visiting that evening, they had had a bit too much to drink, and perhaps, seeing the dog sitting next to his master, they began to salivate. Suddenly, to the master’s horror, one of the Chuukese men clobbered the dog with a rock, killing it, and the group of men proceeded to prepare the dog for “dinner.” Our friend explained how surprised the Chuukese were by their friend’s rather negative reaction to the meal preparation.

It’s amazing how many times these cultural differences are present, but we glide on by them in complete ignorance. One of the challenges of being a missionary is trying to detect cultural nuances while remaining sensitive to, and respectful of, those things that may seem trivial or even “gross” to us. Who knows, perhaps if we’d been raised on Chuuk we’d be dreaming about a delicious black lab steak for Christmas Eve dinner! : )

1 comment:

SkiOL said...

Yay!!!! Volleyball on the beach! Karyn is smiling. My kids are a little freaked out at the idea of eating dog. It helps me understand how some people could be freaked out that we eat cow and chicken.