Thursday, May 17, 2007

Eeeeek! A Caterpillar!

Now I know cultural differences can be vast, but I was flabbergasted by this. Cicadas are mentioned in our latest reading text, which led us to discuss bugs, and our teacher to say that the bug she is most afraid of is mao mao chong, or caterpillars.

Caterpillars?!? They're so cute! And they don't bite, they just crawl on you!

I'm pretty into nature in generally, and I like bugs, but even so, some creepy crawlies get to me. I wouldn't want spiders of a certain size crawling on me, and while I think I could do the fear-factor sit-in-a-tub-full-of-cockroaches thing for money, I would definitely be flipping out during it. And this is a place in which fried scorpions (big ones, too) are a street snack, along with grasshoppers, and some sort of bug still in their chrysalis. And yet, somehow, caterpillars are freakout worthy. . . Baffling.

So then I asked my hui hua (conversation) teacher which chong zi (creepy crawly) she thought most terrifying, and she replied bi hu, or wall tiger. I looked it up in my dictionary, only to find that it means GECKO! Yet again! Another cute little thing that in American sells us car insurance, and here it's apparently terrifying.

It just baffles me that the Chinese can eat so many things American's find disgusting (and a little terrifying in a culinary context) and yet be petrified of them when alive. Of course, my teachers may not be in the eat anything demographic - they've both said they think Cantonese people are freakin' weird for their propensity to eat strange and exotic things (monkey brains, apparently - maybe Indiana Jones should have gone to Hong Kong to find the temple of doom).

For those who haven't heard, there's a saying in China - the Cantonese will eat anything that flies except an airplane, and anything with four legs except a table. Just don't show them a caterpillar while they're doing so.

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