The Sight of Blood

I may have to become a vegetarian after today.

I spent about 10.5 hours sleeping last night. It’s an interesting place, because it’s so laid back, but I feel like every day I am seeing/doing something new. It’s not a place that has been physically demanding…it’s just mentally and emotionally exhausting. I am not complaining, just stating a point about living in a place where nothing is routine or ordinary.

After taking two women to the hospital in Dili and not getting back until 10pm last night, I wanted to die from tiredness. Thank goodness Anders stopped by the coconut stand for a coconut before heading back up into the mountains.

I woke up a bit late, too late for breakfast, so a spoon a peanut butter and 1 c. of amazing coffee was on the ticket.

“Michelle, there’s going to be a mass at 10:30am this morning, would you like to come? It’s for the visiting Minister of Agriculture from Dili. They’re doing something special for the near-by lake” asks Donna
Honestly, I had just gotten up and the peanut butter had ran through my body yet. However, knowing that I may never come to this place again I said “Yes”.

For some weird reason, everyone got into a huge panic as we were leaving which induced short sprints of running to this mass. I remembering saying to someone “Why are we running? It’s Timor, nothing is on time!” It wasn’t on time.

We sat through about 2 hours of speeches from Dili heads of Agriculture about the near-by lake. What has happened in the past 10ish years is the lake being dammed by the once occupying Indonesians. This has caused an influx of water and an terrible erosion of the one lake into a canyon in certain areas. Thus, what has been agreed upon is a complete remove of any animals from the lake bed area (which right now is a marshland due to the dry season), planting of trees along the river and adjacent hill side to provide root beds and a potential repair of the dam—because it’s leaking.

I have to say that I was starving and honestly a bit of the not so social side. It happens to me about once a month, perhaps it’s hormonal, perhaps it’s me needing me space, perhaps it a combination of both.

However, I walked through this field over to a sacred tree. Where I saw a young water buffalo and a goat tied up. “Anders, are they going to kill those animals?”
“Yes” he says matter of factly I stood in shock.

Wait, they’re going to kill these animals in front of me?

I mean, I have been a meat eating girl my whole life…however I’ve never in my whole life seen an animal killed. I guess it’s a nice mental state to be in…not really knowing how animals are killed, just that you have a choice of boneless or skinless or organic at the store. All of the gory details are removed…as they say ignorance is bliss.

We stood, Donna, Anders and I, in a semi-circle as this goat is brought over and tossed on it’s side. This man in traditional clothing come over with a clean, sharp, silver knife. Honestly, the nicest looking knife I’ve ever seen in Timor. There are photos taken as well as video for the PR for the Dili reps. He then brings the knife over his head and stabs it directly into the heart of the goat.

Again and Again.

The goat wails in pain, I stare through grimaced eyes and clenched teeth. The blood pumps through the whole in it’s side, out of his heart, and gurgles with the few remaining breathes it has. The goats gives a couple last kicks, what remaining energy and strength—life—it has to give.

The sacrificing isn’t over.

I honestly think the chicken was the grossest thing that I’ve ever seen in my whole life. They twisted its neck and then suffocated it for honestly about five minutes. Its little legs were kicking with the last remaining oxygen that it could pump through its body. Watching this man stretch it’s neck out through a constant suffocation was about enough to make me want to run over and smack the man over the head. For Christ Sake, just cut the damn chicken’s neck. Once the chicken didn’t respond, the man with the knife cut upon the chicken and pulled the intestine out.

“They read the intestine to see if there are signs of the ceremony and the bonding together of communities removing animals from the lake working. Welcome to the 14th century” Anders translates later after everything has happened.

I wanted to vomit.

I actually felt nauseas and disgusted at the killing of the animals. But there was more to come.

The water buffalo had weaseled it’s way into the brush of the field, I think knowing that it was going to be killed. This water buffalo was about 300kg and has a rope tied around its neck and back foot. It was drug over to the tree and then coerced to its side by about six men pulling on the ropes. The spear was in plain sight and I knew that it wasn’t going to go down fast. Another man, sorry but it was only men, took the spear above his head and stabbed the water buffalo in its heart.

It screamed, kicked, winced.

It wasn’t going down Stab, Stab, Stab, Stab Five times it took. Blood oozing out of its mouth. Rejoice from the crowd Then about ten people took to dragging this water buffalo on its side through the rock laden field about ½ a km to the kitchen to be butchered and later served up to me as an offering of hospitality. I had two pieces and wanted to vomit.

After all of this I turned to Donna and go ‘I think I might have to become a vegetarian’.

Anders and Donna trekked through the canyon to a place of yet another killing of a baby pig and dog. I didn’t want to see the dog, so I didn’t go.

Today was the first day that my cultural walls and comparison have been in full force. I was pissed, sad, annoyed and exhausted from having to take in so much of something that I’ve never seen before. I liked my ignorance. I liked living in my happy little grocery store packed meat world. I had to really be conscious of not letting that run my experience, because I didn’t want to become on of those ‘westerns who hate the Timorese’. I didn’t want it to ruin my experience.

I came home said to Anders “You know, the more I think about it, yeah the length of time that the animals died was something that isn’t favourable in my opinion. However the breeding and housing practices of animals in most places in the world that provide me with neatly packaged meat are far worse. These animals get to roam freely, are organic and happy until they die. I guess what happened today in comparison to what I put money into back home isn’t that bad. It’s just different.”

2 thoughts on “The Sight of Blood

  1. Teri says:

    Oh my gosh!! I appreciate your perspective of the situation – cultural differences are so difficult to get over, though it sounds like you’re taking it in stride. Wow…I have no idea how I would react…

  2. ervina says:

    oh my, i can’t imagine where i’d put my face if i was there!! i’m always squeamish abt blood and animal slaughtering. like you, i’m a meat lover, gimme roasted pork and bacon anytime!

    hey, i’m missing you here in this cold wintry weather which you will still be in time to enjoy once you are back. weather has been crazy here. strong winds, rain etc…man, its the first time i felt cold since coming to perth…so get ready, girl! love ya, midget.

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