Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The hardest thing I ever had to eat

Being a freestanding psych hospital, my unit is not required to follow AB394 - California's law requiring a certain ratio of licensed nurses per patient. Most of my peers work under the law and are used to assuming primary care for five patients. This means they are responsible for the direct care, the medications, everything. While I have 11 patients, I am fortunate to have a Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN) to pass my medications and two Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA) who spend the most amount of time with the clients. And I appreciate my staff tremendously, especially my CNAs.

One CNA was nick-named, "Bok-Bok" because she sounded like a chicken when excited. She was a fantastic CNA and a kind soul at heart. Loud and friendly, she also spoke in a sing-song voice at times. Bok-Bok arrives one day and announces, "Oh, Tom! I have a present for you!"

Allow me to describe the "delicacy" from the Philippine Islands that is called balut. You start by going over to the Philippines and look for a duck. Ensure it is a female duck and that it is sitting on a nest of fertile eggs. Just before they are about to hatch, snatch one away from her and then bury it. Forget about it for a while. When the urge hits you collect them up and send them in an unrefrigerated cargo ship across the world to America. Have them leisurely delivered to an Asian market in San Diego, all the while still unrefrigerated, and put them up for sale where a CNA can snicker while buying it and giggle all the way to work so she can hand this rotting egg to her charge nurse and watch him eat it.

In fact quite a crowd gathers. Everyone wants to see Tom eat the egg. "Ok. First you crack the egg," begins Bok-Bok, "Then you drink the soup."

I listen to her sing-song voice and wonder if I am at the butt of some practical joke. A CNA whispers to another in Tagalog. I don't understand it but assume it's something like, "There is no way that white boy is going to eat that." I crack the egg and see this purulent, yellow-tinged liquid inside. Deep breath and suck it down. It does taste reminiscent of chicken soup.

"Now you eat the inside."

I look back in the egg and my stomach drops. There's a face looking up at me. A feathered face with a beak open and frozen in time. It is connected to a body. With wings. More feathers.

"Oh, you need to use a little salt."

She hands me a packet of salt. I feel as frozen in time as the baby duckling staring up at me. A hushed silence in the crowd watching me. My hands, feeling like lead, sprinkle the salt into the egg. The spoon pries out the embryo and it somehow enters my mouth where I begin to chew. Tastes just like hard-boiled egg. Except the image in my mind is still on the feathered face that is now being crushed by my molars.

Cheers erupt from the Philippinas watching. Retching noises begin from the others who were watching - along with moans, "I can not believe you just did that."

Thank-you, Bok-Bok.

1 comment:

  1. this is by far the greatest post on your blog of all time, i dont think you can ever post one greater than this one! A true classic and i laugh every time you talk about this experience!