Some of the sites I will link to are in Chinese. I find that Google Translator does a pretty good job with most of them, but not all.
Last week, after the explosion of angry interest in my blog from Taiwan, I posted a message that I hoped would lay things to rest. The next day, I said that I'd spoken my last about it, and announced my new project (Enter The Danny - second installment tomorrow!) That night, I was contacted by Dan Bloom, a semi-retired American journalist who has lived in Taiwan for many years. He let me know that this story was no longer just about what had been printed in my blog or on CNN. It had gone viral in Taiwan. It was in the newspapers. It was being talked about online and by politicians. It was on national TV!
With Dan's help, I got a letter printed in the Taipei Times. As I type this, it has been viewed over 4,200 times. The tone of it is a little more abject and conciliatory than what I honestly felt by that point, but I figured that maybe by falling on the sword a little bit, I could stop the by now very steady stream of hate mail that was coming to my inbox. Most of it was variations on the same theme ("you are a fat, ignorant American slob."), but a few seized on the fact that Blake had been in the video, and told me that I was raising my children to be stupid racists. All because I didn't like a goddamn rotten egg.
The letter seemed to stem the tide of Taiwanese anger.
This weekend the story reached mainland China, an additional 1.6 billion people. Events played out pretty much the same, with two interesting new additions.
- My name transliterates to Hao Wada.
- China's largest egg producer demanded an official apology from me and from CNN. CNN apologized. I'm done apologizing. I have offered an apology and an olive branch, and the rest of the world can choose to accept it or not.
I'm not sure if should wade into the middle of this. If I may, though, here is some additional information about my experience with pi dan, which this article does not make clear.Which brings us to today. Boy, I took the long way here, huh? I received two email messages from reporters wanting to follow up with me. The first was from the China Branch of the Voice of America network. Here's the thing - I'm kind of tired of talking about all of this by now. But this is Voice of America! Have you ever read about their history during the Cold War? It's an institution! I agreed to the interview, and received a phone call from Xiaoyan Zhang, a reporter in Washington, DC about an hour later, during my lunch break. I had asked her before hand if she would mind giving me a sampling of the questions she'd be asking, because I didn't feel like setting myself up for a hit piece. She assured me that she was not out to get me, and that she wanted to present my story fairly.
I am not a reporter. I have a personal blog where I post stories about my family, and about silly projects that I embark upon. In April, I had a month-long series called Project Gastronome, in which I tried a different food each night, either something unusual or something that I had never tried before. Century eggs were only one food of the many that I ate over the course of the month. If you view my blog, you will see that I tried foods from many different cultures, including several other Asian foods which I enjoyed very much.
Around the same time, CNN solicited submissions for their "most revolting foods" iReport. The iReports section of their website is made up entirely of user-generated content, not content from professional journalists. I think there's been a lot of misunderstanding about that. Having just tried the eggs, and not having enjoyed them, I decided to submit the story as an entry.
Where this whole thing took a turn for the worse is when CNN published this compilation article, and included ONLY foods from Asia. Taken in isolation, my story may not have been the best piece of writing in the world, but I doubt it would have ignited any cultural furor. However, when it was first on a list that quickly came to be seen as an example of Western prejudice...
Many have made the point that I ate the eggs "incorrectly." I was fully aware of that, even when I tried them. If you visit my blog and view the video, I even say that exact thing. This was partly because, as has been said, I didn't know the correct way to prepare them. But it was also simply because I thought that eating them that way would just be funny. Simple humor? Sure. But that's all it was - humor.
This whole incident has become like a game of Telephone, where the story changes more the farther it goes from the source. Again, if you return to the source (my blog), you will notice that I never once say anything insulting about China, Taiwan, or any other people or cultures. My only "offense" was trying another country's delicacy and deciding that I didn't like it. I agree that CNN's presentation of the list was lacking in sensitivity, but I hardly deserve the scorn that's been heaped upon me. It seems to me that the true ignorance lies in never trying new things, so I'm not bothered by those of you who have tried to label me with that word. I'm a husband, a father, and somebody who enjoys trying new things.
Peace to all of you.
I have never been more self-conscious about the answers I've given to questions. Some flowed easily, like when she asked how I had researched century eggs and decided to try them (I didn't, they were an impulse buy when I saw them on the shelf), or if I had ever expected so much reaction to all of this (no, I thought I was doing pretty great when I got more than five comments on that blog entry). Others were stickier, like when she asked what else I knew or liked about Chinese culture. I didn't want to give some stupid reply, so I said the first thing that came to mind, "Well, I really enjoy Chinese cinema." Such as? [Don't say kung fu movies, don't say kung fu movies...] "Um, kung fu movies." I covered pretty quickly, though, by saying that as a citizen of the USA, a young nation, I'm impressed and respectful of China's rich sense of heritage and tradition, and how that is a part of people's lives there.
Xiaoyan was very friendly, asked me if she could use a photo of me from my blog, and said that she and her coworkers had actually enjoyed my video very much. My first interview with an international media outlet was complete, which was a very strange feeling. I just spoke to a news service that goes out worldwide, and it's just another Wednesday at the office.
The story ran this afternoon, complete with audio. Unfortunately, Google Translator does a pretty poor job with the translation, as does Babel Fish, but it gets it close enough that you can cipher it out. The audio is in Chinese, too, except for brief snippets of my voice that you can hear before the translator begins to speak. If you know anybody who's fairly fluent, and who wouldn't mind sending along an idea of what the audio says, I'd be most appreciative. I was pleased to see that they used one of my favorite pictures of me for the story!
I was more suspicious of the second journalist. They claimed to be from Beijing's second biggest paper (Mirror Evening), but they were mailing me from a Yahoo address. I forwarded the message to Dan Bloom, who assured me that the paper was legit, and that the reporter probably uses a Yahoo address to keep his editor from reading his mail. He did mention that the paper is essentially a mouthpiece for the Communist Party, but that he felt like it was still a safe discussion to enter into. I emailed answers to their questions, which were pretty much the same battery of questions that I've seen for a week now.
And, for now, that's where it stands. I think I'm pretty much done with media requests, and will be declining any further interviews. I'm bored with defending myself, and need to adopt the habit that I've heard celebrities talk about: never look for what people are saying about you online. Especially when it gives you search results like this one.