I have taken to ordering meat from roadside stands on the Main Street we live near. I walk out of our apartment, up the driveway to the gate, wave and say “kumusta?” (“How are you?”) to Raymon or Ronan, the two guards who split duty at the gate. Whichever one is on duty, the black leather of his shoes is always shining as though a drill sergeant were going to inspect them.
I mention the gate because it is the very stark barrier between wealth and poverty.
Once through the gate, I walk down another alley, and then cross the road. There is a lady standing under a tarp, behind a charcoal grill. She has a bamboo fan in her hand, and she has seen me coming since I first stepped out of the alley. (It’s not hard to spot a 6’2” Kano walking down the street here, and besides, this is my third time.) I order four pork kebabs (total cost: 24 pesos, or about 60 cents), which she promptly places on the grill and starts fanning the coals to cook them. This action produces clouds of smoke, but it’s my lucky day, and the wind is coming from behind me. The lady kindly invites me to sit on a bench while I wait for her to cook the skewers.
I look to my right. The shop is actually built directly on top of the planks that bridge a drainage ditch running all the way down the street. The bottom of the ditch contains sewage. I look down into it, and there, about five feet away, is the bloated corpse of a drowned rat.
Then I look back up and smile at the lady who is fanning the coals and cooking my pork skewers. She finishes, and dips them in some sweet sauce, deposits them in a plastic bag, and hands them to me. She works hard, and the food she serves is good.
I did not get a photo of the rat, and I’m not sure I would have posted it if I had. Here is the bag of pork skewers. They were delicious.