Hakarl: What IS that smell?

By Rachel Louise Snyder

One of Iceland’s delicacies is — to put it shortly — rotten fermented shark. Seriously. It’s caught in the North Atlantic and allowed to ferment under gravel for three months. Then, fishers build special houses and string the shark up inside for three more months. Twice a year, Icelanders enjoy hakarl with cold brandy — which, in case the dish wasn’t daunting enough, they affectionately¬†call the “black death.”

Rats Reign in India’s Karni Mata Temple

By Rachel Louise Snyder

Legend has it that, around 1400 A.D., a woman named Karni Mata tried and failed to bring a dead boy back to life. She cut a deal with the god of death, promising that her family would stay together forever, in all their reincarnated forms, if the boy lived. Death agreed. Now, the temple in Rajasthan bearing her name is believed to be home to those family members. They’re still revered. The only hang-up: They’re rats.

Staying Up All Night on Iran’s Winter Solstice

By Rachel Louise Snyder |

In a ritual dating back to 600 B.C., families prepare feasts in the days before the longest night of the year. In the ancient tradition, they kept vigil all night during the Winter Solstice to make sure the sun reappeared as the days began to lengthen. Now, it’s an overnight family dinner full of eating and talking. And kids can ask any question they want to their relatives.

Take Me Out to the Japanese Ballgame

By Rachel Louise Snyder |

Baseball is a quiet, disciplined game, and no nation adheres to a stricter honor code than Japan. When pitchers’ throws pass too closely to batters, they sweep off their caps and bow at the waist in apology. Some pitchers go easy on other teams’ stars to avoid upsetting fans. Bad-mouthing a manager or owner is unheard of. And each member of a team is expected to join in a personalized cheer (complete with live orchestration) of each of his teammates.

Austin Hears Music

By Aaron Schrank

Born profoundly deaf, Austin Chapman heard music for the first time when he was 23 years old. He reached out to friends, family and Redditors for recommendations and received thousands. Now, he spends about two hours every day on the frontier of his own sonic landscape — and slowly, he’s beginning to learn.

Seven-Year Snitch

By Karen Lowe

For years, Jorge Salcedo was chief of security for the Cali drug cartel in Colombia. He was in charge of protecting some of the most powerful criminals in the world… until he decided to take them down.

This piece appeared on WBEZ’s This American Life on July 13, 2012. It begins about 22 minutes into the broadcast.

Love in the Time of Refugee Camps

By Dalia Mortada

Merium and Ahmed grew up in the same village, but never took notice of each other until their families ended up in the same refugee camp in Turkey. But even with fighting all around them, customs were observed. They could not talk to each other. So, Meriem’s young sister, like a kind of carrier pigeon, carried secret letters between Meriem and Ahmed. But war is the ultimate wild card. Before long, their families fled in separate directions and the two feared they would not see each other again.

This production aired as part of our “Love is Complicated” series, part of the Global Story Project with support from the Open Society Foundations. Presented by PRX, the Public Radio Exchange.