Friday, October 30, 2009

Food For Thought

Living in China has taught me many things. Always carry a few squares of your own toilet paper, for example. And red traffic lights do not mean stop, they mean…well, pretty much whatever you want them to mean. Except stop, that is. But one thing that has really stood out to me during my brief time here is that Americans do not fully utilize the dizzying array of animal parts available for consumption. Cows, goats, chickens, birds, even cats are walking buffet lines with limitless options. Here in China it seems that there is no animal product or bi-product wasted, nothing deemed unclean and certainly no appendage, organ or sexual apparatus left uneaten. Pigeon scrotum, anyone? An inedible cut of meat here is like a vacant parking space in Manhattan or a tasteful woman’s haircut in the South – you just won’t find it.

We recently had the joy of eating something you probably would never think to eat: chicken kneecaps. That’s right, poultry patella. No, there is no meat content, and, yes, it does taste exactly like you think it would. If someone were to hack up a rubber bouncy ball into tiny pieces and fry them in oil I would probably have trouble telling the two apart. The crunchy texture of the kneecaps might not have been so bad had I not known what it was, but I couldn’t help picturing a poor camouflage-clad chicken, amputated from the knee down, sitting in the gutter and rattling change in a battered tin cup. “A little help?” his sad eyes say. Not so loud, friend, or they’ll come back for your “nuggets.”

A good thing to remember when horse penis or chicken kneecap doesn’t make your mouth water is that fasting is always an option. You may not want to eat anyway after you see the “chef” of your favorite neighborhood restaurant thawing your entrĂ©e in the same water in which he is rinsing yesterday’s underwear, a lifeless duck in a grayish soup of tattered briefs and socks.

You may also notice your appetite vanishing after stepping in or getting hit by a wad of phlegm the size of Rhode Island. Granted, Rhode Island isn’t that big for a state, but for a loogie it’s pretty substantial. The mucous missiles quiver like gelatin and are similar in color to watered-down turkey gravy. You may find yourself saying, I don’t want to put in my mouth whatever caused him to eject that from his. You would be lucky on two fronts, however. First, the expeller of the glutinous glob has taken the guess work out of the equation, his vile expulsion still thick with evidence of his most recent meal. Is that goat rectum? Second, it’s not what he ate that generated his sticky sneeze. It’s just the local fresh air, which actually has a higher protein content than chicken kneecaps. Little known fact.

So relax, sit back and enjoy the culinary stylings of a country that has introduced the world to such delicacies as ox spleen soup and yak toenail quiche. Or don’t; your choice. A full day of breathing in China will require more chewing than most meals you’ve eaten in your life. Bon appetit.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The End of Nine

A while back Jason & I decided to take our nearest Metro line to it's end. We'd read that there was both a beautiful mosque and temple there and we were up for seeing if we could really get away from Shanghai. Our train ran above ground and we got to see fields, actual open places, along the way. It was incredibly refreshing!

The city at the end of line 9, Songjiang, was definitely not a stop for many tourists ... we were the only non-Chinese around and drew many, many stares from the locals which we really didn't mind. Starring doesn't seem to be rude all.

A young, Chinese university student saw us looking at the temple and immediately began practicing his english on us. His was quite good and he was very happy to tell us all about the temple and this "far-away" city we were visiting. He insisted on taking our photo.

We arrived at the entrance to the mosque to find that it had already closed for the day ... this is the price you pay when you start an adventure at 2 pm and live in China where all attractions close for the day by 4:30 or 5:00.

We arrived at the Drunken Poets Garden to find it also closed. Disappointing.
Until, the university student we had met early happened to be going past, acted as a translator for us and asked the entrance guard if we could take a peek for 5 minutes...he agreed and our new friend accompanied us practicing his english.

Some street/alley views as the sun went down on the city .... we see many streets similar to the last one and my heart always hurts a little at how sad they look.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sport Day

Last week, our students had a day off from classes and got to compete in all kinds fun activities instead. They'd asked us several times if we were going to come watch, so we headed over to school and enjoyed cheering them through sack races, tug-of-war and a few games we'd never seen before.

Jaruwat showing off his team spirit! (yes, that's red hairspray paint in his hair!)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Coach Jason

For quite some time Jason has been hoping that he'd be able to coach soccer someday ... this past week, he did! Our school runs short, six-week seasons for a variety of sports and was in need of a soccer coach. It works perfectly into our schedule and is a lot of fun for Jason ... and for me as I get to proudly watch my husband in action :)

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Friday, October 16, 2009

Exploring on my own

During our break, some friends of ours from school invited us out to a day of golfing ... since I have zero eye-hand coordination, this wasn't exactly something that sounded fun to me, although I was excited about the opportunity to get out of the city and socialize with grown-ups a little bit. I was really excited when I found out that I could go explore a nearby water village of Zhouzhuang while Jason golfed :) Here are some pictures from my very fun day.

As I approached the entrance to the village, there were several groups of women performing what I could only assume were traditional dances.

Once inside (after paying my 100 RMB...about $15), I was delighted by all the sights!

There was even a large temple with grounds in the middle of the village.

These people were having SO much fun feeding the hords of fish!

Beyond the village ...

I took a break to purchase a "disneyland priced" iced mocha ... but with the fabulous view from the cafe, it was well worth the expense!

These women were making fishing nets ... by hand.

People here do their wash in the canal ... a little scary when you go to eat somewhere, but it's probably best not to think about it.

You can see a woman in the distance washing clothes in the canal.

Salad bar and dried fish/seafood bar, ready to go!

A friend of mine has asked me several times if I've seen the Cormorant fishing yet ... which is apparently a type of night fishing in which fishmen use these birds to catch fish out of the water and bring them back ... so I was pretty excited to see this boatful of them, thinking that perhaps this was a place where I could pay to see them fish ... when I got to the other side of the canal, I was a bit disappointed to see that they were only photo-op birds, not working birds :(

A last look before I try to make my escape through the many Chinese tourists crammed into this narrow alley leading to the exit.