Today we have a guest post from my cousin Greg who is on a trip to China. I wanted to share his latest email just as he wrote it. It looks like he is having a great adventure, one we might make in the future as a matter of fact. So here is the email:
Since I have been here I have sent 4 updates. They were intended to be like a regular tourist’s comments on a trip to a foreign land and I have received lots of feedback that they have been enjoyed as they are but know that there is a lot more going on here. Personally the challenges are significant. The most telling being the sense of isolation. But I realized fairly quickly that this was something to overcome and to apply the lesson to the people. They too are isolated even though there are lots of people around. I cannot communicate with anyone because of the language but what if society put so many layers of facade and show on top of what is real that the person is buried inside and can’t begin to get out by himself. Isn’t that what fathers are for really, to encourage, reveal and focus attention on the heart and help their sons and daughters be set free so they can be who they are supposed to be?
I finally got to the high places last Sunday. It was wonderful. The sweet smell of camphor was thick in the air . And the city:
It was a very hazy day but a spectacular view:
Those are tombstones or monuments on the very top of the hill. They are Buddhist. It is amazing how the high places are occupied belieing their significance.
Lots of beautiful flowers.
Remember last time I told you about the food game; “illiteracy”. I am still playing but I wanted to share some new variations and some definite breakthroughs: First as a result of my last update I got an e-mail encouraging me to learn to eat and enjoy the culture’s food. I knew the word was well founded. So, I looked on the Internet for a western steak house
There are lots of different kinds of food sold on the sidewalks but roasted corn on the cobb wasn’t near challenging enough for me.
Those are Coy, giant goldfish. No, they didn’t eat them(I’m really surprised). And then they were actually catching these:
Yup, that’s a goldfish. I laughed out loud. If I could have only asked if they were going to mount it or eat it. Maybe in a few months;
They rent the fishing poles and buy the bait. They were having a ball. It was great! But I was here to sample the cuisine not fish for trophy goldfish. I stopped at many stands on my way but could not bring myself to try what they were selling until finally I came to this one:
It is called “Japan Boat”.
They are frying a batter. I learned the batter has stuff in it, couldn’t really tell what, could have been some kind of sea food, maybe squid. 3 Kuai and you get 3(that’s less than $.50) of the little balls. They put on some sauces one of which was hot mustard the other was sweet and then some vegetables which I couldn’t identify and walla:
Absolutely delicious. I’m not kidding. I was so excited. At the upper end of my hot spectrum but delicious, the batter made a hush puppy kind of thing but hollow with the seafood inside then the toppings set the whole thing off. They were hot, fresh and incredibly scrumptious. Emboldened I went to the stall next door, I knew this was Tofu but God knows what they put on top of it:
3 Kuai for two of those squares.
they give you tiny little chopsticks to eat with. It was spice and a little coelentera and salt on top. It had a crispy surface which was interesting. Again a little hot but it was fine, I could handle it. The sense I got eating this was that it was very fresh. I loved it and especially that I hadn’t had to use the garbage can yet. Further emboldened again I went next door:
This time 4 Kuai. They start with a ball of dough that they fry and then at the same time an egg, kind of over easy but not runny. Then they put the two together and fold up the doughy tortilla sort of like a burrito but by someone who doesn’t know how to fold a burrito. Oh, yeah, I forgot, they swipe on some scary looking paste before they fold it up:
Wow! the pastry part was flaky and layered with a very interesting texture and just a tiny bit sweet, absolutely delicious. Whatever the scary looking paste, it was hot but not too bad, I knew that if I left it off it wouldn’t be the real deal and I would miss out. It was great! I got to speak to the proprietors in the language a little about the money and the options and it was great. They enjoyed me eating their food and they laughed at my attempts to speak. I feel like the wandering gourmet. Then off to, you guessed it:
Yup that’s a McDonalds hot fudge sunday and it was good too. That’s not all. My teacher told me about boneless chicken feet. She said they were delicious so now hooked on my new adventure I had to try them:
They are those things in the front right and they chop them up with their cleaver and give you some very spicy sauce that you dip into. I didn’t like them because they were still just grizzle and skin. I don’t think this franchise will make it back home.
The sauce is major hot but definitely the best part of this “delicacy”. Did you know the feet are the most expensive part of the chicken?(here anyway)
This however, is definitely a winner called Ru Shan and a delicacy from one of the minority people. She fries a sheet of dough in very hot oil and then while it is still soft swirls it so it will fit in a cup when it cools. Then they drizzle toppings on the pastry. I chose some kind of jam and chocolate. The jam, which I never would have chosen without encouragement looked scary but it was interesting and delicious, slightly fermented but with the chocolate, very very good.
it was soooo good I didn’t think of taking the picture until I was almost done.
But this, although very fun, is all tourist stuff and I knew I needed to learn how to eat for real in the culture. I happened to tell my language helper about all this and my real problem. How do you eat here? It turns out that he had been a chef who really knows how to cook and he offered to teach me. Isn’t it just wonderful how things unfold? But first, remember last time I told you about the extravagant weddings;
They were genuinely delighted that I wanted to take their picture and offered me cigarettes and candy in return(the guy next to the groom carries the goodies). They go all out for their weddings. They are very western and very expensive.
OK, back to the food. I can here the clamber through my computer. This first dish is nothing I’ve ever seen before. Soy sauce, water, onions, garlic and you break eggs into the liquid without breaking the yoke. Cover the dish with Saran wrap and into the microwave forever. I watched it cook for at least 15 minutes.
I kick myself for not taking a photo of the finished product but it really looked pretty much like the beginning except the soy sauce congealed and you eat the eggs and they are remarkable good. And here’s my dandy rice cooker which can steam stuff and cook noodles, even spaghetti. A very handy contraption and now I know how to use it. 1 cup rice, 2 cups water and press play:
This is a green leafy vegetable Qing Cai, that’s all I know and you cook it in boiling water first. Then cook it in oil and it gets darker as it gets done. Very delicious:
They cook down to almost nothing. Very good and healthy too. Did you know I love mushrooms? This is heaven! There are lots of different kinds here.
He washed them very thoroughly and then shredded them and cooked them in the wok.
and he pointed out how pleasant the shape was; ?????
and then of course into the Wok. The meal consisted of brown rice, fried potatoes, mushrooms and the greens. We ate the whole thing. I know I have made you hungry but I don’t want to leave you that way without reminding you of the hungry:
My little homeless guy has been gone now for about a week.
I had intended to include the new game, which is really the important one but I need some more photographs to make it interesting. “The language game”. It is about talking and translating and trying to communicate with everyone. Perhaps next time. Please remember me to pappa when you think of me. Blastings, Greg