April Fool

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April 1st 2010
Published: April 1st 2010
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It's April Fool's Day, and the joke's on me

There's nothing like a trip to the market to remind me how ignorant I am.

It's a beautiful day in Huhehaote, not far above the freezing point with a stiff wind blowing but sunny and clear. Inspired to get out, I walked to the nearby grocery store to restock on supplies.

The walk is short, but it always feels a little bit longer if I get stared at. Today was one of those days, and I was feeling self-conscious, until I passed the usual fruit vednors with their hand-scales and saw an entrepreneur of a different sort. There it was, a bronze statue of a leopard the size of a small dog. Its owner was sitting proudly on the front steps of a building, and people approached him from time to time, presumably to inquire about the statue. I longed for my camera. The man either sold the leopard statue or moved elsewhere: when I emerged from the grocery they both had gone.

I always explore the grocery each time I go there, because I figure I need to expand my horizons and try some new food items I wouldn't see often at home. Last week I was tempted by mung-bean cakes, but I wimped out and didn't buy them. Maybe next time. This time around, I stood contemplating the relative merits of dried squid before moving on, squidless. (The chewiness factor did not work in its favor. I have a thing about chewy foods; I have never cared for mollusks, for example, or gummy bears).

After getting my necessaries I moved on to the lotions and hair-care products. Most of the time my knowledge of Chinese characters (such as it is) helps me with identifying food, but not beauty products or their purposes. This time I did understand the label on the first thing I picked up, but I thought my eyes were deceiving me. Upon inspection, I discovered I had not imagined it. The store was selling...snake oil. This gave me such a surprise (not to mention being a tad ironic) that I will consider it my April Fool's prank and hope nobody in the office gets any wise ideas.

Anyone out there who can tell me about the restorative properties of snake oil? Once again, I wimped out.

Signing off - Sam


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