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Published: August 30th 2017
Geo: 31.23, 121.47
When I visit another country what sticks out is how familiar some things can be. I'm not sure if this is because we are all human and we all have the same basic needs or that a common thread runs through all of us or maybe its because in today's world another culture is just a click away, you can get an insight into another countries psyche via the vast array of information available to us.
There is also the viewpoint that I come from a country of immigrants and because of that have been exposed to many cultures and customs that would have eluded folks who live in a predominantly monoculture society. So there is an element of familiarity and acceptance when it comes to other cultures and beliefs.
Putting that aside though one of my favourite things about visiting other countries is the things I don't understand and never will.
I like it when I am confronted by a situation, an object or a way of doing things that even if I had a command of the local language I would never be able to grasp.
Take for instance the walk I took with Aadi early the other morning, a mans car had broken down so I helped to push it out of the way, we went down a street that led to a local shopping strip. There was all sorts of food items for sale, turtle, frogs, eels and fish all still alive , even as they were being gutted and cut up ( in a country with little refrigeration the only way you know something is fresh is when it is killed right at the point of sale). Fresh tofu of every description, veggies & fruit, steamed buns and bread type parcels cooking then and there, a wonderful selection. Then there is the eggs, I know we are pretty pedestrian when it comes to eggs back home, it's just chicken eggs and if your feeling fancy you can get hold of some quail eggs but that's about it really, not here, there are eggs with a blue shell which have been cooked in some way so that the yolk is a deep orange there are eggs with a black shell, there are eggs that when they are cracked open are black on the inside and then there is the ones that really confuse me, there are eggs covered in mud, thick brown sticky mud and that's how you buy them, not washed but caked in mud. When I try to imagine why they are like that or what you would do with them my mind is blank, I just don't get it.
Yesterday we went to the brilliantly named " Number One Food Store" which is a huge 4 story department store devoted to food there is lots that can be gotten anywhere but there is plenty that I have never seen before, take the ball type things that Jana purchased, from looking at them you would understandably think with a sticky glazed outside the brightly coloured interior and the squishy center that these would hurt your teeth from all the sugar but how wrong you would be. Your mind is thinking one thing and your taste buds are contradicting them when you taste a salty beany pasty interior that surrounds a partially cooked egg yolk , with a slightly sweet bread dough exterior, its everything you don't want your food to be , the food equivalent of wearing checkered pants with a spotted shirt, which incidentally you see a lot of in China.
Or there is the crispy sweet noodles that are wrapped around ground peanuts which doesn't sound to bad until you take a bite and inhale at the same time which I can only compare to a time when I was the blackboard monitor at school and I breathed in too much chalk dust while cleaning the dusters and dried my airways out right down to the lungs.
Then there is pork floss, personally I don't think those 2words should ever be together let alone used to describe a food.
But my personal favorite was the pressed pig face, I'm not joking, this is a pigs face with eyes still in tact, boned, all the flesh removed and then squashed flat, wrapped in plastic and hung up , looking like poky pigs idiot brother after he'd been run over by a steam roller.
I've met thousands of people in my life time and never has anybody ever said to me " gee I could have really used a flattened pigs face" Never before have I thought " I've been invited to what's his names house, best I take a squashed pigs face with me" or perhaps " I'm sorry to hear the bad news I hope this flattened pigs face will help cheer you up" . I seriously cant imagine an occasion when you would need one but all the same I am very curious to know how much you would pay for one.
Then there is the general population, the observance of traffic lights seems to be optional and this option is exercised less and less the further outside the city center you get and like in many Asian countries the bigger you are the more right of way you have, although one pleasing aspect is that the use of the horn is far less common, but overall traffic and its movements are quite well considered and courteous but quite unpredictable.
The Chinese are an industrious lot though, the guy who runs the shop around the corner where there is only won ton soup on the menu starts work at 6am and finishes at 10pm every day , not just week days, not 6 days a week or every day except public holidays, he does that every single day of the year , now that's commitment. But you have to ask why would you do that to yourself.
In parks all over the country every morning you will see groups of elderly citizens gathering to perform some kind of exercise, which is a wonderful thing.
These are not formally run government sponsored activities but something the folks organise themselves.
In one corner of the park there will be one group doing tai chi in another part there might be movement to music, another area will have people doing something a little more strenuous and then there will be the people who choose to go it alone for whatever reason.
There's the guy who spends about 40 minutes walking backwards swinging his arms vigorously by his side or the man who chooses to practice his type of martial arts in a spot where everybody either exiting or entering the park has to walk dangerously close to his flailing arms and legs or the people who bring their birds in tiny cages along to watch the proceedings.
There is no shortage of bewildering activity,
The other night I went out alone to get some food for Jana and I and on the way I passed a supermarket that has a landing area between the entrance and the steps on that landing was a lady who must have been in her late 50's in her brightly coloured flannelette pajamas wearing high heel shoes practicing her hoopla hoop as if it was the most natural thing in the world. The following night in the exact same place were a group of about 10 women who were doing what can only be described as the Chinese equivalent of line dancing. Why there? Why that time of night?
All this was taking place just down the road from the shop where the poodle that wears a shirt, pants and bright blue shoes lives, of course.
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