Saturday, November 18, 2006

Food and Gentlemen

I just returned from a two-day trip to Lin'an, a town about 4-6 hours from Shanghai (we were on a bus, and we got lost). We climbed DaMing Mountain, which is not in Lin'an, and spent a cold morning on a boat on a lake. For the first time in approximately six weeks, it rained - and the weather is still cold, dreary and raining. Great timing. The trip wasn't spectacular, we have beautiful mountains in the States, and after Machu Picchu it would take a lot to bowl me over. Also, we didn't get an opportunity to really see Lin'an, which I might have enjoyed. Nevertheless, it was okay for 50 RMB, and a good opportunity for me to see more of China. The two things that really stood out to me after the trip were food and how spoiled I am.

Food, ah, food. I spent the majority of the past two days hungry, and grateful that I had purchased a few snacks to share - because I ended up eating most of them myself. Food in China is generally hit or miss. The one major advantage to eating in this country is that food is CHEAP. I rarely spend more than 10 RMB on a meal (it's about 7.8 RMB to 1 USD). I eat lunch for 3/4 RMB on a regular basis. If I get something to drink, then its 6/7, if I'm really hungry then I spend 10. Food here is plentiful and cheap, and that works well for me.

On the other hand, the Chinese really do eat almost everything. Yes, including dog - which is a delicacy, and does not come cheap. So don't worry, you won't get dog instead of beef. You will see people eating things that I consider insects, rodents, or just gross. The general hygiene standards are not quite the same as what I am accustomed to back the States. Nevertheless, the only time I had a problem I ate at a more "high-end" place, so we'll have to see how much longer that rings true. I almost always eat Halal food, given my food preferences. This also means that the food is generally fresher (esp. the meat), and the hygiene standards a little stricter, which contributes to my general lack of stomach problems. I know some people that have had some bad experiences (stones, rocks, glass, live animals, worms), even when eating on campus. In China, you do have to be very careful about what and where you eat. And there aren't any "Grade A" signs posted anywhere, you have to figure it out for yourself.

While on the trip to Lin'an, I was generally disappointed by the food. They gave us a bag lunch, which included a roll filled with bean paste, a black egg (egg boiled in black tea), a piece of fruit and some type of ham sandwich ( I got the Halal lunch, so no ham sandwich for me). Our dinner that night, as well as breakfast and lunch the next day were at the hotel. Lunch was better than dinner, but I still didn't eat much, it just wasn't 好吃(good tasting) to me. Breakfast was interesting, we had 包子 (steamed dumpling filled with meat usually), noodles (lo mien in the States), and lots of egg dishes, potatoes (small ones, boiled), soy milk (a staple) and a few other things. And the OJ was boiling hot. I ate some noodles (on a plate the size of a saucer), hot watery OJ and then ate muffins that I brought with me. Interesting to say the least.

I have had some wonderful cuisine experiences while in China. Although they caution foreigners not to eat from street vendors, because you can see everything they do, I don't think it is always a bad idea. Some of the street vendors are cleaner than some of the restaurants. And so between some of the good restaurants, the clean street vendors, and the Halal dining hall, I've been pretty content with the food (and its price) so far. Like I said, it's hit or miss. I'm sure I'll have more postings about food in the future, because food is essential for life.

Now, as for me being spoiled...I know, that's not anything new. Nevertheless, being off campus with a good number of the guys this weekend made me think about how wonderful the majority of them are, even though my last posting might have made it appear otherwise. When I am with them, I don't have to open doors,
pay for meals (or transportation, etc.), stand, carry bags, worry about my safety, etc. Last weekend one them even gave me a piggy-back ride when I mentioned that I was tired. You might think I am too old for piggy-back rides, but I really was tired and he offered. It was hilarious. Overall, they always make sure to look out for me, and they are chivalrous, which always appeals to the Brit in me. I am a lady, after all. And I am so grateful for the blessing of having them in my life. I just hope I don't have too many issues readjusting when I go back to the States. I'll have to remember how to elbow guys for a seat on the train.


Ms. Memeeflye said...

Do I have to threaten you to get crochet updates and picutures?

mari said...

I have had similar experiences involving African men. I wonder if it is a cultural thing?