Shopping the Chinese Way

Just came back from a short shopping trip. I’ve taken to shopping the Chinese way which means going to the market once a day and picking up the supplies that you need immediately. I used to shop the American way and go downtown to the modern (western style) super market and pick up supplies for the whole week. Now I go to a local grocery designed for the locals by the locals.

The shop ladies are always very friendly and welcoming. I ask them things like “Is this spicy?” (“Zhe shi la ma?”) or “what is this called?” (Zhe shi jiao ma?”). A typical day at the vegetable market:

Me: Is this pepper spicy?

First Vegetable Lady: I don’t know. (turns to other vegetable lady) Is this spicy?

Second Vegetable Lady: It isn’t spicy.

First Vegetable Lady to me: It isn’t spicy. (BTW that whole exchange was in Mandarin)

Today the first vegetable lady tried to sell me some strange vegetable that looked like a head of lettuce that had been frankenstiened onto a daikon radish. I kindly said “bu yao.” (I don’t want [that]). Then she tried to sell me something else that looked like leathery spinach. During the vegetable lady’s tour of Chinese vegetables, the other vegetable lady came up to her and said “ta ting bu dong!” (“He doesn’t understand what you’re saying!” but really “leave the poor boy alone you meshugener!”). My vegetable lady swatted at her friend and pushed her away playfully. I get all of my vegetables from these two ladies now. They are just the right amount of crazy and helpful.  I ended up buying green chili peppers (the vegetable lady told me that they are good with fresh eggs which I also bought), lotus root, something the lady called “suan” (garlic) but clearly is not, the Chinese version of arugula (kuju-“bitter lettuce”) and  Chinese cucumbers which are covered in viscous spikes.

On a sad note, one of the eggs broke on my way home from the grocery store.

I’m currently sitting by the lake enjoying the humidity and eagerly waiting  for the promised thunderstorm.


Mala Doufu

The other day I went to a Sichuan restaurant located in the West Gate area ordered the spiciest thing on the menu in Chinese, Mala Doufu (Spicy and Numbing Tofu). It was after the main lunch rush, so most of the staff had nothing to do but to stare with confused, incredulous faces at the laowei eating a plate of tofu lava. It was  delicious! And made me sweat like I was in the Amazon rain forest wearing a parka and running a marathon. Needless to say, I was doubly proud of myself for ordering the food in Chinese and eating it under the supervision of Sichuan natives.

So much for Spring… Onwards to Summer!

Apparently Spring only lasts about a month in this part of the world. It’s summertime!

The university is closed to host the “Sports Meeting” which we would simply call a glorified pep rally but they do school spirit boosting things so rarely here whenever they hold a pep rally, the school is closed for two days. Doesn’t make sense to me either. The English language staff took the opportunity to enjoy the summer weather and travel around town.

First we were off to Dongchang Fu (East Lake District) and to the Chinese Canal Culture Museum. The next day we were off to the heart of Liaocheng’s Old City. The 1,000 year old Old City is a man made or man modified square island located in the center of the East Lake connected to the mainland by causeways radiating out from the Guanyue Luo (direct translation is something like “Luminous High Mountain  Multi-Storied Building”, built as a combination fortress and Visiting Emperor’s Palace in 1347. We were then off to the Shanxi-Shaanxi Assembly Hall, a Merchant’s Guild Hall built in the early 1700’s when the city was still in its heydays.