Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Pichaiyuan on a Sunday

Two Sundays ago, some of the Chinese staff from school took out several of us new foreign staff.  They wanted to show us a really neat area, Pichaiyuan, and introduce us to even more of the local food.  Susie, the one who organized things, divided us foreigners into pairs and small groups and then assigned a Chinese staff person to each group, which was a great idea.  I was happy to have Linda, whom I had only recently met but very much wanted to know better, placed in charge of my group.

My favorite of the foods that we got to try was a soup that Linda explained is called "tofu brains" when you translate it into English.  I am sorry to say, it is not a pretty dish.  In fact, it looks like vomited cottage cheese floating in a bowl of mucus.  If you can overcome the appearance, however, (as I did), it is really delicious.  Honestly!  Another thing I enjoyed was the mutton on a stick.  Susie claimed that it was spicy, but I disagreed.  So, Linda got me another one that had about five times the usual amount of red pepper on it.  I offered to share, but this is not a province accustomed to truly spicy food, so my Chinese friends declined the offer.  One of them remarked "I would die!' when offered a bite.  I guess Korea really did give me tastebuds of steel when it comes to spiciness!

We also got to see some of the fantastic Chinese crafts for sale, such as the adorable pens that they make and little carvings made from vegetables.  We saw a lot of pretty scenery, and even got to check out a neat bookstore on our way home.  It was one of the most fun days I've had here in China, which is saying a lot.

Our happy group, after a few hours of good food and exploring.

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"Passage—immediate passage! the blood burns in my veins! Away, O soul! hoist instantly the anchor!
Cut the hawsers—haul out—shake out every sail!
Have we not stood here like trees in the ground long enough?
Have we not grovell’d here long enough, eating and drinking like mere brutes?
Have we not darken’d and dazed ourselves with books long enough?

Sail forth! steer for the deep waters only!
Reckless, O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me;
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go, And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.

O my brave soul!
O farther, farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! Are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail!"

~Walt Whitman, "Passage to India"