China Research

“This is SERIOUS! We’re at a buffet! Come on!”

Oh China, you never cease to amaze me. This past week began with Yuan and I making a trip downtown for dinner. She took me to a restaurant that is “super famous” according to the locals. The menu was in Chinese, so I just simply pointed to the lady sitting across from me and said I’ll have what she’s having. We literally sat down at a table across from two people who were already eating—it was that crowded. That’s something you would NEVER see in America. What I ordered turned out to be pineapple fried rice which was served with this dried meat that looked like the consistency of brown sugar (to best describe it—it was super dry and in somewhat of a powder sugar grain form or flossy—I have no idea). It was pretty good. Yuan surprised me with the most amazing dessert I’ve had here. It is very special to the locals. We had pineapple ice cream—China style. It was ice that was super fine (finer than a snow cone, to the point where it didn’t stick together…like shavings) mixed with milk (ice cream) and then topped with fresh cut pineapple and a pineapple glaze. Talk about incredible. It was quite delicious to say the least. After dinner, we decided to hit the main shopping street-Chong Shan Lu. Man was it packed! There had to be 50,000 people there! We were there just as the sun was going down, so the flashy lights were all on, thousands of people were out, and everyone was happy and laughing-until they saw me…then it was like they had seen an alien. Do I have green skin? Giant eyes? Am I wearing a highlighter orange jumpsuit? No, I am just a foreigner. But the way they stare me down head to toe the entire time I pass by, even turning to watch me until I am gulped up by the crowds and no longer visible, says otherwise.
It is so much cooler at night. The relentless sun is down, the air is a little less moist, and there always seems to be more of a breeze after say 6 o’clock. Night in Xiamen is beautiful. During the day? Not so much. Like I said, the sun is relentless, the humidity is like nothing I have ever experienced-and yes, it is worse than last summer in the Florida heat-much worse. I swear it is as if you are walking through mist, the air is that moist.
Tu and Yuan (the grad students I do the most with) took me to a buffet on Tuesday. What an experience. What was there you ask? Let me list it for you: the first thing that pops into my head is cow tongue–yes, tongue…in the shape of a tongue, like they literally cut it out of the mouth of a cow and cooked it. Pork, shrimp-with the head, tail, and shell still intact, balls of fish meat, the tiniest chicken wings I have ever seen (I am from just outside Buffalo, NY, so I have seen many a chicken wing), turkey off the leg, pig thigh, and that was just the meat. There was corn on the cob, pineapple, dragon fruit, and the most popular-watermelon. The layout was interesting. There were servers who would walk around to each table and offer you the meat (that I just listed off) which they had on a huge stick and if you wanted it, they would shave a few slices off for you. Everything that wasn’t meat was served as a typical buffet style. Chinese people must really love their watermelon. It was the first dish to be emptied by the guests, and when you saw the lady bringing more, it was like a flock of geese heading south for the winter. Swarms of people running, yes, RUNNING for the watermelon—hopping over the sardines and miscellaneous foods that were dropped on the floor. It was gone in less than a minute. But the most memorable thing that happened was Yuan. Yuan is a girl in her mid-20s. She is decently tall, and on the smaller build. This tiny Chinese girl ate at least 12 plates of food! “Where are you putting it!” I asked, “In your legs!!?” She is so small, the food must have been up to her esophagus! So as the night goes on, she says “I’m going to have a rest.” So I’m thinking, wow, after 12 plates, I think she is full. Wrong. As she sits back in her chair, she grabs her bowl of ice cream in one hand and a piece of watermelon in the other (we were some of the lucky ones to have gotten some watermelon in the 60 seconds that there was any) and continues to eat. I was DYING laughing. I was laughing so hard that Tu took out his camera and was taking pictures of us and I had tears running down my face. That’s when she yelled: “This is SERIOUS! We’re at a buffet! Come on!” That made me almost fall out of my chair I was laughing so hard.
We went ice skating this week! I am from one of the coldest states in the Continental United States, that is known for large quantities of snow and ice, and yes, I have never gone ice skating before. Tu and I tagged along with Max’s lab and went to an open air ice rink. 50 feet away from the ice, it was about 95 degrees. When I think about ice skating, I think about people in the middle of winter with gloves, hats, scarves, and mittens wrapped up in their coats and heavy pants skating around an oval and later getting some hot cocoa. Here, I was sweating like I was in a sauna and soaked on my right side from the death grip I had with the wall. It was a miracle that I didn’t fall, but I wish I had the balance to skate around instead of slowly crouching along with such a tight grasp. All in all, besides the scab on my leg from the skate rubbing against it, it was a really fun trip.
The last of my news for the week is that I have seen quite an abundance of foreigners lately. I talked to a girl from Sweden in the elevator on the way to lab yesterday—in English—made my day. And on that topic, I had a Chinese girl about my age stop me on the street the other day as I’m jammin along to Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi” on my way to lab. She said hello and asked if she could take a photo with me—all in English. I was so excited to hear someone speak a language I understood that I totally ignored the fact that I had no idea who this girl was and it was a little awkward taking a photo with a complete stranger, and just smiled for the camera. How nice 