China Research

Skeptics and True Believers

Not much has happened this past week. I bartered my way into acquiring an “LV” purse (as the locals refer to it), got a little homesick and went for pizza (Chinese style pizza of course), and discovered that there is a light that is right above the windows in my dorm room. Who knew! This past week has been very productive in terms of my research. We are well on our way to analyzing results! Our fragments have been cultured, weighed, and I even got to play around with a little liquid nitrogen. It turns out, if you leave a glass tube in liquid nitrogen for longer than a minute, it will most definitely shatter. My grad student Adam figured that out on Wednesday and lost all of our samples from the first week and had to start from the beginning. That wasn’t all bad for me though because that meant I got to have a pipettor in my hand ALL day yesterday! :D As I mentioned, I felt a little homesick this week. I asked my lab mates if they wouldn’t mind doing “American” food for dinner and they were nice enough to try it out. At dinner, we had an interesting conversation about the differences between China and the United States. Although the differences are great, there were more similarities than I was expecting. So, for this week’s blog, I thought I would bring to light some of the myths and truths about China and local culture here in Xiamen.

Myth 1: Something that I have heard all through growing up from family, friends, and complete strangers. Chinese people eat dogs and cats. Although two of my lab mates admitted to trying dog meat in the past, they both agreed that it was not tasty and would not eat it again. As for cat meat, they also both agreed that eating cats is absolutely disgusting and that they would never dare try it. Now, they also mentioned that there is some truth to this myth. There are a few small provinces in China where people eat what they can and it that so happens to be these two furry friends, then that’s what’s for dinner. They do not lie and tell you it is chicken. There are some weird foods here, but it is normal for the locals, so if it is duck neck, they will tell you it is duck neck. For instance, tonight for dinner, I ate: fish-served with the head and fins attached, duck, beef, chicken, pork, intestine was served-but I passed on that one, and FROG! Which I did try and was not too bad!

Myth 2: All Chinese people wear cheongsams (the fitted dresses with collars). This is completely false although I have seen two women and a small girl wearing them around. On a daily basis, most of the women in China dress very nicely. Almost all of them wear very pretty dresses from just simple sun dresses to high class business dresses. They also sport high heels and carry “sun umbrellas.” Unlike the American use of an umbrella, these are colorful, beautifully designed umbrellas that women carry to keep the sun from hitting their skin. They do nothing in the rain; therefore you must also always carry a small regular umbrella as well. You rarely find anyone here wearing sunglasses. It is common for someone to wear the same outfit multiple days in a row here as well. “When did society decide that we have to change and wash a t-shirt after every individual use? If it’s not dirty, I’m going to wear it.” I have also noticed that Crocs are quite popular here…I see them everywhere, and countless people wear Disney clothes. No matter what age, you can easily find someone wearing anything from Snow White to Donald Duck, although Mickey and Minnie are the most popular.

Myth 3: “You’re going to eat so much rice.” To be honest, I see more noodles and meat than rice. Rice is offered, but it seems like more people eat noodles than rice. Cold noodles, hot noodles, noodles in sauce, noodles in soup, any way you want noodles, you can find it. I was quite surprised when I saw a man making home-made noodles in the cafeteria last night at dinner. My family used to make home-made pasta when I was young, so I was impressed to say the least. He was so fast putting the dough through the machine to flatten it out and then cut it into strips and he stretched them with such ease…nothing stuck together, no clumps. It was neat.

I have been trying to explain the types of foods we eat in America like my favorite snack: peanut butter and bananas. You don’t realize how hard it is to describe what peanut butter is…but I found some in a grocery store down the road and bought some bananas and brought it in to my lab today. I cut the banana up and put a little bit of chunky peanut butter on it for everyone and watched as they ate it and each one of their faces puckered in disgust! I have never met so many people that didn’t like peanut butter! Their faces were priceless. They were nice enough to say that the banana tasted good, the peanut butter, not so much I guess.