A Four Hour Lunch

An ode to the four hour lunch in China … Over the years, there were times when a friend would invite us for a meal on a special occasion.  You must plan for a lengthy event, and T always had to plan for a significant amount of beer.

On such an occasion in early August, it was our driver, Pan, who invited us and friends to a newly renovated restaurant in Shenyang.  We arrived and socialized, took some photos with friends, then Pan exited to make the food and beer order.  Then the nine of us sat around a large, round table with a formidable lazy Susan perfectly placed.  Dishes began to arrive and chopsticks were put to use.

There were toasts and discussions in Chinese and English.  Memories and laughter were shared.  There was sad acknowledgment that we would soon leave Shenyang, but this lunch was a celebration of friendship and food.  It was a celebration of how friendship crosses borders and cultures, defying distance with hopeful longevity.

I won’t say this is my last post about our life in China, but it is for now.  Enjoy.

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What Is It?

I don’t know.  Try it.

Every once in a while, someone would give us something to eat in Asia, and we wouldn’t know exactly what it was.  It could be identified as a chip-type snack, or a meat product, or a fruit or vegetable, but we wouldn’t know the name or what the flavor would be.  For the kid who wouldn’t eat green things growing up, this was a challenge.

I am a big fan of the seasonal way they eat in China, especially the fruits.  Little oranges in winter, perfect Dandong strawberries in spring, gorgeous peaches and expensive cherries in summer, crisp and just sweet enough apples and pears in fall, etc.  There are also giant pomegranates, sweet grapes, different watermelons, colorful tomatoes (yes, fruit), persimmons, blueberries, clementines, big and small bananas, pomelo and all manner of citrus, passionfruit and more.  I’ve eaten lychee, longan, mangosteen, Hami melon, berries I don’t know the name of, kumquat, hawthorn, apple pears, star fruit, yangmei, durian, rambutan, jackfruit, dragonfruit and loquats.  Loquats are, by far, my favorite.  I have not tried the reptilian-like custard apples or bitter cucumber fruit, but there is still time.  There is still time for quite a few tries.  And these are just the fruits!  We benefit from what is grown in China, and also what is easily and quickly imported from India, the Philippines, Thailand and beyond.

Over the years, Chinese friends have introduced me to many Asian fruits and snacks.  They can usually tell me the name in English, but maybe not.  At home, T asks, “What is it?” Then I say, “I don’t know.  Try it.”  That’s how it often goes when people try new things.  Sometimes, you like it.  Sometimes, you don’t.  Sometimes, you’ll discover a new favorite that you will crave when you can’t find it anymore.

Join me in this taste test of two Asian fruits.  To begin, we have a small melon.  It is about four inches wide and tall, with a thin, variegated, edible skin.  It grows on a vine and ripens in July/August.  The only English names I could find were green melon or Asian green melon.  Many eat it like an apple, or you can skin it and seed it too.  On the inside, the fruit is pretty green with a pale, seeded center.  It is soft with just a slight bite to it.  It tastes a bit like honeydew, but not that hard, out of season honeydew you get at salad buffets and breakfast meetings.  It tastes like sun-ripened piece of summer.

Second, we have a small snacking fruit called husk cherry, husk tomato, husk cherry tomato, physalis, ground cherry, cape gooseberry, and a cousin to the tomatillo.  They turn yellow and are harvested from the ground once they fall.  Easily peel the thin, papery husk away from the fruit and chomp.  One bite.  The skin has the texture of a cherry tomato, though the inside is thicker than one.  They have an interesting flavor that varies on your tongue between sweet and savory.  Perhaps depending on when you buy them, they might be sweeter or more savory.  They are perfectly good to snack on, and I’m imagining the more savory ones in a breakfast casserole with sausage and egg and some herbs I haven’t decided on yet.

That’s it for our latest installment of “What Is It? I Don’t Know. Try It.”  Enjoy.

For a funny view on Asian fruits, check out the Fung Brothers video:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IgfegiWS3Ds

 

Let’s Meet in Shanghai

When a friend says, “I’m coming to China.”  You say, “Let’s meet in Shanghai.”  Let the fun begin. For me, a last jaunt on this side of the world.

We checked off a wonderful tourist to do list.  We rode the Maglev Train from the aiport.  We visited the Bund, Yu Garden, the gorgeous and quiet Longhua Temple, the ornate and busy Jing’an Temple, and the Tianzifang neighborhood.  We strolled through parks, watched dancers and taiqi groups, talked to people, took pictures with them, received welcomes, recommendations and good wishes for our stay.  We sat in a small room and had our feet massaged by perfect little hands while watching “China’s Got Talent”. We ventured over to Suzhou and Zhouzhuang, two of the gorgeous water towns west of the big city.  We ate noodles, dumplings, and street food, and even a little Mexican food just for a change.  My friends visited the financial district for a journey up in the bottle opener and views of the second tallest building in the world (Shanghai Tower, 2073 feet, 120+ stories).  We walked in the rain, and then some more rain.  It is Shanghai, after all.  Enjoy.

For more about the Shanghai Tower, check this out.  http://n.pr/1H9Aopn

Inside the Diamond

My friend, Iris, has given me three incredibly memorable Shenyang experiences.  First and foremost, in 2010, she introduced me to a new school full of amazing Chinese people.  Five years later, I am still volunteering there.  Second, she invited me to visit her friend’s tea shop where I learned more about tea in two hours than at any other point in my life.  Most recently, Iris told me about a photo contest going on at what is affectionately called the Diamond building.  For one afternoon, they opened up the Shengjing Grand Theatre for photos inside.  The promotion for the contest was exclusively in Chinese.  Being an educated illiterate in this country, I would have never known about it if Iris didn’t encourage me to go.

Many times, I’d seen the sun and skyline reflected in the mirrored facade.  I had never thought about what it would be like, feel like, inside.  It took my breath away how the light and shadow came alive, like we were breathing them in. Oh, and the design, the architecture, the consistency of it all … there were facets and angles everywhere.

Yes, it had some odd design elements, as one might expect in China, but many diamonds have flaws.  They remain beautiful and unique.  Shenyang’s diamond is just that.  Enjoy.

Pack It Up, Pack It In, Let Me Begin

It isn’t a beginning, just a bonne continuation!  After more than five years in Shenyang, we will soon be packing it up and in, and moving on to the next part of our simple adventure.  In August, we will be making our lives in South Carolina again.

In honor of the sorting, saving, tossing and packing that will happen over the next couple of months, we present some images, and their informative, somewhat sarcastic descriptions, of the Shenyang moving methods.  Enjoy these not so random photos that we’ve seen over the years in this big city.  Not to worry – I’m sure Asian Tigers will take our move in a slightly different direction.

There will be other posts/diatribes about the move and our experiences, perhaps to include a short synopsis of ordering rabies vaccine on Taobao because the government vet office wouldn’t give us the vial label for the health certificates, and a list of possible reasons why T insists on keeping said rabies in our refrigerator long after their labels have been put to use.  I think you can also expect to read a list of what we will miss (i.e., so many beautiful people) and will not miss (i.e., why does my bathroom always smell like cabbage?).

Change is not a bad thing, just difficult sometimes.  I am comforted knowing there are smiling faces and beautiful places all over the world.  We are lucky to know so many.  See you on the flip side.

For our original 2011 post on the incredible ways they move stuff in Shenyang, check out Push, Pedal, Pull.

To revisit the Irish heritage in rap music’s 1992 hit, “Jump Around” by House of Pain, click here.

Chicago

Last month, I was back in the U.S. for about a week.  I spent time with my independent eighty-six year old Mom.  I saw friends I’ve loved for more than twenty years.  I lit piles of stuff on fire with my brother.  I enjoyed blue skies and a warm afternoon stop at the local dairy bar.  And I had the privilege to travel to the fabulous city of Chicago with three teenagers (two nieces and a nephew).

We made a museum tour, tried some excellent pizza (at my favorite, Gino’s East), ate plenty of other great food, enjoyed that gorgeous skyline and the bluest skies, and learned a little more about each other.  Such a lovely trip.  Enjoy some pictures.

Oh, You Are Lovely

Panjiayuan is a fantastic spot in Beijing.  I love it.  I love looking and talking and not understanding half the conversation.  I love it when they courteously compliment my negotiating skills when they still have made money off this foreigner.  I love not knowing what everything is, like a lot of places I go in China.  This visit to Panjiayuan, I thoroughly enjoyed with a fellow pottery/porcelain/curiosity lover.  We looked – we asked – we wondered – we loved – we bought – we love.  Thank you, S, for a morning memory I will carry with me a very long time.  Enjoy.