I have a strategy for eating food in China. It goes like this: eat everything.
More realistically: try everything.
Even when it looks weird/smells weird/I can’t figure out exactly what it is/it’s still moving.
Even when the server places a HUGE dish of meat on the table and passes around 1. extra napkins (HIGHLY unusual) 2. plastic gloves (now we’re starting to wonder what we ordered) and 3. straws. STRAWS!?
This is how you eat pig elbow. Now you know, and you won’t be as surprised as I was. You pick one up with your gloved hand. It kind of looks like a human heart, but with a bone in it. It weighs about 3 pounds. You put the straw into the center of the bone, and you take a sip. It’s sort of like bone marrow jelly, if that phrase had a positive connotation. Because it was pretty good! Who knew!
For the rest of the night, we kept making slurping noises and cracking up.
Photographic evidence, in case you don’t believe me.
In the background of the picture above is congee… it was really good. You can get sweet or salty (with all kinds of meat or fish). So we each got our own porridge and then shared some other dishes.
The last picture is of dessert… coconut covered sticky rice with red bean paste inside. Yum.
Today we did a whirlwind tour of the Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, a hutong, and the Summer palace. Our tour guide (TONY!) is really knowledgable, so I learned a lot of history today, in particular about Empress Dowager Cixi… homegirl had it going ON.
My camera died about halfway through the Summer Place (RIGHT at the Marble Boat, dang it), plus the fact that these are the “best of” pics, really emphasizes how seriously I’m in the “honeymoon phase” of culture shock. Believe me I’ll let you know when I’m experiencing steps 2-3.
Also, I almost forgot! GUESS WHO I SAW TODAY?
You know how in Italy, there are tons and tons of saints’ relics everywhere you turn around? Well in China, the state religion is atheism, but oh boy did I see quite the relic… Today I saw Mao! He looked phenomenal (considering he died in 1976).
Getting in the mausoleum was quite the experience. We sometimes play a game where we rate from 1 to 10 how Communist an experience feels. When we’re at a coffee shop on campus that looks exactly like a Panera, that’s about a 0.5/10. When we were at the foreign student orientation and they told us that nationality didn’t matter and we were all “Tsinghua people” now and should uphold our mind, body and spirit for that reason, that was about a 6 or 7/10. Going into Mao’s mausoleum? I would say about a 20 out of 10.
You get in a line that snakes around the entire building, and you’re eventually railed in and divided into two, then into five separate lines to go through security, then you go two-by-two to actually enter the building. There were guards along the way shouting instructions with megaphones. I think I was physically prodded around twice, because for some reason sometimes they wanted the line to be 3 people wide at some points. I got wanded/patted. Weirdly enough, when the guard said “camera?” in English (no cameras allowed in the building), I thought he was speaking Chinese so I was really confused. Hahaha hooray for language immersion!
You pass through a room where people lay yellow flowers and there’s a marble statue of Mao (looking VERY MUCH like the Lincoln in the Lincoln memorial… wish I could find a picture!), then you get to the actual room. Two guards keep vigil and um… well, it’s pretty much Mao laying in the middle of the room looking like he’s sleeping under a red and yellow sickle and hammer blanket. The guards keep you moving, and then just like that you’re back outside thinking “welllll that just happened.”