|Woke up early so decided to take a walk through the town. Streets were pretty empty – shop keepers opening up, people cleaning up the litter from the night before. Quite misty in places as well. Interesting to see the town so calm. Then back to the hotel to pack.
After a leisurely breakfast we got on the bus for the short trip to the town market with Erica, who will be our cooking instructor for lunch – this morning we learn to cook Chinese!
The market was most interesting, and a bit disturbing. As we entered there were large baskets of snails of various sizes, most being pulled out of their shells. There were small pools of eels, various fish, crabs, crayfish, and a great variety of seafood. The fruit and vegetables were marvelous as well – many very familiar – bok choy, carrots, garlic, cucumber, and other familiar things. Lots of grapes, pears, apples, peaches, and bananas. Also bitter melon, things that looked like foot high and four foot long squash (a melon actually), lotus root, pumpkin flowers, and strange fruits too numerous to list.
Then to the less familiar and uncomfortable parts – cages filled with chickens, rabbits, and ducks all meant for diner later in the day – to be taken home and killed by the shoppers. At the far end of the market we came to the part where they were actually doing the slaughtering – there were freshly killed chickens, duck, and geese, some with the blood still running out of them.
Then, the most disturbing part to me, as we rounded a corner a man in shorts and rubber boots had a cat with a noose around its neck, and he hit its head repeatedly until it stopped struggling – then he took in into the shop to clean it. There were still six or seven cats in the cage waiting their turn. Hanging from the top of the stalls were a number of cooked dogs, and several more in cages. Later we came across turtles in buckets and mesh bags of live toads. As disturbing as this is to westerners, I kept telling myself that it is a different culture with different attitudes and ideas. I wonder how people would react seeing a cow or pig slaughtered.
Oddly, in the China Daily newspaper, there was an article about the creation of a dog ordinance in Xian. In a city of 3,000,000 there are about 80,000 dogs. In the US there are about 80 million dogs, about 1 for every four people. Dogs are not popular pets in China – indeed, pets of any type are unusual.
Back on the bus several of the kids were quite upset, so we tried to change the subject and talked about all sorts of things. We finally arrived at the small village with the cooking school and trooped out to a courtyard surrounded by ripe rice fields and a kitchen garden. We were assigned a station with a cutting board, cleaver, and most of the food we'd prepare. Erica went through safe chopping instructions and we started preparing the food. First were stuffed mushroom, stuffed pumpkin flower, stuffed tofu ball, and a meat ball (“chicken”). Then some stir frying and made a chicken and almond dish, and eggplant dish, and a catfish in beer dish, then bok choy. Out at the courtyard we all sat down and had a great lunch. Some of the food was a little too peppery, which Alice devoured, and some was too spicy, which she wouldn't touch. She called the peppery food the Yummy Peppery Dish or YPD.
We got the recipes then back to wait for the bus. Two kids were playing ping pong on a stone table with a line of bricks for a net. The area is in transition with some of the old adobe buildings still standing but abandoned, and many new places being built.
On the bus we headed to Guilin and the airport. We stopped in at a “Pearl Museum” where a young woman opened an oyster to show us a pearl, then we were escorted into the pearl shop – with more sales women than shoppers! Alice looked at a nice ring, but was told it was silver plate and was crap, go to the good stuff... Interesting sales technique. Most stuff was fairly expensive but we bought some small stuff. On the trip to the airport our local guide, Sunny, told us about how his grandmother had her feet bound, and how his mother and father were sent to the farms for “re-education” during the cultural revolution.
We got to the the airport with no problems, checked the luggage, and hung around for a while. Victor, our guide, bought us some KFC chicken breasts, which were quite horrible. Most ended up in the trash.
Perhaps the most amazing thing is that the plane arrived and took off on schedule! A first for the trip.
Arrived in Shanghai on time and got the bus to the Sheraton – the city is amazing – bright lights, tall buildings, massive roads... We went down a spiral off ramp that did almost two full 360 degree turns. Still no internet in the room. But tomorrow awaits in a whole different Chinese world!