Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Fake pagodas and hairy balls... yes, you read that correctly.

I know I haven't been posting much, and I apologize for that. I've been ridiculously busy with work, and I also joined a gym so by the time I get home I am exhausted. This one also won't be very long, but I'll try and let you know what I've been doing.

Last weekend Ngee Siew, the Yantai Site Manager (Chung You Xu), and I walked all around Yantai on Saturday, and traveled to the city of Penglai on Sunday. I got ludicrously sunburned on Saturday, so I went out and bought sunscreen. I am not used to living at the beach. Yantai has some very nice sections, but for me to get to the downtown area, it is a 30 minute bus ride or a 60 RMB taxi (which in reality is less than $10, but I am getting accustomed to Chinese pricing, and that is really expensive to me). Penglai was nice... they are famous for this large pagoda, and what they call the Penglai Pavilion. I was really disappointed to find out that this beautiful pagoda and the surrounding "histrorical site" is nothing more than a fake, Disnisized (yes, I made it up) theme park designed to make money. At the "historic pagoda" the oldest structure was about 20 years old. So far, my experiences with Chinese historical sites is about as authentic as the Romex watches people were selling in Shanghai.

Thank goodness for the Penglai Pavillion. This is an old temple structure that actually is authentic. Well over 1000 years old, it was great to walk around and see some real history for once, even if it was being marketed shamelessly.... amid the shrines and sacred items were souvenier shops galore. There is a tree in the courtyard there that is over 1000 years old. For some reason it has always blossomed one month early and withered one month later than all of the other trees of its kind... the explaination is something to do with the 34,264 deities (slight exageration, but you get the point) that ancient Chinese culture believed in, but I cannot recall the story as there are so many stories about them. I will post all of these pictures later.

I was very lucky a few days ago, avoiding some "interesting" food. I have developed a habit of playing Russian Food Roulette.... since I cannot read the menu at all, I just point to an item and pray. Last night for dinner I did this and Ngee Siew told me that I might want to reconsider... I had pointed to an item which translated directly as "Hairy Balls". Ummm.... no thank you. I'll pass. You could also get them "steamed, without the pouch." Eww.

Ewww, again.

I don't understand how some foods became food to begin with. While barbequed chicken heads doesn't sound appetizing to me, I do understand how it got its footholds in the culinary world. While the Chinese are much more prosperous today than in the past, they are still quite poor. So in the past they were incredibly poor.... they had to make use of everything they could get. That is why they eat all parts of the chicken, because it was the only food they had. Now, parts like the head, feet, lungs, and testicles are considered delicasies.

I don't however understand how food such as "Smelly Tofu" ever became food. This is a type of tofu dish that smell so bad, so utterly disgusting, so putrid, that you can smell it from half a block away, gaga, and nearly throw up. The direct translation actually means something like "smells like rotting drain sewage bean curd". Seriously... no exageration! That is honestly the best description for the smell. And Ngee Siew says it tasts pretty much the same, although he hates the stuff. He says some people swear by the stuff, but to me it is like the Marmite of the soy bean world. I really cannot imagine a scenario where someone in the past accidentally made this stuff, smelled it, and then decided it would be a good idea to eat.

Hmm... guess this post was a little longer than I though.

Oh, since the news is censored here, and I don't speak Chinese anyway... I had no idea until only a few days ago about any of this New Orleans stuff, or Renquist dying... I found a way to get to CNN, and I can't believe what I am reading. New Orleans is gone? Like, not coming back gone? The death toll could be up to 10,000? Is that true? I can't even fathom that.

Well, sorry to get all depressive at the end...

Zaijian, all.