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Old 10-11-2002, 12:31 AM   #1
old s'cool
amanda's Avatar
Join Date: Oct 2002
Posts: 2,426
In a pig's ear

Here are a few of my misadventures in Manchuria- I think it would appeal to this crowd. I've changed the name of the human, but the pup has passed on to play in greener pastures- too much chocolate.



Piss and poop. Poop and piss. Dark brown turds and puddles of
nefarious fluids sit idly near my feet. I will not touch them.
It’s not my problem.

The perpetrator of these deeds? Les Paul.

No, not the famous fine guitar-player-turned-manufacturer, but a very young puppy whose breed is quite indistinguishable. Like his
namesake, Les Paul is a consistent source of quality entertainment when he makes public appearances. However, he also happens to be a consistent source of Grade A fresh dog manure, unlike his namesake (I sincerely HOPE that last part is true).

His owner, Kaylee, is a newcomer to China (indeed to the world outside of Winnipeg, Manitoba) and my new roommate. Les Paul is the manifestation of culture shock and too much money- he was purchased for several hundred kuai within the first 24 hours of her arrival. Also the empty bags from McDonalds strewn out over the floor (courtesy of the dog), the speed of her toilet paper usage (I swear I bought enough to last me a month just a few days ago…) could all be manifestations of culture shock. Could be.

Hopefully, I’ll be out of the country before I can find out.

Until then, I step gingerly through the obstacle course that is my
new apartment.

And nice apartment it is too. I’ve graduated to place where the
water heater for the shower doesn’t blow a fuse, where the
washing machine actually drains someplace else other than my kitchen floor, but it’s still a manual…

Yea, my door stays closed to keep little dogs at bay, but my door
stays locked to keep prying hands away.

A certain Canadian has found out that I have a laptop. And she, with none, has decided that I should share my wealth, even though I have pointed the way to the Internet café across the street. Sorry, chick- but you should have thought that before getting the dog. We already do a tag team manoeuvre when we cook our dinners: she keeps the dog occupied and out of harm’s way while I’m cooking and vice versa.

I now employ a technique that I’ve picked up from teaching
young’uns: tell them no and then distract them.

“No, Kaylee. You can’t use my computer. Shall we go take
the dog for a walk?”

Out the little dog and the Canadian go, trusting their American
leader, a "China-veteran". We saunter comfortably among the stares- two western females and a puppy- what a strange sight we must be! We stop by a tiny hole-in-the-wall restaurant to pick up some Chinese takeaway for dinner. My near-expert usage of the correct words for rice, sweet and sour pork and dumplings impress my Chinese and Canadian counterparts- so much so that the girls behind the counter try to have an in-depth conversation with me about the proper usage of pig's ears as an aphrodisiac (at least, that’s what it SEEMED like they were talking about...).

We sit outside on the sidewalk to wait for the food. Instantly, Les
Paul becomes the centre of attention- as all puppies and westerners do. Girls from the restaurant crowd around him, play with his soft floppy ears, wiggle his tail.

A girl from the restaurant wrestles up enough English to form the
question, “Does it understand your foreign language?”

I reassure them that he understands very little in any language,
Chinese or English.

Eventually, the owner of the restaurant comes out- a man whose
western equivalent would own a string of pawn shops in Las Vegas- greasy hair, an emerging potbelly and a streak of machismo a mile long. He spies the little dog and his owners- how could two western girls handle such a ferocious beast? It must be fairly tame, but the man still isn’t quite sure…. He puts his hand out to touch Les Paul’s back. A touch of the fur and he quickly jerks his hand away. A few more tries and the restaurant owner starts to trust the furry monster- until the noise of a ferocious man-eating ogre comes from behind and startles him as he is busy concentrating on being courageous.

The girls laugh, but he doesn’t trust me anymore- a dirty look
confirmed that sentiment.

He returns to the task of attaining the little dog’s trust. A
brilliant idea comes to him: food! Every dog likes food. He emerges from the kitchen carrying bits of god-knows-what and gives the pile to the pup, who scarfs it down before Kaylee or I can discern what it is. Pleased with his discovery, the restaurant owner then walks across the street to the greasy Muslim joint to get more scraps. Again, another pile is down the gullet of the walking mouth before we can figure out what he’s eating.

“He’s sleeping in your room tonight, Kaylee.”

I do not want to be subjected to lingering clouds from puppy farts,
or the very worst, finding bits of exploded puppy, in the living room the next morning.

Amazingly enough, Les Paul survives the night, deflated and defused.

Speaking of pig's ears, there is one sitting on top of my
refrigerator. It is waiting to become dry so the dog has something to chew on besides ankles, his tail or my leather sandals. Precariously wrapped in plastic bags, it threatens to wiggle out and fall onto the floor with a splat.

Egg Lady grins as I approach her area- a grin full of teeth and gaps. She enjoys giving me a weekly lesson on Chinese numbers over her myriad of eggs- chicken, duck, quail, other eggs I cannot imagine come from any bird that I know of. Along with the lessons, she is always careful not to give me the eggs that have too much chicken shit stuck to them- otherwise I make the humorous, but dreaded “eew” face.

But today I’m not buying eggs, just showing the Canadian around
the underground market. We wave and continue on to the vegetable section, in search of mógu- mushrooms. Just finished a full day of teaching and now I need mushrooms for tonight’s stir-fry dinner. I convince the Canadian that she needs to be exposed to more culture than the Chinese menu of the Mickey D’s, so she comes along for the walk.

It’s late in the day, so the fresh meat area is not up to its full glory- only a few stalls are open with normal, un-traumatizing cuts of meat. Darn. And I so wanted to introduce the Canadian to Dolly, the severed sheep’s head.

The vegetable area is still hopping though. Fresh veggies of Chinese origin, piled high in rows, nearly hiding their peddlers- soybeans, wrinkled radishes, cilantro, lotus root, xiăocōng (spring
onion), other unlearned, wild produce.

I talk with the peddlers- any mógu today? Meiyou (no). Heaps of
vegetables, almost any kind of vegetable imagined and some beyond imagination...and not a mushroom in sight.

Oh well. The stir-fry can live without.

I take Kaylee around to the other areas of the underground market. Missing out on the introduction to Dolly, I instead take her by the alchemist, where reptile wine is brewed. Four different kinds of reptile wine are displayed in tall glass columns, each having different medicinal purposes. I hear that reptile wine is only good for men- for strength, virility and intelligence. I don’t know, I think it would show more intelligence staying away from the stuff. The base is baijiu- a cheap, vile aquavit similar to turpentine. Dried snakes and lizards are added, which makes the clear baijiu turn to the colour of horse piss. Some plants and berries are mixed in the brew, all supposedly enhancing different flavours of the drink and characteristics of the drinker. Drink three times a week, and you’ll be good as new. Or dead.

Below the ready-made reptile wines are the condiments to make your own brew at home- sliver fungus, seahorses, coiled snakes, lizards splayed out like little crucified Christs, all dried and shrivelled up almost beyond recognition.

We make the round of introductions and move on. Kaylee’s face is
turning a little green.

Pepper. She remembers she wants black pepper. We walk over the dried goods area where spices are available. I use the term
“spices” very loosely, though. For all their efforts hundreds of years ago, the explorers in search of a spice trade in China missed the mark. Pepper, yes- there are thousands of different kinds of pepper to be found. But oregano, basil, marjoram? No luck finding them here- the Chinese have no use for such commodities. They’re only weeds to them. I just had some bottles sent to me a few weeks ago by my father- nutmeg and rosemary has never smelled so good.

Black pepper is also elusive. Piles of spicy, knock-your-socks-off
ground red pepper doesn’t please the Canadian.

“How about Tabasco Sauce?”, she asks.

Surprisingly enough, in the land of pepper, yes, you can find Tabasco Sauce. It’s the real deal too- straight from Avery Island,
Louisiana. I’m not sure why China has decided to import the
stuff, having their own pepper sauces of equal or greater calibre.
But there you go- globalisation strikes again.

On the way out, we pass the cooked meat section. Pigs noses unable to sniff the air, braised in some sort of sauce. Other bits of meat are on display also- ribs, stomachs, ears.

“Oh! Pigs' ears! The dog needs a chew toy...”

Before I can offer buying the little dog a ball instead, Kaylee is
purchasing a fat pig's ear that was wiggled at her by the peddler. I watch her conduct business, refusing to take part. She hasn’t
learned numbers yet, so it takes a little time for her to figure out
what the man is saying. Unfortunately she is successful in her
purchase and we walk home, pig's ear in tow. But no mushrooms.

That’s the last time I take her out for some culture.

Last edited by amanda : 10-11-2002 at 12:33 AM.
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