Zhangzhou: The Post In Which I Eat Bull’s Penis
Yeah, knew that would get you reading! But you’ll have to wait for that story a little longer, dirty minded so and sos.
I want to give you all my rundown of “things that I’m not overly fond of” but I forgot to mention two very interesting things in my last post so I’m going to do that first. They’re probably the most interesting and I can’t believe I neglected them! Anyway, the night that Rachel and I joined up with Phil and Driscoll in Xiamen we had been invited to a government dinner kind of thing. Rachel had asked me to go with her so she would be alone, and having not been to one before, I obliged. What you may not know about Chinese government dinners however, is that they involve a lot of drinking. One way Chinese think is that you are more likely to do a business deal if you are drunk, and showing you can get drunk in front of people makes you trustworthy, or something. Now, excuse my French, but this is utter bullshit. If you’re drunk you’d probably be quite easily persuaded to do a business deal you may not have otherwise agreed upon if you were sober. As usual, I digress from what I’m trying to talk about.
Most government dinners involve baijiu at some point too, you know, that horrible, colourless spirit that’s 40% plus. Rachel and I were lucky in the fact that this government dinner was not too big, or overly important, more about showing our faces (another Chinese belief which I won’t go into now). She only knew one guy out of about 7 but that was fine. We were offered beer, which we ended up shotting (no idea why the Chinese love to do that) and they all wanted to drink with me, no surprises there. One excuse was “my daughter is the same age as you, I want to drink with you!” Sigh. Anyway, Rachel and I were offered food and had been saved a delicacy, which the men were clearly in uproar about. It was bull’s penis. Now I’m usually not one to turn down food, especially if I’ve been offered it but this did make me think twice. I did however, not back down and managed to find the most meaty looking bit I could to have a taste (this sentence sounds so wrong but I’m going to leave it in) and in all honesty it wasn’t that bad. If the dish had still retained the penis-like shape, then I would have probably and very politely declined, but as it was all chopped up, you couldn’t really tell it was that. Hell, they could have been lying to us in order to try and impress us! So yeah, that’s bull’s penis off my list, which also includes camel, stomach, chicken feet, duck’s tongue and duck’s neck.
We managed to escape the dinner and head to Xiamen without baijiu and I wasn’t drunk at all, despite all the beer shots I’d had to do. The men seemed impressed that I could drink and they had invited us to KTV afterwards. This is a slippery slope, as I’ve been told that some businessmen in China tend to have mistresses and I for one do not intend to be one of those.
And my second piece of interesting information is that I’m going to New Zealand for Christmas and New Year, 3 weeks in total! I booked my flights at the beginning of the week so I’m off on 18th December. That’s 248 days and counting…
Now, here’s what you’ve all really been waiting for. My list of “things that I’m not overly fond of” in no particular order:
- Being followed in shops– I love browsing around shops. It’s a fantastic pastime. Not so however, if you are being followed by the Chinese sales assistant with nothing better to do. They ask you if you want help and are desperate to sell you things. It’s not just foreigners this happens to, which is comforting, but it’s a pain in the arse and makes me want to buy things less, which overall, is probably good.
- Spitting –We all heard about SARS a few years ago, where spitting played a fairly large role in the spread of it and people were asked to stop. However in the long run this has not happened. Everyone does it, from the older generation to people my age. The guys always comment on a pretty girl, but always say that if they see her spitting it’s an instant turn off. Foul, foul and more foul.
- Children doing their business in the street – Now, I’m no prude here. You can’t be a prude in China otherwise you’d probably not get anything done, you’d never go to the gym because of all the naked women and you’d spend half your time worrying about touching things. Nevertheless, letting your child wee and poo in the street cannot be teaching them anything good. They have babygrows out here with slits in the back for number 2s to be done anywhere, and others with little holes in the front for little boys. It’s just odd to me, especially when walking down a street in Xiamen, a little boy drops his trousers for a wee and his (I presume) Mum begins to laugh.
- Being asked if I’m cold – Despite being in the south, it has been a little cold here as they do not have heating. Fine, I’ll just wrap up warmer. But as an English rose, when the thermometer tips 20°C plus, then I’m going to start taking these clothes off (metaphorically) and wear less layers. I have been walking around school in a t-shirt when the Chinese staff have been wearing jackets. “Aren’t you cold?” they ask. OF COURSE I AM! Because I’m an adult, I am incapable of regulating my body temperature with layers. Thanks so much for the advice!!! Seriously, I know they mean well but come on.
- Fried Tofu – Now it’s not my favourite meal, but I’ve only ever had it drunk as a last resort. The worst thing about this wretched stuff is the smell when it’s being fried. I don’t know if it’s the oil, or the tofu, but every fried tofu cart smells the same and they can’t all be using exactly the same oil so there is only one other correlation. It gets in your clothes and your hair and is just downright foul.
- QQ message tone – I’ve mentioned QQ before, the MSN Messenger of China. What I hate about it is the same message tone you hear EVERYWHERE! No matter whether you’re in the park or on top of HuaShan you’ll hear that irritating beep. People have it on their phones as they can’t live without it for a day. Just turn the beep off? You know you’re going to get messages, so why annoy poor ears around you?
- Having something thrust into your hand then being expected to give a donation – This really annoys me. I’ve had it happen in Paris under the Eiffel Tower with a rose being thrust into my hand (how romantic I hear you shriek! Sigh.), but that’s the only time in Europe it’s ever happened to me. You get street vendors who follow you, but physical “thrusting” is rare. On the other hand, it’s happened to me lots in China and all by “monks” so far. Well, that’s what they are dressed as. I’ve had a bracelet and a little red Buddha card “given” to me, before being asked for money. They guy who gave me the Buddha card also tried to dictate to me how much I should give him, by showing me the entries in his little notebook from other foreigners. Note that foreigners had been targeted. Anyway, I gave him back his red Buddha card and in no certain terms told him to do one. He didn’t seem too pleased. I’m all for giving to charity, but that’s my choice where and when to. Don’t approach me (this is going into “chugger” territory now – that’s charity muggers to you!)
- “Yellow Fever” – Now I do kind of detest the name, as it is a little racist, but it does accurately describe what most foreign young men I’ve met have experienced. Basically it means that they love the Chinese girls. Now, that’s OK, but it doesn’t work the other way. I do not experience this with the Chinese men I’m sorry to say (or glad, I’m quite happy being single right now thank you!) So this entry is more about life being a little one-sided for a foreign female.
- Car horns – I hear them daily, in fact I can hear them going off around every couple of seconds right now outside the window. It’s used as a “hello I’m here just so you know so get out of my way” in China, not a “FUCK WHAT THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING!” rare occasion in the UK. We use our horns so little at home, I’ve even read Facebook statuses where people have said that they have used their car horn for the first time in their life on that particular day. Anyway, I’m looking forward to the silence of the roads when I come home in the summer.
- Being called piào liàng– To those not in the know, that means beautiful. I do not consider myself to be in this category, but that’s not the point of this. I am called beautiful so often that it becomes meaningless. I’m only considered beautiful because I am foreign and white and therefore exotic. There are so many creams out here which Chinese women buy with the selling point of “whitening” in as they want to be whiter, whilst I want to be browner. I know I should embrace being called beautiful many times, but to be honest, it just sucks.
- Pushing and shoving, everywhere – This is especially pertinent on trains. We all have allocated seats yet people see the need to push and shove to get on the train first. We’re on it for 15 hours, there’s plenty of time to be spent on the train! Unless it’s all about who has access to the little tables in the hard seats, or the seats at the side of the sleeper corridors… On buses the exact same happens, but again, most of the buses I’ve ever been on have had allocated seating. Ridiculous. Queuing doesn’t exist here, Driscoll found out to his peril. We were having some free fruit at the hotsrpings and every time watermelon got brought out the Chinese just dived right on. Driscoll “queued” and there was none left by the time he’d got to the plate.
- There’s not really a number 12 – But I can’t finish a list on an odd number. Yes, all of these things are a little irritating during day to day life but if I hated everything so much then I had the opportunity to go home in February and I didn’t. I hope this makes for humorous reading though and makes you think a little about any annoying things that happen in your daily lives, wherever they are!