Another week gone already! Time continues to pass in this weird way that it feels like I’ve been here for awhile, but at the same time it feels it’s passing so quickly. While my Chinese continues to improve in stops and starts, I now speak a highly entertaining and mostly functional mix of Chinglish with a side of charades.
On Saturday, there was a get-to-know-you event for students in our program, and Chinese students in a different program at Beida. Of course the first girl I got to know was the one cradling a Canon DSLR. I was so glad for the opportunity to meet Beida students; There’s so much to get done during the week that it’s already easy to fall into only doing things with people in the program. Embarrassingly, the Chinese students’ English was, in general, far superior to the American students’ Chinese, but they were very patient with us.
After the event, I and some other program students had planned to go to Wangfujin. It’s known as a touristy, more expensive area, but it’s also known for this snack street that we had to see. At the event, we met a man named Fish who was very interested in accompanying us. (Yes, Fish. Fish was the ‘English name’ he had chosen, in the same way 安丽 is the ‘Chinese name’ my AU teacher gave me.) We found a tiny place to stop for dinner—the eight of us took up half the seating—and because Fish was with us, ordering was, for the first time since I arrived, mercifully easy. Aside from noodles, which are usually a safe bet, Fish ordered a few sides for all of us to try, including sugared tomatoes, duck eggs and duck eggs and tofu.
I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed by some of my American companions’ obvious unwillingness to try even a bite. So far, my resolve to try pretty much anything once has only disappointed a handful of times (more on that below…!)
Afterward we wandered to the snack street, for yet more food. This place had an especially large share of culinary oddities. One of the first places we wandered by had scorpions, live scorpions, on a stick. (They fry them up to order, you don’t eat them live!) Try pretty much anything once, I said? Alright.
I have to admit, it wasn’t bad. It tasted kind of like a funky potato chip. I wouldn’t eat a snack bag of them, but it sure wasn’t terrible. Then Fish insisted that I had to try chou dofu, otherwise known as stinky tofu. (Disclaimer: Stinky tofu REEKS. There’s a street vendor that makes it on my walk to school, and covering my nose is half the reason I wear a scarf, other than the cold.) Try pretty much anything once? Oh my pride…
Chou dofu takes exactly as it smells (gag-worthy), and I would not recommend it to my worst enemy (if I had one!) I was so desperate to rid myself of the taste that I ate another scorpion—funny how our spectrum of what we think is weird shifts so quickly.
There was also tanghulu, which is really everywhere. It’s sugar-coated Chinese hawthorn (or miscellaneous other fruits) on a stick. That was delicious too, but you could feel your teeth rotting in real-time.