Understanding China, One Blog at a Time

An American in China

Archive for December 4th, 2009

Hey Wanna Eat Tofu…

Posted by w_thames_the_d on December 4, 2009

Hey wanna eat tofu… I mean if you’re hungry and all…

Ok, sounds harmless enough right… well not really. This is a slang term for copping a feel, as in “Hey let’s go to the subway and chi dofu.” This term literally means to eat tofu ( Chi=eat dofu=tofu) but in common parlance it means satisfying your prurient, not gastrointestinal needs- to feel a girl up.

Yeah, you get on the subway and notice that the guy to girl ratio is about 70 to 30, and with good reason. If a looker happens to enter a section with guys, she is eye —-ed right away. Picture about 80 horny guys starting at her, she feels like those one soldiers standing in front of those dudes in the movie 300, yeah those ones,  a bunch of barbarians in animal-skin banana hammocks, on second thought dont picture it. So these women get enough of it on the streets and tend to shy away from the subways during rush hour, they say the groping can be pretty bad. I guess one could say that at rush hour lets not eat tofu…

Hey wanna take a ride

Posted in Cultural oddities, People | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Hot Pot!!

Posted by w_thames_the_d on December 4, 2009

Ok, we have all heard how good Chinese food is and trust me, you cannot begin to understand this until you have come. Today I will introduce you to quite possibly the finest food in all of China… the venerable hot pot.

As with all things China, it has a long history, but quite possibly no one is sure of its true roots. Legend has it that it came from Genghis Khan, but here most seem to think it is a Chongqing dish. (check out the Chongqing hot pot here).

First off I must say that I have been around China and in mho I found Chongqing to have the best, Beijing, however is no slouch.  So, you may ask , just wtf is hot pot…. Well it is simply the best most satisfying dish on the planet. Dont get me wrong, I have lived in Mexico and they are master chefs ( I have never been to Italy, so my apologies), but in my travels, Chinese hot pot is without a doubt the best food I have ever tasted.

Ok check it…

take the best soup you ever tasted, but dont drink it, just wait

add some secret ingredients that make your tummy go yippeee

add some more stuff


put some meat, seafood, garnishes, plants, veggies, all that you can imagine, onto the table


add it like a fondue…

sounds simple but it rocks

basically it is a big pot on the table, like a bubbling cauldron of tasty yum yum, and that is just the soup. To this you add whatever meat and veggies you want. Then you sit and watch and salivate like Pavlov’s dogs, until you want to  die. All of the Chinese around will be remarkably controlled, but you will straight-arm a cop to get at its goodness. So you chuck in the meat and whatnot, then you wait some more, try to act polite and converse with your friends but dont give a shit, just want that damn meat. Then, its done so you act like “oh, is it ready” then like Queequeg from Moby Dick, you harpoon it with the savagery of a tribe of Watusis.  All the while smiling at your Chinese friends.

Then just when you think the feast is over, they pour all that delectable soup from the pot into your bowl and you drink it. Yeah, all that delicious stuff, grease meat fat etc, that has been collecting in the bowl, teaming up to attack your taste buds and it is set free for you to feast upon… omg I need a break

Posted in Cultural oddities, Food | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Christmas Season

Posted by w_thames_the_d on December 4, 2009

Here I sit looking out at the beautiful Beijing skyline, absorbing all of the Chinese culture that I am able. In China they are pretty accommodating culturally speaking. They are playing Christmas music, have the appropriate colors, basically are doing their best to be international and celebrate this glorious holiday. The problem is that a Christmas in China is not like, say one in a Christian country. I have lived in American and Latin America, and thus have seen Christmas at its best; this will be my third Christmas in China.

This isnt to belittle China, actually kudos to them for the attempt, but in reality a Christmas in a non-Christian country would be akin to spending a wonderful Buddhist holiday in Letts, Iowa (more about Letts here). Which isnt to disparage Letts in any way shape or form, i just think if i am a practicing Buddhist, there may be better venues for a special Buddhist day.

Not many Christmas trees, yeah there will be turkey and stuffing and all the trimmings, but you just dont get the same feeling. Yeah there will be the Christmas music, but like a dub over on a movie, it can never capture the essence of the original sound track. Yeah the workers will wear red, and maybe some funny Santa hats, but in reality it’s just another day. Yeah they may try to smile, but in reality you could dress them in green and topaz, and it would be all the same to them.

Its fun to explore other cultures, sometimes its nice to be home.

Posted in Cultural oddities, Let me educate you... | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Scrumming to work

Posted by w_thames_the_d on December 4, 2009

Just took that 22 minute ride to work on the subway with thousands of my newest friends, it got me thinking… Did you know that American football games are 60 minutes long, but in reality there is only 6 minutes of bone crunching violence- the rest is basically set up and planning. Riding a subway in Beijing is like American football.

Beijing has about 8 subway lines but there are two main arteries, they are lines 1 and 2. Line 2 is basically a square around the heart of the city, and line 1 bisects it a little below the center. All of the other lines are offshoots of these two major ones. I take line 1 all the way to work, it is when line 1 and 2 meet that chaos ensues, thus the football analogy.

I travel 11 subway stops, most of which are peaceful, the problem is the dreaded 3rd stop, Jiangwomen. This is a main crossing point for lines 1 and 2 and when the doors open, the ensuing activity approximates your average scrum in rugby. See, the actual prep work starts about one stop before, where the huddled masses begin to elbow push and wiggle their way towards the doors, waiting to be liberated at this juncture and go about their ways. This would be like two football teams approaching the line of scrimmage- all of the players look at one another, check alignment, call out signs…
Then, we slowly approach, this is like the quarterback and linebackers calling an audible. Last minute adjustments are made, people change their minds, look for a better spot…
The doors open, this is what I would like to term “looking into the mouth of the beast”. It is at this moment that all of the strengths and weaknesses of mankind are exposed. It is like that scene in Night, by Elie Weisel, where the guards throw bread scraps to the starving Jews who fight, father against son, brother against sister, for the little morsel. That is what happens when the doors open- the rush of humanity is impressive. Basically those leaving have the right of way, but those who wish to enter, resemble the bulls of Pamplona before they open the gates, their nostrils flare and they are wide-eyed.

This is the actual play in football. In football there are 22 men who potentially can bang into each other, curse, shove and throw each other about. That is what happens at this stage. Those entering wait for the passengers to leave, and typically they do, as quickly as possible, and then comes the flood of humanity. The new entrants lower there shoulders and literally push the young the old, the women and men, and vie for a precious spot. I will video this event as it is captivating.

Funny thing is that just like American football, although the violence when it transpires, is intense, there is an emotional down time just after. Thus, between stops there is an eerie calm, just like a football huddle as we all prepare for the next onslaught.

Posted in Cultural oddities, Let me educate you..., Subway | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »