Sunday, September 16, 2012

Chengdu Diet

When we arrived in Chengdu, tired, jet-lagged and semi-conscious, another American English teacher, Nancy, who lives in our building, invited us out for dinner.  She knew we wouldn't have any food yet or know our way around.  We gratefully accepted her kind invitation, and she took us, the Masons, and another young new English teacher, Jessica, to the nearest 'restaurant'.  Here is where we ate:

There is some kind of sign above the door with Chinese characters on it, but we couldn't read it, of course.  The plastic vertical 'shields' are tied in knots to make it easier to get inside.  (These are like the things you see at Costco, keeping the cool air inside the refrigerated fruit room.  Except about 10 shades dingier.  I'm not really sure of their purpose here, but a few stores/restaurants we've seen have them.)  Oh, and this is the entire restaurant--you can see it all--except the kitchen.  I probably didn't want to see the kitchen, actually.  We went in, sat at a table, and let Nancy order for us.  She ordered several dishes, and we each were given a set of chopsticks, a cup of tea, and a small rice bowl.  We had some tasty food, actually--pork with vegetables, a spicy tofu, stir-fried celery (or choy?) and some other vegetable dish.  I eagerly tried them all, giving up on any hope of trying to stay uber-hygienic.  (I did wash my hands with Purell sanitizer.)  After all, I'm living in China for a year.  I can't worry about every little microbe......can I?  You scoop some rice into your bowl, then top it off with whatever you'd like, taken with your own chopsticks from the "family-style" bowl in the center of the table.  There are no "serving spoons".  "Double-dipping" is not a no-no in China. 

Down the street from us is a major "tea house" area.  Chengdu is famous for them.  People sit and drink tea and play mahjong--until all hours of the morning.  On the corner of our street is a shop where tables FULL of sliced chopped vegetables on skewers are laid out on tables every day of the week.

Ready for Grilling

 I haven't yet seen what they do with these meats and vegetables, but I think they must purchase them here, then take them to the tea houses for grilling and to enjoy as snacks while they play mahjong.  You can see that nothing is refrigerated, or protected from insects.  (I must say, however, that there are very few flies and no pigeons in Chengdu.  All the other cities this size that I have visited have always been overrun with pigeons.  I imagine that if there were any once here, they were eaten during the Great Leap Forward.)

There is "No Smoking" allowed in the restaurants...supposedly.  At least there is a sign which says No Smoking.  However, if you look in the hands of the gentlemen at the table, you will see that the signs are ignored.  No one in the restaurant complains, and until they do, I doubt this "ordinance" will be enforced.
Fruit Vendors
Every day, we walk past these vegetable and fruit vendors who drive up with their carts laden with produce and sell them by the pound on the street corners.  We've enjoyed grapes, delicious watermelons, peaches (which have more of an 'apple' consistency), and bananas.  We take them home, soak them in a little water with bleach added, then peel them and eat them.

Residents of Sec. 2, North Jianshe Road

 We wanted to thank those who had helped us when we moved in, so we hosted a dinner with the Mason's at Peter's Tex-Mex Grill.  This restaurant is famous among the Americans and serves chips, salsa and quacamole almost as good as home!  But there is a price--it's quite expensive.

 Just above the bar in this restaurant, we noticed a curious sign.......

Families are Forever

                Apparently we aren't the first Mormons in the neighborhood!

 Things were going so well!!  Eating all these new foods at exotic places and feeling great.  Our school has several cafeterias where the teachers can eat.

Who-know-what types of cubed meats and vegetables, stir-fried in sauces of unknown origins.  The most important words in Sichuan China are:

              Bu  La

These words, when spoken with the correct inflection, mean

                    Not Spicy


  Fried rice dishes and bread/egg loafs.

Students come into the cafeteria in no sort of queue, go up to the chefs and point at what they want, the chefs pile it on a plate and punch the price in a machine (about eye-level in the front).  It registers the price, then the student places their pre-paid meal card over the scanner and it deducts the amount off their card.  There are several different areas where different varieties of foods are offered, including a drink 'bar' where sodas and juices are available.  There's a huge bin full of chopsticks--help yourself and dig in!

After two hours of my late class on Monday, we decided to try the cafeteria for our dinner.  We got some chow mein-type noodles that were very good, although quite greasy, a couple of chicken drumsticks that were also tender and good, and some sectioned, peeled tomatoes that the cooks sprinkled sugar on.  I used my anti-bacterial wipes to clean of my chopsticks and we thought everything tasted fine.

You know where this is going, so I won't go into details, but the next afternoon, I got hit with the big "D".  I was hoping my stomach was just upset because I had been stressed over my computer crashing and the internet failing in our building.  Not so--I got a full-blown case.  The next morning, I had two classes in a row (4 hours) and have sworn I will never use the squat toilets at the school, so I didn't eat or drink before I went to class.  BAD IDEA!!!  I'm so blessed and thankful that I didn't pass out during class from the dehydration I suffered.  It's really hot and humid here, and the sweat rolls down your back as you face your 50 students from a dais up front.  

Fortunately, we were warned before we came that Everyone Gets It, so we brought prescription medication which fixed me up within a couple of days.  The veterans here say you can't usually figure out where you got it (i.e., Kirk and I had the same food, so it wasn't food poisoning), so just hopefully you'll get over it and survive to get it the next time!  (Yes, they warn us that Everyone Gets It a few times a year!)  

The good side is, my clothes fit looser, so I've lost a little weight!  Welcome to the Chengdu Diet Plan!  

1 comment:

  1. You are doing such a good job keeping us up to date on your activities! Sorry about the big "D". I feel for ya!