Chinese Cuisine

It should come as no surprise to any reader that Chinese food in China is somewhat different from Chinese food in America.  I've been here almost a month now, and I haven't had one grain of rice yet, though I hope to rectify that in the near future.  The college has a cafeteria (several, I'm told, but a big one right next to our classroom building).  It's not actually a cafeteria, it's more of a food court.  That's what I was told, I haven't been there yet, because it only opened about a week ago (for school) and you have to have a card to eat there, which I'm in the process of getting.  The problem is, I don't know what anything is.  If I go to a restaurant, the menu is in Chinese, so I can't read it, of course, and if they have pictures of the stuff, I STILL don't know what it is, they pile so much stuff onto one plate.  So I've bought a lot of fruit, bread, eggs, and potato chips, and those have been my staples so far.  For the most part.  I drink a lot of herbal tea, too.

There is a KFC right down the road from the school, within walking distance, and I've tried that twice.  It tastes just like KFC in America.  The main problem with it is that I have to cross a wide, busy street to get to it, and that, almost literally, is taking one's life in one's hands.  The Chinese, with their new-found capitalism, all like to drive their new cars now, but none of them have learned where the brake pedal is yet.  So I make sure, when I have to cross the road, that there are 3 or 4 Chinamen between me and any oncoming traffic.  There's a Pizza Hut (and McDonald's) about 15 minutes by bus in the other direction, and I went to the Pizza Hut with another teacher last Friday.  I had some kind of spaghetti because I couldn't find "pepperoni pizza" on the menu.  They don't put less than 6 ingreedients on any pizza (and I saw one that had mayonnaise on it), so I just had spaghetti with bacon and black pepper and it was ok.  I'm not planning on making any regular trips down there.  There was also a bigger grocery store right by the Pizza Hut, and I found some American cereal, which I love, but it costs more here than it does in the states.  Anything imported to China is very expensive (please no comments about unfair trade practices.  Everybody, including the Chinese, know it).  My salary here is much higher than the average Chinese makes, but still lower than what I'd get for a comparable job in America.  There are a lot of small restaurants and kiosks near the school, and today I thought I'd try my luck.  I found one--it looked pretty clean, which I was advised to make sure of--and they had some kind of fried flat bread--it looked like French toast--and a weiner sitting next to it, so I pointed at both and ended up with a weiner wrapped in lettuce inside this bread with a little red pepper sprinkled on.  Not bad, actually, though it needed some mustard, something I haven't been able to find here.  It only cost about 60 cents, so if I die from it, at least I'll die cheap.  I was given a menu by somebody of a delivery pizza place, but the pizza actually costs about what it does in America, and I wouldn't know how to tell them how to get to my place anyway.  I live on campus, but I have no idea how to explain to anyone where I live.  If I get sick, I guess I'll call one of the administration people and they can call the hospital, yada yada yada.  I hope I live long enough for them to get here.  I haven't been able to get my depression prescription filled (I run out tomorrow), all the doctors in the nearby hospital speak only Chinese, of course, so this is liable to be an adventure.

There are people everywhere.  Even on this college campus, there are people just...walking around.  I mean, I see a lot of college students, naturally, but what are these grandmothers pushing baby strollers doing here?  Little kids running everywhere?  People just wandering around, or sitting around, or staring at me....People, people, people, stand in line for everything...well, I didn't stand in line for my French toast hot dog, and maybe that should have told me something...The introvert in me is having a hard time coming to grips with this.  But it's China.  At least I have refuge in my apartment.

And, in many ways, governments are the same everywhere.  Before I left Korea, I sent four boxes of stuff to the school here, things I couldn't pack in my suitcases.  That was over a month ago now.  Paju is about 250 miles from Dalian.  Of course, the boxes aren't here yet.  I could have walked the bloody things here by now...To be fair, the postal clerk in Korea did say it would take 2 or 3 months...for four boxes to travel 250 miles.  I hope I get them by this time next year.  Come to think of it, I hope I get them, period.  I did get a piece of mail from the states a few days ago, and the postmark said it took 3 weeks to get here.  A regular piece of mail.  At least it was unopened.

Come to China for a visit.  There's no place like it, that's for sure.