The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Old Town Shanghai (Residency day 0)

I'm still digesting Shànghăi, possibly because it's all about the food. Take, for example, the family dinner my classmate Kyle invited me to. Including me, there were five of us. This is what Kyle's mother and wife prepared:

That doesn't show the rice, by the way. All of it was delicious. I admit, I didn't try the green jellied duck eggs, but Kyle smoothed that out with his folks.

Earlier yesterday he took me to Qībăo, a tiny oasis of old Shànghăi about 15 km southwest of the city center. More food, also a little outside my cultural expectations:

Those are roasted quails on sticks, which people eat like popsicles. Also popular in Qībăo were chicken feet, pig snouts, and something I couldn't identify, about which Kyle said, "You're not going to like that." On the other hand, I also discovered a pastry of swirled peanut flour (also available in ginger, sesame, and almond), which I want to find again. Then Kyle and I went down a dark alley and popped into a tea shop, where I learned how to make and drink green tea properly.

Armed with this knowledge, plus a few Yuan, today I investigated the Old City, and found Xie Hong You and his wife:

After forcing me to sample five different teas through unbelievable hospitality and graciousness, I finally surrendered ¥300 (about $42) in exchange for 250 g of tie guan yin Oolong tea, a smallish four-cup tea set with box, and assorted tea-making and tea-drinking utensils. We accomplished this with lots of pointing, gestures, a Mandarin-English pocket dictionary, and a calculator. Mr Xie seemed disappointed when I chose only the one bag of tea. His wife, I think, told him to back off the hard sell.

I'm sure someone will tell me I got ripped off. I don't think so. True, I didn't bargain too hard (they first offered the tea at ¥230, and I only had them down to ¥180 when I decided to ask about the tea set), and I probably paid somewhat more than Kyle would have. And it's kind of a plain tea set, clearly made for using rather than display. But in the end, this was a positive economic exchange for everyone: they got what they consider a fair amount of money from me, and I got something for which I would have paid a lot more than I did. Economic surplus all around. And now I have the proper tools for enjoying green tea.

Old Town wasn't all about the tea, of course. Mr Xie's shop is actually a bit outside the more touristy area, which looks like this:

I have a few more photos worth sharing, but those will have to wait for later in the week when I'm trapped in the hotel. Classes start tomorrow; the Culture Dash is Sunday (more photos likely); and from Monday until next Saturday I'll be spending about 6 hours a day in class and another 6 doing schoolwork. This is not, after all, a vacation.

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