Wednesday, June 6, 2007

American Food...Need I say more???

We began today by visiting one of my favorite towns thus far. It was a town that is considered by Chinese Standard as a middle-class town, but can guarantee you they in no way resemble what would be an American middle class town. This particular town is somewhat touristy in that it represents what a Shanghai town looked like in the 1920’s. in the 20s, China was welcoming foreign visitors so this street had different building styles (Muslim, Western, Spanish). On the street we visited a Christian church that was still in operation today. This village is also somewhat of an “art district” so with free time to shop we walked around the area to see what the locals had to offer (i.e. look at the picture below of the man painting me a picture on the spot).

Afterwards we went to local grocery market. What a sight to see (and smell). Chinese people like their food fresh, so it’s common for them to attend markets like this in order to get their vegetables and meat for the day. Of course, they don’t eat the same things as us (chicken feet, eels, little white fuzzy birds) so I think we were all in shock. They had tank after tank of live sea creatures (flounders, crabs, lobster). But it doesn’t matter how many pictures I were to put up there is one thing I wouldn’t be able to show you…the smell. It was so pungent. The funny thing was, I think the shoppers and workers there were just as shocked to see us there, than we were shocked at the products they were selling. This particular market is not a place that tourists go (in fact we may have been the first ones) so we had quite a following of locals as we perused their products.

Around 2:30 pm the professors gave into the peer pressure and gave us a few dollars for dinner and kicked us off the bus in the middle of Shanghai (aka…asked if we wanted to be dropped off in a shopping area) and told us we were on our own for the rest of the night. Since we all divided in to our own little groups it’s hard for me to sum up what we all did, but I’ll tell you what it was like for me and guarantee you it was similar to what everyone else did…

There was 2 things I was specifically looking for…American Food and Good Shopping Deals!!! The shopping district they dropped us off in wasn’t exactly known for great deals, so our first task was to get back to Nanjing East Road (a road we went to earlier in the week that is full life and good shopping) where we could try our hand again at some bargaining. The only problem was that we’d needed to take either a taxi or the subway to get there. That may not sound like a big deal until you consider that we don’t speak a lick of Chinese. We decided to go the Subway route which actually went smoother than I would have initially imagined. We actually made it look like we knew what we were doing….

And then the best part! When we got off the subway there was a Dairy Queen. I don’t know if there if there have ever been four happier people. I enjoyed every bite of my Oreo Blizzard. After that little piece of heaven we walked up and down the street bargaining with vendors. It so much fun, because you ask them to drop the price and in their broken English they portray that you are breaking their heart, and then you work to convince them you deserve a discount. It’s a blast. In the end, it doesn’t matter how good of a discount you think you got, you know in the back of your mind that they got the best of you…but hey, if you both walk away happy (you with the product and them with the money) it just shows a fine example of capitalism at it’s best.

Now that it’s evening, we are all back at the hotel and sharing stories about the days events, eating Papa John’s pizza (which doesn’t taste the same as the U.S., but was still delicious) and getting ready for the presentations we’ll be giving tomorrow.
Here we are in the entrance of the old town. Jason, Roger, Joe and Alex pause for a quick moment in order to show their enthusiasm for the day's events.
This is about 10 feet off of the main street (but almost a a whole new world) and what was considered a "middle class" section of town. To get here we had to walk past the man in the front selling his beans and rice. The streets were so skinny. This was a spectacle to see.
Here is a group standing in front of the Christian Church we went into.
Yum...the meat market. It was funny to see everyone's faces as we went through. It's not a bad way to live, just different than ours. Just because it's not all packaged up in a store doesn't mean it's not good, but still, this was a tough place to be for our weak stomachs.
This man own a little shop in the art district. He has a book of Chinese words that he'll then take a calligraphy on the beautiful paper shown here. He had a ton of pre made exampled but I decided I wanted mine to say "family." Communicating this was not the easiest thing to do. We were running around on the streets trying to find someone to help us. Then we went into his store and he whips out a blank piece of paper and painted the beautiful piece right there in front of me. I had no idea...I thought he must have had some pre printed cards that he slapped a Chinese word on top of, and sent me on my way, but nope! He did the bamboo and the calligraphy right there in front of me...
More picture at the market. This time in the vegetables. The woman in the pictures was assisting us in our tour. I don't think she wanted to be in the picture, but it happened anyway.
This is Jeanette, Jessica and Derrick on Nanjing Road. It was a really pretty night, and was a good time.

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