Shanghai-Part II
I finally got to old town. I found historical buildings converted to
house modern day stores, including a Starbucks and McDonald's,
wedged right next to street stalls selling foods on a stick and other
Chinese goods.
When in Rome, right?
When I saw the choices, my courage waned. I was not a Bizarre Foods
Queen on this trip. Instead I chose to watch while a traveling
companion did his thing. His choice-a bird looking creature impaled
on sharp choptick, head and all. He chewed in what seemed like slow
motion, and it dawned on me then--All the open space around us, the
kind of space that would normally be teeming with pigeons, was
totally devoid of birds of any kind. My stomach turned over and
excuse the cliche, but I really did throw up a little in my mouth.
He was eating the rat of the sky. Other tourists stopped to watch
the over-sized hairy american eat the unidentified birdie. We moved
to find a restaurant, preferably one that served food we could
recognize.
Up to now, we'd been getting by with the kindness of strangers. We
spoke no Chinese and read even less. How would we find food we could
recognize that did not come from golden arches? And then, Buddha
answered my prayers (or led me to food enlightenment). An english
sign glowed like an oasis in the desert. "Tourist Authorized
Restaurant." I was starving and at this point I didn't care what the
sign meant. I wanted food that had not been impaled and that no
longer had a face.We stormed through the plastic strapped doorway and
every chinese face looked up at us, then pointed upstairs. Was I
being relegated to the back of the bus?
No, not everything is racial. I was being directed to an English
speaking waitress.
If you want to call it that.
The waitress made sure we sat in a spot with a good view, but I
couldn't undertsand her english at all. And the "english" menu
didn't help either.
It was exactly like the chinese menu, except the pictures were bigger.
How, exactly, would pictures help if I have no clue what they
represented?
I closed my eyes, pointed, and hoped for the best.
I murmured another prayer as the joking words on my Chinese colleague
the night before echoed in my head. "Why do Americans have a problem
with eating dog?" she said. "You have to get over that pet thing."
The food arrived, hot, with no faces, thank goodness. How bad could
it be? On dumpling thing had a straw sticking out of it and another
type, filled with greyish mystery meat, squirted me everytime I tried
to bite it.
We laughed and muddled through.

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