Strawberry Fields Forever, For The Day

This blog entry about the events of Wednesday, April 28, 2010 was originally posted on April 30, 2010.

DAY 9:  Music from the street level was loud enough that it became within earshot, along with a Chinese voice on a megaphone seemingly shouting orders, like some sort of Orwellian sci-fi movie.  “What’s that music?” I asked Juju.

“Oh, that’s just the school,” she answered.  “They exercise.” 

I looked across the way and saw from afar Chinese children in matching jumpsuits marching in single file

And so began the morning of what would be a beautiful sunny day.

“WE SHOULD GO PICK STRAWBERRIES,” suggested Juju.  They were in season after all.

“Okay.”

Using the Chinese search engine Baidu — which has benefited from Google’s exodus of the PRC — Juju simply “baidu’d” a farm where we could pick our own little red fruits.  With directions in hand, we went out for the day’s excursion, puppy included.

“She’s scared,” Juju said.  “This is her first time riding in car.”

Qiu-qiu nervously barked like a squeak toy from the foot area of my passenger side.  I put her in my lap for a while, but she was more comfortable with her mama; she rode on Juju’s lap as we braved Shanghai’s morning traffic.  “This isn’t bad,” Juju told me.  “Sometimes you are [stuck in traffic] here for twenty minutes.”

We were heavy two more after we drove crosstown to a residential neighborhood and picked up Juju’s friends Jiun and Tino, the latter a jovial former co-worker-turned-friend originally from Taipei, who was always making self-effacing jokes about his weight.  A dog owner himself, Tino with the help of Jiun, took care of Qiu-qiu for the rest of the ride — although she fell asleep for most of it.  The drive along the Huqingping Highway to the countryside outside of Shanghai proper (but still in Shanghai province) was a fairly straightforward one, despite our wonderings if we had gotten lost.  Scenes of suburban stores, outlet malls, and a TV tower were soon replaced by a landscape of small roads and green farms.  It was then that we really got lost, but phoned the farmer for directions.  He said he’d meet us at a crossroads and guide us to his home, which he did.

“[Come, come inside,]” the farmer said in Chinese to my best estimation as we entered this humble abode.  “[Make yourself at home, relax, here have some cigarettes, just wait a moment, we will prepare lunch for you in no time.]”  He and the grandma of the house, along with some passing family members, made us city slickers feel at home on their farm, where they raised ducks for their meat and eggs, in addition to harvesting fresh green crops for consumption.  Soon we were served a home-cooked farmers’ meal of fresh eggs, fish with mushrooms, braised pork belly, vegetables, chicken feet soup, and of course, fresh sweet strawberries — which we all thoroughly enjoyed (minus the pup outside). 

“[It’s funny how he takes pictures of the food!]” said the grandma of the house to my best guess.  I reckoned that’s what she was saying because she got a kick out of me and my camera, with an infectious girlish laugh that everyone else got a kick out of.

“The grandma says I look like her,” Tino told me, laughing.  “Same round face, and [heavy.]”

She figured I was the only one that couldn’t speak Chinese there, and busted out the only English she knew: “HEL-LO!!!  HEL-LO!!!”  She laughed herself silly, except for the times when the camera was rolling

The mother of the house led us and: took us down ‘cause she was going to strawberry fields, where everything was real with sweet fruits to get hung about.  (Sing that à la Beatles.)  We each had straw baskets to fill as we wandered the covered rows of sweet red fruits, sneaking in tastes here and there.  Most were smaller, but a lot sweeter than strawberries I’d had back home.  The mother farmer had plenty of experience picking strawberries and would put handfuls of them in my basket.  At the end of our picking session, everyone double-taked at the fact that I had three times as many strawberries in my basket than anyone else (picture above).

“She kept putting more in my basket!” I claimed.  I had more than enough to go around; even Qiu-qiu had a few.

“Her poop’s going to be red now,” I told Juju.

The afternoon on the farm was a great escape from the bustle of Shanghai City.  We paid for our boxes (and boxes) of strawberries, and then said “bye bye” to the old grandma, who got camera shy again. 

“Hello” was uttered again on the way home when we appeased Tino’s shopaholic tendencies at the Hello Outlets, an outlet store mall much like any in the States, with the same brands: Calvin Klein, Roxy, The North Face, Armani, DKNY, etc.  We spent the rest of the afternoon there, shopping, browsing, eating Magnum ice cream bars and drinking Starbucks, and taking turns holding Qiu-qiu since no dogs were allowed in the stores — proving just how gay I can look holding a little puppy in a handbag.  The little shih-tzu entertained us as she posed on a pole, in a bag next to a Black Sesame Green Tea Frappucino (deelish), in a bag next to a Starbucks kiwi juice, and on a flower and butterfly of a big display promoting the India pavilion at the World Expo.  After fighting the inbound traffic with a dodgy clutch and finally arriving in the city, we gave her a bath and blow dry until she was as good as new.

“IT’S THE KIND OF PLACE THAT HAS NO MENU.  You just eat what they serve you,” Scott told me as all of us ventured off to dinner in two cabs across town in Puxi.  “It’s unlisted; there’s no way you’re ever going to find it.  It’s all word of mouth.”  I was hungry and excited.

Scott was the only white guy in what was an interesting looking restaurant, with a sort of karate dojo theme and all the waiters wearing karate robes.  The vibe was chill and relaxed — in a local hangout way, not a dog-in-a-handbag kind of way. 

“Gan bei!” Tino toasted, raising his bowl of dark rice wine — it was the first of several bowl-raising cheers of the night.

The rice wine was the beverage of choice for the multi-course meal ahead of us: steamed pork meatballs covered in rice, sliced tofu, pork ribs with peanuts and chili peppers, braised chicken (complete with head), steamed cabbage, green beans with pork and garlic, stewed fish — all of which was made delicious with Chinese spices and oils, and complemented by a bucket of white rice.

“In China, if you are served the chicken head, that means you’re fired,” Tino informed me over session of good times.

“You can give your boss a chicken head,” Juju joked.

“Gan bei!” Scott cheered, raising his bowl to the rest of us.  “Gan bei!”

We ate and ate and drank and ate some more.  “Now that’s some good bullfrog,” Scott said as another platter came over — a delicious frog dish that looked much more appetizing than that frog soup I had in Laos.

“Gan bei!”I toasted him.  When the dark rice wine was done, we were served a clear — and much stronger — one. 

“Oh, that’s the good stuff,” my friend told me.  He told me how the clear rice brandywine was the root of many a rough-morning-after for him — not that anyone ever thinks that the night-of-drinking. 

“Ooh, my ears are warm,” I said after the first sip.  I held my own though, at least for the time being, and continued to eat my way through Asia.

TINO AND JUIN hopped in a cab for home while us three remaining took another back to Pudong to do more sightseeing.  Scott pointed out the building that Tom Cruise flew off in Mission Impossible and the full moon that was peering from between two buildings.

We went up the towering Jin Mao tower for a nighttime view from above, a classy place that would be classier if you could simply take an elevator straight up instead of having to get off at the 56th floor, the lobby of the Shanghai Grand Hyatt, and going to another elevator bank to go up to the 87th floor.  We got a couple of drinks at the hotel bar, at the base of the Star-Wars-senate-chamber-looking atrium, as a cover band played their renditions of familiar songs like Donna Summer’s “I Will Survive.

I sat back, relaxed and sipped my drink with my Shanghai friends in the luxurious Shanghai hotel.  “This is so much better than being a dingy backpacker,” I joked with Scott.  He had been reading my blog (this same blog!) since the older (and less developed) entries of crowded hostel dorms, shared bathrooms, and early morning sounds of rustling plastic — and look how far we’d come, although the drinking never changed.

I don’t know at what point when all the gan beis of the night hit me all at once, but suddenly I got really inebriated and was wandering the Grand Hyatt like a drunken zombie.  I did manage to get some good pictures of the view before making it through the maze of elevator banks and back outside by following Scott and Juju.  Sobriety came back but only so slightly — just enough for the walk back to the apartment, but not enough for me to finish the night off with some hand-picked strawberries as planned.  It was a shame too because we had so many sitting in a box on the kitchen counter.

I’m so fired.


FUN FACT:

“[Have you eaten dog?]” Tino asked me.

“Yeah, in Guilin,” I answered, referring to the time I had it during my first trip to China. “In Yangshou.”

He looked at Qiu-qiu and wondered how I could have done such a thing.





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Previous entry: Dog Day Afternoon




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Comments for “Strawberry Fields Forever, For The Day”

  • Okay, I’m off to the N.I.Z. (No Internet Zone) now.  NIZBTGFW (behind The Great FireWall)

    Stay tuned!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/30  at  03:16 AM


  • nice…i’m hungry again…

    chicken heads be cluckin

    fixed some links.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/30  at  04:10 AM


  • Greetings from a place where there is Chinese-regulated internet, and twitter/facebook/etc is blocked.  In case you were wondering,

    Erik R. Trinidad checked into The Mountain Where The Girl Jumped At The End Of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (w/ Scott R.) (Huangshan, Anhui Province, China) on #Fauxsquare.

    MARKYT: Thanks for fixing the links.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/01  at  02:15 AM


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This blog post is one of eighteen travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip: Chinese Leftovers And Other Asian Appetizers," which chronicled a trip to Shanghai and Huang Shan in China, as well as brief excursions to Manila, Taipei, and Seoul.

Next entry:
That Jerk Jackie Chan

Previous entry:
Dog Day Afternoon




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