Weather and Weird Tastes

Happy 1st of September everyone! It’s been such a busy time but Shanghai has surpassed a heatwave and we are now enjoying absolutely fabulous weather! So a big 'thank you' goes to the G20 Summit that is being held in Hangzhou, a 2-hour drive from Shanghai. I have read and been told that factories have been shut down for the duration of the summit, local residents have been given an extra 7 days off work as to reduce traffic congestion and to make it even more enticing to help the government put on a good show, they get discounted tours to destinations outside the city which will of course lesson crowds. Talk about crowd-control; just get them out of the way!

These are just a few measures the authorities are taking to ensure an uneventful summit meeting while it may be interrupting the lives of thousands of people there, I know that everyone in Shanghai is loving having so many clear blue sky days. I know I am.

Fantastic weather

Fantastic weather

Apart from enjoying great weather, I have been continuing my lessons on Chinese culture. What I mean is that after so many years here, I am still learning new things about Chinese culture, beliefs and traditions.

It’s common knowledge that the Chinese go crazy for ‘exotic’ foods and medicines namely for health; shark fin, sea cucumber, blood of deer antlers, caterpillar fungus etc. I’m learning that ‘for good health’ is the number one reason why most people eat all this stuff. I have yet to hear someone say they eat it (whatever exotic species they are referring to at the time) because it tastes delicious and that’s why they like it. Hmm.

Top left and clockwise; caterpillar fungus, sea cucumber, bee pollen and birds' nests.

Top left and clockwise; caterpillar fungus, sea cucumber, bee pollen and birds' nests.

Since Q1 of this year, I had been sporadically taking Ikebana classes. My teacher is Chinese but speaks fluent English, Japanese and French so I learn in English but she teaches mainly Chinese students. What I love about my classes is that not only do I learn Ikebana but I also get to brush up on my Chinese skills with my fellow students. At a recent Ikebana class, we were chatting about our summer vacation and going around the group asking what was new with each person. One student, LQ, had started an import/export business of her own and is now importing birds' nests from Malaysia. She’s only just starting out but has already created a big demand for her product. For those of you who aren’t familiar with birds' nests, they are a delicacy here and prized for their health promoting properties. The nests are built by birds with their saliva, yes saliva, and cost around 2,500 USD per kilo. LQ asked if I wanted some but I sadly declined declaring that I wouldn’t know what to do with it! I really don’t.

Next on the weird and wonderful, our teacher, LZ, had gone to northern Sichuan and found some amazing local organic honey. No one here trusts the Chinese honey being sold in the supermarkets as they mostly comprise of sugar, water and colouring, so to find local organic honey was wonderful. Along with the honey, she also brought back pure bee pollen. I have never seen pure bee pollen before and was fascinated. LZ shared some with us and it was a nice surprise. I also wouldn’t know what to do with this product other than using it as a sweetener, but how interesting is that? Bee pollen!

Lastly, weird and not so wonderful. One student works in the medical field (I’m not sure as what yet, still working that out) and she was talking about how good frogs' uterus’ are for women combatting uterine fibroids. I understood the word frog when she said it but couldn’t decipher the next word until I pulled out my dictionary and found uterus. I had to ask her again if I had found the right word and she said yes. So to heal your uterus, you eat uterus’ from frogs. It did not sound appealing at all and I liked that my teacher was grossed out as well!!

So these are some of the local things that I get to learn about ;-)