Notes from Shanghai: Of bald heads and bold meal choices

2010-05-15 12:51

China diary: Day 1

When I told people

I would be visiting China, the warnings came thick and fast; mainly about what a

rare sight black people are here and how I should be wary of what I put in my


Well, after my first day and first authentic Chinese meal I am

happy to report that I have seen no fewer than two other black people. And there

wasn’t a trace of a dog’s or a cat’s hair in my food. Victory!

There are a couple of things I am having issues with, though.

First, the people – especially those working at the airports – need

to chill out a bit and learn to smile.

Coming from a land of many smiles and a

willingness to help, I find it slightly off-putting that some people can’t

muster even a “hello” and a slight stretch of their facial muscles.

The staff at Hong Kong Airport had me puzzled as a result, but

those in Shanghai took it a step further – they nearly turned me back because

they believed I didn’t look quite like my passport picture.

I guess that’s what happens when you gain a few kilos and shave off

your hair.

Speaking of which, my bald pate seems to be a source of endless

fascination for the people of China.

They try not to stare openly, but can’t

seem to help themselves.

If I wasn’t so gifted in the cleavage department they

would probably call me “Mister”.

My great plan to venture out and walk the streets was thwarted when

this supposedly hot city was turned into a rainy, foggy mess.

Trying to negotiate a taxi and a trip outside the hotel proved

rather difficult, and with jet-lag setting in at a furious pace the fight went

out of me.

Tomorrow, though, is another day.

For my meal I decided to try something called the Taste of

Shanghai, which consisted of a few mini dishes.

There was the bean curd and shepherd’s purse soup, which I got used

to after a couple of mouthfuls.

The sautéed bran dough and black mushroom fungus

was surprisingly tasty and was the only dish I finished.

The fermented glutinous rice with rice balls tasted like peanut

butter wrapped in raw dough and plonked into a bowl of warm sugar water with


It took supreme mental strength to refrain from spitting out the only

mouthful I had.

As for the water shrimp and sautéed pork … well, that’s an

acquired taste.

I have finally managed to buy a ticket to the Shanghai Expo and

book a taxi, so I’ll be jumping right into the thick of things.

Who knows, I might even find a stall that sells scorpion on a

stick, and try out the night life.

Oh, the anticipation!

Until next time…

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