I’ve not written for a week as I have been sick with a cold. Geoff visited our local pharmacy where the proprietors have a good grasp of sign language and seem well able to meet our needs. He brought home some “nasal dripping” pills and something else that had some paracetamol and something else in it; suffice to say that after 5 days, I am essentially recovered with only a scratchy throat to get over.
Last night, we took the bus downtown where we discovered Houcaller Steak House. Well, were we pleasantly surprised! We both ordered a “set meal” of Brazilian steaks with peppercorn sauce, mashed potatoes and the finishing touch, a fried egg. Included also was a glass of cold tea, a bland soup, terrible coconut bread and a fruit buffet for dessert, none of which we ate. The main meal was great! It was served on an iron hot pan set on a wooden platter, the kind we get in BC when we order fajitas (served by a sixteen year old idiot who kept saying “hello” everytime he passed the table). We were delighted to have the meal arrive piping hot; we actually had to let it simmer down a bit before we could eat it. The steak was tender and tasty, the mashed potatoes yummy! I’m guessing that the egg is simply broken on to the pan after all has been plated. By the time it arrives at your table, it is perfectly cooked sunny side up.
Rather strangely, wine was included in some set meals. A glass of wine. None of the servers spoke English, so we think what happened when we asked for two glasses was that they divided one glass between us and brought out two very small amounts of wine in each glass. We ordered a second and got the same treatment again. The total bill: Y158 or $26.30. Such a deal.
Later, I purchased a pair of slacks that had to be taken in at the waist. We were told that they would be ready by 10:00am the next morning. Sure enough, they were ready for pick-up when we arrived today. Can’t beat that service! We had quite a fun time with the clerks as none of them were fluent in English. Once the deal was done, they rushed to get their cell phones to take a picture of me with them. I towered over the little clerk and all of them giggled like crazy.
For breakfast today we ate at a street kiosk–I have already forgotten the name of the food but basically it’s like a fried chappati wrapped around a fried egg and bit of chicken. It’s pretty darn good and may replace the Saturday black bean scone and latte at Starbuck’s. We discovered it last week at school when we saw a few of the kids from our classes were wolfing it down for dinner instead of the cafeteria fare; they had bought it from a vendor through the fence. He sets up shop with a hot cooking surface and makes them to order, hot sauce or not. Yum yum! However, it is verboten! They are not allowed to buy from the vendors, but apparently, neither kids nor vendors know this rule. We regularly see kids at lunch hour munching on the forbidden snacks and fruit that they buy this way. I can’t say that I blame them as the food in the caf is bland and boring. Every day, it is virtually the same. Add to it that by the time we get there, later than most, it’s also cold. Not the greatest.
We continue to be endlessly fascinated by the traffic here. We are less gob-smacked than when we first arrived but it still never ceases to amaze. Today we rode the bus downtown. A particularly aggressive driver was at the wheel which means that one has to be prepared for incessant horn honking and treacherous, hair-raising maneuvers. For example, approaching an intersection, the driver pulled out into the on-coming lane, passing by 5 or 6 cars, in order to turn left, which he did while the on-coming traffic was entering the intersection. Honking the horn seems to be the equivalent to saying, “coming through, out of the way.” Astoundingly, in cars drivers simply lay off the gas, let the bus pass, then move into traffic; scooters brake and scatter. Seemingly, no one gets annoyed. After our shopping expedition, we took an electric Tuk Tuk to Auchan, our favorite grocery store. I was not entirely thrilled to be going that far in a Tuk Tuk but the bus that we were waiting for arrived too full to take on any more passengers and after missing half a dozen cabs, we decided to make the best of it. It was fun actually. The good news is that they can’t go very fast and the drivers know their place in the hierarchy of the road: buses first, cars second, next motorcycles followed by scooters followed by Tuk Tuks, then bicycles then pedestrians. Pedestrians are always last and better not mess with the order of things. Our friend Al says, at the crosswalk, look 3 ways, which is too true. Expect vehicles to enter the road from any direction, sidewalk or space. It is not in the least bit unusual to see cars driving the wrong way into on-coming traffic or to have cars cross over into the turn lanes and through-lanes as they are making left-hand turns. It is also not unusual to have a taxi or car pull up into a left-turn only lane but then go straight through, moving over into the right to cut off the through traffic. In short, it is nothing short of insanity. How it all works, I think, is because the Chinese do not have the same sense of “the rules of the road” as we do. They don’t get angry when people move up in the merge lane, “budging” as kids would say. It’s just the way things are done. Drivers merge about 80% of the time. In roads with many lanes of traffic, they just hog the center line and honk, then pull over. The guy next to them better slow down and give way or he’s going to lose a fender. Everyone does. Move, that is. No one gets mad; there is no sense of road rage, or if there is, it is taken care of by the blaring of horns. There are only traffic lights and no stop signs in uncontrolled intersections, just horn-honking.
(Ed. note: Now although this comes from Ed., it truly comes out of a conversation with the blogger. We watched this person walk ahead of us today, and the blogger commented that in Canada, this individual would be considered a lady of the evening. To be fair, this one is quite tame. Can anyone out there say 8″ skirts? We then went on to comment that since most young women dress this way, we don’t really know what such individuals would look like here – perhaps they dress like Terry and that is why she gets so many looks.?!)
From Auchan, we took a cab home. Our Chinese must be improving because the driver knew immediately the way to Chun Xiao Yuan. Tomorrow night we are cooking a belated Thanksgiving dinner for our teachers, Puneet and Wes. We will be making do as there is no turkey or even a whole chicken, but it will be as close as possible to a Thanksgiving meal. We do give thanks, for our time here, our new friends and our much-loved family, friends and acquaintances back home. Thanks for continuing to follow the saga of our Chinese adventure!