We are still in Hengshui (the small town.) I have heard “Its a Small World After All” at least a half a dozen times not. It seems the spray truck goes out in the early morning and in the evening, while the water truck goes much more often. The local street sweeper peddle little orange bicycle carts and sweep the street by hand. It may be the cleanest street I have ever seen. We will be visiting another farm today owned by the same company as the one yesterday. I had a chance for a very short walk through the neighborhood yesterday afternoon.
I am a novelty here. When I am with the gang people notice me, but when walking by they really notice me: double takes, some polite stares, wide eyes. Kai says many of these people may have never seen a caucasian before, much less a wrinkly white guy with a cow hat (OK he didn’t say that part.). It is pretty funny. I came across this scene just down the block:
I watched for a while until I figured it out: a day care center. It was pretty cute because almost everyone picked up their kids with a scooter. Some kids rode on the back, but the really small ones were gently placed in front of mom or dad looking over the handlebars, and off they went, soundlessly. I seemed to be causing a bit of discomfort among some of the parents but I still wanted to watch. I backed up a step and almost touched a bumper of a car right behind me. Enthralled by the scene, I did not hear it. I turned around and saw a police car. Hmmn…The driver did not look like my friend. For just a brief moment I considered starting a conversation about police racial profiling, but wisdom got the better of me. This is China after all… So I have him a big American Smile, and with a tip of my cow hat, I walked away. He did not follow me. Only a few steps later I found another daycare. All of a sudden a little girl, maybe 3 years old, looked up at me and said in very clear English, “Hello”. It was so cute. She obviously thought I was someone who would understand English. I gave her a big smile and a wave too.
Later Kai explained that children typically attend preschool from ages 3-6. Younger children are often taken care of by a grandmother. It is almost “impossible” for a woman to have another child, since she would have to quit work and Grandma is apparently often not too keen to take care of kid # 2. Parents pay for day care; Kai pays $500 per month, “very expensive!!”, in Beijing. Once enrolled in elementary school, the government pays the costs, except for books and supplies. After high school there are technical colleges offering degrees in less than 4 years and colleges and universities. Prospective students must take an exam to get accepted. Only about 10% of students go to a 4 year college or university. There is also something called a “technical high school”, but I couldn’t understand what exactly this is and how it fits in to the whole scheme. Regarding veterinary medicine; there is no post bachelor’s program. “Veterinary medicine” is mostly a technical degree and could represent minimal training. I notice this on the farms. The “veterinarians” I deal with do not seem to have a lot of knowledge about anatomy, physiology, pathology and that other fun stuff. In fact, some of the herdspersons I work with in the US probably have a better understanding of veterinary medicine than the veterinary managers here.
Our crew of five went out for dinner and were joined by one of the managers from the farm we visited and two of the managers of the farm we were to visit the next day. The whole group seemed to be pretty good friends. There was a lot of laughing, toasting, and chatter. The meal was of course, a bunch of courses including a shrimp dish, a pork dish, some vegetable dishes, and this:
It kind of looked like….. carp. Yes, it was carp. I remember eating smoked carp as a child, which was mostly OK if you did not eat too much, but cooked carp is something different. It was not too bad, rather fatty, but I would not go out of the way for it. I explained that in Minnesota we really did not like carp. In the land of 10,000 lakes people love to fish, but the DNR only lets you keep a few of them. Walleye: maybe 2; Northerns: maybe 4, etc. But for for carp: no limit. In fact the DNR wants you to take them. You can spear them, hook them, snare them, net them, shoot them, even run over them with your SUV. They don’t care. They though this to be strange, since they eat a lot of carp. I also told them about the Big Head Asian Jumping Carp that are making their way up the Mississippi and how everyone was really sad about this. And that one could get hurt when hit by a jumping carp while riding in a speed boat or water skiing. They had heard of this, but did not seem to want to take any responsibility for the invasion. Hao informed me that in China, a jumping carp is a good sign, brings good luck. If you see a jumping carp you are happy. The higher the jump, the happier you are.
The other interesting food was this:
Yup. A chicken leg. A cooked chicken leg. On my plate. It was served in a kettle with some sort of dark broth. You could see an occasional claw/nail/toe sticking out of the broth, so it was easy to diagnose the ingredients. I wasn’t quite ready for this one, but I really did not want to offend, so I just told myself that really, a chicken leg is just another wing that did not quite fully evolve. I like chicken wings. Everyone was staring. Pressure….. I watched Hoa pop one end of his into his mouth like a corn dog, so here goes… I just put one of the digits into my mouth and sucked. In case you are wondering chicken legs are mostly skin and bone. The skin is pretty fatty, which I could do without, but I manage to suck in one entire digit, after which I politely spit the tarsal and metatarsal bones onto my plate. By the way, typically what one gets for dinnerware is a small, saucer sized plate, a very small, teacup sans handle, another slightly larger cup without a handle, a small bowel, and a soup spoon. My plate usually gets full of bones, skins, shells and other offal, so it make it hard to find room for real food. It is apparently OK, however, at least in my crowd to just put all the byproducts on the table and keep your plate available. I didn’t really feel comfortable doing this however. The bowl is used for soup, or any of the entrees, especially the ones that might be more running or have small particle, but it seems to be OK to use the bowl and the plate more or less the same way. Most of the restaurants seem to have separate rooms with tables for 10 -12. There is almost always a spinning glass top that is about 12 inches less in radius than the rest of the table. That is where your plate and utensils live. It is a great system for group dining. Our room was on the second floor, which too, seems to be common. I took a picture out of the window.
The guys speculated that the lower buildings in the center were at one time a village, and that the city grew around it. In 1990 there was a government decree that allowed private developers to build structures on government land for sale. So the tall buildings in the picture were build by private investors and then the units were sold to individuals. (I am not sure how renting works.) The law gave the developers a 70 year lease on the land. Nobody knows what will happen when the 70 years is up, but since that is still at least over 40 years away no one is too concerned and they are building buildings like crazy.
Kai and I left early because we had to work on my new presentation, but the gang was sure having a good time when we left. Another dining practice seems to be for your server to bring the total projected amount of beer the group will drink to the room. Ours set a full case in the corner. Nobody seems concerned about keeping it cold, but that does not, after all, surprise me.
I alternate between a almost decent night’s sleep, rising around five, with rotten nights. I wake every night around midnight to 3 AM, on good nights I eventually get back to sleep, on rotten ones I don’t. To rub salt into the wound are the robocalls. They now come from about 1 AM to 4 AM. Apparently the IRS is still after me, my social security pension, is in jeapardy, my car warranty is about to expire, my credit has been approved, and more bad stuff, even while I am in China. Last night was a rotten night, so I am dog tired. At 9 pm this is good, because tonight will be a good one.
May all of your carp jump high.