Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Shrimp With Sprinkles

(a picture of the Chinese museum near my hotel)

I woke up early this morning to catch a flight to Seoul, South Korea so I could renew the stay duration of my visa. It makes me feel so international and cultured to be able to say something like that. It was definitely more of a hassle than an adventure, but it did offer me a few precious moments (oh… I loved those figurines) of Facebook access. And for that, dear Seoul, I am extremely grateful. If you’re my friend on Facebook you probably noticed the flurry of comments I threw out in a matter of 45 minutes or so. I was just so excited. I still haven’t figured out the trixy way to get onto Facebook in China, but I hear it’s possible. I’ll do some research and see if I can’t make that happen. In the meantime, I’ll just have to let today’s fix hold me (and you) over.

I was the only white person on both my flights to and from Seoul. I’m growing more accustomed to this trend, but it struck me while the flight attendant was going through all the safety & flight info that her switch from speaking Chinese to English was done just for me. I was the only person on the flight who needed her to do her schpeal in English. I felt so cared for. Now granted, she also had to do the schpeal in Korean, but if I had not been on the flight, she would not have needed to do it in English. I had an entire airline catering to my needs today. How cool is that!!? Or entitled…


And in case you’re wondering… yes, China did let me back in. Thank you, China.

After landing in Qingdao I decided to grab a taxi, rather than take the bus. I can’t say why, but I chose to sit in the middle of the backseat so I could see the road. Bad choice. My driver was a maniac. He was weaving in and out of traffic, driving on the wrong side of the road. And I’m pretty sure that he took the sight of brake lights as a personal challenge. The man didn’t slow down… he sped up!! Faster and faster until he found a tiny, little pocket to fit in. I found myself doing the parental slam on the “air brakes” move in the back seat.

Several times I had to cover my eyes or turn my head and look out the side window because I was certain that carnage was in my near future. At one point he slammed on the brakes so hard that I nearly smashed my face into the bar-barricade between the front and back seat. And seatbelts were not an option because they were missing. “Safety First” is NOT the motto of drivers in China.

The thought did come to mind though, that some boys would really enjoy driving in China. My brother, for example. I think he would totally love the chaos and competitiveness. You have to be quick and aggressive and unafraid to use your horn or flash your brights. And you have to be good at spotting random pedestrians weaving their way through traffic (it’s like Frogger, but with people). Some drivers aren’t cut out for this kind of driving… they were the ones exchanging insurance information with other bad drivers right in the middle of all the traffic (we witnessed four accidents from the airport to my hotel).

Hungry, and thankful to be alive, I arrived with a friend at a lovely restaurant near my hotel. Rather than look at a menu from the table, at this restaurant they have you walk around to look at pictures and “live” samples of your dinner options. Because Qingdao is a coastal city, seafood is in abundance at nearly every restaurant, and it was definitely not lacking at this one. The difference here though, was that you see the picture of your entrée next to the creature they’re about to kill to make it. I guess that’s how you know it’s fresh! It would have felt like a fun trip to the aquarium, but all the death made it kind of a downer. Any hint of childhood delight leaves when you know that Mr. Bullfrog is going to be in someone’s stir-fry any minute.

So, I pointed at a few pictures of dishes that looked good and left my friend to do the ordering. He’s typically done a pretty good job of ordering things that I like, and I’ve been extra brave to try some of the more challenging dishes I’m presented with (jellyfish, sea cucumber, pig’s feet… I put it on my plate, but didn’t eat it… and I did not eat the fish eye I was offered the other day). But when our server brought our selections to the table, one dish required a double take. “Are those rainbow sprinkles atop what appears to be fried shrimp?” Hm.

The answer:
Yes, yes they are. And that’s watermelon and pineapple underneath it with a lovely yogurt dressing. I was definitely skeptical… but you know what? It was actually really good. Strange (and festive), but good. I won’t try to convince anyone because I probably wouldn’t believe it if I hadn’t tasted it myself, but it’s true. Come to China and I will take you to the sad aquarium shrimp sprinkle restaurant so you can decide for yourself.


  1. Jaime,

    What a delight to read all your posts! You are such an extraordinary writer that you really make China come to life. Thank you for sharing your experiences with all of us who purchase foods in boxes and cans! Thank you for the courage to step out on this amazing assignment. Be Blessed! Marlee Huber

  2. I am laughing so hard I am almost crying, Jaime! I love picturing you with all of your food adventures. You are very brave...moreso than I for sure! The cupcake rainbow sprinkles are really festive. I may add them to my next lasagna or something. It's quite party like. :) We love you and miss you, but this is really fun to read about your experiences. Thanks for sharing! You are very talented as a writer so it feels like I'm right there in the middle of the room in that bed with you. That was such a fun story! Oh boy, such great times! :) Hugs to you!