Shanghaied – a story in several parts

“Do you know what this is?”
“A frog?”
Exasperated pause
“No, it’s not a frog, it’s a god of fortune.”
“Well, it looks like a frog.”

Yesterday afternoon, three students from Beijing took us to a tea ceremony. The frog (ok, it had three legs, seven stones in its back, and a coin in its mouth, but it still looked like a frog) had tea poured over it and then we all stroked it, to get wealth and good luck.

The ceremony was wicked, partly for the pomp and seriousness of it all (different teas have different pots, and different ways of being drunk – but always in three sips), and partly because we got to gabber away in Chinglish with the students. They were as keen to help us with our Mandarin as they were to practice their English, and fortunately were able to translate the tea lady, whose machine gun rattle was unintelligible even after we asked her to slow down.

The fact that we understand anything at all though, and that anyone understands us, has been the biggest high so far. We’ve been kinda learning Manadarin in a vacuum, and it actually fucking works on real Chinese people!! It’s so improbable that it almost feels like doing magic! Plus we know loads more than we’d reaslised, although we’ve come up a bit against the Shanghai accent (ours is Beijing and more shi than si) and one cabbie spoke proper Shanghaiese, which we hardly understood at all.

On the food front, our first night was fairly pedestrian – giant prawn balls filled with garlic butter (a Russian influence?), wafer thin T-bone steak and steamed dumplings, but last night was more advernturous. We had pig’s intestines (including arsehole – yum, yum piggy’s bum indeed), fried pigeon (whole, including head, which we both avoided trying) and noodles. Am looking forward to trying more, including goose web, which I’m guessing is feet – not a good place to be veggie though.

On the drink front, last night we crawled some of the French Concession’s coolest bars – espresso martinis in Cottons, the worlds silliest cocktail in People 6 (pics to follow), and more martinis in Face. We also had a drink in the Sky Dome, which is a very silly flying saucer on the top of a hotel in People’s Square, amd a drink in the bar at the top of Number 3 the Bund (which I learnt today is a Hindustani rather than German word).

Then we came back, got naked, and drank everything alcoholic from the mini bar. Oops. This morning I wanted to, but didn’t, drink everything non-alcoholic from the minibar – I left Jonty half so that he can indulge the same impulse when he wakes up, is that love or what?

Anyway, today we are off the the Shanghai museum for a bit of culture. Better go now and wake the boy. Zaijian!


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