Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Shanghai, China March 1-June 19 Week 5

This week did not get off to a good start at all. On Tuesday, March 29th, Jing and I had lunch at a Chinese restaurant I’ve been wanting to try. Within an hour our stomachs were groaning and for the rest of the day we sat in my apartment in utter agony suffering from food poisoning. We thought about going to the hospital, but it was so bad at one point that one of had to use the bathroom every five minutes. We wouldn’t have survived the cab ride, let along the lines that would be sure to be waiting for us at the hospital to receive treatment and fill a prescription. In the end, what would a doctor prescribe for food poisoning anyway? In most cases, all you can really do is take it easy, drink water, and allow your body to get rid of whatever toxins you’ve ingested. The problem was that as of 8:30PM last night I couldn’t even hold down water, so I was worried that perhaps I would be dehydrated. I made a decision to try to sleep it off through the night, and if I didn’t feel better by the morning I’d go to the hospital (again!). Although it was a long night, plagued by pounding headaches brought on by dehydration, after 11+ hours of sleep I felt much better. I bought a sports to drink to replenish electrolytes lost and fasted for the day. When I went to the convenience store to buy this sports drink, I gave the store clerk a hearty “Good morning!” in Chinese. She looked confused and started looking through various cigarette brands. How on earth could I possibly screw up such a basic greeting? I managed to get across to her that I was merely greeting her and we had a good laugh over it. Later on, my Chinese teacher informed me that customers rarely greet store clerks in China, but I then realized the main reason why she was confused. I said “wan shang hao” (Good evening) instead of “zao shang hao” (Good morning)! 
In the afternoon I went for a walk along historical Fumin Rd. and found a number of interesting shops, including Madam Mao’s Dowry, The Pottery Workshop, Le mieux, and The Herb Store. In the evening, I met my new found friend James from the Johnson Club and his girlfriend. Before going to out to dinner we stopped at the restaurant where I caught food poisoning yesterday and politely attempted to tell them about what happened. Despite my best attempt to be tactful and diplomatic, I think they took it the wrong way. This was exacerbated by the fact that a customer overhead our conversation and shouted out in defense that it indeed was a good restaurant. I explained that I wasn’t angry or seeking to blame anyone, but rather that I thought they should know. In more ideal circumstances, it would have been better to speak with the manager of the restaurant in private. Afterwards, we had dinner at Sheng Sushi, where we told the manager of the store about my experience at the restaurant around the corner and catching a horrible case of food poisoning. He said that the same thing happened to him and he was out for two days! 
Although the worst of the food poisoning passed in the middle of the night, 12 hours after it initially struck, it took a couple of days for me to get my appetite back. In retrospect, I nearly fasted for half the week. When I started to eat again I took it quite slowly, avoiding meat, fish, and oily foods. It seemed to make sense then, to make a visit back to the Anna Maya’s on Dongping Rd. This time I was served directly by the kind owner, who made recommendation based on the unstable state of my stomach. While she was speaking English, in the middle of a sentence she said, “Chotto matte kudasai” (Please wait). I asked her if she was Japanese (in Japanese!) to which she replied, “Why yes I am!” After that the conversation was conducted in Japanese and it was–believe it or not!–such a relief to be able to communicate. I mean, we were communicating in English before that but I am usually reserved when speaking English to someone in a restaurant because their vocabulary and context in which they use English may be quite limited. Turns out she has lived in Shanghai over 15+ years and will be starting up a yoga studio towards the back of the restaurant in April or May. When I told her I played the shakuhachi she became excited and asked if I would play for the opening celebration of her studio. We exchanged name cards and I am happy to say that I made a friend. 
Throughout the rest of the week I tried a number of other restaurants in the area. I miraculously was able to get a seat at Goga (short for Golden Gate) and although it was the most expensive meal of my stay so far it was quite delicious. I had the lobster roll and grilled shrimp salad. It is owned and run by a hefty native Californian who looks over his kitchen like a hawk. Their was a a loud bachelorette party going on at the next table so it wasn’t exactly what I’d call a relaxing meal, but I suppose you can’t expect that in a restaurant this small (there can’t be more than 20 seats in the entire place). I also enjoyed lunch at Lapis Lazuli and La Boulangerie, a French Bakery on Yongkang Rd. At La Boulangerie I met another expat, Laurent Meffre, who consoled me on my experience getting food poisoning. He said these days even Chinese people are cautious about eating at just any Chinese restaurant. Unfortunately, standards of cleanliness in the kitchen are evidently just not up to par. Over the weekend I went shopping at Tianzifang (twice!) for souvenirs and small gifts for my friends and colleagues who I’m planning to meet in Tokyo next week.

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