The past couple of weeks i have been going out solo for after work drinks. Last week when all the skimpy-dressed young girls starting playing darts and Connect Four and card games with the men sitting around the place it suddenly clicked that it was a hostess club. I never pictured myself going to a hostess club, but apparently i did by accident and liked it. I have more to write on that topic later. This Friday i skipped the bar to drink at home, so for a change i woke up without a blistering weekend hangover.
Saturday i cleaned the joint, did the laundry, did groceries, and laid out some roach bait. I swear, it just makes more of the fucking things appear. I know it's probably just the weather, but ugh. I hate killing animals unnecessarily, but i guess if i moved out and let them to it, they'd just cannibalize each other because there'd be no food any more, so it's not like these are animals with a lot of morals themselves.
Speaking of food, i can't get over how amazing the Columbian Exchange has been for global cuisine. This morning i cooked up what i guess is a fairly typical Chinese dish - dry fried potato with chili, Sichuan pepper and peanut. (I also cooked up napa cabbage, dry tofu, garlic, ginger and chili in rice wine and vinegar.) It's so fascinating to me that without America, there would be no potato, no chili, no peanuts. Sichuan cuisine would be nothing like it is today. Then for lunch i ate a big wedge of Chinese cornbread with peanut butter and some red and white dragonfruit. Without America, there would be no corn, (still) no peanuts and definitely no dragonfruit. And yet cornbread is a hugely popular snack from the steam carts here, and dragonfruit is sold everywhere year-round.
I love reading about the history/anthropology of food. There's got to be some great tales about how the Chinese picked up indigenous American ingredients and applied them to their own cuisine. Unfortunately the big Columbian Exchange dish every Chinese tries to tell me about is tomato and egg noodles, which is the blandest fucking thing in the whole Chinese kitchen. But they love it, it's like their mac'n'cheese. Without America, there would be no tomatoes, and Chinese bachelors wouldn't have a favorite comfort food that even they can cook. I wonder who was the first Chinese guy to take tomatoes and then make something so utterly white out of them. I mean, versus something like ketchup, which feels far more aligned with Chinese tastes and cookery to me. Though i guess ketchup did come from the Chinese kitchen originally, albeit via Malaysia and the UK...
Ah, i could nerd out on this forever.
After my lunch i decided to go for an adventure. I decided to bike out to 梅林水库 (méi lín shuǐ kù) which is about an hour away. It's the reservoir at the east side of the mountain park i used to hike when i lived over in Nanshan, and i don't think i've been there since moving over here to Luohu. I arrived hot and sweaty and already a little sunburnt, but that's exactly what i needed. It's been too long since i got out of my rut and zoomed down some new roads and greenways.
When i got to the trailhead, a street sweeper called out to me and asked me if i was Russian. What's with that? It didn't used to happen when i first arrived here. Or perhaps it did happen, but my Chinese wasn't good enough to understand what they were saying. These days at least once a week a random person asks me if i'm Russian. Is it because i speak Chinese better than most European and American expats? Is it because i wear beat-up old clothes and don't look rich? Is it because i am towering pasty barbarian, and the only towering pasty barbarians they know about come from the great white north? None of those explanations make any sense. Perhaps i remind them of a Russian celebrity or something, but since i am still procrastinating on the watching Chinese TV thing, i will never know.
Maybe i should just ask them next time.
I started up the trail and pretty much fucking died. Several times. Either i am totally out-of-shape again - despite biking to work and back every day - or the weather was really far too hot and humid to do anything as stupid as climb a mountain. It might have been a combination, because hardly anyone was on the trail. But, i made it to the various lookout points, and was gifted with one of the clearest days i have ever seen in Shenzhen. I felt like i could almost make out people climbing Tai Mo Shan over the bay in the New Territories. I really love the 梅林 (méi lín)/塘朗山 (táng lǎng shān) area, because it's smack-bang in the middle of all the boroughs. People refer to 梧桐山 (wú tóng shān) as the lungs of the city - it's the largest national park with the highest peak - but i think this area is the heart.
At one point i sat down and started snacking on a huge bag of lychee i had bought at the wet market in 梅林. And lo, i had a flashback. I don't remember much of visiting Hong Kong as a child - just tiny fragments of memories here and there. But sitting on a stoop in the sun, looking down on jagged hills and gleaming skyscrapers, the taste brought something back. Perhaps that trip to Hong Kong was the first time in my life i snacked on lychee the way people in Europe snack on grapes or something. Lychee is too expensive in most countries to gorge yourself on, but here i bought over a jin (500g) for about 2.5€. Since tangerines aren't in season yet, they're a perfect summer hiking snack.
I really need to visit that wet market more often. It's massive, and the fruit there is so much better than what Walmart gets in.
After my lychee break, i looped back round the reservoir - which by the way is totally dry now, i don't know what they're planning there, but they better fucking not develop the land - and then walked down the cobblestone road past the cemetery to that new area with the L-train and wild new cyberpunk buildings. The neat thing about where i live now is that it is right on that train line, so i just crowded in and did my daily flashcards and then rolled back into my house about 6 hours after i left it.
Now i need to try keep this feeling through the rest of the week. I have to stop letting work get to me so much.