Thursday, June 23, 2011

Fruit Salad for the Lao Wai soul

First of all, I love fruit salad. The season is upon us and I have made a batch of the sweet stuff no less than 10 times since my birthday. Delicious, healthy, colorful, fresh. Like eating a rainbow.

The more you make fruit salad the better you get at it. Your senses zero in on the important parts. You quickly learn that there is no room for bananas in a fruit salad. They soak up too much of the juice and they dominate the flavor of every bite. They are like a stinky friend in a long elevator ride. "I'll catch the next one."

Mangoes, strawberries, apples, cantaloupe, honey dew, peaches, nectarines. I would add grapes but they are a little too pricey right now. cherries are nice, but way too much work.

Watermelon is the lettuce of the fruit salad. It holds the whole thing together and keeps it from just being a large bowl of cut up fruit. Thinly sliced, it is easy to take the seeds out of watermelon. After the seeds are removed you may proceed with the cubing of the melon.

Finally, a dash of lemon juice. You want citrus, but not too much. Let's be honest, your going to be eating multiple bowls of the stuff until it's gone. There is no need risking a canker sore to put you out of commission.


It had been sunny for well over a week. plus 30 degrees Celsius. Beautiful stuff.


Yesterday it rained all day. Today was nice but, as we were driving to the park, it started raining again. I like rain, but I think that along with the rain I have started to see a few bad cases of "the grumps" here and there, and even all around the square.


So, let's conclude with a little bit of frustration. You might want to grab a bowl of fruit salad for this one.

Last week I was riding my bike through the campus. Suddenly, I heard some nice music coming from the far end of the square located behind the library. Well, I made a sharp turn, hopped the curb, crossed about 2 feet of grass and rode on the square towards the sweet music.

At this point I started to hear the yelling. I could tell that someone was very angry. Soon enough, I realized that the man was screaming, "Lao Wai! Lao Wai!" from the very bellows of his being. "lao wai" means "foreigner" in Chinese. So, I stopped my bike and turned around to see what all the fuss was about. The man, in his 40's, was standing over where I had cut across the tiny patch of grass. He continued to scream, pointing down to the grass like Jon Gruden might have done when pointing out a discrepancy with the referees while he was coaching the crappy Raiders of the NFL.

He screamed that I could not ride my bike on the grass. I knew this, though at the time I figured that it wouldn't be a big deal to cut through such a small section of it, and would most certainly not endanger any political ties that there may have been between my country and this beautiful one. I might have underestimated things a tiny bit.

Once I knew what he was talking about, I waved and called out "Dui bu qi", to him, which is "sorry". As I turned around to continue I realized that he wasn't finished with me. No, he was even angrier. I wondered what I was going to have to do to make this right. A public spanking? I don't know. Stranger things have happened.

In the end, the problem wass that I should definitely not ride my bike on the grass OR the square. The square in question is about 150 yards long and 100 wide. It is mostly cement with a fancy looking rock in the middle. Because of a lack of benches and tall trees for shade, the square is usually deserted. On this day, the only people I saw on it were the people in the choir on the other side.

So, needless to say, I was stopped again by the very angry man. It took me a moment to understand that I could not ride my bike on the cement. It took me longer to calm him down. Furious, he continued to berate me as though I was a 3 year old child. I held my own for a while, apologizing and explaining that there are not any signs prohibiting bikes on the square and that I am a foreigner and have yet to completely memorize the rule book of this country. On his part the cursing continued. I laughed a bit, which was not good.

I wanted to know what happened to him that day. I wanted to know why cement was more important to him than manners and courtesy. I wanted to know why this guy hated me for such a simple, understandable misunderstanding.

A couple of local guys I knew came up to see what was going on. I asked them why he was so mad. They simply said, "Because you can't ride you bike on the square."

Exhibit B

Today we had a little picnic in the grass behind our building. We had about 8 adults and 6 kids there. We had blankets spread on the grass and were trying to enjoy ourselves before a storm rolled in overhead. A few local people, as they usually do, stopped to admire the kids and guess what kinds of strange foreign foods we were eating.

After a while, one of the neighbors came up to us. He might have been in his 50's and he was out walking his dog. He went out of his way to tell us how rude we were being for having a picnic. That we were making a mess and that it was very rude. That we should not be on the grass wasn't really the point, as he said that it is fine that the kids play on the grass but that to have food on the grass is very rude and inconsiderate to the rest of the people who used the yard.

Time out.

First of all, there is not a lot of grass in this country. When someone plants grass they usually put up a cute little sign which translates into "We are tiny blades of grass, please don't hurt us". What they really mean is "stay the %@#* off the grass!". So, as it goes, there are little patches of grass in a lot of areas in this city that just sit there. The only thing you will ever see on a patch of grass are dozens of piles of dog crap. I joke that the grass is only for looking at and for dogs to crap on. So, when we went to picnic, and knew that there were not any signs prohibiting going on the grass, that the kids could play on the grass, that dogs could use it as a bathroom, we figured in our ignorance that it would be okay to enjoy what little piece of grass we could find that had yet to be defiled.

Anyways, it got a little weird. The guy asked where Dustin was from. He said America. The man asked if we would do something like this in America. He actually asked if we would have a picnic in America. Dustin said "of course" and the man laughed in disbelief. "Bu Ke Neng!" he laughed. "There is no way!".

Anyways, we packed up and got out of there. We were basically done eating anyways and it was starting to get colder out.

I wonder why these two men chose to yell and insult before asking politely. I wonder why they decided to be so hostile in such a simple situation. Maybe they had a bad day at work, who knows? But, the simple fact that we needed to dance around dog crap to eat our food and then have a grown man yell and call us rude for using the grass in a far less destructive way than most dogs would is something that I will ponder on this evening. Ponder I will.

After a few moments of pondering I realize that, at times, I am just as unreasonable as these.

But still...


Lois said...

... wow ... I LOVED the 'fruit salad' part ... the 'grass' part? ... SO sad ... LOVE you!! xo

Jojomao said...

The funny thing is that I have ridden my bike all over that campus and definitely in that square and I have gotten away with slacklining and lounging on those patches of grass on campus with other laowai and local people, as well, and I have never gotten that kind of reaction. That's a bummer. I still don't get why grass is equated to tulips in Qinghai. But I wonder if Chinese think we are just as strange when they come to our countries and their kids cant pee in public or their dogs can't poop on sidewalks?

jeff said...

I still avoid walking on grass when there is a path... China 1; Jeff 0.

Barry Gee said...

I bet they are just racist. And I am not trying to be funny, I just mean they probably see you and your white family, and think, "What an ignorant foreigner" and as they see you and think this, they get angry, so when they finally get close enough to start yelling or talking, it's all angry talk. Obviously I know a lot less than you about Chinese culture, but most of the Korean and Japanese people I came across on the street were incredibly nice and considerate, as if they were happy to see me visiting their country, where as you, in Xining, are maybe an unwanted sight?

Barry Gee said...

Also, you are dead wrong about bananas. DEAD WRONG. The primary colours of the fruit salad rainbow are in no particular order: Grapes, Strawberries, Bananas, Pineapple, and to a lesser extent, Kiwi. The first four are absolutely essential, though if you can't possibly get them, I won't hold it against you. The Kiwi is also essential, only just less than the others. Anything else is what I call "filler fruit". You can add all the melon you want, but it really just waters it all down into a weaker flavour. I understand what you are trying to say about bananas, but seriously, how long is your bowl of fruit salad in existence for? Certainly not long enough for the bananas to become even remotely brown!

Brett Gitzel 英 明 said...

I agree that it could be some sort of anti-foreigner thing, but it is definitely rare. The crazy thing is that I've never had a problem with a local yelling at me in 5 years until this last week with these two guys. Heck, I even threw a basketball at a guy.

It's mostly just a crazy coincidence that they both happened at the same time. My main problem is that these adults can't treat another adult like an adult.

I saw the guy that yelled at us again. He was walking his dog and looked to be upset at some kids playing in the yard. The guy just needs to hire a dog walker and stay inside for everyone's benefit.

I used to like bananas in the fruit salad, but they are too "pasty" and they do take away from the other flavors. Maybe the watermelon is just really good here because it goes great with the other stuff. Kiwi would be nice.