Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Chinese Barbecue and Encounter with the Police

Because I'm really starting to settle in here, some days are a great deal like days I have already written about.  For example, today I was tutored in Mandarin for about 2 and 1/2 hours (let's hope I retain some of this) and then I went to eat at my favorite restaurant.  Then, I think I took a nap.  All of the Chinese take noon to 2 p.m. off every day.  A few people back in the communication department at SUU would probably love the schedule here ;) After lunch, I bought some more Chinese candy for Jeanie (that's all she wants me to bring home) and then studied my Mandarin some more.

In the evening, I went with some new friends to a place near Hunan University up the road.  Every day, the Chinese turn this parking lot into a giant outdoor barbecue event.  I was amazed at how fast they constructed all these tents and put out tables, chairs, and grills.  Everything looked so fresh and delicious.  The way it works is you go to different grilling stations, pick out the food you want them to grill for you and they just do it right there.  I was privileged enough to enjoy some snails, sheep, eggplant, oysters (best I've had in my life), mushrooms, chicken leg, bell pepper, fried rice, green beans, and...ok I'll stop so you don't think I gorged myself.  Probably too late, right?

The most interesting part of the day involved the Changsha Police.  The American kid who lives upstairs from me (also named Kevin) realized once we got in the taxi to return home that he had left his cell phone on his chair where we were eating.  Apparently his phone cost 2,500 yuan (about $475).  He quickly got out of the cab, but when he went to our table, it was already gone.  The people that were still in the restaurant said that this old Chinese guy had been near our table and just left.  So Kevin looked around and easily found him.  He must have been about 70 years old with white hair and a cane.  He looked dirty and was probably scavenging for food because he had a plate of some chicken that we had left at our table.  Kevin asked the man if he had taken his phone and he said that he didn't have it (realize that I'm getting all this second hand through translation).  All I picked up was "Wo meiyou" (I don't have) and continued references to "shouji" (cellphone) but his tone was very defensive and he was kind of ticked off that a young American kid was accusing him of taking his phone.

So, Kevin called the police (number 110 here instead of 911) and they showed up after about 20 minutes.  During that time, the old man kept trying to leave and Kevin kept telling him he could not leave.  When the police arrived, about 50 Chinese people were hovering around to see what was going on and it really turned into quite an event.  The fact that there were foreigners involved really got everyone curious.  The police said that they had no evidence that the old man had taken the phone and therefore couldn't search him (definitely the right decision in my opinion).  The old man said something like "you can search me if you give me 30 yuan."  Kevin looked at the police and they told him, "if you want to pay him, go right ahead."  Kevin then offered him the money (which he borrowed from me and I hope I get it back).  Once he offered it to the old man, the old man smiled and said "no, I now want 150 yuan."  By this point, Kevin was getting mad and offered him 50 yuan (which he also borrowed from me).  The old man took the money and Kevin searched every inch of him, including his bag and all of his pockets.  Interestingly enough, he did not have the cellphone.  The old man started laughing at Kevin, who told our native Chinese friends to tell the guy to shut up (insert a mild profanity here as well).  They refused and seemed a little embarrassed by the behavior of the uncouth waiguoren (foreigner).

After the old man left, the police told Kevin that he had to come down to the police station to file a full report.  So, we all loaded into the police van and some of us were dropped off at the university and Kevin was taken to the police station.  I can now say that I've been on a ride in a Chinese police car.  I wanted to take pictures of the event, but I really did not want to irritate the police officers and more than they were already.

This is what most of the stations looked like.  All the fresh ingredients just sitting in baskets and you just pick what you want.

This girl in the green came up to me after I took this picture and said "Why did you take my picture?"  

We arrived a little early.  Apparently, they start setting up at 6 p.m. and serve food until about 4 a.m.

My new friend, Andy.  He felt really bad for the old man that Kevin was harassing and bought him a hot chocolate.

You can't go wrong with a big wok and hot oil.

There are meat skewers everywhere in this place.  I love it!  

From left to right are Sophia, Eric, and Emilio (from Costa Rica).  Those are the snails in the forefront.  You eat them by sticking a toothpick inside and pulling the snail out.  These were pretty spicy!

Favorite souvenir I've purchased so far.  A giant scorpion for my boy, Ezra.  I already showed it to him on Skype and he looked pretty excited.  I tried to buy one on Ebay a while back in the U.S., but they were super expensive.  This one is about 8 inches long and cost me 45 yuan ($6.75) with the frame and everything. And yes, it is REAL!

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