I really enjoyed getting to talk with all the Chinese teachers outside of school. During the school day, they are always on the go and incredibly stressed-out (they have a lot more pressure than the foreign teachers). The foreign teachers shared their Christmas and Hanukkah traditions (there are three Jewish foreign teachers on the first grade team) and the Chinese teachers shared their Chinese New Year traditions. The Chinese New Year is the most important time for Chinese people here and it is a time to be with family, feast, listen to fireworks go off for three consecutive weeks, shop…All the stores and tourist attractions are overcrowded and unbearable. The Chinese New Year is the time to get out of China! Good thing I will be in Japan.
A major topic at the dinner table was my vegetarianism. The Chinese teachers were so curious as to how I survive without eating meat. They simply could not fathom how I live in China and don’t eat meat. There was not one dish at the Sichuan restaurant that did not have some form of meat. Even the tofu dish was sprinkled with shredded pork. The broccoli was in a beef sauce. I thought I was about to eat fresh tomato soup, when Ms. Sunny stopped me and told me it was “congealed blood”…I threw up in my mouth a bit, then washed it down with some Crysanthium tea.
I somehow got full off of taro Juice (the purple juice in my picture below). It was DELICIOUS! I believe we have taro in the U.S., but it is sort of like a purple sweet potato. I also picked out all the lotus roots and fungus in the beef dish. I highly recommend trying lotus roots, yum. The Chinese teachers were not at all offended by my vegetarianism. In fact, I think 2 of them are now trying it out! Ms. Fu and Ms. Coco said at the dinner table “If we don’t eat meat, maybe we will start looking like you and get whiter skin.” So they want to try it…The Chinese are full of those sorts of superstitions. They have both been vegetarians for 4 days now and this morning they came into my classroom and asked me if their skin “looked nicer and more white.” I just smiled.
Although the Sichuan restaurant was a bit challenging to find vegetarian-friendly dishes, I have found it very easy to be a vegetarian in Shanghai. My school cafeteria always has vegetable options. Chinese food has plenty of vegetables (I eat lots of seaweed, eggplants, mushrooms, bok choy, tofu, beans, nuts). Speaking Chinese has come in handy because I can explain to the waiters that I want my vegetables prepared without meat. I am no longer vegan (avoiding eggs was nearly impossible), but I do try to stick to the imported organic cage-free eggs from the imported grocery store…Otherwise, who knows what you will find inside the eggshell! Believe me, it is worth spending $14 USD on a dozen high quality eggs. I tried buying 4 RMB eggs near my campus. Turned out to be duck eggs with off-colored yolks, 3 months past the “use by” date…Gotta love China.