Sunday, November 16, 2008

just what i needed

so i went shopping today. i was supposed to go running all over town buying christmas presents and feeling like i accomplished something with my life. but i wasn't in the mood. so i didn't. instead i went to one of four giant malls located at one intersection in my neighborhood in search of winter clothes. while i enjoyed exploring it, it wasn't a particularly successful trip and by the time i left empty-handed i was ready to head home. i knew, however, that come every morning this week i would be frustrated and annoyed at the lack of warm clothing in my closet. and so, with the best of intentions, i headed down the other side of my street, in the direction of a more chinese shopping experience. and while i never made it to the clothing stores, i did get exactly what i set out for.

first i popped into a hole-in-the-wall clothing store right in the middle of the craziness that is my street. it turned out to be mostly children's clothing and not even close to what i needed, so i continued on my way. which led me to a random fruit stand that i had never noticed before. for no real reason other than because it was new, i decided to stop and buy some fruit for the week. and found exactly what i didn't know i needed.

it was the sort of place that was so small, you had to wait your turn to walk through and a chinese woman was already purchasing fruit, so i patiently waited outside, minding my own business. until she turned to her husband and started speaking in english. i have to admit i was a little surprised (but not too surprised because, let's face it, i live in china, where stranger things happen every day). the next thing i knew, however, i waschatting with the man while his wife bought fruit and then chatting with the wife while he and the fruit lady attempted to figure out what dialects of chinese they had in common.

turns out he was born in shanghai, went to high school in hong kong, college in canada and grad school in the us, where he lived for 50 years before returning to shanghai 5 years ago. now they live here 4 months out of the year. so i asked him about the dried something for sale, which turned out to be persimmon, and told him that i am a teacher here. then Betty, his wife, wanted to know where i lived and if i'd ever tried this fruit called dragon's eye. i hadn't, which was apparently a travesty, so she pulled one off the vine and the next thing i know she was literally putting it in my mouth. lucky for me it was actually very good - like lychee, but less furry on the outside.

at this point, they have pretty much gotten what they need and the wife mentions that they should probably get going. the man, bless his heart, turns and asks me if there are any questions i want to ask while he is there. i start to tell him i'll be ok but then my curiosity gets the best of me, so i point and ask about the other 2 fruits that i don't recognize. one was from taiwan and called black pearl in chinese because it is a very expensive, high-end fruit. it tastes sweet, like melon, apparently, even though it appears more akin to a pepper than a melon. the other was from thailand and we never did get an english name for it. we did however, get to try it. while we were talking about it, the fruit lady just picked one up and split it open for us to try. i love that they do that here. it was really good, sweet and tart, very citrusy.

and then it was time for us to part. we said our goodbyes, i thanked them for their kindness, bought my fruit, and as i walked home with my loaded bag i couldn't help but grin from ear to ear and be glad that i live in china. i may not have gotten waht i was looking for today, but i did get exactly what i needed.

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