Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Mooncake, Bathrooms & Bodily Functions, Oh My...

Let’s see. What shall we talk about today?

A couple items:

Seems like Mid August to Mid September is Mooncake season.
Actually they are part of the Mid-Autumn Festival, but as I have been finding, when one “festival” ends, the next one begins. Gives folks here something to look forward to.
But- you gotta have a mooncake- especially on September 18th.
The mooncake is a traditional good luck/prosperity thing, of which there are many here in China. Mooncakes are good luck. A cricket in your soup is good luck. If you get shit upon by a sparrow it is good luck. Conversely, a lizard in your tea is bad luck, as is finding a turnip seed in your condom.
In short, damn near anything is good luck or bad luck. Take your chances.
But back to mooncakes.
Mooncakes are pretty loathsome critters.
They are a cake (duh) made of some questionable substances. There is no official list of mooncake ingredients. You could make them out of broken glass and fish hooks if you really wanted to. But- by and large they are made of bean curd flour with a filling that varies from one end of the spectrum to the other. You can get them with a sweet filling, (usually egg yolk and lotus seed cream), a savory filling (minced beef or other meat), a spicy filling (donkey meat with chili paste), or damn near anything you might find under the kitchen sink.
So- take a glob of what-have-you, wrap it in tofu-dough, bake it, carve an intricate design in the top and plop it in a box and give it to a friend or relative and laugh as they try to excuse themselves from digging right in.
The only exception is if you are the recipient of the Haagen Daas mooncake.
Nosh right into that bad boy, don’t pass go, and don’t collect 200RMB. Throw in a tree and a fat guy and it’s Christmas in a pretty box, man.
(Mooncakes are, in my estimation, the Asian equivalent of fruitcake. Lots of people make them, everyone gives them during the holiday, but only a fraction of the population actually eats them. )
Really- the amazing thing about mooncakes is the packaging …
They are extravagantly and intricately wrapped- decorative boxes, delicate wrapping and cushioning, detailed artwork on the packaging. The boxes are easily more expensive than the mooncake, and definitely batter tasting.

So. September 18th marks the end of the Mid Autumn Festival. Next on the calendar, September 19th to October 21st: Festival of Bunion Scraping. Everyone goes to the nail salon for a pedophile during this holiday. Heh.

Bathroom Stench
I know I haven’t gone off on a scatological tirade lately, but I recently found out why the bathrooms stink so badly here in Beijing and I just have to share.
(Did I tell you they stink? Lord-a-mercy, they’d knock a buzzard of a deadwagon.)
It seems like although they have had “civilization” here for around 7,000 years, they haven’t mastered the U-Bend vapor trap for toilets and sinks- thus, when the sewer system air pressure is greater than the pressure in the building, arena, hovel or restaurant that you are occupying, the gentle wind blowing back up though the toilet (or the hole that is an excuse for a toilet) carries the stench of 3.2 billion crapping Asians.
That, my friends, is a boatload of olfactory offensiveness.
At this point, I will walk 500 yards out of my way to avoid walking by the public toilets here in the arena.
Use them? Have you lost your mind?
I had a catheter put in so I wouldn’t have to use the urinals here.

Bodily functions

The bathroom stench doesn’t bother the average Zhou Chinaman here. And there doesn’t seem to be any bathroom taboos here either. You can be standing in the bathroom, using the urinal and the cleaning women will walk right in and start mopping around your feet, polishing the porcelain, wiping the sinks, no big deal.
Body functions don’t have any special significance to these people. Spitting, nose blowing, farting- all these are perfectly acceptable in mixed company.
I am reminded of a guy standing next to my table during the Nadal-Coria match last week who blew a 50db, 3 second, 2 octave fart and never batted an eye. And you know how tennis matches are, 5000 people- perfectly quiet; I think everyone in the stadium heard it. It nearly scared me to death. I thought the guy was going to take off and start flying around the arena like a deflating balloon.
No, bodily functions are commonplace here.
The only really offensive thing here is picking your teeth without covering your mouth with your other hand.
(A side note- when you eat at a restaurant you will find a little container of toothpicks on the table. If you get fast food, you will get an individually wrapped toothpick with your meal. The Chinese find that the toothpick is a suitable substitute for, and much superior to, the toothbrush. This is also why you will find that Zhou Chinaman’s breath will melt glass at 20 paces.)

I think that’s enough for right now…
More pics and other good stuff next time.

TBG Out-

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