Spiders, Roaches, and Scorpions! Oh my!

bya Gabrielle at 12:00 AM

Phil and I were invited by one of Phil’s students to go to a festival in Hangzhou several weeks ago. Because we had nothing else better to do on a Saturday, we decided to tag along. Before we went, we had no idea what to expect. We didn’t know what kind of festival it was or what it was celebrating. It could have been a “Slaughter an American Foreign Teacher Festival” for all we knew. And it almost was that for a split second, but thankfully we were able to avoid death in China for at least one more day. As you can see, it was a food festival that we were invited to enjoy. And here you can see Phil doing what he does best – stuffing his face full of meat from an unknown animal. Whatever it was it was good, but I think that I would rather not know what it is that I swallowed. If you can imagine an animal, I saw a picture of it and its meat crammed onto a stick much like the one in the picture with Phil.

Oh, and in case you are wondering, those weird things in the picture to your left are starfish, scorpions, roaches, and my very favorite – tarantulas. I’ll get to that later.

We were picked up by Paul’s father and his supposed Uncle, who I think was actually his “driver”. He actually almost called him that, but caught himself. I’m pretty sure that his family has money and that they could afford one. The car was fancy and black with dark tinted windows and nice comfortable leather seats. It was the first car that wasn’t a taxi that we had been in since someone from Babel Language Center took us to Fuyang. Paul’s father, who spoke no English at all, had booked a hotel room for us for the night in Hangzhou. It was really nice gesture and we would have liked to have stayed, but we had to be back in Fuyang on Sunday morning in order to have lunch with another one of Phil’s students and his parents. Can’t you tell Phil is popular among his students? None of my students would ever invite me anywhere unless someone was threatening their lives or something. Maybe they are starting to like me a little though. I had two students ask for my autograph. Heh, I must be famous.

But anyway . . . They drove us the long way to Hangzhou. Not that I minded. We got to see some spectacular views of West Lake at sunset. I would have paid money to have stopped the car at one point to get a picture of It. We even saw some people in their wedding attire taking pictures. They will probably be the most beautiful pictures they’ll ever take together. If you could have seen it – you would have said the same. We finally, after about an hour and a half scenic tour of Hangzhou, arrived at the festival.

It was several degrees cooler than it was when we left Fuyang, but the hoards of people and all of the food stands letting steam roll over the crowd was about to become our personal heater. We didn’t really know where to start. Paul had money in hand(somehow we got away without spending a dime the entire time) and asked what we wanted. We pointed to a random stand with some kind of meat on a stick and said we would give that one a go.

And that is when I heard the bottle break. I looked up and there was this Chinese guy shaking the biggest shattered beer bottle I’ve ever seen at this Chinese cook. The freaky thing about the fight is that it was happening not ten feet from me. In disbelief, I got Phil’s attention and made him look. And that it when the bottle got thrown. How the guy who was throwing the bottle missed his intended target, I don’t know, but it whizzed over the top of the other guys head. The fight unfolded quiet quickly. Before long, pots and pans were being hurled at the poor Chinese cook. He looked so dumbfounded – like he didn’t know why they were so angry at him. Then there were more bottles thrown and one actually smashed into the cook’s temple. Blood started to pour down his face. More things were being thrown. Lights above the stand were being smashed. A group of interested people began to gather. All the while Phil, Paul, and I were just standing there wide eyed. We finally snapped out of our amazement and began to walk away from the fray. A random girl jumped into the big mess and tried to break up the fight, but that didn’t really work. There were some more bottles thrown, a lot more screams, the rest of the lights broken, and then the fight dismissed. The ones that started the fight ran off and in just a few minutes all was almost back to normal except for the poor cook whose head was streaming with blood. Needless to say, we didn’t eat at that stand.

The three of us walked around for about an hour. Paul kept asking what we wanted to try and kept buying more than we could eat even though it was all pretty tasty. There was so much food we didn’t try. It was like one big fair in America – except that the food section of it never seemed to end. I took the picture of the guy to above because apparently his job for the evening was to dance with the sign and advertise one of the stands. He was making some weird faces and dancing pretty wild, so I had to get a picture of it. You really had to be there to appreciate him fully.

After we finished stuffing our faces Paul told us that we would be going across town to a restaurant to have dinner. I don’t know why we went to a food festival to eat just so we could go out to dinner, but that is the Chinese way, I guess. The place we went to was nice. We were lead to our own private room – as is normal for people who travel in large groups. I can’t even remember what kind of food they brought out. I just know that it never seemed to end. A lot of it was too Chinese for me to eat – ie the crab in this picture. They don’t eat the legs, but they do eat what ever is inside his body, and whatever that orange and yellow stuff was – I don’t know and don’t care to learn. The little I tasted didn’t taste very good. It tasted a lot like many dishes I have eaten and describe simply as the “Taste of China”. If you are living in or have been to China, I am sure that you can relate to that comment. They wanted to keep feeding us long after the fact that we were full. Paul’s father kept toasting Phil(ganbei) which involves downing your entire glass of beer or wine or whatever else it is you are drinking. I thought that Phil was going to get himself drunk, but the ganebeis finally stopped and he was able to get a hold of his head.

After dinner, Paul had his driver, I mean, Uncle drive us to his house. What a nice place he had. He gave us a tour of his two story penthouse like apartment that consisted of three bedrooms and three baths. His kitchen even had a oven. I would do anything to have an oven. And, you should have seen the walk in closet this boy had. I know some women who would be supremely jealous of him- ie – ME! After I nearly killed myself falling down his stairs, it was time to go home. His driver, I mean, Uncle . . . heh – drove us all the way back to Hangzhou so that we would be able to have lunch with Holy’s parents. It was of the most interesting Saturdays that we have had since we got to China. I hope that I have many more just like this – minus the brutal fight that is.

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