Dave's Sketch Journal

Drawing is taking a line for a walk. - Paul Klee

Qingdao Beach

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We are kind of winding down to our last days in China. We've seen and done a lot so it seems as though we've been here a lifetime. When we browse through our pictures we don't really comprehend our faces. It all seems as thought it's someone else staring back at us, someone else that had all those experiences.

Today was just a walk on the beach. Our taxi dropped us off at the far end of the beach and we worked our way back. There was lots of activity considering it is the middle of the week. Wedding photographers were everywhere. Women in wedding gowns and men in tuxes dotted the rocky beach bent in impossible poses that looked terribly uncomfortable but I guess looked good to the photographer. Ruth and Lynn decided to try some of the poses themselves. They looked as glamerous to me as the brides so I snapped a few pictures of them. Those other photogs have nothing on me. Who on this entire beach had two beautiful models to photograph at the same time? No one, that's who.

By the way. I'm the only non-asian I saw in my entire stay of Qingdao. Everywhere I go heads turn. No doubt because of my good looks. When I stopped to sketch, people gawked. I think I'll just put a cup out on the street. I may as well make some cash at this.

We walked up the beach and through Zhongshen park. The tulips were in bloom, tulips of every color. I'd never seen anything like it since New York's Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. There were several people selling hot corn on the cob so I bought some for 2 yuan. The first bite was disappointing. It must have been last year's corn, or maybe the year before. Later Wayne told me those vendors buy the corn in large bags for next to nothing, boil it up, and charge the two yuan to unsuspecting foreigners. No local person would buy it, they'd know better.

After eating, Lynn decided she wanted to buy another pen as a gift. We had walked miles looking for just the right pen. We looked in Beijing, Yangshuo, Guilin, and Qingdao. While in Qingdao we had the poor lady pull out every pen in the large glass display case. Then we walked out with nothing. The lady was not happy. We ended up buying the pen from another store. Now Lynn wanted to go back to the same lady and look for another kind of pen. As soon as we approached the counter we could see the same lady stiffen. We looked at all the pens and left without anything...again! Then we walked to the book store and bought a second pen there.

Wayne wanted to treat us to another meal. Bill's associates in China had already treated us to a grand meal the day we arrived but now Wayne wanted to take us to a seafood restaurant. I guess he saw how we readily downed the abalone the first night so he wanted to expose us to still different kinds of seafood.

When we walked into the restaurant he handed the hostess a bag full of live crab. He told me later he bought his crab an hour ago. "It's fresher." he said. I guess so. He had been to the same market we visited on Sunday and bought the crab while we were getting ready for dinner tonight.

The hostess brought us up to the third floor and into a private room. The place settings were are rainbow of colors. There was a large etched round glass lazy-susan.

Wayne excused himself and went downstairs to choose what we would be served. Later he showed us the fish tanks. It was like walking through the Atlanta Aquarium. Every variety of fish: shell, bone or soft was available. Fine Chinese dining means choosing from live animals. He'd never just order from a menu. Before he orders he wants to see the food he'll eat.

Wow, what a meal. There were 13 courses, 4 cold, 8 hot, and soup. I'm not sure I can remember everything we ate. Here's what I remember:

1) cucumbers with pepper sauce
2) pregnant squid (each filled with squid eggs)
3) crab
4) beef with peppers
5) sea urchins
5) conch meat with vegetables
6) oysters
7) fish soup
8) black bean balls with pine nuts
...and more

The sea urchins were very good. It was like eating custard. They prepare them by pouring egg into an opening in the shell and then cook the meet and egg together. Fantastic. The squid was about six inches long including tentacles. When I bit into one (I had to take bites as they are too large to swallow whole) I saw it's body stuffed with clear golden eggs. The meat was very tender. It was very good.

None of the food had any fish smell. Even the soup was not fishy. It looked like chicken broth with white chicken meet floating around. It was softer than chicken. It was like eating the Hawaiian mahimahi (tuna) fish in a broth.

I didn't want Wayne to order expensive wine again. The wine we had the other night with him was the best wine that China makes. So I told him: "Women zai Qingdao, dui ba?" "Dui."he said. "Wo zai Qingdao hai meiyou he Qingdao pijiu. Weishenme?" (We are in Qingdao right? I still haven't had a Qingdao beer. Why?" He joked: "Because we've drank it all up!" "ai you" (So sad.) I told him.

When the brewery opened in Qingdao they promised the townspeople that Qingdao beer served in Qingdao would be no older than a week. Indeed, our beer was only two days young. It went well with the fish as did the second best wine in China that Wayne still ordered for us.

When walked out, three men arm in arm swerved and stumbled in front of us and spilled out the front door. In China it's common to go drinking after work with your boss or buddies. This is when the most business is transacted. Wayne looked at me and apologized. "This is the way it's done in China." he lamented.

I'd be afraid to complete any business deal with a drunk, but that's just me. What do I know?

We are going back to Beijing tomorrow, a couple of days before returning home. It's sad to leave our new-found friends here. We need to return.

A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.
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