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For lunch on Wednesday, the canteen served congealed pig’s blood. Little oval-shaped slices of it were mixed into a vegetable stir-fry that was otherwise flavored nicely. Also in that dish were what looked like broken rubber bands. I’m guessing those were bits of stomach lining. They were chewy and flavorless.

Back to the blood: At first I thought it was liver, which I find a little gross, but I’m no wussy, so I ate the “liver” anyway. When I chewed, I realized that it was too soft to be liver and a few alternatives popped into my mind. My stomach lurched a little, so I intentionally made my mind go blank in order to finish my meal and keep it down. In the middle of my last bite, another teacher identified the ingredient for me. I would have taken a picture, but it was all gone by that point. Woof.

The kitchen serves this bitter pepper-like vegetable almost everyday, sometimes twice a day. I finally identified it as bitter melon. I was told that it’s good for soothing a sore throat.

The kitchen also serves meat often, and by “meat” I mean chopped bone with a sliver of meat still attached to it. Or a bit of spinal cord with bits of meat stuck inside, inaccessible. I don’t get it. Not only is it labor intensive, but dangerous too! Every afternoon, I exit the canteen with shards of bone stuck between my teeth and thank God I escaped death by asphyxia yet another day. (The fish are especially bony and their bones are especially hazardous.) The bones are flavored wonderfully, though.

The proper way to dispose of the bones is to spite them out on the table mid-sentence. I’ve been practicing lots.

Besides my first taste of pig’s blood, I got my first sighting of a Foshan rat. It was the size of a football. There are a few rolling, metal shelving units in one corner of the canteen where I was sitting. First I heard a squeaking sound and then this monstrous thing charged out from under the shelves and fled through the door. The sight of the rat didn’t scare me so much as the rumbling and teetering of the shelves did when it made its escape. I let out a glorious shriek.

Most if not all of the Chinese teachers store their bowls and spoons in the canteen between meals. I was doing it too because it was convenient. Not anymore. No way.