To quote someone close to me, “Life would be much simpler for me if I just lived like the Chinese here.” The idea is to eat what they eat, shop like they shop, travel like they travel. There is a small problem called ‘a language barrier…’
Case in point (like I haven’t mentioned any before): Today I went out for a few errands and got back around supper time. There is a “walk-by” fried bread stall just across from our apartment, so I decided to practice what has been preached and just stop by, thus arriving home with hot food. We’ve even successfully purchased their bread before. There were about 5 people in line.
The young man handling the money and bagging the hot slices was handling the orders in an experienced manner, asking ahead down the line how many each customer wanted. I indicated 5, just like before. I waited for the lady in front of me, enjoying watching the whole process of preparing the bread. The lumps were weighed and left sitting in long neat rows. Soon they would be rolled into 16 inch diameter circles. The frying surfaces are several large, gas heated grills with wooden lids. A liberal amount of oil was poured into the first grill before each new piece of bread. One lady worked diligently and quickly at the cooking, flipping, and turning, process. Each piece traveled through about 4 different grills until it was finally placed right in front of the customer, sliced, and bagged.
I noticed from the order of the woman in front of me that it seemed the serving sizes were larger than last time. I looked at the board and didn’t see anything other than the same numbers that I had read previously. When my turn came, the young man began the payment process while we were waiting for the order to be completed. It was a more than I expected, but I paid and continued watching. I thought maybe I was not remembering correctly or it was different at dinner time.
I watched and waited. Then I made a move to expect him to hand me the order when I had counted 5 of those larger servings. However, he just kept putting the bread servings into little plastic bags and hanging them on nails on the wall…. I considered trying to ask him about it, but decided that communicating about payment amounts had already been complicated. He had been trying to use his English numbers and kept changing them. Please note that he does not touch the money because he is handling food. So he tells the patron where to place any coins and manages paper money with a tong-like clip. I had had to use a larger bill due to the unexpected price, so he had ‘talked’ me through how much to keep and how much to put in the metal box above the coins. I chose to wait and see how much bread I ended up with.
In the end I went home with 5 large circles of bread, all packaged like steam bombs in little plastic bags dangling from my fingers. When I turned around to head home, I saw that the line was about 4 times longer, with many of its members looking wonderingly at the foreigner who needed 5 whole circles of bread…. Its a good thing I live right across the street and have an elevator. Even as I navigated that short distance, people stared more than usual. At the apartment gate, I pressed the street level doorbell with my elbow. When I got to my front door my hands were in jeopardy of steam burns, but I was able to quickly set the bags down on the shelf
outside the door.
Next time everyone can go buy their own street food.