Sunday, September 20, 2009

Chopsticks and Good Advice.

Today I've been trying to use chopsticks. It turned out to be a frustrating business, and after studying and experimenting came up with the following 'style'. I succeeded in picking up some cheese, but it made my hand ache after a few minutes and I can't help feeling this is not the correct method.

I also spoke to a doctor who has been to China several times. It was he who advised me to become acquainted with the chopsticks. He also reassured me about something that has been bothering me for a while - getting something safe to drink apart from bottled water. The answer seems to be jasmine tea. Apparently boiling water is readily available (with churns at the end of railway carriages for instance) and so if you take your own cup and tea you can get yourself a safe and refreshing drink.

He also advised me to try the street stalls - as long as I can see the food being cooked before me - and recommended I try some little breakfast dumplings which I'd see being steamed on bamboo platforms.

Travellers cheques in American dollars are welcome most places, as are American dollars themselves, and he gave me a quick resume about the currency. The main currency is the Kwai of which there are about ten to a pound. Then in each Kwai there are 10 Mao and in each Mao 10 'pen' (I think). If I really want to buy something (other than food) I should prepare to barter, with my first offer about 20% of what I think it's worth - and if I get a price I am prepared to pay I should buy it. I also need to learn the phrase 'That's too expensive!'

Anyway, it was all useful stuff, and very reassuring. He'd always felt safe in China, he said.


Blogger SueG said...

I was in China a couple of years ago, and I always felt safe, too. Of course, I had guides and was just doing the tourist stuff, but I've sent my younger son twice on more adventurous trips, and he said he felt safe too. It's a fascinating country. i wouldn't worry. How great that you're going!

Sun Sep 20, 09:42:00 pm  
Blogger Paul said...

Your chopstick skills seem fine to me.

Jasmine tea sounds like a good plan. Coincidentally I just prepared a cup myself before reading this blog, so perhaps I'm biased.

Good to hear that American dollars are still accepted somewhere. Their value has dropped so much, it's been worrisome.

It sounds like it will be an exciting trip!

Sun Sep 20, 11:00:00 pm  
Blogger Colin Shelbourn said...

I believe the trick with chopsticks is to get the bowl up to your mouth and shovel from there.

Have you discovered the Spork? A useful occupant for one of the many pockets in THAT vest ...

Mon Sep 21, 11:44:00 am  
Anonymous Mary said...

If your hand is aching, Clare, try to straighten out your fingers and rest the back end of the chopsticks along your hand between the base of your forefinger and thumb. Rather than holding the chopsticks & your hand vertically, hold your hand horizontally, which will make the chopsticks horizontal, too. Use your forefinger to create the pinching action with the top chopstick and keep the bottom chopstick stationary. (This is really hard to describe! I wish I could post a picture to show you.)

The shoveling method mentioned (where you bring the bowl up to your mouth) is also good to try.

Mon Sep 21, 06:44:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Yes Sue, I am looking forward to it - and all these reassurances make me feel much less apprehensive. Thanks.

Thank you Paul! Yes, very pleased to hear about the American dollar - I know they are desirable elsewhere - but didn't know about China.

Looked at the spork and very impressed - think I'll get one of those - looks essential! Also since it is held in one hand from a distance and in a bad light it might be indistinguishable from chopsticks.

I am trying, Mary - I can see from the Youtube clips that my fingers should be straighter as you say - but if I do that I can't seem to manoeuvre the bottom chopstick into the right place to make a pincher. Ugh, so difficult!

Have had some exellent advice from people though! I'm very grateful. I'll get there in the end.

Mon Sep 21, 10:25:00 pm  
Blogger jem said...

It's nice to think you will be able to try some of the local food, I always think it's such a shame when we are told to avoid everything. So sad that different peoples digestions and immunities have digressed to stop us sharing food.

Tue Sep 22, 03:33:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Yes, Jem, it seems strange to me that Westerners react so badly to food in places like India and Egypt. If water is full of bacteria why do the locals not become ill too? They must have developed an immunity I suppose, but I suppose it only goes so far - like Westerners they must also become ill, hence the lower life expectancy. I'm not sure I fully understand, really.

Tue Sep 22, 04:10:00 pm  
Blogger Andy esroM said...

I went in 1998 hot water for tea everywhere - has a dewar in my room - always with hot water. Trains were great. Food was good not ill.

In Africa I am ill about 1 in 4 trips - but I am not 'that' careful about what I eat - if i were it would be too tedious

Wed Sep 23, 10:26:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Hello Andy, and thank you. Yes, there is something in that - I think that by being too careful you can miss out.

Wed Sep 23, 10:57:00 pm  

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