Whatever America does, China can do bigger.
Take for instance shopping.
The Luosiwan Shopping Center in Kunming is the biggest shopping center in Asia.
It’s is like Mall of America on steroids.
Make that six mall of Americas.
Luoiswan (pronounced lo-swan) has space for 23,000 shops, more than 15,000 are already ringing up sales. The average flow of visitors to Luosiwan International Trade City (the official name) is 300,000 a day.
That’s more than Disneyworld’s foot traffic, which is a mere 40,739 people, or 81,548 mickey mouse ears a day
And Disneyworld has people movers.
However, Luosiwan does have busses that drive right through it.
I tried snapping a few photos, but like the Alps or Trash Island, you can’t really appreciate the enormity of it.
Along with the size, it’s the vairety of Luosiwan that knocks your socks off
(which, more likely than not, were socks made somewhere in behind the great wall).
But at Luoiswan, it’s not just what you sell, but the random combos.
It’s as if the shop owners picked an item from column a and column b from a chinese menu.
Chopsticks and hangers.
Mens briefs and kitchn towels.
Holiday decorations and umbrellas.
Then there is the rubberband man, an aisle away from to the Mannequin Land, the toothbrush man, Tape is Us, and watchland.
If they make it, you can find it at Luosiwan,
Except of course, for a map of the place in english.
And a box cheese grater.
It’s a good thing all of us were too young to remember mastering our native tongue. If we did remember the trials of mastering English, I’m sure we would have gone nuts . Maybe that’s why we postpone that thing called bowel control until we hit two.
But after a year of listening to Chinese, I think I’m ready to give the language a whirl.
According to expert advice (in other words, info gleamed from game shows), the average infant hears over 15,000 hours of babble before trying it out.
Then it still takes them several years to master it.
Plus, the first year, I doubt if an infant is challenged with understanding the phrase, “It’s a ¥50 fine for poohing in the squatty”.
Actually, instead of bonding with a baby learning the lingo, I feel like Helen Keller when she first learned to say “wa wa”.
But in Chinese–thanks to tones– “wa wa” could mean a variety of things, none of which is water.
Water by the way, is “shway”, like Wayne World’s schwing!!!!
Ma however, can mean: mom, mule, a very inappropriate expletive deleted, or good.
Mà, mă, má mà, literally means you are glad your mom swore at a mule.
Or is that mà mà, mă, má?
Anyhow, that’s why I’m tempted to bring a tuning fork to Chinese practice.
There are four tones to the Chinese language and a few others in the Kunming dialect.
The first tone, ā, reminds me of my bando days, holding a “C” note on my tuba while drool from the previous player dribbled out of the spit valve.
The second tone, á, changes the inflection of the word into a question like, “huh?”
The third tone, ă, reminds me of the classic Palmolive dishing washing liquid commercial with Madge. I’m soaking in dishwashing liquid?” . It’s a tone with a bit of sarcasm.
The fourth tone, à, ends quickly with a kung fu chop.
The final tone, a, is a shorter version of the first one.
But then, thanks to more game show knowledge, I remember that there are more people in China studying English than there are English speakers in America.
So why bother?
Anyhow, I’m studying it, one weird word at a time. If you are interested in learning some Chinese, I recommend you visit http://zhongwen.com/ziyin.htm. This site explains the method to the madness of Chinese characters.
It’s Mid-Autumn festival in China, meaning, our first Monday off of the school year.
Actually, it’s a big deal. Mid-Autumn Festival is the “Chinese Thanksgiving” or harvest festival, also known as the Moon Festival.
But instead of turkeys, giblets and pumpkin pies, Moon Day is celebrated by eating moon cakes, which should not be confused with moon pies or space cakes.
What are moon cakes?
I’ve eaten my fair share and they’re still a gastronomic mystery. Moon cakes are round like a full moon but filled with everything but green cheese.
Tasty innards include sweetened pork, rose petals, red beans and dried fruits. There there is one I call the salmonella special. It contains four egg yolks, representing the four phases of the moon. Not one mooncake contains a fudge filling, a caramel nougat center, double stuff or dingdong cream.
Some mooncakes have ornate designs pressed into them. Others shed their flaky pastry skin like a snake.
Mooncake packaging can be better than the cake itself. They are packaged in ornate gold filled boxes which are filled with smaller ornate boxes which are filled with yet more moon packaging—sort of like those Russian Dolls. The gift box can be larger than what is allowed for a flight carry-on and I could only imagine the nightmare it would cause with security. Is a petrified lard puck with pork innards a legal weapon?
While the Moon Festival started as a harvest festival to visit one’s family, the new way of celebrating has its own unique traditions. It starts with stampeding into Carrefour or Wal-mart to the Moon cake display, where several sample ladies dressed in ethnic costumes invite you to sample their delicacies. There are more moon displays lining the streets, similar to firework tents. But this time the fireworks happen on the way out of your body, if you dare eat one filled with lotus seeds.
Then, there’s a mass exodus out of Kunming the Friday after work before Moon Monday, turning packed busses into sardine cans on wheels. Traffic will be gridlocked ‘til late evening giving everyone a chance to look at the glowing orb in the autumn evening sky.
In China, there’s a plethora of weird food to eat. Last week, we dined on donkey. It wasn’t our idea, but that of our Chinese friends. They too have a taste for the odd.
I couldn’t help to think I was nibbling on Shrek’s side kick.
The meat itself was sort of lack luster. Grey slices of lean jackass loin fanned out on a plate, garnished with moo shu wraps and your all-purpose tangy dipping sauce. The donkey du jour looked like something served on the economy class of a plane or what you’d find in the large rectangular space of a Hungry Man TV dinner, minus the brown gravy and side of apple slices.
Donkey-indigestion was expected after this epicurean odyssey. It included hee-haw style burps to gas that could wake the dead–in a different galaxy.
Needless to say, after eating a mule that night, Jeff burned one.
A few years back, I worked on a free lance writing project where I had to come up with four hundred tasty food descriptions for everything from chocolate lava cake to popcorn shrimp.
To make the project even more of a challenge, each appetizing phrase had to be under ninety type written characters which didn’t leave much room for drool.
Now if I had to write one of those descrumptious descriptions for donkey, it would be this:
Order something else.
I would still have seventy keystrokes to spare.