The Kids proclaimed that they want to come back here every summer. But they’d also like a week in England. In particular “We want to go to Redding so we can see the cast of the wingless bronzed eagle that they had in the roman times. It’s not the real one but it will probably have something like SPQR.” They’ve also spent a lot of time this week writing “acoustic” poems by which they men acrostic poems. They asked if when we get back I can bring them to UVa and get them published. Apparently they have not been following goings on at the VQR.
On Saturday we went to the big city for supplies; mostly food and roller blades. We went to a new super market, which had a better selection of westernish food. We got a giant box of frozen tilapia filets so we don’t have to deal with the live ones. Everyone else in the compound bought them too. We fried it in dumplng flour for the kids and stir fried it in a mystery Dai spice pack for us—yum. We also procured eighteen containers of yogurt. I learned last night from a student that Eli has literally been sucking the town dry of yogurt. Every time the students go to buy it; it’s all gone. And for a major coup they had little tiny bags of m and m’s (about 6 per bag) But this allows us to return to the “you get one m and m for every new food you try.” Jonathan drank a smoothie made with Yogurt and Mango—truly radical for him. We visited the croc store (called “Coqui”, which prompted Manuel to give the children a lecture on Puerto Rican frogs. Sometimes the whole biology thing is a mixed blessing) where the kids got to custom design their own crocs with special little widgets. Our feet are definitely not scaled to china. Rebecca got an adult size. I looked in many market shops for flip flops. When I stuck out my feet and my shoes everyone pretty much smiled, laughed, and shook their heads. The croc store had one pair for my gargantuan feet!
The hour long drive actually took 90 minutes because of a “Big Potato.” The Chinese word for V.I.P. is translates literally as big potato. We noticed an impressive police presence in the garden and on the way out of town and figured out that the head of the Chinese Academy was on his way to the garden for a visit. He qualifies here as a very big potato—complete with motorcade etc. It’s sort of like having the head of NSF and the NEH ride around with a full Secret Service Detail and police escort. The security involved simply closing the major highway through Banna. The kids were completely fascinated. As the potato got closer, the human traffic lights started to gear up. Jonathan wanted to know if they had “bronze fingers” by which I think he meant “brass knuckles.” They actually merely had ceremonial white gloves much to the disappointment of the boys. We heard that when the potatoes entered the special lunch the entire room got up, clapped and did a little bow. For at least one of our neighbors this served as one of those “wow we really do live in a dictatorship” moments.
We attempted this weekend to find out a bit about the “pharmacy” When we first arrived, and I heard the word pharmacy I imagined a Chinese CVS with cosmetics, advil, and herbs to cure all of my jungle induced aesthetic problems. Nope. The pharmacy is actually a huge pharmaceutical company that makes a lot of money producing drugs from plants in the Garden. We never see anyone go in or out, and no one knows exactly what they do in there. The building is screamingly modern with reflective windows so you can’t see in. I think I’ve been reading too many thrillers set in China and too many books and articles about the treatment of girls working in factories. But I have visions of 1000 young girls stuck inside producing toxic things and occasionally covering up for a murder. In the realm of “reality” it seems that they produce a very popular medicine in China called “Dragon Blood” that fights cancers, bacterial infections, and erectile dysfunction.
In our continued adventures and experiments with food, I had two successes this weekend. The green things that we thought were green peanuts were actually whole green mung beans. I boiled them with garlic and salt, and other than being a little over cooked they were super yum, and thing 1 and 3 scarfed them up. Thanks to the earth mother website my sister sent me I learned how to make dulce du leche. (I can’t believe I’m reading that site) Basically you stick a can of condensed milk in a pot of boiling water for two hours. It’s super yummy with pretzels or apples dipped in it. It also works with peanut butter on whole wheat Tibetan flat bread. Manuel has been experimenting with different varieties of mangoes. He decided that today’s was too good to be shared with the children.