Pigeons over Qingdao

From a popular path on Fushan, one of Qingdao’s local mountains.
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Qingdao, from half-way up Fushan

Half-way up one of the many paths on Qingdao’s Fushan mountain.
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We do this hike with our 4-year-old, but it’s tricky in spots. The dirt roads are actually really slippery and steep in places, and that makes it tedious (and a little dangerous) for the little people.

Graves on Fushan, Qingdao, China

Our friends were recently apartment shopping. All the best deals were near this local mountain. But the husband’s father wouldn’t let them buy near the mountain because it’s covered in graves.
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In addition to the thousands of graves sprinkled all over the mountain, the local authorities have created a formal graveyard and erected communal areas for burning paper offerings to the ancestors, rather than have every family burn paper at each grave on the mountain. We pass multiple fire hazard signs every time we hike here. Tomb Sweeping Festival is next weekend.

Similar: A Fushan grave, one week after Tomb-Sweeping Day

Spring blossoms, Fushan, Qingdao, China

From our first local hike of 2016:
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Visceral Chinese restaurant advertising

We recently had an interesting experience for us, as former North American suburbanites, when Jessica bought a live chicken in the neighbourhood market instead of chicken meat, and had it butchered. She said it was still warm when she was preparing it in the kitchen. There’s also this unforgettable infomercial that used to play in the back of Qingdao taxis, where a chef pulls the shell off a live crab. Anecdotes like that (which are in endless supply), and this photo from two days ago, hit one of the trillion interesting-to-me cultural differences between China and North America. Turns out that meat actually comes from animal carcasses! Did you know? Dead animals! Who knew, eh?
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These skeletal remains are hanging outside a mutton restaurant that I passed by this week on my way home from work, basically as advertising: Hey! We have fresh mutton here! Aren’t these carcasses appetizing? Generally speaking (of course), in China there’s still much less of a disconnect between been food and its sources — in this case: meat and the fact that meat comes from the bodies of animals.

Contrast with North America, where meat is sold as far removed from its animal of origin as possible: skinless, boneless, sliced into plastic-wrapped rectangles — somehow it feels “cleaner” to us. But that’d be suspect for many our Chinese neighbours, who would instinctively question the freshness of plastic wrapped meat so far removed from its source.

The anecdotes are endless, like — and this is something that I keep forgetting — serving a fish with the head and tail not removed turns a lot of North Americans off. As if we prefer not being reminded that it was an actual fish before it became fish on our plates. Same with chicken heads. IMO, China’s approach to food makes more sense. North Americans don’t eat bugs, but they do eat crabs, lobsters and honey (seriously: do you know what honey is? Youtube it.). North Americans don’t eat dogs, but pigs and cows? — no problem.

North Americans have some weird cultural hangups when it comes to food. I suspect it has to do with cultural hangups East and West both have regarding bodies in general — though as anyone who’s spent significant time in China could tell you, those somatic hangups play out in different ways. Though I also suspect it just has to do with modern life in general; the century-old American worlds in many of our kids’ books (like Little House on the Prairie) seem much closer to China than today’s America when it comes to meat.

But whatever the reasons, when it comes to food, China is fearless.*

(*Unless you’re talking food safety and pollution, but that’s a different deal).

If you like dead animals and/or meat, there’s plenty to be found in the following posts:

On the menu in Qingdao: anglerfish

For as far back as I can remember, the coolest things in the ocean have always been octopuses, sharks (of course sharks) and anglerfish.

If you don’t understand why, go google image search anglerfish. I’ll wait.

I’ve seen sharks at the aquarium and handled dogfish on the fishing boat, and we occasionally play with octopuses in our neighbourhood vegetable market. But I’d never seen a real angler fish until last night, when I was picking up take-out at one of our favourite local restaurants. They have a big display of live and nearly-alive seafood that changes every night, depending on what the boss finds at the seaside market. I wasn’t sure what these fish were at first, but the teeth got my attention:
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Monkfish_dict_entryThe staff told me 安康鱼 ān kāng yú, which my dictionaries don’t have. But between Baidu and Pleco we found it: it’s a monkfish 鮟鱇 ān kāng, which is a kind of anglerfish (notice the real name is nearly the same as our initial search, except with a “fish” radical added to each character: 鱼 + 安 = 鮟 / 鱼 + 康 = 鱇).

Anglerfish! How cool is that? Their… bioluminescent things (I won’t even pretend to know what the actual word is) were plastered down on their heads and don’t show in the photos, but it was easy to lift them up for a look.

A google image search for monkfish turns up what looks like the exact same fish as in the restaurant — a particular kind of very ugly anglerfish.

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Click for the Anglerfish page at Bioexpedition.com.

A google search for anglerfish will give you nightmares.

Chinese market millers

Several truck bed millers are regular features of Qingdao’s Licun traditional market.
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