I had spent the afternoon exploring the slums. Ever since my time in Tamil Nadu, India, I have enjoyed the sight and sounds of an organized squalor. As I passed mounds of trash that extended some ten feet, I felt at peace.
Aside from passing under the hollowed-out shell of some derelict apartment complex, there was, naturally, no danger. Those I met were bewildered at my being there, and those that had the courage to say hello were exceedingly friendly. China is not the sort of place where one goes around hello’ing, though, so I kept myself from ni hao’ing everyone I passed.
In any case, I was in a wonderful mood. I left the slums, and on my way home, I spoke with a friendly fruit vendor. His entire family was minding the stall that day, and he was eager to get a photo of me with his son. The resemblance between the two was frightening.
Very square faces…
The wife gave me some fruit as thanks. One peculiar bit of grub was what you can see waaay down below, which I believe is called dragon fruit. A friend told me, some many years ago, that it looks like a dragon’s egg, thus earning the name.
I am not sure if he was right…
I returned to GDCP with my dragon fruit, and I shared the sight with the security personnel manning the gate. As I often make them gifts, their immediate reaction was a waving of the hand and thank you, but. It was then that it occurred to me that I had no idea how to eat it. I think we can all agree that it is not the most… typical of fruits.
After a brief struggle, my question was understood by the security personnel. The first answer was in Chinese. With a smile, we both realized that wasn’t going to be of any help. The second answer was a demonstration, in which the man made peeling gestures.
I thought to myself, “Like a banana?” As you can see, there are a number of flaps for one to peel. The fruit was so bizarre that I thought it possible. With the other fruit resting on a desk beside the gate, I tried to unpeel the dragon fruit.
It would seem that I had misunderstood.
The man looked at me as though he were deciding whether or not he should ever speak with me again. His face was the picture of zen emptiness. After a brief spell of silence in which we both seemed to stare at the flap I had torn off, he said, something along the lines of, “No.”
His third answer involved an imaginary knife being drawn down the side of the fruit, and I understood well enough what needed to be done; I had to sleep for a week and pray that he and his colleagues forgot that I tried to unpeel a dragon fruit.