Oh jetlag, you fiend. You kept me up until 1am, and woke me up firmly at 5:30am. Today is your last hurrah; I will have vanquished you by tomorrow.
The day began with the most comprehensive and global breakfast array I have ever seen – there was quiche and dim sum; an omelet station and a noodle station; cereal and chicken feet. My plate was a United Nations of breakfast food, and the coffee I naively requested tasted like hot chocolate.
Then my colleague Alyssa and I finally met our long-time China correspondent Laura, A.K.A. the Angel of Shanghai, without whom our work here would not be possible (or at least infinitely more difficult). In between work meetings and walk-throughs, she took us to the highest observation deck in the world – the Shanghai World Financial Center (see left). Giggling, she admitted she had never been inside – much like New Yorkers who have never been to the top of the Empire State building (or, like me, to the Statue of Liberty). Being 100 stories up + jetlag + having glass floors beneath your feet = quite the feeling of vertigo, let me tell you. But what a view!
Then as we were trying to find our way back down and out, what song do I hear playing over the loudspeakers but John Denver’s Country Roads, the anthem of my home state! I couldn’t help but sing along.
And then, Laura took us to her favorite place for dumplings – a spot tourists don’t tend to go, she told us. And I believe it – we were the only waiguoren (foreigners) in the place. We entrusted ourselves to Laura and she expertly ordered for us 4 types of dumplings. Shanghai is known for its dumplings, especially its soup dumplings, which contain flavorful broth and morsels of meat or seafood. But beware – if you do not know that what you are eating is a soup dumpling, disaster will surely befall you from the first bite, when the contents gush forth and splatter both you and your dining companions. Laura gave us the inside scoop: you must make a tiny hole with a toothpick, noisily slurp the broth out, and then you can eat the dumpling.
Street outside the restaurant; Dumplings being made. They are filled with a crab mixture, twisted closed, and steamed 20 minutes, and the cooking actually creates the broth inside the dumplings.
Look at this enormous, shiny, perfect dumpling! Alyssa slurping her broth.
It might have been the tastiest thing I ever ate. Until I had the next dumpling, a wonderful, juicy, fried thing that, unbeknownst to me, ALSO contained soup. And thus disaster befell both me and Alyssa, as I unceremoniously splattered us both with yummy broth and promptly dropped the dumpling from my chopsticks. It had to happen, right? I did much better on my next one, as you can see by my proudly-held-aloft morsel. I also learned to eat very close to the table, over a bowl, and with a spoon underneath, just in case.