Shopping for our third annual 4th of July cookout here in the lane, we decided that we needed a cleaver to whack apart the ribs. We found a glass caseful in Metro, a huge German box store that would remind Americans of Costco (and boy has it changed since our first days here when frogs jumped out of a pool begging us to liberate them from the food section — freaked me out so much I didn’t go back for four years).
Anyhow, the cleaver. German, Chinese, what have you, in quite a range of prices.
“We’ll take that one,” I said in Chinese, indicating to the clerk to unlock the case.
“I need your hu jiao,” she replied.
“I get so frustrated with this language!” I said to my husband. “All the syllables sound the same. It sounded like she just asked me for my passport!”
Huh? So that if there is a stabbing somewhere during Expo, the police can check the records and see which foreigner recently bought a cleaver and track down the murderer? Admittedly, there have been some awful stabbings lately in China, widely reported. But aren’t there cleavers in every household? Back when I took a Chinese cooking class, the chef showed me how to whack ginger into cubes with a cleaver and then slice –no more careful peeling with a paring knife.
Anyhow, all ended well. Although I didn’t have my passport with me, in the back of my wallet I found a crumpled photocopy. Got the cleaver and the ribs were scrumptious.
Still, what’s with the hassles to give us a false sense of security here? Last week, at the entrance to Expo, security made a friend of mine apply the lipstick she was carrying in her purse — lest it be what, cyanide coated? Concealing a dangerous weapon? C’mon — lipstick? It’s starting to feel like some other countries I know.