Day out


Why do I have so many photos of animals? Maybe I’m willing to degrade myself by crawling on the floor next to a pond, in full view of everyone in five restaurants and three estate agent’s offices, in order to get a good photo of a dragonfly. It would look a different kind of weird if I was crawling on the floor outside a restaurant taking photos of passers by. Aren’t the dragonflies amazing? I try explaining to people here how they’re really rare back home, but there are as many here as there are wasps in Britain in summer, so everyone thinks I’m odd. The purple one on the bush kept flying in circles and coming back to the same leaf, while the one by the pond just seemed to be sunbathing.

I got the same reaction to my trip to the pet market. The same place used to house a simple tropical fish market, and you can still get all the same fish you can back home. A lot of the shops haven’t changed since I bought my fish tank there in 2005, which is ancient history by Chinese standards- incidentally, after I left China last time, I gave that tank to a friend and it emptied 30 litres of water all over his floor. Then he fixed it and it happened again. And one more time before he binned it. That probably tells you something mysterious about Chinese people’s character, so please tell me if you figure it out. Anyway, the market still has all the fish, including this two foot koi carp in a plastic bag on the floor.

The market now has a shed-load of crazy plants and animals as well. Take the guy who was selling ducklings and scorpions. Or the millions of people selling turtles. Who wants a turtle, really? There were tons of birds in those pretty bamboo cages, with the more mundane finches and weird tropical things all crammed together. There were pigeons, odd long-legged chickens, something like a grouse, parrots, minor birds, and loads more I’ve never seen anywhere else. Long story short, I went home with a cage and a red squirrel. He’s about 8 weeks old, and has hands sharper than even Kima. When I pick him up he runs up my arm to my shoulder and then tries to go down my back and legs and under the sofa. There was even more wildlife on the way home: I caught a glimpse of the last 60-80cm of a snake zipping into a bush out of the corner of my eye, but barely freaked out at all. You would’ve been proud. The nice lady also threw in a corn cob and a piece of sponge cake for mr squirrel to eat. Sponge cake? Really? Google tells me he shouldn’t eat corn, either. He’ll have a tantrum when I make him eat veggies. He needs a name, and all suggestions are welcome.

The rest of the weekend included a night spent playing prisoners of Catan with friends and drinking banana daiquiris and qingdao beer. Sound familiar? Sunday night a couple of us went for a swim at the local pool, where the outdoor part is really warm, and the indoor pool is cool. How backwards is that?

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