Day -3 - China - June 7
- Created on Friday, 07 June 2013 06:23
Rain, rain, rain! The air seemed cleaner in Shanghai this morning, when we moved, once again, for reaching the transportation's office and see if we would be able to get or not our driving licenses.
Yesterday, they told us we would have to follow two lesson's hours and the driving permits would be issued automatically. Then in the afternoon, we did not receive very encouraging news. For this reason, in the meantime, to our friend Carlo Mantori - who will take us to the border with Mongolia - was requested to study, under Valentina's supervised, as a sportsman who is preparing to the twenty-four hours of Le Mans, in order to get a driving license.
Anyway, under a torrential rain, we arrived in the same office where yesterday we failed. We encountered faces watching us impassively until 8:59 however at 9:00 o'clock exact, everybody started to work and surprisingly we got a new license driving. Maybe the law was changed, again, in one night: just a signature on a paper, fingers crossed and fifteen minutes later the miracle came true! Ok, now we have three wonderful provisional licenses and this means that we can and we have to drive through Shanghai. Perhaps this is frightening us, because moving between bikes, scooters and cars, here is a bit more challenging than a free ride on the powder on the Mont Blanc.
The morning is almost gone: the rain slows down significantly the traffic, and when we get to Nicola's home is time for having lunch.
Enrico and Mirco - also today with Nicoletta - are walking across the city to investigate, photograph and make a video-document with reference to the eating habits of Shanghai's citizens. In meanwhile Nicola, Valerio, Flavio and Giorgio are working for attaching stickers on the bike, running errands, rolling out lists of what is necessary, because in three days time we start and the tension begins to rise.
Meanwhile in Nicola's kitchen his "Ayi" is preparing a simple and traditional dish: steamed rice, accompanied by "I Xiam" and "Xiao Fan Qie". The rice is a food known to all, because it's the most popular food here. In fact in every kitchen there is a specific rice steamer, which works with a minimal amount of water and in less than twenty minutes is able to cook a perfect fragrant rice.
The "I Xiam" resembles to the wild spinach, but they are much more subtle, deep green, we've never eaten it before. In fact belong to seasonal vegetables, they are typical of Shanghai and you can prepare it stir-fried, deep-fried or steamed. We tasted them just fried and we believe they are also exquisite. We would gladly add them to our feed, if it were easy to find it also in Italy.
About "Xiao Fan Qie" - are similar to red tomatoes, whose spherical shape is cut in half on our plate – Zoe, Nicola's employee joined us and started to explain some singular curiosity, related not only to their cultivation, but also which gastronomic-cultural role they have in China. First of all, they are favored by young people, in fact older people regards them with a skeptical eye. They consider real tomatoes only those which have large size. These, however, are very appreciated among girls, who consider them for being the perfect food supplement in diets for weight loss. But that's not all: in China there is still a clear division, about the distribution and sale of plant products. Where you find the fruits you cannot find the vegetables and vice versa. Yet for the "Xiao Fan Qie" is an exception: it is not uncommon to find them on fruit's market stalls, or combined with watermelon and white melon. Also among young people it'is almost obligatory the consumption of raw tomatoes, while for the elderly is outrageous if not cooked.
Zoe takes the opportunity to give us a couple of other interesting information: Chinese people have a food culture, perhaps not understandable to Westerners and still partially unsustainable in China, though very devoted to the tradition. So much that 90% of the popular festivals that are celebrated in this Country, has to do with food. In the period in which we will be traveling will take place on "Dragon Boat Festival", a national celebration, which covers the whole territory of China, and as a "star" in gastronomic terms, will have the "Rice Dumpling". These are triangles, indeed pyramids, full of rice, quite small, and there are a lot of variety quality, according to the areas in which they are prepared. The differences consist of the most important types of leaf in which these mini-pyramids of rice are enclosed: leaves of bamboo or reed leaves - a plant that grows near water courses, whose leaves are long and flat, and aromatic - and all inner rice is prepared according to traditions. Also in this case, there are two big differences: in the north of China people prefer to prepare them with sweet ingredients, combining the rice to sugar stew with red beans and green sauces, always "sweet". On the contrary, in the south, they prefer combine rice with meat, soya beans and other salted vegetables. Needless to say, the most heated argument during the festival is the eternal d ispute about which of the two versions is the most suitable dish.
The phone rings and there are good news: Carlo has passed the exam, he has the driving license. Hurrah!
We spend the rest of the day doing indoor preparations, because is still raining. Nicola, now we have learned, is a volcano of ideas and we cannot understand how he is able to keep the ranks of all: he can remember that are still missing a valve for a camping stove or he is ready for discussing a business plan with a foreign customer staying abroad. Valerio has a clinical eye on the vehicles. There are still little tricks that cannot be overlooked, including the need to replace the exhaust pipe of one of the generators, and it is essential to take a ride to the "Iron District", again. Giorgio is dealing with this and other issues. Today, the rain has not made the work easy to us.
A quick shower and we are all ready to wear the "uniform" Meneghina Express: tonight we are going out all together and we are proud to be a team. The evening was a success, we needed a little bit of fun, we arrive at D Vino where we drink some glasses of fine wine and we meet with friends. The evening runs fast. Enrico does not stop even in the chaos: with his Panasonic camera he followed everything. Who are you? Why do you wear this? Where are you from? Are you joking? Are you really going to Italy, from Shanghai, with two electric motorcycles? And the pick-ups how are the 4X4 set up? There is time for interviews, laughter, jokes, and we understand that the Italian community in Shanghai is strong! Even though the beautiful Country is not anymore able to offer so many opportunities, especially for new generation, is still dreamed and desired. Are the simple things the ones that here are missing more. A coffee at the bar or a trip out of town for the week end... But we are ready to take off like rockets loads and although the future is uncertain we have only one thing in mind: we want to think positive, we want to make it!
Path traveled today