This fish right here is a very classic example of the tragic life of seafood here in China. Technically, I shouldn't refer to this particular fellow as "food", but regardless of that fact, food or un-food sea creatures alike all seem to meet the same horrible fate here. For your size reference, this fish is a good 15 inches long and quite fat.
As James and I peacefully ate our lunch at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant the other day, we were startled by the sound of a wild thrashing and clattering. We looked over to see this fish in the midst of his death throws on the floor of the restaurant. He had just thrown himself out of his tiny aquarium (a shared home with nine others just like him), and knocked himself in the head on the table next to the aquarium. As he thrashed about on the floor, he traveled further away from the aquarium. James and I watched him twitch for a few seconds before informing the waitress of what had just happened. She calmly walked over to the fish, picked him up with her bare serving hand, plopped him back in the tank and went back to her serving duties.
James and I watched him skeptically as he floated belly up above his unenthusiastic friends who were lining the bottom of the tank. He failed to revive and his body eventually sunk lower and lower in the tank until he rested ontop of the other still-living fish. The other fish and the waitress were equally oblivious to the situation and I had to wonder how it would take before he was discovered.
This actually happens fairly frequently here. I have wittnessed this same thing on a number of occasions. Once I was at the grocery store when a fish that was for sale threw himself so far out of his tank that he landed in the middle of the aisle of people (can you imagine how gross it would have been to be unexpectedly hit by a flapping, wet, dirty fish when you are innocently doing you are doing your grocery shopping?). All of the customers, including myself, stopped and formed a circle around the fish, watching with mild interest as he flailed wildly. Eventually he stopped and we all went on our ways. However, I was curious to see how long it would take for a worker to pick the fish up off the floor, so I hung around the area for a while. It took at least five minutes for someone to come and get him.
You also often see turtles for sale in shallow buckets on the floor at the market. They range in size from silver dollar size to frizbee size. They are stacked two or three high in these low buckets and inevitably there are escapees that emerge at about ten minute intervals. It is very interesting to watch them. You could employ someone full time just making sure that the turtles don't get away (or just buy a bigger bucket). But since they don't have someone doing that, the turtles meet other alternative ends. For example they often die in the sludge troughs that form in the cracks in the concrete, or you might discover you were about to step on a comletely dried and desicated turtle somewhere (this happened to me the other day). I always feel sorry for these poor turtles. They probably think that they are making a daring escape back to the beach where they were born only to end up in Chinese foot traffic!
However, I'm not sure if I feel worse for these sea creatures, or for the ones that get sold into golf ball sized key chains! It is fashionable for girls (especially between 15 and 25) to have a gold fish or a live turtle in a ball that hangs on your keys or off your cellphone. I can't imagine they last very long, especially when you consider what it would be like to be bound to a set of keys. The clanking that would echo in the water as the keys get shoved in the dark purse. The volume, the vibrations and the lights of the cellphone. The swinging and dangling. And that is all not to mention the non-oxygenated environment. Did they invent anaerobic fish? The more I think about it, the more I hope that they die very quickly.
On a new topic, my friend here in Beijing took me glasses shopping. What a new and different experience it was! My experience of glasses shopping has always been extremely frustrating and irritating. Firstly, buying glasses when you can't see yourself in them and don't have contacts is a guarentee for a bad purchase. Secondly, they are very expensive. Third, you need to have the doctor check your eyes which means waiting for an appointment. Well, all three of these problems were non existant here. Beijing has me sold on its eyewear! We went to a massive warehouse that was filled with only glasses outlets. Dozens and dozens of competitors.
The first pair I saw were the ones I bought. To some people this is foolhardy, but when you hate shopping all day as much as I do it's a bonus. They examined my eyes right then and there. As for price, my friend only had to hint at us leaving after the first quote before they gave me it to me for a third of the price they origanlly asked. She also bargarined pretty hard. To summarize, I got a decent pair of prescription sunglasses (savings splurge) for around $35 including the lenses. You would pay at least ten times that amount in Canada. All of my memories of glasses shopping in Canada fizzled away into nothing. That being said, I will not be surprised if they break. However, I do consider myself to be a seasoned glasses wearer (17 years), and so I do have some idea of quality. Going with friends who can bargain is a great idea. The above is a picture of the two of us on the subway. We have a lot of fun together!