We got a brief hailstorm on the way home from work today. I took this video from inside the shuttle van as we were driving past a small city park. Luckily for us in the van, we weren’t out in it. Other people weren’t so lucky. My bald head would not like to be hit by those big chunks of ice.

The hail stones were the size of large marbles. The storm didn’t last very long, it turned back to rain in just a few minutes.


This is how many strawberries you can buy for ¥10, or about $1.60. I had to clean them up and discard some bad ones.


The berries themselves are quite sweet, but they’re very soft, so I think that they would not have a long shelf life, and would not travel well. These are very local strawberries.

Whip Tops

I went to a city park this morning. As soon as I entered, I heard cracking sounds and a high-pitched hum. At first I thought that the sound came from some kind of machinery. Then I saw a group of old people playing a type of top that I had never seen before.

The top is made of metal, and is shaped like a big bullet. Holes in the side make the whistling sound as the top spins. The whipping action keeps spinning the top.

One of the many reasons that Shenyang was my first choice of posts was that I wanted to see more of the traditional China, before modernization erases it. I think that I saw a little piece of the old China today.

Taiwanese coffee place, in Shenyang

Taiwanese coffee chain 85° has a branch in town (if you followed my blog when I was on my Fulbright year in Taiwan, you might remember my post about sea salt coffee). They sell coffee, tea, Taiwanese bread and cakes. Their blueberry cheesecake is wonderful.


I bought a cup of their hazelnut coffee today, it cost ¥12 ($2). A cup of coffee at the local Starbucks costs ¥27, more than twice that!


Bought some cherries off the back of a truck on a side street. My guess is that they came in from the countryside on that truck.


The sign reads:

Big Cherries
Â¥15 for two pounds
Sheesh they’re sweet!
First try them then buy

Tried them. Sheesh they were sweet. Not as sweet as bing cherries, but sweeter than tart cherries and just as flavorful.

And at $1.20 a pound, they were a lot cheaper than cherries cost in the supermarket in the States!

So of course I bought them.

Pushing myself out of my comfort zone

It rained late this afternoon, but the rain stopped suddenly and the sun came out. The weather was so nice this evening that I wanted to go out and explore the city. I walked around for a while, then got hungry.

I have a bad habit when I am out by myself. I tend not to want to eat out. This is especially true in Chinese contexts, because Chinese food is mainly a communal activity. I think part of this habit comes from the introverted part of my personality. But I think that I miss out on experiences by not engaging with the world, so I am trying to be more outgoing.

Usually when I am out by myself, I look for something simple, buy something and take it home to eat. But I have decided that beginning with this tour, I should take more chances and try new things.

Everyone knows that the restaurants with the best food are not on the main streets, but in the small side streets. In search of something to eat, I turned into a small alley and found a little place that looked clean.

A simple beef rice dish and a side vegetable cost RMB24, about US$4.


The food was good, and I had some nice interaction with the restaurant staff who seemed delighted (and relieved) that I spoke Chinese.

So this was a small improvement in my social habits, I got a nice meal out of it, and conducted some unofficial public diplomacy with the local people.

I guess that’s personal growth.

Local driving habits

Back in the day (late 1980s) in Taipei, one of my favorite things to do was to take a new American arrival to Taiwan on his/her first taxi ride in the city. I would watch the person’s face, and enjoy the horrified expressions as the taxi weaved in and out of traffic, cheating death at least one time for every city block traveled.

With the advent of Taipei’s wonderful subway system, traffic got less crazy, and my fun was taken away from me. I used to miss those good old days.

Then the good old days came roaring back.

Twenty-some years later, living again in a Chinese city, I get another chance to witness crazy driving. I have begun taking a taxi to work, so I get a full dose of Shenyang driving every day. It’s as if the taxi drivers here took lessons from the Taipei taxi drivers from the 1980s.

And the students have become the masters.

I wish I had the writing skills to describe the feeling that I experience when three lanes of cars all attempt to turn left at the same time, into an intersection that was already crowded with oncoming traffic that ran the red light and is stranded in the middle of of the road.

The feeling is sort of like that moment in time when you drop a glass jar full of jelly beans onto a marble floor. Time slows down as you see the glass jar tumbling downward toward an inevitable end. Just before the jar hits the floor, you think to yourself: “well, that was an unfortunate turn of events. This will have some unwelcome consequences.”

That’s the feeling that I get most mornings now.

Who needs coffee to get your blood pumping in the morning, when you have that?