Friday, July 10, 2009

Pinocchio has been a good boy - Shanghai, China

(From my 2005 diary)

We are exploring the maze of a Shanghai marketplace when suddenly our eyes fall on a butcher-stall.

In the last few weeks we've moved quite a lot and enjoyed any kind of Chinese food, but the sight of a raw ham on display at this stall brings the minds of everyone home. Chuchi is chewing a slice of Serrano, while bits of Parma melt in my mouth.

We ask with gestures the price of a piece. The butcher says forty and I hand him a hundred. He cuts the chunk and wraps it up, gives us the bag and turns away.

We ask for the balance but he won't listen to us. With a swift movement Chuchi grabs the whole piece of ham, trying to trade our money for that hostage of fat. The man seizes a knife and aims it at us. We are in this stalemate when some people stop by. When they want to know what is going on, the butcher answers in Shanghainese. The man can tell them everything he wants, and we won't be able to defend ourselves.

I remember an old joke that might also work here. I move my fingers against my face, then quickly pull them away from it, miming in this way a Pinocchio nose. The spectators laugh and address the man, who tries to tell them that he didn't lie.

When they understand that we don't like this deal, they start to yell: “Bu yao! Bu Yao!”. The butcher can only take back his ham and with a livid face he returns our note.

We greet everybody and walk away. This time Pinocchio has been a good boy.

Photo Shanghai, by Fabio Pulito

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