In Which Phil and Peter Go Off Reservation and Discover Magic Taro

In order to maintain crew morale, today is a scheduled day off, the only one during the shoot. Travels days are definitely not considered days off! We had a leisurely 8:30 a.m. breakfast and then Phil and I were picked up at 10 a.m. and transported to Daqing’s office in the Muslim (Hui) part of town, colorful and cacophonous. I should explain that I have worked in Li Daqing’s office and lab for five years. He collected the dinosaur Auroraceratops that my students and I named after my wife in 2005. Daqing is not only a colleague but a close friend. He spent three months in my lab last fall, during which time he completed his Ph.D. dissertation. He also attended my daughter’s wedding and enjoyed an American Thanksgiving with my family. In turn, his wife and daughter (now age 19) are like my Chinese family.

Phil’s eyes bugged out like the proverbial kid in a candy store. Daqing generously permitted photography without reservation, and Phil maxed out on the opportunity. He hardly knew where to turn first with his voracious camera lens. His eye was drawn to the lovely neck of pelvis of Qiaowanlong, the first brachiosaurid from China that You Hailu and Li Daqing described last month. It was also impossible to overlook the massive and interesting pelvis of Suzhosaurus, the enigmatic plant-eating theropod that Daqing and colleagues described in 2007. Then there is the skull of the great iguanodont Lanzhousaurus with the rhinoceros-sized teeth that Hailu and Daqing described way back in 2005. And there are the gigantic sauropod footprints on the wall that measure 1.2 meters in breadth! Almost overlooked were the dainty skulls and skeletons of Auroraceratops on the floor. After an orgy of photography we lunched downstairs. Daqing has a remarkable operation. His workers work hard and he provides well for them. He has a cook for his office and another one for his lab, which is several blocks away. The meal was simple but very tasty and satisfying. It consisted of four bowls, one each of eggplant, cabbage, shredded potato in tangy sauce, and pork. We each had a bowl of rice. The meal was finished with a soup of egg drop and tomato.

Like a dinosaur track, only bigger

Like a dinosaur track, only bigger

Afterwards Phil and I strolled on the campus of Lanzhou University of Technology and sat by a pond to watch the human parade. Photography satisfied, we returned to the hotel at 4 p.m. and decided to go out for an exploratory walk. We were accompanied by Kelly, the young and engaging intern who has the job of keeping the BOFs out of danger. It was a privilege to have her company. We entered a large department store and explored the huge first floor supermarket that any American grocery shopper would be delighted with, although some tender souls may find some of the fish and stray animal parts or the malodorous spiked durian fruit a little vivid. We marveled at the wide range of goods and also at the small armies of uniformed employees, sometimes up to six in a single aisle without a great deal to do. Afterwards we left the comfort of the familiar and walked through a lengthy outdoor market down a narrow and uneven alley behind our hotel. This was China full strength and a great excursion for an anatomist. Various body parts and organs were displayed for our inspection. I even stumped my companion on the identity of a bowl of curious translucent bilobed objects next to a tank of catfish. I knew that they were swim bladders although I had no idea that they could be considered food items. They did not tempt me. For the less adventuresome even the teas and spices were a delight to see and smell. The market unfailingly provides insight into the culture of any nation.

Marketing in Lanzhou

Marketing in Lanzhou

After this invigorating walk we landed at the inviting Tao Yuan Chun restaurant with its red silk lanterns and colorfully clad waitresses for some late afternoon refreshment. With her unfailing instinct for the wishes of her charges, Kelly ordered the ba bao (eight treasure) tea we had enjoyed so much the night before. It was even more enjoyable than last night because it was not competing with so many others tastes and flavors. Then came the snack she ordered, right out of our dreams. She translated the name as ‘thousand year magic taro,’ and it was indeed magic. The presentation was exquisite, a perfect tall triangular pyramid of what looked like coconut-coated donut holes with colored jimmies for decoration. They were hot, had a crisp caramelized outer shell, and a sweet somewhat donut-like taro interior. Oh my, we were in sugar-tooth heaven! We ate way too many, although for the record I stopped slightly before Phil did. We did manage to leave the bottom layer. This beautiful mound of pleasure cost a mere 18 yuan, somewhat less than three dollars. Dunkin Donuts was never like this! At 7:30 p.m. we contented ourselves with a simple meal of Lanzhou beef noodles.

Motor biking sheep

Motor biking sheep

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1 Comment

  1. Hillary I. said,

    October 21, 2009 at 6:13 pm

    Thanks Peter. Now I am really hungry and wanting to eat dessert before dinner :). You always have a way with the gastronomic tourism!


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