Dried beef noodles

It’s been a great week. One of those that’s so action packed that it feels more like a month.

Over the past few days, I met with my friends in the local university (呼伦贝尔学院), and squeezed in a good schedule of interviews with local residents in their 70s and 80s. This lineup included a couple of former cadres, and a wonderful local historian, who was introduced by the father of one of my office mates in CUHK.

In between, I did a lot of wandering around Hailaer, not that I didn’t already know the city pretty well, but it’s definitely a different world when it’s frozen over like this. The roads are pretty, but even with teams clearing the ice (by hand!) every surface is completely frictionless.

Of course the best part of walking around is those unexpected, 可遇不可求 moments, like today, when I went looking for one restaurant, then couldn’t find it, then got lost, then decided, screw it, I’m going home, but then remembered I was still pretty lost, and by the way that it’s also really cold (see previous entry). All that time, I didn’t think I was all that hungry, or at least there was nothing I really craved for lunch. Then it hit me, I really want dried beef noodles. I had these noodles last summer in Baerhu zuoqi, and they were damn tasty, and I had realized that dried beef noodles were only thing in the world I wanted now.

But you don’t see dried beef noodles just everywhere – in fact, I hadn’t seen them anywhere in Hailaer. I was actually thinking of going to a store and buying some dried beef to drop into a regular bowl of noodles.

And then I looked up and saw the sign — dried beef noodles. Into the shop I went, and once my brain and glasses had unfogged, I saw that everyone in the restaurant was sitting around one table that was covered in beer bottles. Clearly the owner and friends were having a belated new year get together, so I felt kind of guilty interrupting their fun. But it turned out that they were the friendliest people in the world. They would not let me leave, so I had some noodles (tasty!) and some beer (also tasty!), and we talked about this and that. I told them that I was in town to do research on local history, and that I still need to interview some old people from Baerhu zuoqi (where Ganjuur Temple is). And wouldn’t you know it – that’s exactly where they are from. So they will get everything set up tomorrow, and I will go the day after.


And that’s why doing fieldwork is the greatest job in the world.