Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Street Dealers

China has the least effective Communism imaginable. In Shanghai, along with the abundance of people around you at any given moment, or the construction happening all around you, you're likely to be surrounded by commerce. This isn't just from the shops that line the streets in residential and commercial districts, but also from shops that overflow onto the street, or set up on the sidewalk, or stake a position inside the walls of my apartment complex (yes it does have walls - a concession to traditional architecture I guess).

All sorts of things are being sold. Some of it reminds you of what you'd buy on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, little trinkets like bead necklaces. The difference is that instead of being sold by hippies in Tibetan clothes, it's being sold by Tibetans in Tibetan clothes. In this case, though, I believe the lady on the far left is Uighur. They're Shanghai's most visible internal minority, Muslims hailing from North-Western China.

Other things couldn't be bought on Telegraph Avenue. It's currently Blue Crab season in Shanghai, and this dealer has staked out a position on a major street, not all that far from a subway station. The crabs are still alive and are constantly in motion, sometimes crawling out onto the street before he nabs them. When you buy one, he'll tie it up, still alive, for you to take home.

A lot of the dealers sell seasonal fruits. They're a popular snack, although a good percentage of the time I'm not so familiar with the fruit, or haven't even seen them before! Some of the time when I try them I realize I have had them before, but the Western versions are a little different. Some small green-skinned citruses looked vaguely like limes but turned out to be Tangerines, aka Mandarin Oranges. These dealers are everywhere and a lot of the times the stalls are portable, stopping off at a popular spot for a few minutes, and then going somewhere else when street traffic dies down or business slows. This lady, for instance, sells from the back of a bicycle cart.

To me it looks a little feudal, but you'll more commonly see people carry baskets of fruits on their shoulders, with the backets connected by a pole. This seller sells peaches - note that they're indivisually packaged, and tastier than anything you'll find at Albertson's. Usually, though, one basket will contain one kind of fruit, and the other basket another.

Some other popular snacks are kebabs, usually sold by Uighurs. They're more commonly sold from barbequeus on the street, not a shop-side-stall like this. This place is also selling Uighur-style breads. Side-stalls like this are the normal place to buy manapuas and various steamed breads. They'll also sell sweet Soy Milk, which is a Shanghai specialty.

Of course all kinds of things are being sold. Some popular items I won't show photographs of include newspaper stalls (there aren't newspaper boxes, like in the US), bootleg DVDs, and dealers selling fake Rolex watches - although they supposedly take you to a back alley-shop, and don't actually sell on the street.

A recent trend in Shanghai is pets of all kinds, with small dogs and cats being the most popular. I've heard the pets are often abandoned, people not knowing what's involved in raising a pet. It's true you see stray cats in parks or around the neighborhood. The pets I've seen have always seemed overly pampered, though.


A. Barrera said...

Are you sure those cats aren't for eating?

Jeff Rutsch said...

Bad Alexis! I separated the crab picture and the similar-looking cat picture to avoid that very joke!