When alone in the hotel I turn on the TV and start clicking the remote like crazy. It's an almost automatic and rather futile exercise but I can't help it. The reason behind the mindless clicking is that Im hoping that by some miracle, I'll finally understand what theyre saying, or at least land on someone speaking something I understand -- a phrase, a word, anything. They do have an English-language news channel and every Tuesday night, the movie channel shows an English language movie, but I clamor for more. (Some of the stuff on the English language news channel reminds me of those government ads, paid for by taxpayer money, proclaiming, "Ramdam ko ang asenso.") There's one channel that regularly shows foreign language movies all day, really bad ones, but beggars can't be choosers. On second thought, yeah I can be choosy. If the movie's exceedingly bad, I turn on the TV's Tetris mode and play. (I now have the official high score of all the residents of Room 208; the top three scores in fact.) The thing that struck me the most about going back to Nanjing after a 3-year absence, aside from the ubiquitous Pinoy brand Oishi in the supermarkets, is the presence of Filipino movies on Chinese television. Dubbed in Chinese of course. These are mostly 80s and 90s era action movies. So far, Ive seen a Ronnie Ricketts movie and a Zoren Legazpi movie. It's remarkable how similar they are to the Hong Kong action movies of the same era, stylized choreographed deaths and all.
But you can't fault the food in this place. Even if the hole-in-the-wall restaurants dont look all that inviting, they sure can cook. (If youre fussy about your food, try no to look at the chef -- he'll almost always look dingy, if not outright unhygienic.) I especially like the fried mushrooms. I dont know how they do it but it has the taste and texture of chicharon. The bagnet kind from Ilocos. My officemate has what everyone calls the 'magic book', a notebook with popular dishes written in Chinese, given to us by our Nanjing officemates three years ago. It is passed on from employee to employee; everyone who'll be assigned here for any length of time. When I first came here, we didnt have that book and didnt even think of getting the Chinese colleagues to write something like that for us. We were having too much fun walking into restaurants not knowing how to order. What we'd do is look at other tables and ask the waitress to bring us whatever the people at other tables were having. Sometimes she'd go over to the other table, point, and say 'Chi ge?' And we would walk over and say, 'Yes' to the utter amusement (or perplexity) of the eating patron. Now isnt that more fun than having a magic book?