Wednesday, April 30, 2003

The Explosion

In an effort to clear out the excesses of life, Ben and Bess will need to eat a lot of goodies that have been in their cupboards. Rare and exotic foodstuffs like hot chocolate, Cranberry Sauce, canned vegetarian products, etc., are too heavy to carry away, and too wonderful to leave. So, gourmet meals must be endured during their final days in China. Last night it was to be mashed potatoes, Vegetarian steaks, some Macaroni Salad with real cheese, cranberry sauce, and a vegetable. I would have to go to the market and buy a vegetable. While at the market I also bought 4 pounds of fresh beautiful strawberries for 75 cents to make some Jam to take back to Hong Kong. The strawberries were too cheap to leave in the market. On the way back to the hospital, I walked down the street with my heavy load. I of course had to buy something to put the jam in to take it home, sugar to make the jam healthy and delicious, and even saw a little ceramic jam pot that Jeri would like. (If the Airlines only knew!)

A group of men gathered around a cell phone. They looked as if this were a new object to them. I wanted to take a picture. Even though I never got it, I did manage to take several shots of people passing by or stopping to pose and then look at their likeness in the viewer on the back of the camera. Suddenly there was a shout and loud explosion. No one seemed to notice. I looked across the street towards the source of the bang. A man was frantically working with a piece of his equipment that had obviously malfunctioned and exploded. I couldn't tell exactly what his work was, but he had set up a little business at the side of the road, and judging from his blackened face, hands and clothing, he worked with dirt, or he had suffered terribly during the explosion. I wondered why no one was willing to go to his aid. One woman stood nearby the catastrophic scene casually watching as he struggled with charred piece of equipment.

I finally went over. A fire still smoldered and he was sitting in front of it now, having recovered from his mechanical set-back. He worked with two hands. One pumped bellows that sent jets of air into the hot coals beneath a round cylinder which he turned with the other hand. This blackened cylindrical canister appeared to me to be the very object which had previously exploded. Maybe he had fixed it and could resume his business. What his business was, I could not imagine. I asked if I could take his picture. Absolutely Not! A man stopped and asked if I spoke English. He then began to translate between myself the the sooty camera-shy laborer. My translator had lived in Boston for 20 years, and spoke both languages flawlessly. He said that the picture could be taken for a high price. I declined., but since watching is not only allowed but a favorite pastime in China, I watched. When he removed the rotating canister from the flame the crowd scattered. Some hid behind trees, others took cover beyond parked vehicles. Our little, blackened, and shrewd business man put the canister into a type of cage. The end where he placed the canister was open. Opposite the opening, the cage narrowed down into a long piece of fabric that looked similar to a windsock at rural small-craft airport. The end of this filthy fabric which was about 6 feet long, was tied in a dirty knot. When all was in place, little man gave a shout of warning. Then worked at the lid of the canister. It was obviously pressurized from its time over the flame, and when the clamps which held it in place had been jarred loose, a great report was heard. A couple of ladies came from behind a parked van and strolled casually towards Mr. Grime. He had taken the hot pressure cooker out of the cage and now held up the cage with attached windsock, shaking the spent ammunition which had shot out of the little sealed canon into the windsock, down towards the dirty knot. One of the ladies opened her purse and took out some small change. He now opened a plastic bag with his black hands and then untying the knot, emptied the contents of windsock into plastic bag.

The microwave stuff is pretty blah, really. I wonder if the guy has ever made strawberry jam.


No comments: