Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
Although Qingcheng City was a coastal city, it was pretty hot in the summer, especially during the daytime. It was the beginning of June, so the daytime temperature was generally in the 30 degree celsius range. After sunset, the sea breeze cooled down the city, and it became most comfortable during this time of the day. Later, closer to midnight, the water rising from the sea brought wet and cold air with it.
In an eatery by the sea, the owner set down plastic tables and chairs. It was during this time that a blowing sea breeze was accompanied by a freshly-caught seafood barbecue, complimented with a bubbling beer. This was the most popular pastime for the people of Qingcheng City.
"Here are your roasted oysters. Enjoy!" A waiter put down a huge iron plate on the table filled with oysters.
"Oyster" was the shellfishs’ scientific name. In different dialects people called it various things. Southerners called it "hao"; Cantonese called it "shenghao"; Minnan people called it "kezai"; and Qingcheng people called it "Hailizi." Oysters were a nutritious seafood that contained a large amount of protein, calcium carbonate, taurine, and some other trace elements, including nucleic acid and zinc. Moreover, it facilitated male psychological functions. For this reason it was regarded as a male tonic. In general, whether it was northerners or southerners, people living along the coast were fond of oyster.
Dai Li was staring at the oysters, his mouth watering. The oysters were already open with fresh white meat exposed, sending forth a tantalizing smell. Their juice was still bubbling and sizzling on the overheated shell, and the black edge of the meat was trembling with the bubbling juice as the inner white shell was glistening under the light.
"Shall we?" Coach Xu picked up a shell and popped the meat into his mouth. "Ah...so hot...but it’s cooked just right!" Coach Xu was satisfied with the oyster.
There were all kinds of ways to cook oysters. Some people liked to add ground garlic, scallions, and Chinese vermicelli onto the shell; some preferred to dip the shellfish into soy sauce; some liked to steam it first and then dip it into a mixed sauce, like vinegar or wasabi. As for Qingcheng locals, they loved the original flavor. They cooked it and ate it plain.
Li was used to eating oysters with vinegar. In his hometown of Yuzhou, people ate freshwater fish quite often. Because freshwater fish had an earthy smell, even after cooking, people added vinegar to get rid of it. Gradually, Li had formed a habit: dip the seafood into vinegar. But because he had moved to a new place, he went with the classic saying: "When in Rome, do as the Romans do." He mirrored Coach Xu’s behavior, putting the oyster into his mouth without adding any seasoning.
"This is so good!" Li was savoring an oyster as he spoke ambiguously. "If I recall correctly, fishing has been banned. How come we have such big oysters?"
"You are right, fishing has already been banned. There is going to be a three month "no-take" season. But these are bred oysters. Aha, there comes the halfbeak!" As they were chatting, a waiter came with roasted halfbeaks.
Roasted halfbeak was a standard of all barbecue eateries in Qingcheng City. Due to its short growth period and sufficient resources, the fish was cheap and always available. Chefs would slice it up and roast it. Once cooked, the fish would glisten, looking deliciously chewy.
Coach Xu filled his mouth with roasted halfbeak, then drank a glass of beer. He took a break from eating and said, "Feifei came back from Australia a couple days ago. She is now in a good condition,so it seems that the training is effective. However, she gained weight again, about 1kg. She is now in Donggang National Swimming Center. I want you to go help her lose weight."
"No problem! When?" Li agreed without hesitation. Coach Xu had found a formal job for him. Li would never refuse his request.
"Cool! But you are a fitness coach for the weightlifting team, the swimming team can’t give you orders." Coach Xu paused to have another bite of oyster, then continued. "Even if your team is willing to lend you to us, we are not able to pay for your traveling expenses."
"It is 300 yuan for a single trip by high-speed rail. If I live in a cheap hotel, it’s going to cost around 100 yuan per day. Your swimming team is big, you can pay for that small expense, can’t you?" Li joked.
"Of course we can afford that, but for what reason? Feifei has particular coaches on the national team. No need to send her one more coach from our team, right? In addition, ever since the new regulations came out, every budget has been strictly examined. It is a pity that even a chief coach like me has no way to get extra funds." Coach Xu shrugged and spread his hands.
"You want me to pay for that?" Li laughed.
"No, I won’t let you pay by yourself. I have an idea." Coach Xu took a mouthful of water, then continued, "Have you ever heard of the Beikou Athletic Training Center?"
"You mean the training center in Donggang City? That place is super famous, how could I not? But does it have anything to do with me? It is an athletic training center, not a swimming center." Li didn’t understand what Coach Xu was saying.
The Beikou Athletic Training Center was located in the Beikou District of Donggang City. It fell under the national team, and was the best training center in the country. Only athletes with some achievements in international competitions had access to train in this place.
"Here are new dishes! Come on, Let’s drink it up!" Coach Xu stopped the conversation to toast a glass with Li, then continued, "Although the Beikou Training Center is directly under the national team, they lack resident coaches. Many coaches live in Huajing City, and are not willing to travel far to Donggang. Therefore, every year the training center asks for secondment from other provincial sport teams."
It was common for superiors to ask for secondment from subordinate departments, especially in administrative departments. For subordinate departments, sending people to upper departments meant easier access to the newest instructions and requirements; for higher-ups, loaning an individual meant having one more person to share assignments with, as well as having a new liaison. In ministries and commissions, excluding top-level secrets, other tasks were all allocated to the people from lower levels.
"You want me to go there on secondment?" asked Li.
"Right. This is the compliance approach, in which you can go to the training center as a person on loan, and you can help Feifei in passing. This way your traveling expenses can be waived. Even though you are on loan, I can try to wave your fees based off an official business standard," Coach Xu said as he handed Li a skewer.
"According to our rules, being on official business is eligible to receive refund. To first tier cities like Donggang, one could receive 350 yuan per day for hotel subsidy, 100 yuan per day for dining, and a full waiver of any transportation fee. One can even have an extra 50 yuan transportation subsidy. When you are in that center, the national team is in charge of your living, which means you will have zero living and dining cost. So, you can earn 500 yuan per day there, meanwhile your salary would remain the same."
"How long would I be there?" Li asked, accepting the skewer.
"About three months. But Feifei would only stay in Donggang for a month. The rest of your time there you could stay in the training center to do your own work." Coach Xu picked up a skewer for himself.
"500 yuan per day. If I stay there for 100 days, I can earn 50,000 yuan subsidy! That’s a good deal!" Li said, taking a bite of the skewer. The mutton was carefully selected and well cooked. It had a wonderful taste. Li was happy.
"Of course it’s a good deal! Only you, my little brother, can have such benefits, I would not give this good an opportunity to the others!" Coach Xu said. He was a little drunk now, and began calling Li his "little brother" again.
Li smiled at Coach Xu with appreciation, then said, "You must treat me again after I come back!"
"Sure! I will treat you soon after you come back!" Coach Xu drank his beer, then called the waiter. "Give me another refill!"
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