“This is ridiculous,” I thought. “Why can’t I find any crabs underneath these rocks? This shouldn’t be that hard.” And so I moved on to another rock, searching for the elusive crab. Nope, not here either. Somehow it must have sensed my presence and warned all other crabs near me to avoid the groping giant.
My friend Jackman and I had used the extended weekend, courtesy of Qingming Holiday, to visit three coastal cities: Weihai, Yantai, and Penglai. And now we were in Penglai for the last day of the trip. After we had emptied our wallets, we decided to amble along the beach the last day, free of charge.
Penglai is more of a large town than a city. So the beach was fairly undeveloped with little entertainment aside from jetski and speedboat rides on the sea. And it seemed to never end too. We had been walking for nearly half and hour when we encountered pockets of people with garden implements (a shovel, spade, and pitchfork) squatting and bending over rocks covered in lime green, hairy seaweed. I was curious to see what they were doing and began my treacherous walk on these slippery rocks, trying to avoid any fatal missteps.
Some people were dropping mussels in white buckets. Others were attempting to catch eel-like fish in the pools of water. And some were searching for crabs. One boy and his father had been collecting the eel fish when I heard the boy give a surprised shout. He had caught a crab, or maybe it had caught him. It was hard to tell. At any rate, I thought I could do the same.
But after upending various rocks in various pools for nearly an hour, I realized it was not meant to be. I wasn’t going to catch a crab today. Oh well, at least Jackman and I had a pleasant walk on the beach. And so we left the beach and headed back to Qingdao.
We arrived back in Qingdao Sunday night, and I realized I had one more day to find a crab before teaching resumed. So I decided to visit Lingshan Dao, a mountainous island, with my friends Alex and Oliver. My main goal was to climb the mountain, but if I happened to find a crab along the way, I wouldn’t be complaining.
We left for Lingshan Dao in the morning, and after a 30-minute ferry ride, we had reached the island. I was determined to climb the mountain today. But first we had to find the way up. Oliver asked a local where to go, and soon we began walking along the road that encircled the island. Occasionally a tourist car would speed by us, but aside from that, the island was a quiet place. One of the locals told Oliver over 2,000 people lived here. But I don’t think we saw more than 20 that day.
When we came to the back of the island, we found a road that snaked its way to the 517m peak. Alex stayed behind while Oliver and I began the ascent. For the first part, we chose to clamber over tea terraces while periodically entangling ourselves in briars in our push to the summit. Once we reached the road again, we decided the road was a much better option and continued the arduous climb. Finally we reached the top, just before my legs began cramping and my heart burst from my chest (only a slight exaggeration).
The vista was stunning. Jagged, sheer rocks dropped down into a myriad tea terraces which enclosed pockets of villages that touched the expansive ocean. It would have been an awesome spot to skydive, but I had neither the money nor the guts to do it. If I couldn’t walk tomorrow, I would still not regret climbing the mountain.
Later on, Oliver and I joined Alex at a local restaurant and feasted on cabbage, eggs, and fish. At that point, I think anything would have tasted good to me. But regardless, it was a tasty meal. We then sipped some green tea and basked in the sunlight. I was ready to sleep. But lessons began to tomorrow, and we had to leave soon.
So we walked back to the dock where the ferry was. “How long ’til the boat leaves?” I asked one of the locals. “4pm.” I looked at my watch. We had nearly an hour’s wait. So Oliver and I decided to explore a rocky section of the beach near the dock. A rocky beach can’t boast much compared to a sandy one, but there is one advantage. You can skip rocks. I found plenty of rocks to skip, but they weren’t very obliging when I tried to skip them on the water. And then it happened. I lifted up another rock to skip, not thinking to look underneath.
“Look, a crab!” Oliver said. Who would have thought. I had scoured Penglai’s beach for a crab, and I now, out of pure happenstance, I had found one. Oliver grabbed it for me, and we searched for a suitable home for it. We decided to use a jagged Qingdao beer bottle as a temporary residence. When we got back to the port, I found a green plastic mug lying on a trash heap. Now the crab had a proper home. And it would be the perfect present for Alex.
When we got back to the boat, we presented our gift to Alex. He didn’t seem too thrilled and suggested we put some water into the cup for the crab. I grabbed the cup in one hand, jumped back onto the dock, scrambled down some rocks, collected water, and hopped back onto the boat just before the foghorn blew. Whew, close timing.
As the island receded into the distance, I reflected on the adventures of the past few days. I had visited three cities, climbed a mountain, and found a crab. But then reality set in. What would I do with it in my apartment? How would I feed it? I mean, how much work would this require? This crab was becoming too troublesome. So Oliver mercifully flung it back into the sea as we neared Jimiya Port.
Next time I would search for a prawn. Knowing my luck, there would be a crab under every rock.