Post # 56 Travels Abroad China

October 10, 2012 at 1:57 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

I went to China many times and had a great time on each trip.  Each trip, I found the Chinese people to be warm and welcoming, fun, and very diverse.  One of the lessons I learned early in my travels was that each place I went to was different, not worse than America.  I was able to appreciate and enjoy nearly everything I came across.

My first trip to China, I arrived early in the morning after several hours on the plane.  Despite my bloodshot eyes, unshowered demeanor, and overall air of exhaustion, I was looking forward to eating Chinese food in authentic Chinese restaurants.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered that my two coworkers both disliked Chinese food and had no aspirations to frequent any Chinese restaurant other than those U.S. transplants found in China.  Since it was my first trip to China, and my first trip with these two people, I opted for the conciliatory path and went along with their plans.  For the next two and a half weeks, my mouth watered as the local staff prepared their lunches while we trooped out to find yet another KFC or Pizza Hut.  We ate our hotel a lot, too.  One day, we walked through the break room to head out to lunch and someone was cooking something that smelled fantastic!  My mouth watered as I tried to identify what it was, but I was unsuccessful.  As we were waiting for the elevator, I was opening my mouth to say how good it had smelled, when one of my coworkers said, “That smelled disgusting!”  I could only laugh at the irony and resign myself to eating alone with Chinese food, or with the group at an American restaurant.

On one trip, my coworker and I arrived fairly late in the afternoon.  Our point of contact met us at the airport.  When visiting China, the groups we worked with would assign one person to be a sort of liaison to help us move through the customs lines, baggage claim, and provide transportation to the hotel.  The language is extremely difficult unless you’ve studied it or grown up with it and, let’s face it.  Most Americans barely know English.  During the drive to the hotel, our liaison asked if we’d like to go to a local restaurant for something to eat and we happily agreed.  It would give us a chance to see the city a little, as well as getting to know the liaison person.  She said she’d wait for us in the lobby and to take our time.  My coworker was a young man named Paul whose family was Korean.  I’m from Irish stock, and our liaison was also of a European bent.  An hour later, we all climbed into a taxi and our liaison spoke to the cab driver in Chinese telling him where to go.  The cabbie looked at her for a moment, then looked at Paul and spoke to him in rapid Chinese.  Paul looked obviously confused because as a third generation American, he didn’t even speak Korean, much less Chinese.  The liaison spoke again in Chinese, the cabbie nodded, then spoke to Paul again in rapid Chinese.  Paul finally spoke in English that he didn’t understand the cabbie.  Our liaison spoke to the cabbie again and we finally drove away.  She took us to a very popular restaurant in that particular town, one that she thought we’d enjoy and might be homesick for.  I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I seldom ate at the double arches even when I was at home!  She did explain the conversation with the cabbie.  When she told him where to go, he’d asked Paul if what she was saying was true.  She then explained that we were both from American and didn’t speak Chinese at all so the cabbie asked Paul again if what she were saying was true.  When Paul answered in English, which the cabbie didn’t understand, she’d told him that Paul was Korean not Chinese.  That’s when the cabbie decided to take her words as true.

On my final trip to China, there were three events that stand out in my memory.  One of my coworkers and I were having dinner in the hotel restaurant because we had some work to do and didn’t want to go out to a restaurant.  The hotel had a large buffet set up featuring fresh sea food.  I chose steak and salad and rice, while she was having chicken.  We were deep in our work when I saw something out of the corner of my eye.  Glancing quickly, I saw a crab sidling across the floor having escaped from the tank it was in.  I didn’t think too much off it, but warned her about the animal.  She looked, lifted about two feet out of chair with a piercing scream, and hovered for a few moments before deciding it was safe to descend back to her chair.  The wait staff immediately appeared to find out what was wrong and I pointed out the escaped crustacean while trying not to laugh out loud at her discomfiture.  They were apologetic and swept up the offending crab.  Not ten minutes later, three more scurried by, possibly led by the first one who seemed to know which way to go.  She didn’t scream this time, and we both enjoyed a good laugh.

Later in that same trip, we went to dinner with several of the local staff who took us to a restaurant styled along the lines of a 1950’s diner.  Periodically, the wait staff would get up on a small stage and sing Rock Around the Clock or some other 50’s era song in very bad American accents.  While this performance was going on, other employees would grab people from their tables and start dancing around in a pretty decent imitation of a sock hop.  They tried to get me to dance, but I wouldn’t budge.  My stubborn expression made them go to another table pretty quickly.  The funniest part of the evening occurred when my coworker got her fried chicken platter.  They butterflied the whole chicken, leaving the head and feet intact, then fried the entire thing and place the entire thing, head and all, on the platter with french fries and vegetables artfully placed around the edges.  My coworker nearly screamed again.  The people we were with said it was the custom so diners would know they weren’t being cheated.

We visited a panda orphanage and rescue site while we were there and got to hold a baby panda.  See the pics below.  After that visit, we went to a local restaurant which was basically someone’s house.  I didn’t want anything very heavy so I asked for a bowl of mushrooms.  I got a two-quart bowl with so many different kinds of mushrooms I couldn’t identify them all.  They were sautéed, then put into a pork broth with scallions and garlic.  It was the best thing I ate while in China.



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