We went to our Chinese friend’s home tonight so Andrea could learn to cook a steamed bean cake dish…what an adventure!!!
We bought a HUGE fruit basket to bring with us. (Note: the buying experience for that was hilarious as three market workers were determined to help me buy the finest fruit money could buy and perfectly package the basket.) Our friend came to our apartment with her bike, soon to have a huge fruit basket in the kiddie seat, and we all embarked on our bikes to her home.
And holy shit! (Please excuse my language.) We exited the east gate of campus onto Xingangxi Road, busier and more chaotic than any street in the United State. With kids on the backs of our bikes, we weaved our way like water over rocks between public buses, bikes, mopeds, pedestrians, cars, and a garbage truck. We survived the street and soon took a right turn onto Jiang Road. I thought the worst was over and I could calm down…WRONG! The next mile was a maze of narrow streets, ricksaws, people, cars, stray dogs, vendors, construction, smog, and dust, and the longer we rode it seemed we were going farther and farther backward into China’s period of development. We never were in the uppity and highly developed part of GZ north of the river or even the moderately modern area near the sourthern eadge of the Pearl River. We were now in a chaotic jungle that more closely resembled the streets of India or Bangkok in my imagination.
We finally arrived at her apartment, a seven story walk to her door. While the building’s exterior was worn, the apartment’s interior was filled with very old hard-carved beautiful wooden furniture from the countryside. We were immediately invited to have tea with our hosts (the mother, father, grandmother and daughter). (The daughter goes to school with my daughter, and Andrea and I are both friends with the mother.) I tried red tea and green tea along with many “Guangzhou snacks,” while the kids placed with grandmother. Conversation started slow, as our hosts spoke less English than Andrea and I speak Chinese. But soon conversation sped up as I explained that I liked cooking too, and asked if I could watch with Andrea as dinner was being pepared. I learned so much about wok-style cooking that I fairly confident that I could make three new dishes well: a stuffed-tofu dish, an amazing chicken dish and a hot pepper with stuffing dish. Dinner also included shrimp, broccoli with cocunut milk, mushrooms, rice, and Chinese broccoli. Dinner was wonderful, with the food accompanied by some exotic alcoholic beverage. Fruit, steamed bean cakes, and tea for dessert. The ride home was exhilarating and I nearly had a serious crash heading into the east gate of campus.
An amazing evening, a true cross-cultural adventure that I will never forget, and of course a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I cannot do justice to in words.