We are having a nice time with our guests, but one of the interesting things I am learning from their visit is how, in many ways, I have acclimated to life here.
For one, there is the food. Naturally, our friends want to go out for Chinese food. We have taken them to some well-known traditional Guangdong food (Cantonese) establishments. This morning we took the kids to Dong Shan Hu Gongyuan (a park we have discussed in prior posts). On the way home, we decided to head up to the Garden Hotel area, eat at a Malaysian restaurant we tried our very first week in town, and take the brand new subway (Line 5) home. We are particularly excited about Line 5 because it opens up a braqnd new area of the city to us – an area where many of the ex-pats live and most of the Western, Indian, Middle Eastern (etc) restaurants are located. So, anyway, we went to the Malaysian restaurant and Jason ordered several dishes including my favorites – broccoli in curry sauce and lemongrass tofu. Jason also ordered a stir-fried vegetable dish that one finds on the menu in any Chinese restaurant here – mushrooms, broccoli, carrots, minicorn, etc. When it arrived at the table I thought to myself that it was on odd choice of dish. Then, toward the end of the meal, Jason asked our friends what they thought. They remarked that the other meals they had eaten were much tastier, and that the Chinese vegetable dish was their favorite of the meal. While the meal had been a welcome treat for us – a break from the Chinese food that makes up so much of our diet, for our friends it was a departure from the wonderful dining experiences they had had up to that point.
Another way in which I have changed here in China is through my adoption of some of the norms around handling food. With some notable exceptions, it is considered primitive to eat with your hands. Food that you do hold to eat typically comes with some kind of a wrapper or holder so that your hand does not actually touch the food. Even pizza comes with disposable plastic gloves to use when you are eating it. I have clearly become accustomed to this and find that I have an adverse reaction to people using their hand to eat fruit, snacks like crackers, and hard-boiled eggs. Also, here you are not supposed to eat food that has been dropped, even if it just falls on the table (although the table rule is broken in practice pretty frequently). So, imagine my surprise at seeing people eat food that has fallen on the table and floor – even though not so long ago I didn’t bat an eyelash when my children did the very same thing.