Published February 18th, 2009 by Mliesie

This is where I draw the line…..

During Guo Nian, I stayed with one of my Chinese families who live in the Ankang area. I learned to make jiao zi and bao zi, I practised my mahjiang skills, I took loads pictures, I saw people drinking so much alcohol they must have liver problems and of course there was the food! Loads of it!

Every day we would have at least one family visit for an extensive meal (I was excused for the second meal of the day :-) ). One day we would be playing mahjiang at a cousin’s house, when suddenly I was summoned to the uncle’s house right next door. However much we protested and said we came here for the cousins, there was no stopping it. We had to have a meal with the uncle and all the ‘important’ people of the town he had been able to get together for lunch. I was seated on the guest of honour’s seat and then the men showed up, 1 by 1, and I was supposed to be smiling, to be witty and to communicate through my personal friend and interpreter (who hated being there as much as I did…). It was very clear from the first moment that it was ‘monkey time’. The uncle had invited these people and me, the only woman and of course foreigner, to show me off. Knowing a foreigner and especially being able to say it’s your nephew’s close friend can earn you a lot of respect still, in some places. Well, we sat through the meal trying not to look too grumpy and trying to ignore the fact that the conversation wasn’t a very polite one. We made it, but we escaped as soon as we could without being impolite. On the short walk afterwards we both agreed this definitely was ’monkey time’ and showing off the ‘waiguoren’. SC hates it, because he considers me his friend and not a prize to show off with.


A few days later I was swept off to another meal. Some of the people there were still quite important, others a lot less. Main thing was, they were nice and had some interesting things to talk about. No ‘monkey time’, but genuine interest and nice conversation. As always it was a meal with way too much delicious food. During this holiday, I had already eaten quite a few things I hadn’t had before….. chicken feet, pig ears, sheep hooves (!!!), stomach and intestines. Delicacies for everyone, except me; but I was brave and I tried it all (tried not always to ‘taste’ it though), put it in my mouth, chewed it, swallowed it and actually never felt sick to my stomach. But this was the meal where I drew the line… As the guest of honour (yep! again!) I had to take the first try of each dish that was served. After about 10 different dishes, suddenly a bowl of soup appeared. At least…. that was what it looked like from a distance….. As soon as they put it on the table I kindly but resolutely refused to eat what was in it. They were serving turtle soup, with a whole turtle floating in the bowl (no worries, it didn’t move anymore…)!!!! This is where I drew the line and fortunately it was commonly accepted (pfew!). Had I not been the guest of honour, I wouldn’t have had to refuse out loud, I just wouldn’t have taken any without a word. As did SC…..

I survived it all, I still love Chinese food, the Chinese and China and please don’t let this silly little story scare you off to ever come to China yourself :-)

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