Tuesday, July 5, 2011

In One Ear and Out the Other

I have a student from Qufu whose family occasionally takes it upon themselves to show some extravagant hospitality to the foreign teachers.  You have seen them in previous posts from my parents' visit.

On Sunday night, my student and her mom took me out to supper.  There were four of us, so normally we would order 4 dishes, plus maybe a soup.  I suggested 4 dishes.  They ordered about 12.

Then they wanted me to take all the leftovers home.  I decided to stand my ground on this one and see what happened, since I had only 2 days to eat all the food I'm already hoarding in my kitchen.  I figured opening the door to free food would result in me getting flooded with snacks in my last day, because that's what this family did to (for?) my teammates.  I am moving away.  The last thing I want is a fridge full of leftovers and unsolicited porridge showing up at my doorstep.  So when the topic of leftovers came up:

Me:  "I don't want any leftovers."
Them:  "How about just a few?"
Me:  "No, I'm trying to get rid of my food."
Them:  "How about just one dish?"
Me:  "No, I'm trying to eat all the food I already have."
Them:  "It's better for you to have new food than old food."
Me:  "But I want to eat my old food."

This went on for 10 minutes.  I ended up walking away with just a few cans of walnut milk (which I like), and a wad of napkins from the restaurant my student's mother inexplicably stuffed in my bag as we walked out.  Let's call this one a draw.

Then the mother wanted to walk me home.  We happened to pass a lychee stand.

Her:  "Let me buy you some lychees."
Me (laughing):  "NO!  I don't want any food."
Her (rifling through the lychees):  "I know you like them.  I'll get you some."
Me:  "No, I really don't want them."
Her (still rifling):  "Oh, they are not ripe yet.  I'll get you some tomorrow."
Me:  "Thanks, but I really don't want any.  I need to eat the food I already have."

I made it home lychee-less.  Score:  Alison 1, Chinese hospitality 0

Yesterday my student (the daughter) called me:

Her:  "My father has bought a small book of Confucius's analects for your parents.  When can I bring it over?"
Me:  "Oh, is it heavy?  Because I am mailing some things in the morning and if it's heavy I want to mail it then."  (Trying to budget my luggage weight.)
Her:  "Oh no, it is not heavy at all."
Me:  "OK, maybe you can bring it tomorrow night."
Her:  "Have you eaten yet?"
Me:  "Yes."
Her:  "Oh.  My father's colleague got some salted fish from Jining.  Do you want some?"
Me:  "Thanks, but I already ate supper and I don't need any more food."
Her:  "It is very delicious.  It's a local specialty."
Me:  "Thank you, but I don't want any right now.  Remember?  I am trying to clean out my kitchen."
Her:  "How about I just bring a little?"
Me (Laughing):  "You can bring me ONE BITE."
Her:  "Are you serious?"
Me:  "Yes."
Her:  "Maybe I won't bring it."

So I dodged the salted fish.  Score:  Alison 2, Chinese hospitality 0.

Tonight she and her mom came over with the gift for my parents.  It turned out to be about the size and weight of a large dictionary -- a set of Confucius's sayings, but made of metal and not paper, and so microscopic that it comes with its own magnifying glass.  I wouldn't call it "light" necessarily -- 5 or 6 pounds at least.

And the mom, true to form, showed up with a HUGE bag of lychees and 6 mangoes. 

Score:  Alison 2, Chinese hospitality 2

Within minutes of their leaving, I had already secured a different student to come over and take the fruit off my hands.  If it wasn't for the golden Confucius weighing down my suitcase, I would call this a win-win-win situation.


  1. Love this post. I identify so much. You are one thousand times tougher than me. Good work pawning off the fruit.