Saturday afternoon I rendezvoused with my new friend Hansor, whom I met the previous week in Book City. He was accompanied this time by his friend, “Lou” who was in town from Beijing. It occurred to me as I walked down the street sandwiched in between these two strange men that I knew nothing about them and, for all I knew, the meeting from the week before had been part of an elaborate Chinese mafia plot, the culmination of which was to now throw me in a van and hold me for ransom.
But we ended up sitting in McDonald’s for two hours so I guess I’ve just seen too many movies. We talked about China and being Chinese and, naturally, food. I felt bad for Lou, who couldn’t “express himself” in English, so he sat mutely next to me as Hansor and I talked about the differences between Northern and Southern Chinese food.
After our stint in McDonald’s (he’d originally suggested “Kundigi,” which I finally realized was supposed to be “Kentucky,” as in “Kentucky Fried Chicken”) we went back to the book store and he helped me look up local volunteer opportunities for an hour. Hopefully I’ll be getting a message later today about helping either the blind or the local Red Cross, which, in all seriousness, are opportunities I was really grateful to get help finding. I’d only been able to locate the address of one orphanage and my tentative plan was to take a bus in its general direction, pop in unannounced and find out how many hand motions it takes to convey “volunteer.”
Saturday night I met my new friend Hong and two of his friends for dinner. Hong is a student from New Zealand who’s headed back to Kiwi land in a week or so, and one of his friends, Lucas, is leaving tomorrow to study in America at Kent State. We started the evening at a Southern Chinese style restaurant with an entire section of the menu devoted to mushrooms and, if I recall correctly, at least a few mentions of something’s intestines.
Nothing we ordered was too outlandish, although the fish did come in its entirety and I couldn’t resist poking at its face with my chopsticks, just in case the Chinese were in danger of getting the impression that Americans are a cultured people who don’t exclaim, “Oh my gawd! Is that its eyeball?” when eating out.
Afterwards we spent an hour reclining at a popular bar/lounge where they taught me a few new Chinese words (now I can put together the sentence, “Sorry, I don’t know what you’re saying – I don’t speak Chinese.”) and Hong disclosed that sometimes he likes to go to church to “feel feelings” and that Twitter is not popular in New Zealand (!?!). Then Hong wanted French fries so we headed to…McDonald’s. But then…we couldn’t decide which we wanted more, Starbucks or McDonald’s, so we ordered fries and ice creams at Mickey D’s and carted our haul one door down into Starbucks, where we ordered coffees and cakes. Well, one cake. For me.
It seems that whenever I post pictures my blog turns into some sort of Chinese yearbook. Now whenever I write about anything my blog takes a decidedly gastronomical bent, and not in a good, Anthony Bourdain-y way, but in the way you might imagine Paula Deen would write if she blogged for the Travel Channel. She and I would at least agree on one thing for sure – the Chinese definitely don’t use enough butter.