Last night one of my students at the hospital, Shen Jie invited me to her family's home for dinner. Shen Jie is an ER nurse and has really great English. It's really rare that I get to hang out with a Chin.ese family (most people I interact with are young married couples or students) so I was stoked to be invited over!
After Sunday afternoon tutoring, I hopped on a bus (no biking because it's been raining heavily for several days) and met Shen Jie at a bus stop close to my gym. Her family is wealthy and lives in one of the nicest apartment complexes in Hangzhou. Because she is not married (she's 28) she lives at home while she "looks for a husband."
Shen Jie considers herself lucky to be able to live with her family because many other young nurses must rent shoddy apartments together because the salary for nurses is reallyyyy reallyyyy low. (300-400USD a month).
Our meal was served in traditional Chinese style. I've come to expect what will happen at these dinners. The woman will be almost absent, will eat little, and will bad-talk her cooking. The man will also bad-talk her cooking (and in this case, his daughter's English). I must eat more than I physically should/can in order to make them happy and think I like everything. (cue: take small bites). I must compliment every dish at least 2x and never stop smiling. I will be told that because I am fat and tall, I should eat more. I must take these comments with a smile.
All questions about America must be dodged and or explained in a general fashion (cue: any negative feelings towards Chi.na are left outside), "Hangzhou is not like American cities, but both are good....etc." I will be told that I am brave and outgoing and that the American way is better - to which I must respond, "No, no, every culture is different, there is no best way." I must bring a gift, (this time, green tea) and should not be surprised when I am given a gift as well, (this time, dried fruits).
And then, after all these steps are taken, another cultural bridge is made. And hopefully the path to true friendship can be formed.
Shen Jie's parents went a little further by telling me that I needed to be Shen Jie's best friend so that her English would get better. Poor girl got all red in the face.
We gabbed in Chin.ese during dinner (even though I was super nervous) while Chin.ese opera played on the tv in the living room. After dinner, Shen Jie showed me pictures of their recent family trip to Yunnan and we talked for awhile before I left. I was really thankful to be invited over, they were a cute family and were very kind to me.
Being with them made me miss my family (and a little jealous of people who get to live at home as adults!) There is a certain atmosphere in families that can't be re-created elsewhere.
Shen Jie's mom and dad, aren't they super cute?
dried fruits as a parting gift (these will be re-gifted to my listening teacher. Chine.se dried fruits taste like vinegar....blah)
Another day, another cultural experience, another chance to speak Chin.ese, another opportunity to share.
walk slow. xoxo.