November 23, 2004
Trip Start Aug 08, 2004
34Trip End Aug 2005
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Last week's major emotional upheaval centered around the departure of Nancy, the other American teacher at my school. Her husband is undergoing open heart surgery, so she flew home on Monday. I have no idea if she will return, although I have a feeling that the second she steps onto American soil, there will be no coming back. So, I am all by myself in this neck of the woods. Somewhat scary, but at least Jeff is only a bus ride away.
Last Thursday, Dr. Qiu invited me to go out to dinner with her and her colleagues. She asked if I eat duck, so I said, yes, that's fine. What I didn't realize is that her pronunciation is so awful that when she said "duck," she actually meant "dog." I walked into a restaurant that, I kid you not, was absolutely packed with people sitting around tables eating dog hotpot. What was also unfortunate for me is that there was nothing else on the menu. I sat down at the table with about 8 other people, and literally 10 inches from my face was a big, bubbling communal vat of dog soup. I looked around and everyone was fishing around with their chopsticks and pulling out chunks of meat, some with bones and tendons still attached. I was trying hard not to gag.
All I could see in my head was my dog Tyler (the sweetest black lab that ever lived) staring at me with his mournful brown eyes, as if to ask me what the hell I was doing. So, naturally, I started to cry. I'm actually surprised that I had that reaction, since I'm pretty immune to weird foods, even more so since getting to China. I had to leave the table, with everyone in the restaurant staring at me, while Dr. Qiu had to explain to her friends what was wrong with the crazy American. I still have no idea what differentiates a pet dog from a "food dog," and I haven't found a Chinese person who can clearly explain it to me either. In my mind it's one step away from cannibalism, but obviously to them it is just a meal-another reminder of the vast cultural differences I encounter everyday.
Dr. Qiu felt awful and evacuated me as quickly as possible to the nearest western restaurant, then took me to a karaoke party to get my mind off of what happened. I personally find karaoke a horrifying pastime, but sucked it up and managed to redeem myself in front of her colleagues by entertaining them with a (badly sung) version of "My Heart Will Go On" and "Right Here Waiting for You." I find it strange and somewhat depressing that these two songs comprise much of the average Chinese person's knowledge of American music. It's been a long week, and I am eager to leave town.