CHINA JOURNAL---WEDNESDAY, MARCH 6, 2002
During the morning hours at Bohan School, a delegation arrived in our office. When there is a message for me, it entails at least one person from the office that received the message and at least one of the two English teachers and often several onlookers. So the delegation arrived. It was a message from Fu Ling. I was to attend a meeting at the corporate office at 6:00. The director told me I could go with her.
At 5:45 she came in to get me. We walked down and she put me in a taxi that was inside the school groundsand closed the door. I thought we were going together. The taxi man instantly picks up another man from within the school grounds and off we go for about a half hour ride. I hadn¹t thought the office was that far from the school, but I figured there wasn¹t a lot I could do but wait quietly and have faith. They did have several phone conversations which I figured might have involved our location. Finally we drove past the office, so I made a noise and pointed towards it. They both pointed across the street. We turned into the ³Hotel Street² and stopped in front of one of the two fancy hotels that face each other. A doorman came down and took my school bag and I simply followed along. One has to enjoy these blind faith situations and be thankful you are blessed with someone in whom you can have faith! He led me through a large marble lobby, past a large empty dining room into a side room and here were four people from the office, a man I didn¹t know, and a beautifully set table with six appetizer dishes carefully placed around the large lazy Susan. This was to be yet another food story. This time it was taking place in the Bohan Hotel which is totally owned by my hostess Fu Ling.
The guest was Yu Chun He, who owns and runs what I think is the largest travel agency in China. He is a world traveler, a philosopher, in his words ³a very Westernized Chinese², and an excellent speaker of English. I¹m sure this was a business dinner but I¹m not sure the nature of the business. Yu Chun He was very gracious about summarizing various parts of the non-business part of the conversation for me. There was quite a bit of discussion about the Tai Chi that Sun Zhi Hong is teaching Zhang Jie and me. There are apparently five different authentic ancient schools of martial arts and many modern offshoots. He wanted me to know that what he is teaching me is the authentic Yang 24. At one time during the three hour evening, Yu Chun He sang a Chinese ballad in response to a question. He then said that Fu Ling was a master at singing Peking Opera. Upon request, she graciously stood up and belted out this powerfully loud Chinese song which has many notes wiggling around for one vowel sound. I wouldn¹t think a person would have any voice left if they sang a whole opera like that. No microphone would be needed. The song was from the ³new Peking Opera² which means it is from the cultural revolution days and they all laughingly enjoyed the contents. They then asked me to sing a song. I sang America the Beautiful and told them a bit about it and how it was sung by the senators on the Senate steps after September 11. Fu Ling said that on September 11th she was in an airplane on the way to New York. They were diverted to Vancouver.
The appetizers on the lazy Susan included jellyfish and stomachI didn¹t ask ³of what¹. A small round fruit that looks like a big cherry turns out to be a very small date and delicious on a plate with the tiniest almonds I have every seen. Again the men drank ³spirits² and were practically chain smoking and the women drank warm almond milk which is heated in the cans in a steamer. The presentation of all the food was noteworthy. The very orange prawns came arranged on a plate to form the wings of a butterfly while one prawn had been opened flat to form the body. Several plates came with a large chrysanthemum as decoration. One small plate had miniature shrimp stuffed rabbits made of steamed buns, with little ears, eyes, and nose, all circling a large mound of parsley as if eating. The evening before Zhang Ji Sheng at home had fixed candied sweet potatoes. The chunks of sweet potato arrive at the table still steaming with the liquid candy coating. You pick one up with chopsticks and dip it in a bowl of water to solidify the coating. They are yummy. The hotel served the same thing made with white potatoes, not quite as good a combination as the sweet potatoes. Once they solidify on the plate, they are not easy to dig off with chopsticks, but it can be done. In three hours of often not understanding any conversation I had time to observe. I noticed with glee that certain objects which are rounded and slippery and very difficult for me to pick up with chopsticks also take the Chinese sometimes quite a few tries to get a good grip.
Along with the usual rice and soup arrived a lovely plate of fruit slices served with a pile of toothpickswatermelon, pineapple, mandarins, kiwi, and unpeeled banana chunks. This they pick up with toothpicks which seem to me to be less sturdy than the chopsticks for such a job.
We arrived home in a taxi around 10:00. I gave Fu Ling the Chinese note which Miss Zhang, the English teacher, had asked me to give her. She feels her English has improved so dramatically in just two weeks with me (and it has) that she was asking if she could have more time with me. I¹m flattered.