Gan bei!

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September 27th 2010
Published: November 30th -0001
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I had my first experience with a Chinese dinner party this evening.

I had arranged to meet with my group of Chinese students at 4:30. Forrest showed up first with a big group of boys. Diva could not come because she was sick, and Delilah came late with another girl. Only two of the students were from my group. Several were from Mycal's and a couple were from Monica and Emily's. We all went to a teahouse in the bamboo park.

We sat, and sipped, and chatted. At first it was awkward. We cannot understand each other very well. But soon we were laughing and having fun. They ask me questions like, "What do you think of your life?" and "When you are bored what are you doing?" and "Who is your favorite singer?" Everyone had out their cellphones so that they could look up translations on the internet. Every time the boys added more water to my tea, I said "thank you" and they said "no thanks." In Chinese, when you say "thank you" (谢谢), the customary colloquial reply is (不谢), which translates literally to "no thank you." I told them that in English we would normally say "your welcome." They told me that they knew, but they were speaking Chinglish.

After a while, Monica and Emily had to leave because they had class. The rest of us went to dinner. We had to take three taxis for Mycal, ten Chinese students, and I. We went to a hotpot restaurant near the American embassy. And it was posh. We had our own room in the back. It had a couple of sofas and a television. Then there was a long table with two hot pot burners. The students sat Mycal and I at the head of the table because we are "VIPs" and this is the Chinese tradition.

Delilah asked me what I wanted to drink. I asked if we could have peanut milk. So the three of us girls had warm peanut milk from a pitcher. Usually they give the plastic jugs with room temperature peanut milk, but this was made fresh. The boys all had beer.

They ordered a lot of food. First, we had meats. Beef, bologna, meatballs, cocktail weenies, fat beef, rabbit kidneys, chicken intestines, and other dishes that I did not want to ask about.

Then, the toasts began. Boy after boy toasted Mycal, saying things like "I hope you have good luck" or "I hope your life is better and better." We had whole table toasts. They started doing wedding toasts with arms entwined. Boy to boy. It is very common here for friends of the same sex to hug and hold hands and touch each other. The boys toasted me even though I was only drinking milk. More and more beer came out.

We had doufu noodles and veggies next. My favorite is lotus root and when I said that they kept offering it to me. There were also mushrooms, potatoes, green things... This fried tortilla stuff called bing. At the end they brought out a rice bowl for each and pickled vegetables.

Before long several of the boys' faces were red and they were taking multiple trips to the restroom. They forgot to speak English and started speaking Chinese. They made a joke out of the other girl student, Joanna, and one of the boys, calling them Mr. and Mrs. Wang. She was very embarrassed.

At one point they took their phones out and started taking pictures. So many pictures! Everyone wanted a picture with Mycal and I.

At around nine twenty, they finally decided that it was time to go because they had school the next morning. The bill came to 1200 块. This is quite a lot. Over 150 USD. But one boy insisted on paying for all of us in honor of the upcoming National Day.

Everyone took one last trip to the bathroom, shook hands with us, promised that we will go to a club when we get back from Tibet, and Mycal and I got into a taxi with two of the boys. Kevin and another one. Kevin is the youngest and plays basketball. He is actually my height. All the way back Kevin complimented us. "Your Chinese is very good! You are very dedicated, very nice... very handsome, very beautiful... on and on." We had to act in the Chinese manner and disagree with him and compliment him back. He was a bit drunk. He sat next to Mycal during dinner and fended off some of his cheers for him so that Mycal didn't get drunk. However, Mycal is pretty muscular and larger than most of the Chinese guys, so of course he was fine.

When we got to the dorm, they insisted on walking us in. I shook both their hands again. I went to the bathroom and when I came back my phone was ringing. I answered and it was Kevin. "Do you remember me? I am the one who walked you to your apartment. The tallest Chinese student. I just wanted to say good night and thank you for your devotions." I said good night and good luck with your basketball game tomorrow.

So ridiculous! So much fun! I can't wait to do it again.


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