Since the earthquake in Taiwan, the internet in China is so slow that I am afraid I cannot possibly upload a photo or video in less than a whole day. So, I thought it was time to go back to Love and Loss for a bit.
For Stephen who requested long ago!
Love and Loss in SiChuan
I met back up with C. and Yo-Yo shortly after Yo-Yo’s message about chasing other girls. Of course, seeing the way the cards had fallen, I decided to push everything a little farther and go get a little snack and kill more time, allowing Yo-Yo to wait in fear that I had strayed to greener pastures.
I noticed that there was a small kiosk selling pitas right underneath the massive cigarette billboard with a panda as it’s mascot. Of course, my Chinese being as great as it was, when my turn finally came and all of the Chinese people behind me and directly in front of me were waiting and watching intently to see what the sweaty foreigner was going to eat, and maybe more importantly how I was going to order the food, I just pointed to one of the sandwiches that the people had already made and had sitting next to them on the rack. I am sure it was anti-climactic for the crowd, but I had no idea how to say give me a club with mayo, mustard and no cockroaches in Chinese. I began my trip back to where I had left the girls and decided to have them meet me half way, so I sent a message to Yo-Yo, “Meet me at the car show, under the ‘Hong He’ sign.”
By the time I got her message, “Hong He?” she was actually standing right next to me. I was lucky to see her before she saw me because I was hypnotized by the automobile models walking in short skirts on a raised platform, right above my head. I walked over to Yo-Yo and we headed back toward the hotel. We had burned a good portion of our afternoon on the “walking street” and we had not really accomplished anything. As we headed back we discussed the next days plan. Typical of women, they had decided what we were doing before consulting me. Lucky for them, I did not care what we did as long as it included time with Yo-Yo.
As we walked in the direction of the hotel, C. informed me that the next day we would be leaving Cheng Du and heading for E Mei Shan. E Mei Shan is famous for its fat monkeys along the trail that will steal food from your hand and bite you if you come empty handed. It is also well known for the Buddhist temple on the top of the mountain and the beautiful sunrise that blesses this temple on the peak. We would be taking the first bus possible to E Mei town and then deciding how to continue from that point. As it was, it was dinnertime and we had just reached the University street just south of Nan He.
The street was narrow, dark and winding. Coming from Ren Men Nan Lu, the right side of the street was filled with small restaurants whose space spilled out onto the street with the plastic tables and the mix-matched tables forming one large seating area, crawling with groups of students feasting, snacking and drinking. Down the left side, vegetable and fruit vendors lurked in the shadows. For me, this felt like a real dining experience, for C. she was appalled by the cleanliness. We found a place to sit and got their menu and the girls started chattering back and forth about what we would be eating. After a few minutes of chatter they finally let me in on what was happening. “I know you like to try new things, do you have a problem with spicy food?” C. asked me.
“No way, I lived in Korea for 2 years, I think I can handle spicy food by now.” I said arrogantly. Of course, I did not recognize that C. did not like spicy food and was imploring me to then sacrifice my manliness by saying that I was afraid of hot food so that her face could be saved.
C. was obviously disappointed that I did not catch onto her very subtle hint and risked her loss of face to appease her tastes, “Well, I don’t like spicy food.”
“Ah come on, we are on vacation, give it a try.” I scoffed. She saw this as very annoying and rather unappreciative. She had already allowed her standards to be compromised by sitting such an establishment and thus, I should be more understanding about her aversion to hot food. She had quickly shot me a look that told me I had been to a place that angels fear to tread and so I backtracked. “Well, why don’t we get some hot dishes and some dishes that are not spicy?” This obviously pleased her, as she immediately began ordering.
The first thing that the servers brought to the table was the massive bowl of rice for us to distribute amongst the three of us. I was curious what else would be brought and asked such, “What did you order us?”
“Oh, you will see, it will be good.” C. told me and Yo-Yo giggled. I looked at her suspiciously, but when our eyes met, we both smiled.
Bored by the culinary conversation, Yo-Yo turned the conversation to what she was interested in, “Do you like music?”
“Of course, I…” I tried to say, but she stopped me before I could finish.
“I love Michael Jackson! He is the king of pop!” She stated with the determination of a worker ant and it nearly made me fall out of my chair. I think the last time I heard that Michael Jackson was the king of pop was on a VH1 retro show and never expected to hear a Chinese girl say it to me less than a days drive from Tibet. But, she was right, Michael Jackson does rock and so I could not argue with her on that issue.
“So, you really like Michael Jackson?” I asked coyly.
“Oh yeah, when I listen his music, I am excited. I like it much.” She said with the energy of a mad scientist.
“What other music do you like?” I inquired, half expecting her to say WHAM or The Police.
“I like Kirk Colbin.” She answered. This answer threw me off guard because I had no idea who she was talking about.
“Who is that? What does he sing?” I asked.
She looked confused, tried to say his name again, which made me look confused and so she turned to C. and began rattling off Chinese. After a few seconds, a lightbulb appeared over C.’s head telling me she knew the answer. “Oh, she is talking about that singer in a band that died, I think it is like ‘Nir…’ something.”
“Oh, Nirvana…Kirk Cobain. Yeah, well he is not doing much singing anymore. He shot himself in the head.” I informed the two of them.
She did not reply to this, and our dinner had arrived. We put rice in our bowl, de-slivered our chopsticks and began to dig in. I was picking food from all of the dishes without care for the contents. C. was watching me closely, “What do you think?” She finally asked me.
“Tastes good, what is it? I mean, this one seems like a noodle and this one is mapo tofu, right?” I asked.
“This one is not a noodle, it is …” her face began to turn red, “it is part of a man cow.” She finally said, looking at me as though she wanted to send me the message with her mind and giggling constantly. “And this one is not mapo tofu, it is pig’s brains.”
“You mean I am eating bull cock and pig’s brains?” I said bluntly, which hit her like a slap in the face and when she affirmed, I took one long string of bull jewels and dramatically flicked it with my tongue, making C.’s eyes bulge and Yo-Yo almost choked on her bite of spicy brains.
STAY TUNED FOR LOVE AND LOSS 3, E MEI SHAN