(Saturday January 16 – 7:10am – China time)
Thanks to Chip back at home for calling me and waking me from my well-deserved slumber! Actually, he timed it right, and it isn’t his fault that my head hurts and my tongue is fuzzy.
Our man in China, Thomas, invited us to supper last night. Of course we accepted. But it wasn’t a simple supper at a local noodle shop. Oh no. It was an informal and very nice supper with Thomas’s client, Mr. Li – and Mr. Li’s friends and family. All in all, about 10 folks around a big round table in a private dining room of a very nice restaurant.
Mr. Li speaks no English, but with me sitting at his left, and Thomas nearby to translate, we were able to carry on a decent conversation. I quickly learned to drink Chinese white wine – a lethal clear alcohol with a hint of sweetness and moonshine. It is to be drunk as a shot, and with a toast. And the reason for my fuzzy tongue is that there were many toasts. Mr. Li was persistent in keeping my glass filled, and though I valiantly protested, I quickly learned why he was a wealthy man. He doesn’t take “no” for an answer!
The food was very good. There was no General Tso’s chicken, no shrimp fried rice, no lo mein noodles. In fact, I haven’t seen any of the dishes served on any American Chinese restaurant menu. Food was placed in the middle of the table on a large rotating platform. Mr. Li would roll something by, spoon it up, and put it on my plate. I never asked what anything was. I just tried it. The only dish that I didn’t like was the sea cucumber in brown sauce. It wasn’t bad, but the flavor was unremarkable and the texture was akin to chewable rubber.
Our Western table manners took a hit at supper. There is much slurping, indiscreet expectorating of bone or gristle, belching, and maybe the worst to our Western sensibilities, a lot of smoking. The no smoking rule we have in US restaurants was a brief topic of discussion. To Mr. Li, it seemed silly. “A good meal needs a good smoke”.
I am supposed to give a 3 minute speech this morning to honor Mr. Li and his opening of the America’s Best Inn. i was stumped on what to say, and how to stretch it out to 3 minutes, but after experiencing the hospitality of Thomas, Mr. Li, and his friends and family, I will have no problem expressing my delight in having the America’s Best Inn in Yiwu China as part of our hotel family.