Hello, blog. Let’s get to know each other
Writing can feel like my lifeline to connecting with the world around me, especially when I’m feeling estranged, lonely, and isolated even when surrounded by people. I fell away from blogging regularly as I started to think what I had to say didn’t seem important for someone else to read. I worried the blog was becoming more of a diary and too introspective that the situations I wanted to blog about could be judged or I could hurt someone by speaking my mind. The thing about blogging, for me, is that it’s a way for me to sort through all of the thoughts and observations I have, share some stories of what life is or was like for me, and attempt to become vulnerable in a way that is controlled by me. With that in mind, I am sitting down to write…about life, my life, in words, even if only for myself to read.
A short story
Today marks one week since I arrived in China…technically, I’m still in the air enroute, one week ago, but, whatever. All of the fine details of how I got here, why and etc. will be saved for another entry, I promise. This entry is about my first night out to dinner with some young colleagues in the team. They were going out as a mini compensation for having to work Saturday and I was relieved to be invited to join. Fortunately, we were going with a 10 person group, which meant the meal was going to be “family-style”, which means lots of dishes for sharing. It was awesome! The perfect way to end my nearly one week of a 10 week stay.
The restaurant we went to was <see photo above> in Moon Bay, in Suzhou, Jiangsu China. We had many dishes of vegetables and fruits: melon, dragon fruit, kiwi, cashew, and duck on a bed of field lettuce was one of them. Yum! There was steamed broccoli, asparagus and peanuts, oranges, watermelon, apples, and other veggies and fruits mixed into other dishes like bell pepper and pineapple. Then, there were meat and fish dishes like a fried fish that was literally like a puff crisp, crispy duck, pork of two kinds, some sort of tofu thing, rice (yellow with pineapple, bell pepper, and nuts), and soup (tendon in broth with mushrooms). The flavors were amazing and the food was super yum! I love that I can sample everything to see what I like or don’t like, but I love most that not one dish had onion in it! None, zero, nada! hah! Take that America, where onion is a staple. That’s two countries I’ve experienced where onion is not in everything.
All of that food sounds great, but where’s the story?
During our meal, a fly found it’s way over to the table. It landed on the edge of a half cut pineapple that was spilling out rice, which was a dish freshly laid in front of us. Someone jumped to swat it away where it then landed on a freshly placed plate of steamed broccoli. The group got noticeably anxious and agitated and gasped as it landed on one of the broccoli heads. Another person got up and swatted at it and everyone started talking about the fly. The waiter was asked to remove and remake the food. It was quite a scene and now, I gasped!
I have to think a little. When was the last time I was at an American restaurant where a fly landed on my food and what did I do in that situation? I simply can’t recall what would have been done, but I imagine I would just swat it away and move on with the meal. It would hardly create a scene and that’s probably why I can’t think of a specific situation offhand.
Here, on the other hand, our food was immediately removed from the table and a fresh batch of each of the two contaminated dishes remade. Meanwhile, a fly zapper wand was brought near the table to catch the fly in the event it returned. And, it did return. As it flew near our food once again, the table got really animated with people literally gasping and getting up to check the windows nearby as someone else tried to find the fly zapper to see if they could catch and kill it, while others kept a keen eye and worked at swatting to keep it away from the rest of the food.
I had to ask what was going on. I mean, I saw the fly and I am pretty sure in the States I would swat it away but still eat my food, right? Here, where I’m paranoid about the sanitary conditions surrounding the preparing and quality of the food I eat, everyone else at the table is freaking out about the fly contaminating the food.
With pollution in the region, maybe the fly is pretty bad (worse than in the States?), but is it worse than the kitchen sanitation and health standards that are or are not enforced here? We went to a clean restaurant, one recommended by a colleague who frequents the place so I inherently trust that the restaurant has good standards, yet in the back of my mind I hear this voice that reminds me to be cautious because….it’s China.
The restaurant brought fresh dishes back and a waiter loitered nearby in case of another fly situation. We were all able to finish our meal without any more fly disturbances and everyone left content with the evening. As for myself, the food was awesome and I’ll consider this fly situation because it’s the second time a bug, food, and china have been witnessed by me. The irony is not lost on me that one of my first Chinese language classes showed a bowl of soup with a fly in it. The image of my Chinese teacher teaching us to say “Qing kan! Zhe shi cangying.” (Please look! this is a fly) came to mind and maybe my Chinese teacher was trying to teach me something I’m only just comprehending: it is unacceptable to have a fly land on your food.
Ps. Just a note that I don’t eat the food the fly sits on; I’ve swatted them away and eaten around it, but I may have to rethink this after this encounter. I mean, I know they are filthy, but read this and ew! Oh, and for good journalism, here’s a second source.