Friday, April 22, 2011: The Last (Shanghai) Supper
Our last quality family time together around a fancy dinner table! Sun Po and his wife came to pick us up in his slick black car. Mom, Kelly, and I sat in the back seat, chatting up a thunderstorm. Let’s see, we heard about their honeymoon again, a romantic getaway to France and Italy. Of course there was a language gap there, but we mentioned how Kelly knows some Italian and I understand a little French. As a funny compromise with them, we’ll make a European trip one day, cheap through China, and have the ground covered with our versatile tongues! Besides, Kelly and I have been accustomed to translating in various settings. And after a whole week, we wanted to exchange contact information. We hit a bit of a bump with exchanging emails, because people in China do not use Google or Facebook; instead, they use some bootleg-Facebook, MSN, and QQ (how cute). We have already exchanged emails with Qing Qing, who uses email we are familiar with, like Hotmail! But the rest of our family members do not know English very well and email communication may present as an obstacle. However, I do not know why we didn’t think of this earlier, but there is such a thing as Skype! It came to me suddenly, and I asked Sun Po, “Heyy… Do you guys have Skype!” He responded, “Oh yes, we do have THAT!” Bingo, now we can video chat and not have to struggle with Chinese-English translations. I joked that Sun Po would have to practice reading English. His wife joked that he would have to write a line of Chinese and put that through a translator and type it out subsequently. It could take a whole day writing and translating and making sense of the mumble jumble… How bizarre it is to be able to communicate so easily face-to-face, even when it’s in their native Shanghainese which I understand to an extent, but fail so miserably by writing?!
We arrived at an elegant restaurant at Shanghai Normal University, this time on the Fengxian campus. We had to wait a little while for Dad to come by wheelchair because our cousin went to pick him up. Other members of our family were on their way as well. While waiting, a black car pulled up. Some Chinese guy came out and dropped a net with a moving four-legged creature down on the entrance steps. I looked down, and it looked like an upside-down turtle with claws. I thought it was nearly dead, until Auntie Lin-Ai nudged it with her foot to see if it was really alive. I knew perfectly well the fate of the prized fat turtle…
Everyone arrived and we were set to go. I looked at the entrance, and you guessed it, there was a long staircase. No handicapped ramp for easy transportation and mercy for the disabled. Yes, Dad had to hobble up one step at a time and one of us lifted his heavy wheelchair right on behind. Once inside, he could sit comfortably in his 2000 yuan wheelchair, snuggled up against the table.
Now, my last mouth-watering post until another global expedition in June. To start, we encircled around a fancy dinner table. The waitresses served us fine red wine and this addicting sour milk that tasted like vanilla yogurt. It was thick, creamy, and rich to the tongue. The entire dinner session, I alternated my dishes with milk and wine, milk and wine. Yum =P
There was a common theme of birds and seafood: pigeon, chicken, lobster, codfish, fried cuttlefish, abalone, jellyfish, shrimp, etc… Then there was also the Jiang en, the poor turtle creature that got spiced and fried up. Spicy curry beef made another surprise appearance on the dinner table; this time it was more fatty and less dissolving. I compiled a medley of appetizers to emphasize the plethora of Chinese delicacies: duck, abalone (bao yu), seasoned cucumbers (liang ban huang gua), salad, Asian fungus (hei mu er), jellyfish, potato slices and peppers, fish, pork ribs, and chicken. One of my favorite meals that day was something rather simple: leftover King Lobster mixed with qing bai cai (bok choy) in soup. It meshed very well with white rice. Well, anything with white rice wins my heart.
All good things must come to a conclusion. This was our last supper together as a family. I have cherished every waking moment this week, to experience China’s wonders and familial love. Despite the distance, a span of an entire ocean, I have grown closer to my dear family. They love me, and I love them back. I will forever remember their exhibition of deep affection and hospitality. They have shown me what it means to have an extended family that will support you and love you unconditionally. Our extended reunion has reached a blissful end.