Thursday, January 31, 2013
I feel like Doogie Howser, typing about my day late in the night when I can’t sleep. Today I met a lot of relatives. It’s been exhausting not understanding Mandarin. It’s not that I have a lot to say but it’s that I can’t say it and it’s not that I want to eavesdrop and listen in on their conversations but I’d like to at least understand what they tell me. On the other hand, sometimes I’m glad I can’t understand Mandarin – I’m saving myself having to answer lots of inquisitive questions.
Everyone has been very nice and their comment is usually “how piaoliang,” or “how pretty.” I don’t know what to reply, either a) pretend I don’t understand and smile like a dumb ass or b) say “thank you,” which I think might be construed as impolite since it doesn’t show humbleness. My dad told me to say “borabora” to such comments, which means “no no nothing nothing.” Something like that. But my “bora bora” is not as convincing as my puzzled-dumb-girl smile. So I guess saying “no, no” sounds worse than saying “thank you” and not being humble lol The only advantage I have is that they then figure out I know a useless amount of Mandarin. Then they feel sorry for me for not understanding Mandarin so my humbleness reputation slate is clean again.
Today was my grandma’s graduation from an arts and crafts school for elderly people but by 11:30 am, which is when we got there, they were mopping the floor. I did get to have a yummylicious slice of seafood pizza with an aoli sauce lined on the top. I never thought that combination would be appetizing but it was quite good. I was hoping to take photos since I haven’t found the right moment to take photos of family without being obnoxious but it didn’t work out.
Before going to my grandma’s school, my aunt’s husband took my dad and me to “The Mountain.” I wouldn’t say it is really a mountain but a large property on a large hill rather than a mountain-mountain. This property belongs to 20 different owners who have allowed a group of older people to use it without paying a dime. This big group of retirees are a strong community who enjoys meeting throughout the week to get out of their monotony. I’ve never seen anything like it, it was amazing. It is a very run down place in the middle of The Mountain with lots of DIY’s since they run the place themselves. It is a place where retirees can remain socially and physically active – they do exercise together, go on field trips, and meet every day (or often) to have a home-made lunch at The Mountain. Everyone pitches in since it is not an organization run by member fees or anything like that.
Having lunch at The Mountain was one the most down-to-earth experiences I’ve ever had. They had yellow watermelon and another fruit (I don’t know the name) on four children sized tables connected in a line with several children size outdoor plastic chairs. The whole mountain set up is pretty much outdoors with canopies and run down roofs. They had plastic containers for the watermelon seeds and skin. There was a “tea station” which consisted of a separate children size table with a portable stove top and a stainless steel kettle with hot boiling water already poured in. Then there was a plastic see through container with dried green tea leaves and two tea pots: one smaller brown tea pot for brewing the tea and one large white tea pot with a strainer fitting the top for pouring the tea.
As people started coming in for lunch, women started preparing flat rice noodles, soy bean sprouts, fish ball in a soy based pork marinade, pork stew in brown sauce, and a soy based soup. While we waited for lunch to be done, the president of their group, sat at the “tea station” spot and was busy the whole time talking and brewing this delicious green tea, of which I drank several small cups. They were amused that I liked the tea and asked for more, I don’t know if it was because I was supposed to say “no, thank you,” but I wanted more so I kept saying “yes, please, thank you.” Anyway, the whole experience was as though everyone had a role in getting lunch ready without explicitly saying anything.
What made this lunch even more enjoyable was the amazing hospitality. The ladies preparing the food knew I don’t speak Mandarin but they kept on talking to me as if and sweetly grabbed me by my arm to grab soup and gave more food after I said no, thank you. I wish I had taken a picture of the tea station, the lunch table setup, and The Mountain, and the gathering itself but I thought it was inappropriate to snap pictures as if Ms. Can’t-Speak-Mandarin doesn’t know about down-to-earth mountain gatherings ;P
Then after we were done with lunch, my dad went to smoke somewhere and took like what felt 30 minutes. While my aunt’s husband and the Grumpy Pomeranian, Manny, and I were waiting, we watched a couple of old guys sing karaoke in another little station area, which is a separate group from the retirees’ area. I didn’t know that you are supposed to clap after each song, I would just smile while my aunt’s husband and another guy clapped loudly as the guy wrapped up his song. I felt bad I didn’t clap, not that they were good singers, but I’d appreciate some clapping even if I sounded like a dog howling in pain or worse, like a cat in heat, or even more scary, a rabbit crying.
When my dad showed up, I suddenly had an urge to pee, since I had a large bowl of breakfast soup, lots of green tea, watermelon, and a small bowl of soup for lunch, my bladder was at maximum capacity. I was surprised I had drank so much liquid and lasted this long. So I had my first squatting toilet experience. You squat into a porcelain toilet in the shape of a men’s urinal but horizontally placed on the floor and pee while squatting. Then you flush the toilet by pulling on a string that hangs up high in the restroom. It’s weird squatting – scary stuff actually.
During my peeing, many thoughts went through my mind:
“please don’t splash, please don’t splash”
“eww, is that prior piss water sitting there, is that piss going to splash my lady parts,”
“it smells like a septic tank,”
“where do I throw the tissue paper,”
“I don’t like squatting toilets.”
On another completely unrelated note, tonight I found out I have wifi connection! But it is a very weak connection. And I only get signal at the stairs or in the living room. I’m still ecstatic though because I feel bad using my aunt’s computer.
And another, completely unrelated to the unrelated note, my aunt’s husband rushed to the computer right after dinner to play what I think was Farmville hahahaha Who knew men over 60 enjoyed Farmville?
Lastly, here is a picture of Manny and my youngest aunt riding on a moped. Manny, the Grumpy Pomeranian, is one of the smartest dogs I’ve met. He knows very impressive tricks, more impressive than Scooter’s, AND he is a little dare devil. He enjoys riding on the moped with his face popping out on the side so he can get a better front view look hahahahah OMG, what a peculiar dog he is.
PS: Excuse my terrible spelling of how the words sound to me in Mandarin! Like borabora…