Liuzhou Laowai

Random thoughts on life in Liuzhou, Guangxi, China

Cock-A-Doodle-Don’t!

It has been an interesting week. Wednesday was, as you no doubt know, the first day of the Chinese New Year. Celebrations started the night before and since then I have been bouncing from one meal to another. After a while they tended to merge together. The food was wonderful, but largely the same at every meal, and from what I can make out, the Chinese way of celebrating the year of the chicken is to down as many of the unfortunate fowl as possible.

Another reason for the merging of the different meals into one great week-long banquet was that, with minor variations, the cast at each table was the same. Slightly different permutations of family gathered at various abodes, ate lunch then scampered off to someone else’s home to start again on dinner.

A couple of cast members stand out, however. (Before I get down to details, please let me point out that my Chinese family are wonderful and I love them dearly. I know how strange it was for them to accept a bizarre longnose into their midst, but they have never been anything other than kindness personified. However, there are times, I am sorely tempted to string one or two of them up as an example to the others. But hey! That’s families!)

At one meal ( I forget which) my wife’s grandfather took advantage of a slight lessening of volume in the general mayhem of conversation and yelled across the vast and heaving table to ask me,

“Do you have beer in Britain?”

I was stunned into catatonia for a second or two, before admitting that indeed we do manage from time to time to lay our hands on a pint or three. He settled back happily and tucked into his chicken head.

Hey come on. This is a very traditional man in his 90s who until very recently had never come across one of those mythical creatures from beyond the endzone – i.e me. He is only just (after four years) getting used to the idea that I, too, breathe air and sustain my bodily functions by ingesting animal and vegetable products and yes, I have heard of rice, thank you.

Which brings me to Uncle with the Hat. Uncle with the Hat is a large and quiet man. He methodically eats two servings of each dish on the table (whether he likes them or not, I suspect) and fails to join the conversation unless addressed directly, whereupon his answer is as short as consistent with politeness. Eventually, he lays down his chopsticks and begins his address to the nation. Since my admittance to the ‘family’, Uncle with the Hat has found a whole new seam of topics for his sermons from the mount.

Today he begins – “Chinese food, as everyone knows, is more varied and interesting than western food.” He pauses for effect, but to his disgust, Cousin who Studied Abroad breaks all the rules of etiquette and pipes up,

“Uncle with the Hat. You haven’t the first idea what you are talking about. The only thing you know about western food is that you once walked past a branch of McDonalds.”

I am sitting silently. I am thinking, though, that I’ve been eating the same meal over and over again for a week, and that U with H might not be 100% accurate and cousin might be on to something.

However, U with H trumps us all.

“Of course I know what I am talking about! I saw it on CCTV!”

He sits back triumphantly and begins considering topics for next year.

A few minutes later the Family Lunatic decides it’s his turn.

“Hoi Laowai,” he yells. “Drink up!”

Immediately the entire family inform him forcefully for the 900th time that, contrary to expectations, foreigners do have names, that it is not polite to yell “foreigner” at a family member, and that if he searches what remains of his brain cells he might even remember that he was told my name for the 900th time less than 20 seconds ago.

Family Lunatic suffers from delusions that he is an official in the Bank of China, but I am sure that he is only let out of whatever institution is holding him for special occasions (when his minders want to go be with their families). I hush the protesting crowds, say that it doesn’t matter and ignore him.

“Hoi Laowai! Drink up!” he repeats, then passes out. When he wakes up, he will be back in his padded cell.

Everyone else, as I mentioned before, was lovely and a good time was had by all! Thank god, it’s over till next year!

Happy New Chickens!

. This entry was posted on Sunday, February 13th, 2005 at 3:50 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Comments are closed.



XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

It may take some time for your comment to appear, it is not necessary to submit it again.


%d bloggers like this: