9. 26. 10 – Updates on dining:
1) At the end of the week before last, Friday night the 17th to be exact, Brad and I were on the hunt for this English bookstore called the Book Nook. Dad had told us about it AND we were planning to join the other American- English teachers here to go there the next night for an “English Corner” - not that we had any idea what that meant. Brad has a very good sense of direction and after a little research and map investigation, thought he could get us there. We took a bus to a normal stop and got out to walk down a side street. We walked, and walked, and walked. We passed some very cool places like a “Fashion Street” but we found no such Book Nook. We finally turned around and decided to go down “Fashion Street” to get something to eat. That was my idea. I was starving! …Well, conveniently enough, a side street off of “Fashion Street” was “Cuisine Street” so we picked a place and sat outside. Someone came to give us a menu. The menu did have pictures, but they were misleading. I ordered what looked like a big bowl of spinach-artichoke dip (yum!), though Brad was pretty sure it was tofu, which I was totally cool with. Brad ordered a pork and vegetables plate. Hmmm – I did get tofu, but it was tofu mush. Somebody forgot to tell the cook that I did in fact have my teeth. Brad was correct in the idea that he was ordering pig, but when he looked closely at his meat selection in front of him, he realized he was eating pig intestines. Seriously. I tried but did not eat my mush; he ate his intestines. What’s wrong with that picture?
2) There is a Subway at the Carrefour. (The Carrefour is like a Super-Walmart. On the bottom floor are some restaurants, including a KFC and Subway, and some specialty shops. The next floor is a grocery store and the third is sort-of like the rest of the stuff you can buy at Walmart minus the groceries.) Subway is my favorite place to eat. They have my oh-so-favorite honey-mustard sauce and I even eat the veggies on my sub. Delightful! They have crazy-flavored Lays potato chips, though, which is a bummer.
One often can find other foreigners there enjoying an escape from Chinese food reality. That next Saturday afternoon we went to Subway for lunch. The tiny place was PACKED with foreigners and locals alike. (First of all, the locals need to leave. Um, they can’t get noodles or rice here. They must be confused. – my initial thoughts.) After ordering, all four of the tables were taken and we didn’t know where to sit. A white girl sitting by herself at a table of four chairs offered up her extra seats until her friends got there. We were very grateful. Turns out she is 19, an aspiring lawyer, and is from a small college in Vermont. She is with a group of others from her school doing a 2-3 month internship. Very cool. Whatever characteristics you are giving her in your head, stop now. It won’t be right. Brad and I ate superfast (yes, my computer rathered it be one word) and finished just before one of her classmates walked up. (He was cool too, from DC but has family in Charlotte, and we’ve actually bumped into him again.) As we were getting up to leave another white girl pushing a cart with lots of stuff in it, tried to needle her way into the small restaurant space. Brad noticed something on her t-shirt and asked if she was from America and she said yes. I asked where and she said, “North Carolina.” I told her we were too and then Brad realized who she was… My good friend Neely works for this company which designs and sells standards-based lessons to schools. About a week or so before we left for China, she had been to this girl’s school and met this girl’s principal and somehow they got into the conversation about the both of us. The principal sent Neely this girl’s email address but I had yet to contact her. “Are you from Johnston County?” Brad asked, and of course she was. After she was done ordering, and while Brad was talking to yet someone else, she came out and we chatted. She is here with her husband and baby. She stays home with the baby, but he works at the International School here where all classes are taught in English. She goes to the “International Fellowship” on Sundays and asked if we wanted to go (unfortunately we work on Sundays) AND it turns out she plays soccer and is hoping to start playing pick-up here soon. CRAZY! I gave her my email address but haven’t heard from her yet. Hopefully soon!
3) Last one, I promise. Brad had the great idea to invite our college kids to dinner, one at a time, to a restaurant of their choice. I made the announcement last Monday and prize student Holly immediately took us up on our offer for Monday night. We walked from our “West Campus” (where international students and teachers live) to the “East Campus” (Chinese student side) and were led to a near-by street filled with eating possibilities. She had already taken the time to look at her favorite restaurant’s menu on line and pick things to order. ( I had mentioned in class that Brad and I have a difficult time knowing what to get – hence story #1.) She had written them down in a little book and translated them in English – at least what she thought the translation was. She ordered three plates of food, all were GREAT, but the third was AMAZING. It was a plate of hot (in terms of temperature, not spice), cut up and then saturated in brown sugar syrup sticky goodness, sweet potatoes. OH MY, S.O.O. O. GOOD! I told her I needed the recipe to add this to my family’s traditional Thanksgiving menu!