I think our “host’s” name was Daniel. I had a jacket designed by Daniel something or other, and he wanted it…
When our car pulled into the complex, the uniformed guard at the would first salute us with the military style (white gloved) hand salute, then open the gate. When leaving the complex he would stop traffic to let our car pull out. It made us feel like diplomats.
That Bathtub was about he most glorious thing in the house. I soaked in it every morning.
The maid bought us both a pair of plastic slippers – she was embarrassed for us because we didn’t own our own.
The first time she did our laundry – this was something unexpected – she shrunk my best pair of pants. I was on a very tight budget, and didn’t want to buy another pair, so I just wore them anyway. Many weeks later I discovered that people were secretly laughing at my warped sense of style…
The late breakfast experience is a story I tell over and over again.
The carp like fish was not baked, it was fried. Maybe fried in the oven, but fried, without a doubt. It was served swimming in a pool of oil. Everything was cooked in pools of oil – cooking oil was bought in gallon jugs.
That first meal was revelatory. I remember Christof’s comment “Everything we were taught growing up – regarding politeness and courtesy – was the opposite here.”
Our hosts would spit the fish-bones out, right onto the table next to their plates.
They smoked while eating – the cigarette in one hand and chopsticks in the other; inhaling between bites. Most smokers would smoke right down into the filter, inhaling the burning filter smoke.
After serving the first round of fish and meatballs with their own chopsticks – there were no serving spoons – they would offer us a second round – with the same chopsticks they had been using to eat with – between lung-fulls of smoke and spitting bouts. We graciously refused second helpings…
Whenever one person had finished eating, he would get up from the table – without excusing himself or even saying anything, leaving the dishes right there – for the women to clear.The men did all the cooking.
Our own version of breakfast – after we made our expensive purchases of sliced bread and butter – objects never seen before by most of our Chinese hosts – was equally shocking to them!!!
One morning after wok-frying my butter toast, a little woman came downstairs and watched me – full of bewilderment. When I offered to let her try a piece of buttered toast, she politely refused, indicating that this was “too fattening”. She preferred eating deep fried fish swimming in oil and pork dumplings for breakfast!…
Here was another strange thing: it was very difficult to figure out exactly who, and how many people actually lived in this house. It was constantly changing. This was a deluxe house, the only kind foreigners were allowed to stay in, but the menfolk who lived there seemed to change girlfriends more often than socks.Yet every new person I met in the house claimed to “live” there.
One of the first mornings in the house I asked ‘Daniel’ about dating, and how to go about meeting girls while there. His reply was very confusing.
Basically, if you liked a girl, you were supposed to give her money.
Not in exchange for anything, just as a gesture of ‘like’.
Yet they considered it exceptionally fortunate for any girl to be seduced by a foreigner. “Take our women with you” was the implicit message. (They will live a much better life anywhere else, especially in the US)
But to seduce a woman, the best way was to give her lots of money.
A man could have as many girlfriends as he could financially support. ‘Financially support’ meant provide for their accommodations, and give them financial allowance, maybe even a car.
Men with many girlfriends were even more respected than the opposite, as this was a sign of wealth.
Our boss, married with children, had at least a couple other “girlfriends”.
We visited the apartment of one of his “girlfriends” – which she graciously shared with 3 or 4 other people… But that’s another story.
It was hard to figure out the dating thing – we were never sure if the girl was truly interested, or just ‘doing her job’… Trying to earn a living in Bennie’s restaurant.
Bennie’s restaurant was in the former karaoke bar of this 4 star hotel.
But we soon discovered that “Karaoke bar” took on a whole different meaning in China…