… Erica, her Mom and Anya smile before we started making lunch…
I think that every time I travel I learn something new. Not only something new about the place I’m visiting, its culture, its people and its customs, but I find that I also learn something about people and about humanity. And, just as important, I find that I learn something about myself. And this trip is no exception; from the beaches of Ukraine, across the length of Russia and Siberia, the mountains and deserts of Mongolia, and finally here to China, I have learned about myself. But, after I met Anya, I learned even more.
Sometimes a bit reclusive, perhaps I don’t meet as many “locals” as I should when I travel. When I do meet them, it is usually at a comfortable (for me at least) “professional” level. Now and then I make good friends – good enough to add to Facebook and stay in contact with by postcard or occasional calls. But Anya, she makes friends with everyone. I am sure that it is her charismatic and attractive personality that draws people in; everyone wants to be her friend, everyone wants to spend time with her. As I traveled with her, I found myself meeting more and more locals, spending time with them, and in this case, invited over for the weekend to meet the family. It was truly a unique experience and one that I was glad have.
After we left the Guilin Market, we brought out fish and vegetables back and the girls started to cooking – yes, it is still quite traditional in China. I was introduced to Erica’s father and he immediately started plying me with rice wine. Do realize that this is not “wine,” it is distilled wine moonshine that had the bite of vodka or whiskey and the taste of fermented (rotten) rice. The smell reminded me of taking your boots off at the end of a 10 day Army mission. Bottom line up front: it wasn’t too tasty but I drank it to be polite.
Lunch was prepared and I shot a few picks before we gobbled it up. We had tofu and vegetables, cashew nut chicken (my favorite) and beer fish. I’ve raved about the local Guilin and Yangshuo beer fish in other posts, but if you come to this region, you must give it a try – it is simply amazing. During my travels in China I would really come to love the fish dishes. When the fish is seared and cooked in olive oil and garlic, the taste is quite amazing. Anya, who came on this trip as a vegetarian modified her diet to become a pescaderian – no doubt because of the wonderful fish dishes.
I forced our hosts Curry and Erica into a photo. As we ate dinner they were both rapidly translating our English and the family’s Chinese. It probably seemed a little more like work than dinner! The family kept a hot plate on the table and each dish was rotated from the table to the hot plate and in this way all of the dishes stayed hot while we ate. I thought that it was a novel and ingenious way to keep the food warm even in cold conditions.
Erica’s little brother and his wife are in the photo below. The entire family lives in a complex that could best be described as a 3 unit apartment with a central courtyard downstairs. This young couple was so happy to make our acquaintance and asked us so many questions about America and our lives. I observed and wondered about their customs and traditions. Erica’s sister-in-law had to leave her family and moved in with this family; she lost one family and became a member of the new one. I thought about how hard that would be, leaving the ones you love. I suppose with internet and cellular phones that its easier than in the old days when you left your family and maybe saw them once a year – if at all.
The family tried to feed us more and more and soon we couldn’t even get up off of the sofa. After a while we were content with a full stomach, a warm and cozy home and family around us and some sweet ginger tea to drink. If you notice in this photo that we are sitting on the sofa and the rest of the family sat on small stools around the dinner table. They put is in an elevated position to show respect to us and I was extremely flattered at this and other gestures that said that we were welcome members of their home. I contrast to the customs of our own country and resolved to be more hospitable to guests that come to my home.
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