Flashback: Thanksgiving Leftovers

 By Robin, Current Teach in China Participant

I just realized I wrote this a long  time ago, but never posted it. So here goes…

Well, we successfully pulled off Thanksgiving in China with flying colors, which is no small feat considering our shopping selection and the kitchens we had to work with.

I hosted the dinner party in my apartment so my day was spent cleaning and rearranging furniture to accommodate 12 people, and teaching my two classes. Jeff has no classes on Thursdays so he did the grocery shopping and got to work on his creation early. Jeff signed up for sweet potato casserole, and I said I would make apple crisp and the stuffing. I returned home from class to find Jeff sitting in a chair in the kitchen, elbows deep in sweet potatoes. The two of us spent a lovely afternoon cooking in a kitchen equipped with one burner, a microwave, an oven that closely resembles an Easy bake kids oven, and limited counter space that comes up to about mid thigh height (thus the chairs). I have seen bathroom stalls larger than my kitchen. Even though it was cozy, and at one point we had pans stacked on top of pans in the oven because there aren’t enough shelves, we got it all done on time! Also, I could not believe how much butter goes in stuffing!

So our friends Van, Luan, Mike, Joni, Eric, and Katie all came, and our Chinese friends Wallace, his wife Hanna, and Jane made up the party. It was pretty close to a traditional dinner, we were just missing cranberry and turkey. Instead we had duck, chicken, stuffing, three kinds of sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie, apple crisp, jello with fruit, salad, egg rolls, mashed potatoes and some Chinese soup stuff. It was soooo soo good and we were all stuffed. I made everyone do a Thanksgiving trivia quiz, luring them with the promise of a surprise. So everyone got really competitive because they thought that it was going to be some American import or something, but really all it was just a box of Chinese mooncakes.

Mooncakes are China’s version of fruitcakes. They have mystery stuff inside them, and Chinese people regift them like crazy. We were given one box during the Mid-Autumn Festival and Jeff and I experimented our way through them. Even then, that took us like two months to eat eight of them. Those things are dense, probably because they are composed largely of lard. We had a second box because we met a random man on the street who needed help figuring out the title to an English story. He invited us to his house and we tried to explain what “8 pieces For the Left Hand” meant (no idea….). He seemed happy with our help though, so much so that his wife demanded that we accept a box of mooncakes from her…Great. We just got rid of the last box! So naturally, in the spirit of things, we decided to regift them to the winner of the Thanksgiving Quiz.

After the quiz, and multiple helpings of everything, we busted out Catchphrase. Now this game is fun on its own, but throw in a couple non-native speakers and it is a whole different ball game. Another thing about Catchphrase is that it brings out a side of people that you don’t always get to see. People emerge as extremely eloquent, or absurdly competitive, or somewhat frantic as they struggle to beat the buzzer. Wallace, our Chinese friend who serves as our coordinator here at SIBT (who is a life saver ps) speaks English very well, but was still struggling a bit with the game. Highlight of the night: Wallace chooses his word and is practically bouncing off the seat with excitement: “ok ok, it is the place where the ships go at night!” to which his teammates respond, with gusto “ocean!” and “barn!” Luan and I make eye contact trying to figure out how the heck Eric came up with barn and Van came up with ocean, and then we realize that Wallace’s accent had made ship come out as “sheep” to some, which produced the wide array of answers. So the clock winds down, and the guys throw up their hands because they can’t figure out what the heck he is talking about, while the rest of us are trying not to pee laughing at Wallace’s desperation. Time ran out, the ladies got the point, and the mistake was sorted out, but the real kicker was this. The title of Eric’s textbook for the phonetics class he taught: Ship or Sheep? An introduction to English Phonetics.

All in all, a delicious and very memorable Thanksgiving.


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