A Weekend at Jing's House in Ningbo
Trip Start Jul 03, 2006
11Trip End Aug 21, 2006
Jing's family, the Zhu Family, lives in a modest two-bedroom apartment. They know all of their neighbors, not because it is common in China to know one's neighbors, but because this particular group of neighbors has communally decided to take care of a stray dog. Every evening, all of people who live in the building gather near the main entrance and drink tea, smoke cigarettes, chat, and pet the dog. They have formed real friendships because of this routine, and I was welcomed into the circle with open arms
Unfortunately, a lot of what Mrs. Zhu said went right over my head because she and Mr. Zhu speak the Ningbo dialect of Chinese. Ningbo dialect strangely reminds me of a Scandinavian language, it's light, sing-songy, has a lot of vowel sounds, and I don't understand a word of it. Luckily, Jing and Hong translated everything into Mandarin for me so that I could at least understand half of what was being said around me.
The week in Ningbo consisted of two main activities, 1) visiting beautiful Chinese gardens and parks, and 2) eating the many Chinese dishes that Mrs. and Mr. Zhu cooked up for us. Jing told them that I like to eat seafood, so at every meal, including breakfast, they served shrimp. The shrimp were delicious, however, like most Chinese seafood, were still sporting their heads, eyes, and tails. Not only that, when Mr. Zhu brought the shrimp home from the market Friday evening, they were swimming around in his shopping bag. He assured me that the longer they stay alive, the better they taste. And they did, in fact, taste great.
Another thing that cracked me up was when Mr
Perhaps the most exciting part of the weekend was when the women who live in Jing's building all decided to mark the special occasion of my visit by taking a trip to the beauty salon. They really made a day of it, insisting that we all get massages and have our hair done. I got a simple trim and style, but the other ladies went all out...eyebrow waxing, perms, coloring. When we were finished, the ladies talked me into having my hair curled, because they thought it would make me look like Barbie. Now, no American in their right mind would ever think I look like Barbie, but the Chinese, for whatever reason, think I do. They kept commenting on my "golden hair," which I kept insisting was light brown, but they kept insisting was gold. The whole group kept petting my head and wanting to take pictures with me, which I happily obliged. It's funny how something so ordinary as brown hair in America can be such a novelty in another country.
After the charades in the beauty salon, Jing and Hong took me walking around the city to a popular square with a Christian cathedral and trendy shops
That about sums up my weekend in Ningbo with the Zhu family. Before I go, a couple of little things about China in general...one of the most common questions I get here is how much new cars in America cost. How much does a new Ford cost? How much does a new Volkswagon cost? How much does a new BMW cost? Unfortunately, I have no idea how much new cars in America cost, and when I tell them that they insist that I give them my best guess. I'm learning that the Chinese place a lot of value on cars, and if you own one, any one at all, it is a real sign of status. Most families don't own cars, and the ones that do all share one. Most people work their whole lives before they can afford a car.
Other than that, get this...I probably shouldn't be surprised, but you can't access the BBC or New York Times websites in China. CNN's website works, so at least I have been able to get some Western news. So the whole recent hype about China censoring the Internet...yep...it's true. Hopefully my travelpod won't get censored because I wrote that. Let me know if you don't get this entry.
That's all for now. Until next entry! ~Yin Yin