Last week I noticed that people in rural China are very friendly and great observers. I have a special privilege at the local gym; as soon I enter the rather hot gym (there is no A/C and it is currently 37 degrees and 60% humidity), the table tennis players instantly step out to offer me their place to play. The gym owner hands me the best bat she has. I play table tennis with local Chinese people appreciating each other’s spins and shots. We communicate with each other without any words but body language as they do not speak English and I am certainly not a Mandarin speaker.
Having rarely eaten with chopsticks before, I often struggle and spend a relatively long amount of time getting the food into my mouth during the Chinese banquets. Once I went to a local restaurant for dinner with other teammates; a waitress offered me a spoon almost immediately after she saw me fumble with chopsticks with the intention of helping me to enjoy my dinner. I refused to use the spoon and forced myself to learn to use chopsticks. Not only I am interested in doing it the “Chinese way” but I also aspire to lose a bit of weight during my time in China. Slowly but steadily, I begin to master the art of eating with chopsticks, thereby making my Chinese name “San Du” more meaningful (San Du means “Three Capitals” in Mandarin – Matt gave me this name because of my background and experience across 3 different countries – India, the USA and China).
On Saturday evening, we were invited to participate at the “English Corner” of Anyue where we played games and shared American festivals (mainly Halloween and Christmas) with over 30 kids and high school students at a public park. Parents, teachers, and friends came to cheer us up and were delighted to have the opportunity to observe, interact and, of course, take a dozen pictures with us. Our team felt like a true Hollywood Star. And now everywhere we go, there are people who recognize us.
To get around and order food in the streets of Anyue, I use 3 key principles: 1) Ask in English, which almost always fails, 2) Point at things and make hand gestures (dumb charters style); and, assuming #1 and #2 have failed, 3) Draw what I want (this has always worked so far). Locals are welcoming and will look after you as if you were part of their family. I feel just like home!
Check out our experience below: