So a quick post before I leave for Hong Kong. The occasion is 清明节 (qing ming jie, ching ming gee-ay) or Tomb Sweeping Festival. Despite having the 节 character denoting it as a festival/holiday, it’s not the kind of holiday where you wish someone “happy __” as in “have a blast paying respects to the tombs of your ancestors!”. Seems a bit weird doesn’t it? In any case, the weekend and Monday are holidays, so we’ve been encouraged by the program to take the rest of the week off (only three more days of classes for me) to do some traveling. I’ll be hopping down to Hong Kong and Shenzhen to see two of my good friends, and maybe take a day trip over to Macau if it’s feasible. It’ll be going further south in China than I’ve been before and I’m super excited (my wallet less so, but knowing me I’ll find some ways to save money).
Two other small unrelated stories. The first: last night was one of my classmate’s birthdays so his language buddy arranged a surprise party and had those of us who she knows well and are good friends with the birthday boy dress up fancy and go eat 烧烤 (shao kao). 烧烤’s a really hard word to translate into English. It literally means “roast and grill” and refers to all sorts of tasty things put on skewers, grilled and covered with seasonings before being enjoyed by a large group of people. All sorts of meat, veggies, tofu, bread, cakes, almost anything that you can stick on a stick and fry can be shao kao, best enjoyed squatting on a plastic stool on the street with some beer. I see it done in English some times as “BBQ” “kebabs” but that utterly fails to capture the unique taste and ambiance that goes with shao kao. It’s kind of like BBQ meets tapas. The skewers are tiny, a couple bites at most unlike what most Americans view a kebab as, so each person might eat 30 to 40 or more. The fact we were all in formal wear just made it better, if maybe not the most intelligent decision when there’s hotsauce and grease involved (see irritating pics below). Special shoutout to Helen (the buddy) too for being super patient with our Chinese, even though her English is probably the best of all the Chinese people I’ve met in Xi’an so far.
Secondly, I just finished my second full on Chinese book! Entitled 目送 (mu song, long o, to follow 【a departing guest】 with one’s eyes) by Long Yingtai, one of Taiwan’s best known authors. It’s a collection of essays dealing with her relationship with her son, her relationship with her parents, and her time living in various places around the world including London, Laos, and Hong Kong. All the essays are beautifully written and quite profound. Aside from enjoying the book, the fact that I was not only able to enjoy the language, but was also moved to tears by her description of her father’s death. That essay (entitled “Pay Attention”), drew me deeper and deeper into her description of her father on the hospital bed, her telling him to get up and go, that the road was ready and everyone there wished him a good journey, telling the reader how she had to “pay attention” to his every movement, cherish them, and recalled moments in the past where she felt she hadn’t paid enough attention to me. The love in those words was incredibly moving, and the realization that my Chinese was good enough to be moved them moved me even more. Simultaneously, I realized it was the first time since hearing my grandfather passed that I had a good cry, definitely something I needed to do, and it got me thinking about how great he was and how little I know about some parts of his life. All of you reading this, know that I love you.
My next Chinese book? No idea what it will be. Either the next installment in the trilogy that The Three Body Problem started or something else. I’ll ask for suggestions. Can’t think of anything else to share currently, but enjoy the pictures and hope you have a wonderful day!