Diary 2013/08/08 – Home-cooked

Can’t believe that it’s Thursday already! This week has gone by so fast. Well, sort of. Hours in the office do tend to drag on… On Monday one of my British colleagues arrived, back from his business trip to Xiamen to teach for one of our Masters prep programmes. He’s only been working for the company for just over a month, but he has about two years of experience on me teaching university-level English in China. I’ve got a lot to learn from him!

This week I’ve mostly been preparing lessons and teaching. I’ve had two classes with Angela, the big boss’s daughter, and a kid who’s heading to Birmingham in September to study Finance and Economics. They work relatively hard, but are privileged kids so have a pretty relaxed attitude. I feel like this class is a good warm up for the other teaching I will be doing.

Hotel living has been frustrating to my stomach. I ate out on Monday, some super salty celery and pork over rice. It only cost ¥10, and was very filling. But Tuesday and Wednesday I got super lazy, eating crisps and instant noodles. This was remedied tonight when I went over to my colleague Fiona’s place.

She lives in a small place with her “husband” (they’re all but married) not too far from the office, and just beyond my hotel. She invited me over during the weekend too, when she said she’d treat us and cook meat. She’s very health conscious, especially regarding food (but not regarding exercise!) so usually eats vegetarian. We bought a load of apples on the way over, which were the “green” type (they were golden delicious), and nothing like the to-die-for red apples that grow in her home province of Gansu. She promised to bring some over when she returns from visiting home over Chinese New Year.

She shares a hometown with her husband, and her story makes me think of my grandmother’s: she decided to marry later in life than the average Chinese, and still doesn’t have any children, although she plans to. She’s known her husband since middle school, but they’d never really considered marrying each other until one day they did, I guess. My grandmother also knew my grandfather for a long time before they decided to try dating and ended up getting married. In both cases the couples came from the same hometown. I think sharing a hometown can be a really important aspect of a strong marriage; sharing that sort of culture creates an understanding and eases communication. Quite literally in Fiona’s case: their hometown dialect is impossible for me to understand. When the two of them live in different cities, different provinces, it’s like they have their own private language, and their home becomes their own private space amongst all the strangers.

I hovered while she cooked, trying to discover the secret to successful Chinese cooking. Turns out I just add too much soy sauce, and don’t cook my veg for long enough. Also a splash of vinegar goes a long way. We ate bamboo stalks and green peppers fried in chilli and garlic, a dish of potato, eggplant and onion, and some chilled cucumbers dowsed in chilli oil, salt and vinegar. I wish I could return Fiona the favour and cook for her, but it will have to wait ‘til I get my own place, unless I can convince her to let me use her kitchen. It was stipulated that I should come over any time, and call whenever, but I’m never sure how frequently people expect you to take advantage of these offers… All I can say is home-cooked food tastes hundreds of times better than eating out, particularly because it’s shared with friends, rather than eaten alone.

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