China hearts Mike
My husband is working in China this week. He e-mails:
Du Yu, the engineer who works for our distributor here in China, is always translating for me: that girl says you look like Karl Marx. It happens wherever we go. It means, he says, that you are an amiable person, not to mention that you really look like him. Chinese people learn in grade school that Karl Marx is the “real” Santa Claus. So, I bask in the glow of the masses, they warm to my gaze like dumplings in a bamboo steamer. I probably could take advantage of this...But the translator goes home. Here's Mike, on his own, in a restaurant:
The waitresses wanted to put the cork back in the bottle after I poured myself a glass of the Cal Red and taken a sip. I tried to tell them that no, you don’t put the cork back in. They just did not understand what I was telling them. So, I pointed to the bottle and tried to pantomime that the wine needed to breathe.
Well, they thought I was telling them that the wine was causing me to suffer an attack of hyperventilation. They became quite serious, concluding that I didn’t like it, that it was killing me. They wanted to take it away! I had to keep repeating “that’s okay” as I grasped the neck of the bottle reassuringly. Then they went to get someone in uniform, who stood in front of my table silently for a while, then blurted out “ice?” -jerking her finger at my glass. “No, no ice, that’s okay, that’s okay”.
I could tell at that point they had concluded that I was crazy. Not putting ice in the Cal Red, not putting the cork back in the bottle to preserve its essence, pretending to hyperventilate for no apparent reason. After that, they left me alone, but I was observed from a distance with fairly unrelenting interest.
It’s around 10:45 pm now. We fly to Xi’an tomorrow afternoon, where the entombed warriors await us. Hainan Airlines, flight 7862, departing 14:45. KFC is going out of business in China. No one is eating chicken because of bird flu.