Wednesday, August 27, 2008 ;
Getting used to a lot of new things/ experiences
1. smoking, drinking, entertaining..
Last night, me and kids attended a dinner, where Dh is the host. He entertained his business partners and suppliers at the Ah Yat Abalone Seafood Restaurant here in TJ. It is within a hotel quite near to our apt.
This is the first time I've gone to such a function. In the past, the dinners I attended were always staff dinners, with teachers. I always just go to have fun and catch up with colleagues. Now we seem to be entering the business arena. The atmosphere is quite different.
So before the dinner, I spent some time dressing myself up and then wearing shirts and long pants for the kids.
At the restaurant, we were ushered to a VIP room. I had already expected smoking and drinking to occur in restaurants here, judging from the Korean places we had visited. Well, at one corner of the VIP room, there was a couch, and a long coffee table. On it were placed 2 beautiful glass ash trays.
What did both boys do? We were early and were waiting for our guests, so they took their Ultramen out and placed them within the ash trays, thinking it was some kind of throne?
Argh. On the dinner table itself, with a big elegant lazy susan in the middle, were 2 ashtrays as well, different design, but also very high-class kind.
I asked Dh, probably for the umpteenth time, are they all going to smoke? The VIP room was quite big and air-conditioned, but I still didn't really want to be a passive smoker and inhale all the 2nd hand smoke for a couple of hours. He replied again, that he wouldn't know. This is his first time too.
Our guests arrived punctually and there was some small talk. I saw one of them place his unique-looking lighter and a pack of cigarettes on the coffee table. Uh-oh.
After the introductions and small talk, we decided to sit at the dining table and order food. Ok, that was another fiasco. Later Dh found that the northern chinese do not really like abalone, Buddha Jump Over the Wall and other such dishes. He did the ordering and ordered a set dinner with about 6-7 courses?
When the food came one by one, we saw our guests pick at the ingredients in the Buddha Jump over the Wall, and ask what was the humongous black slimy thing sitting on the special dish together with the duck feet and the abalone? It was a mushroom of course. They had some difficulty swallowing the large piece of premium abalone, and one of them left half on the dish to be cleared away. ha.
I can see Dh feeling uncomfortable within, and he did apologise if the dishes were not suitable for their palate. One of them mentioned they usually ate dumplings, handmade noodles, that kind of thing. Yup, Ah Yat is a Cantonese restaurant isn't it? Totally not their kind of cuisine.
The fish was almost unfinished and had to be cleared. It tasted horrible to me. One of the lady guests asked what fish it is, and Dh wasn't sure, because the waitress had recommended it and he just nodded his head but he couldn't catch what the name was.
The kids usually loved fish, but they didn't take too much of this. It had way too many bones too, so I spent most of my dinner removing bones from the fish, to feed both kids with their rice.
There were 2 veggies, one kailan stems (yes only the stems) dish and the other chinese cabbage (just the cabbage, no meat or abalone or seafood). Looked really homemade to me. I could easily cook that. I think the set meal was a rip off. Not very happy with the waitress who recommended that to Dh! The thing is, the guests and I were talking about the kids while Dh was ordering the food, so the rest of us didn't know what was being ordered too.
Both veggie dishes were cleared also almost untouched.
The Buddha Jump over the Wall was served individually. Only Dh finished everything in his exquisite-looking bowl. For me, I don't like those sea cucumber and various limpet and clam-looking things. So I only ate up the chicken, pork, sharks fin? and drank the soup. The rest of the guests didn't finish theirs too.
What did the guests eat most then? The 2nd last course, the fried rice. :-0
Even the dessert was a disappointment to me. It was a hot almond soupy thing.
And then came the fruit platter last.
Oh yes, forgot to mention that one of the guests had a whole bottle of Budweiser (correctly spelt? i don't even know how to spell it) to himself. The others didn't drink as they were driving. They said police are very strict on drink driving here.
Fortunately they didn't start smoking too early, perhaps that is my only consolation. The guy with the lighter started to light up after the fruits and said he didn't start before dinner because of the kids. Hmmm, ok, thanks a lot.
He smoked and talked. After the cigarette ended its course, I felt very happy and relieved. Because the dinner conversation looked nowhere like it was ending soon, and I was imagining my kids' lungs filling up with black tar.
But no, it was not to be. He fished for the 2nd cigarette and continued. Then the 3rd. Ok, basically he smoked till we were ready to leave.
Beforehand, I had to talk to ds1, a long talk, about not shouting or highlighting people who smoked, because H had already cautioned me that people will definitely smoke and drink here. Any occasion, any place, even the most high class and fully airconditioned place. I know ds1's character very well, he may want to tell people off.
True enough, i did have a heart stopping moment, when the first puff started, and ds1 ran from the couch to me and asked loudly, in english, "I smell smoke, mom, is someone smoking?"
Fortunately, they don't understand English so much. Written English is ok for them. Not so much the speaking and listening skills.
I reminded ds1 in a hush hush tone that he is not in the position to tell others off now. And set him back to the couch where he and ds2 were playing by themselves after the dinner.
The bill came up to more than S$350. Sigh. So not worth it.
Dh commented that the guests must be heading off for supper right after the dinner. We ourselves did not feel full, much less for them.
The guests were all really nice people. Very friendly and warm. Offering me help and inviting us to their houses whenever we are ready to visit. Asked about ds2's rashes and tried to play with them and engage them too. The lady guests even read a Chinese book to ds1. I brought the story book along to while their time away during the dinner actually. Ds1 asked me about a chinese word and I wasn't sure how to read that, so the lady tried. She was not sure too, but she proceeded to read the whole book to him and chatted with him. Her own daughter is 18 now, and going to start the last year of high school.
I really don't mind attending these functions to get to know more people and to support Dh. People always want to meet his family over here. However, I really don't know how much of the smoking I can take. After we reached home, all our clothes still stank.
H told me her hubby didn't drink or smoke before they came, but now, every dinner and function, he will be asked to drink and smoke, by clients and so on. If he doesn't, he is not "showing face" to them and they will be offended. She says he always comes home drunk.
Her hubby's colleague, a manager or something, was just posted here from Singapore. I met him the other day too, because he also lives in this apt complex. He came just a few days before us.
H said he attended his first function, and got so drunk, the next day he had to take medical leave. He had a dinner appointment with H and family the next day for dinner and told them he had such a bad hangover and his whole body felt limp. He couldn't think or focus at all. He complained that that shouldn't be the way, to drink that way. But he has no choice. He didn't use to drink back here in Spore too. His wife and 3 kids are still in Spore cos one of them has the PSLE this yr. I really sympathise with him, and his family.
H's hubby's GM is also a Singaporean, here without his family as well. Fortunately H's hubby has her here. I just think if you are dead drunk, you probably need more family support and love, especially the next morning.
Dh wasn't asked to drink or smoke during the dinner. They did ask him though, whether he drank or smoked, and he just replied no, and they left it at that.
I hope it remains that way forever. And I know Dh will not drink or smoke even if forced. It helps that his employers are Mormons. They will be the first to understand why one shouldn't drink or smoke, right? :-) Dh says they don't even drink tea or coffee, so....
The next thing is: how creative and innovative the Chinese can be.
We all know the transport vehicle of choice here is the bicycle. It is also very environmentally friendly.
Everyone owns a bike. My ayi rides over to work at my place too. She always charges her battery at my house.
Dh has been equipping his factory right? So the other day he was waiting for the air con men to arrive. They're supposed to install and equip the factory with air conditioners. So he was expecting them to turn up in a small van or truck.
No! There were 3 of them, each on a bicycle, laden with the aircon units and tools. Dh was so surprised.
They didn't have a ladder, and so just scaled the wall using the ledges on the outer wall. It sure looked dangerous to Dh but they are so used to it.
And they fixed up the units very quickly and left.
After that incident, Dh noticed that everyone who came to install something at his factory would come on bikes. If the machinery or equipment was bigger, it would come in parts, on several bicycles. :-)
We ordered pizza twice too. Both pizza joints are not near our place at all. It probably required a cycling time of 45min at high speed to reach? But yes, both times, the pizza guy appeared on a bicycle, and one of them on a normal one, not the motorised kind! I take my hat off to them.
The delivery boys can probably join those cyclathons or triathlons and win hands down, having cycled long distances each day for so long!
Oh yes, so we normally have to order our pizzas 1hr before hand.
Chinese people here count using their fingers differently. It's hard to describe, but after the number 5, the way they use their fingers to show the numbers are vastly different. In fact, what we show as 7 is 8 for them. The number 10 is the 2nd and 3rd finger crossed (like how we say "cross your fingers").
A little confusing at first, but now we are used to it.
Oh, and we all know how quick the Chinese are at counting, and how good they are in math. The kids here are very good at mental calc and the use of abacus.
4. Schools serving all meals
Kids here tend to spend the whole day in school. All the local kindergartens and preschools, as well as most primary schools, serve the kids breakfast, lunch and usually dinner.
I have visited a couple, and heard from friends.
I must say the menus look very appealing. They have very balanced meals, and huge portions too. The breakfast looks very good, and is like a buffet. Ds1 will surely lose out, he'll probably be happy with just a slice of bread.
H says her kids will have seaweed soup and so on too. And many other items I would not normally offer at home. Schools cater to large groups and can offer to buy a lot of food at cheaper prices, so the kids get to eat a wide variety of food too. I know that will do a lot of good for my kids! But alas, I still think they are too young to spend a whole day at school, and I do still like to spend more time with them.
Chinese parents have only 1 child and they believe that the child should spend most of the day in school, with other children. They get to learn more, and socialise too. At home, they'd be bored with just the parents and them. So most schools operate around this schedule 8am to 5pm, much like the childcare centers in Singapore.
Anyway, I have mentioned I put the kids' names down at a couple of local kindys right? They have a long waiting list and school reopens next Mon, so we've gone ahead and placed them in the international school. The one we had registered them way before, when we were still in Utah.
The local kindys will probably only reach my kids' names next year!
The intl school has half day or full day prog for preschool, so ds2 will be there till 12pm. But for ds1's age, it is from 8.15am to 3.15pm. No choice of half day, so ds1 will be there for a longer period.
They follow the US system.
Because I don't have a car, and with their staggered timings, I cannot afford to take a cab to school with them in the morning, then at 11.30am again to pick ds2 up, come home, then go again at 3pm for ds1, and possibly having to wake up a napping ds2 and drag him along to pick ds1 up as well. Hence, I have signed them up for the school bus. It works out cheaper for me too, than if I had to take all the cabs.
It is also safer because the school bus is fitted with seat belts for every kid, and there is an ayi on each us to take care of the kids.
It is definitely much cleaner than many of the cabs I have taken too.
This took some getting used to.
Over here, abortions are very very common. It is such a common procedure that no one bats an eyelid. You can see commericals and adverts everywhere, from magazines to within the cabs, painted on the big hospital wall (the facade that faces heavy traffic), and online.
They advertise "painless abortions" and that you can go to work the next day. Cheap and good.
This website shows some figures. One Beijing's hospital reported doing 40 abortions everyday.
H says, her son's classmate's mom was 5 months pregnant when they found it was a girl again, so she got an abortion. To them, and their friends and relatives, it is nothing. They already have a girl, and they wanted a boy next, so they abort. 5 months... I remember feeling all the baby's movements by then. I remember seeing the baby's face, hands, fingers and toes during the ultrasound scan.
I remember seeing how ds1 did somersaults during the 5th month scan, and how ds2 was sucking his thumb and being camera-shy (the radiologist had a hard time trying to check him). We had thought this baby must be a girl this time, until she finally saw "it" and said he's a boy.
Even if I have another boy, and I wanted a girl so badly, how can I abort?
rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow