You know how making and serving food is an expression of love for a lot of people? I’d like to propose that, sometimes, eating it is an act of love, too.
After last night’s donkey parts dinner I’m feeling rather pious*, though I probably won’t be by the time I finish this post. So allow me to present a somewhat famous ancient passage in a fresh translation: the Donkey Parts Version (DPV). Or, if you’re of a more squeamish constitution: the Culture Stress Version (CSV), because that’s what this is really about anyway. ;)
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If I slurp down this gelatinous slab of donkey blood without making a face, but have not love, I’m like two mass exercise dance groups of at least 100 grannies each, both in the same public square and each with its own impressive sound system.
If I chew and chew and chew some more and finally choke down this unnecessarily large chunk of fried donkey penis just in time for the next toast, but have not love, then I’m like that guy at the gym who brings his portable mp3 player — even though the spinning class music, the aerobics class music, and the house speakers are all already competing for prominence in the weight room soundscape — and sticks it right in the middle of the floor where we can more easily trip over it.
If I drink more Tsingtao than I want to so the host will have face and the guests won’t feel that I think I’m too good for them because the obnoxious and juvenile male social world is just that way, and surrender my body to a night of greasy indigestion, but have not love, then I’m like thirty high-pitched Chinese preschoolers in a cavernous classroom of hard surfaces who won’t stop yelling Wàiguó Lǎoshī!! even though you’ve said Good Mooorniing! to them five times already.
Love is patient with the snot-faced little double-fingered nose-pickers even when the English you’re employed to teach them is beyond their developmental capacity as 3-year-olds, and love is kind even when their parents send them to school sick and they cough in your face and leave their boogers on your teaching toys. It does not envy people with long-term tourist visas. It most certainly does not boast about being a wàijiào; it is not proud.
Love is not overly rude to neighbours who honk their horn for twenty solid minutes in the middle of the night because they drove back so drunk they think someone else has parked in their parking space; it is not merely self-seeking but also seeks peace and quiet for the entire neighbourhood. It is not easily angered by impossibly long strings of firecrackers at 3am on Chinese New Year’s Day, and keeps no record of wrongs, but rather considers such things merely as mildly humourous blog fodder.
Love does not rejoice in or act entitled to lǎowài privilege, but rejoices in the truth, like when Chinese friends feel close enough to burst your deluded protective bubble about how fluent your Mandarin actually isn’t, or like when you find out you’ve been saying or doing something wrong for years.
Love always protects face, always trusts that, on average, these people aren’t really any worse than the people you came from, always hopes for deep and meaningful cross-cultural relationships, and always always always always perseveres in language study.
Have a happy, more gracious and more loving New Year! ;)
*(This does not happen very often.)
Links from above:
- 1st Corinthians 13 in multiple parallel translations.
- “Bad China Days” [or] How I will eventually LOSE IT and end up on the Chinese evening news
- Culture Stress (post category)
- Chinese Food (post category)
- Honked Awake (first time to call the cops in China)
- Why I’m glad Qingdao is the beer capital of China
- The World’s Most Popular Beer is… (CNN)