Wednesday, April 09, 2008

A bit of a chance to work the old Hanyu magic

We went for lunch today to one of our favorite places - Oh Ho, or "the happy pig" as we like to call it for it's logo is a smiling porker in a chef's hat.

We love this place, it's muy autentico - populated at lunch time by workers from the Kafaqu - development zone - and with nary a foreigner in sight.

We barged in as usual and declined a private room, preferring instead to sit upstairs on the main floor. In the past they had a great book-style menu with nice big pictures that had apparently been replaced with a single sheet under the glass table top. We whined and received an old one as there was no way we were going to get anything from the new one. The pictures were just too small. I stood up and took charge and managed my way through ordering chicken pork, "sheep" and shrimp dishes while having a good laugh with the server. When we thought we had enough, she decided to go over the list with Matt and I jumped in telling her that he didn't speak a lick and that I had plenty of Hanyu to go around. So she came over and ran down the list with me and although I had little clue about what she was reading, I at least appeared to be in complete control of the situation.

The food came and it was outstanding as were the Cokes, extremely sweet due to their use of sugar instead of corn syrup and just like they used to taste at the soda fountain, 100 years ago. A little more back and forth with our pals and then it was back outside and off to work.

Tonight was team dinner night at a local expat-owned restaurant and food far more like that I'd have on the far side. A blood red sirloin, bread, wine, haricot vert and a nouvelle desert tray.

No question which I prefer, not knocking the excellent presentation at dinner, but there is simply something special about struggling to remember what "Yang", "Zhu", "Niu" and "Ji rou" mean when it comes to ordering food. It consistently cracks me up that Pinyin for shrimp translates as "little people" and that I can spit this stuff out on demand.

We brought my pal Ling into town tonight for the team event and I was bantering back and forth with him and our driver, Mr. Wang. Ling finally said, "I don't think it's such a great idea to teach all these laowai (foreigners) Chinese." Which brought a road of laughter in the car. I asked him how he thought I was doing and he said, "fine, it just takes me a few seconds to realize you are speaking Chinese."

We made him an honorary Laowei.

A few pictures below just for entertainment. The watermelon carver sitting in the hotel lobby was amazing.





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