If you talked to me in March, you’ll know that I didn’t really like China. The food was oily and hard to eat with chopsticks, I wasn’t comfortable with the language and everything was totally different. Although the food is still greasy, I now feel a lot more accustomed to my Chinese life and it all started when I ran out of toothpaste.
You know you’ve been away from home for a while when you have to buy a new tube of toothpaste. My Colgate whitening toothpaste (the one with the crystals in) had run out and I thought buying a new one would be no big deal. In March I bought some mouthwash that had an image of a leaf on it, I assumed it to be a mint leaf but later when I got back and tasted it I realised it wasn’t mint….I read the characters and saw it was green tea flavour. It wasn’t unpleasant so I kept using it.
It was April by the time I needed new toothpaste and I had forgotten about the mouthwash thing. At the toothpaste aisle, I chose the crest one with a diamond on it, the middle character 白 means white and I didn’t want to waste an hour checking all the characters on all the types so I just chose it, thinking it would be fine. It looks harmless, right?
When I went to use it, as I squeezed it out, I saw it was pink coloured…. OK, that’s new but I’m in China. I put my toothbrush in my mouth and instantly realised it was not mint flavour and not diamond flavour either. I was confused and upset, all I wanted was minty breath. Then I turned over the tube and saw what was on the back…
A huge pink lotus flower. I had chosen morning dew lotus flower flavoured toothpaste. I mean, have you ever eaten flowers? Why anyone would want to have lotus breath is beyond me, but that moment I realised I had two options. I could be miserable in China, complain and moan about all the things I experience that I don’t like or I could just get on with it and take whatever China throws at me. I chose the latter. I had to start enjoying my time in this country rather than just “getting by”.
Now when I see strange things, experience uncomfortable situations or eat unknown food I try to make the best out of the situation. I have eaten chicken feet or rather nibbled on them – there’s not much meat to be eaten. I’ve mastered how to eat noodle soup with chopsticks and without slurping (Chinese people slurp noodles loudly to show they’re tasty but I can’t bring myself to do it just yet). I’ve seen builders standing on the same ledge that they’re drilling away and open manholes with no fence around them.
Personally, China is a place I’ve had to learn to enjoy, unlike other places that I’ve been to and have instantly fallen in love with. Now that I like China, I can have more fun. I’m also more confident to do things.
Last weekend me and my coursemate David went to our Chinese friend’s hometown and stayed with him and his family. We weren’t really sure what we’d signed up for and I was a little nervous to tell the truth. But soon after arriving I felt at ease as Chinese people are incredibly good hosts, too good in fact. If we coughed a commotion was made and immediately our glasses were filled with boiling hot water. They also sent us home with a little gift and a bag of apples.
Today I went to another Chinese friend’s house to make dumplings. He originally suggested I just go to eat the dumplings but I wanted to help make them too. His apartment was small, cute and welcoming, as were his mother and sister. We made so many dumplings (pork and Chinese chive flavoured) and then ate lots of meat. When it was time to leave him and his Mum filled up doggy bags with roasted duck meat, chicken skewers, cherries and a whole watermelon the size of my head.
The two Chinese friends who came with my left empty handed as they were better at refusing than I was. When I told Jim I didn’t want the meat he said “please take it, I seldom eat meat and my mother is very fat.” How could I say no to that?
Anyway, I think the moral of this story is that if life gives you lotus toothpaste…. buy a new one.