Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Meet the Fockers

Today was the celebration of the Mid-Autumn Festival, a mix between a family holiday and a Buddah holiday, and thus, I think it's appropriate to introduce you to my 中国 Chinese family (more on the holiday in the next post).

Meet the Ni's.Host dad, 45 - host mom, 41 - older sister 姐姐 21, and younger brother 弟弟 16

Cultural note: The Chinese have different names for family members whether they are older or younger, mom's parents or dad's parents, mom's younger sister's daughter, dad's older brother's wife's daughter's first cousin once removed -- the list goes on. I have only gone so far as being able to distinguish between older/younger brother & sister.

So this was my first time going out to dinner with my host family. Despite hearing from other homestay students that they've gone out to restaurants a few times, my family has always eaten together at home. So when they first told me we were eating out, I couldn't decide whether or not that translated into eating outsidse (part of the Mid-Autumn Festival is to eat mooncakes and watch the moon...exciting, no?) or venturing into the city -- so I was pretty excited when we I saw the cab pull up.

And then, surprise -- everyone was there. I didn't even realize my host family had this big of an extended family...and there's more of them I have yet to meet. Apparently, the Ni family is one where the one-child policy simply doesn't apply. My host dad has two older sisters (one pictured here with her husband and daughter). And then, of course my host family has two children. Not sure what is in store on my host mom's side of the family... There was a LOT of food. Most of which I don't eat...and most of which I would prefer not to. But I'll give you a quick taste of what was on the menu this evening:
We started with some radishes, sweet/sticky lotus flower with rice inside, 2 kinds of snails (because you can never have enough), mussels, another shellfish like that but with little squirters, 100 different types of meat (no, but it seemed like there were that many and they all looked very Asian so I won't detail them all), some long fish we probably don't have in the states, crab legs, chicken feet, fried pig feet, probably another animal's foot or two, "baby" bamboo, steamed buns you stuff with cucumber and meat, "vegetable duck" which is basically what we would call fake meat or tofu, and this thing called toro that we don't have in the US (you can find it in Ecuador though!) - it's basically a gray potato and has become one of my favorite things to eat, probably because it's comparison to what else is on the table.

If I've mentioned it before, I have to emphasize it again: my host dad is my absolute favorite (no comparison to you, dad, stop sweating). We'll sit and drink tea in the morning, he'll say a lot of things I don't understand but can laugh at, and at other times he'll say things that are legitimately funny that I do understand. When I've felt upset before, he knows what to say to cheer me up (even if he doesn't realize I'm upset, he's just that cool that he'll make me feel better). I can sit here and try to explain how awesome he is, but I think this picture can sum it up the best:

"Really, China" (Mr. Ni is cool enough to make it into this category today)

And this is how my host dad plays with the restauraunt's fish tank.
Until Next Time,
*I'm working on making my pictures larger but haven't had any luck yet, so bear with me.