I LIKE THAT Frank and I had brought along a translation book on our first excursion to China in 2005. We wanted to be certain that what we saw posted on a huge billboard hanging from a popular restaurant in the city of Yichang in Hubei province was what it boasted.
Yes, indeed, the specialty was alligator soup. We entered the establishment and were guided by an elegantly dressed young woman to a table near the large plate glass window that overlooked the courtyard. I ran my finger under some of the Chinese characters on the menu and said, “Bu e yu.” The waitress didn’t respond as I expected her to. I was looking for acknowledgement of my request, at least with a nod. I repeated the phrase. No response.
Frank gave it a go with his pronunciation technique and still the young woman did not respond. Frank repeated the phrase.
“Yes, I know,” the server said. “What would you like?”
We smiled and laughed and became fast friends with Riya and later, her friend, Junior, which we learnt to pronounce properly as Julia. Riya explained that she was very nervous to speak English and did not trust her pronunciation. We assured her that it was lovely and that she was very patient for having allowed us to pronounce ‘no alligator’ in our version of Mandarin.
We spent our first year in China in this city of 1.4 million teaching English at a middle school. On our days off, we would meet with Riya and Julia to explore the city. We shared meals with them several times and it was a magnificent adventure every time.
|Surrounded by food in China|
|Alligator - our Specialty|