Tuesday, July 26, 2011

And then We Ate Pancakes...

If Fenghuang had ended after a few dragon boat races, strolls along the river, delicious food and hanging out with our new Chinese friends, David and Sophie, we would have considered the stop a great success. Somehow it got even better, though. We were wandering through the supermarket, as we like to do in China, marveling at the endless aisles of undecipherable packaged goods and the number of items they successfully dry and vacuum pack. We had settled, as we usually do, on a bar of Dove chocolate (me) and some wafer cookies (Jonathan) and were just about to check out.

Just then two other foreigners came into the store. We noticed them straight off, which was pretty easy, seeing as we were the only four non Chinese people in the store, maybe even the city. Paul and Dorothy, it turns out, are a super friendly American couple doing some wonderful things in China with the small factory they run out of their home. Thankfully for us, Paul and Dorothy are incredibly generous and we were lucky enough to be invited over for dinner the following evening. We had a dinner date! We were super excited. What were we going to wear? haha

Before heading over to their house we stopped back in at the supermarket to pick up something to bring with us, to contribute to what would, no doubt, be a fantastic meal. We found ourselves in the cookie aisle, debating the pros and cons of Chips Ahoy versus Oreos. If we had been at home I would have been elated over the excuse to bake cookies or cupcakes, or something equally full of delicious, albeit empty calories. (What better kind of calories are there? Ohhhh, how I miss baking!) But, no, in China here we were in the cookie aisle trying to figure out which seventy-five cent package of cookies would be the least weird to be standing at Paul and Dorothy's door with. We almost wished the cookies were more expensive so we wouldn't feel so cheap showing up with less than a dollar of dessert. It was funny picturing being at home and showing up at someone's house for dinner with a package of store bought cookies as an offering. 'Hey, thanks for inviting us! I brought you some... umm Peak Freans.' Eventually I decided that we should at least try get something that someone else baked outside a factory and settled on a small roll cake from the bakery section. Success.

We were greeted warmly by Paul, Dorothy and their adorable dog, Mimi. Dorothy had made: deep breath (I'm drooling, remembering it) - a vegetarian quiche with HOMEMADE flaky crust with REAL butter and CHEESE, FRESH BREAD and a salad- with vegetables. Now, this may sound like a normal dinner that you, yourself had just the other night-but for us, it was absolutely the biggest treat we could imagine. Cheese. Butter. Homemade jam. All the staples that we totally take for granted at home, but are unavailable in Asia. We ate so slowly, savoring every bite and licking up every crumb.

Just as fabulous as the food, was spending time with Paul and Dorothy. They have been living in beautiful Fenghuang for five years now. Their company Shenanini produces a beautiful collection of embroidered fair-trade purses, wallets and bags. I think that was actually how they were transformed from strangers into friends: in the supermarket Paul showed Jonathan his wallet that had the three embroidered Chinese characters for Faith, Hope and Love. When Jonathan saw this he smiled and responded, "Oh, you're Christians. Us too." Anyway, Paul and Dorothy have a small, very talented permanent staff who do much of the sewing and pattern screening. But they also contract out the hand embroidery to the local minority Miao women to do on their own time, whenever they are free. This enables the women to make money while still being able to take care of their kids and carry on with whatever else they have going on in their lives at the time. More on their company in the next post, though.

Our time with Paul and Dorothy flew by. We could have talked for hours. They are so interesting, motivated, intelligent, and really funny. We can't describe how refreshing it is to meet people who understand what it is like to be in a completely foreign culture for so long, and to be able to express themselves so well. Mostly its good to know that we aren't crazy. That other people have similar experiences, apprehensions and questions as we do. We loved hearing their stories, sharing ours and learning about life in China. We loved being with a couple who were so positive, so real, so involved in their community and so in love with each other.

We went home that night feeling so lucky to have met Paul and Dorothy. China travel is hard. It's exhausting, frustrating and exhilarating. Some days it takes more from you than it gives. You really have no idea what the next day will bring, no matter how well you've planned the hours. And believe me, I try to plan them. Its amazing how things work out. On the edge of what could have become an exhausting breakdown (one of a few on this trip, I'm not going to lie) we really, REALLY just needed some normalcy from China. And then there were Paul and Dorothy, answered prayers in a way we couldn't have imagined up in our most creative moments. Really, a couple of Americans in the check out aisle of a Chinese supermarket- that's creative. I mean, we would have been more than happy with hostel staff that could manage a few English sentences, and instead we get a weekend of encouraging company and comfort food!

And I haven't mentioned the PANCAKES and MAPLE SYRUP that we shared for lunch the next day! Every morning, Jonathan and I wake up and there's a routine. 'What do you want for breakfast?' Jonathan asks me, even though, really our only choice is rice noodle soup, or, if we can manage to communicate it, rice noodles fried. I know this, of course, but it doesn't stop me from answering, 'pancakes with fruit and maple syrup!' (As my belly rumbles, I drool a little and render any other breakfast unsatisfactory- not helpful, by the way.) So, you can imagine our excitement when we stopped by Paul and Dorothy's the next day to chat a little more and pick out a perfect change purse from their collection to replace my ailing one, and Paul randomly asks if we wanted pancakes for lunch! Did we want pancakes for lunch?! Do the Chinese like to chew on chicken feet? We hadn't expected to be fed again, of course, we are just having really, REALLY lucky timing. Of course we wanted pancakes and Paul's homemade Maple syrup for lunch! Total jackpot! I think I may have actually danced to the kitchen, equally as excited to stir up the batter as I was to chow down on some PANCAKES!

Anyways, Paul, Dorothy and Mimi were super understanding of our ecstatics over their food. Or, if they weren't they did a wonderful job of being the perfect hosts hiding it. haha

Thank you again so much to Paul and Dorothy for being so welcoming and wonderful. We feel so blessed to have met you and Fenghuang wouldn't have been the same without you.

3 comments:

Parentals said...

real maple syrup in China - now that's awesome. Thank God for answered prayers and for Paul and Dorothy. Keep smiling!

Anonymous said...

your adventures are awe-inspiring and your photos are absolutely beautiful.
love from A Eileen and U Trevor

Anonymous said...

Hi J & K,
This is my third attempt to send you a comment, so I hope it goes through. Your Blogs are great. hey are so informative.
I case this is got going out, I'll sign off now.
Love and best wishes.
Pappy.