Saturday, November 20, 2004

I eat lunch at my school five days a week. The food is placed on a long table near the kitchen, buffet style, and we all serve ourselves. It's not bad, there's a nice variety and, at least, I don't have to prepare it. All of the teachers eat in one section, separated by large swinging doors, while the students eat in a different section.

The fare is nearly the same each day, although on Thursdays we usually have baozi (pronounced bow-dza), a large filled dumpling we eat with vinegar and pickled vegetables, and a really nice garlic-y fried rice. There's enough choices on the other days to make different decisions about what to eat each day. I don't mind. We always have some kind of bread, flat, fried bread, or the white Chinese bread, which looks like uncooked dough, and sliced apples. If I get to the cafeteria early enough, I'm just happy to get some slices of cucumber, which usually runs out by the end of the lunch period.

All of us bring our own dishes with which to eat. My employer, Ms. Wang, provided all of us foreign teachers with small stainless steel pots, similar to a kind of camping cookware, and it has a real militaristic feeling to it, using dishes like that. After eating my fill, everyone washes their dishes in the sink at the back of the cafeteria. Generally, after washing their dishes, they put a little water in the clean dish, drink a bit, swish it around in their mouths, and then spit it out into the sink. It's a way to clean their mouths after eating. Most of the teachers store their dishes on various shelves which line the walls of the cafeteria, but I usually take mine back to my office and store it in my locker. I've heard stories about someone's dishes getting moved.

Most of the teachers use a spoon with which to eat their lunches. I use chopsticks because I don't have a spoon. Also, none of the Chinese people drink anything while they eat lunch. At least, not in the sense that we do in America, drinking water or soda or something else. Usually, at the end of the meal, they drink a kind of tasteless rice porridge from a small bowl, which serves as a kind of beverage.

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