A couple weeks ago, one of my favorite students left the school. She is more than just a student, she’s a friend. We met today to catch up before she heads back to her home in the north.
Jessie is a wonderful young woman. From the start, she’s been a friend to me and helped me to acclimate to Chinese culture. She’s brought me gifts of tea from her brother and her boyfriend. And, most of all, we’ve sat and laughed at these “southerners” and their inability to handle anything that approaches a real winter.
She’s heading back home next Friday. Home for her is the north eastern corner of China. From what she says, it sounds a lot like Wisconsin. She’s offered to help me come up to visit during the Spring Festival. If work allows for it, I’ll definitely take her up on it. I’d like to see a different side of Chinese culture–and having a friend to walk me through it would be wonderful.
She took me out for Korean food. Patrick (my roommate) has taken me to this restaurant once before, but he was more reserved in what he ordered. Jessie went all-out to introduce me to Korean cuisine. I think it was a good thing that I’d already had a “mild” introduction to Korean food via Patrick. While I’m an adventurous man, I prefer to understand the basics before I throw caution to the wind. Patrick showed me the basics of Korean food. Knowing what they consider to be “mild” and “spicy” gave me a metric on which to base my understanding of their food.
Jessie isn’t your typical Chinese woman. First of all, she’s not entirely Chinese. Her ancestors come from Korea and Russia, as well as China. She’s a strong and independent woman who has traveled extensively. She speaks at least 4 languages (Mandarin, Korean, Japanese, English). And… she’s just “good people”.
I trust her. I let her order the entire meal–including an interesting alcohol that she insisted needed to be “infused” with fresh cucumbers before drinking. It was *really* good. (Annette? Are you paying attention?) We had shaved beef (paper-thin!) and what I can only describe as ultra-thick bacon–both cooked right at the table. The proper way to eat them is to put them on a leaf of lettuce, add slices of garlic, scallion, and/or cucumber, toss in some flavored soy paste, and stuff it in your mouth. With a little tweaking, it could be a great bar food.
I have come to know quite a few people in China. While I am on friendly terms with almost all of them, Jessie is the first one that I would consider “a friend”. Let me put it this way: if I ever find myself in trouble with the law in China, she’ll be the first one I call. She may not be able to help me, but I’m betting she knows who can–and she’d be willing to send those people my way.
 Slice up a fresh cucumber into shoelace-sized strips, put them in a carafe and soak them in your favorite vodka. Then drink the vodka.