What a day! It was great almost from the moment I woke up, although that moment came a little bit early at 8:00. At precisely 8:58, I placed a call to my good friend Kathryn back home in Tulsa, where it was 7:58 Sunday night and Easter Mass was just about to start at the Newman Center. I listened to the gathering hymn, opening prayer, penitential rite and . . . THE GLORIA! They were singing the same Gloria that we’ve done since I’ve been at the TU Newman Center, and it just didn’t seem possible to celebrate Easter without hearing it at least once. I burst into a spastic fit of excitement upon hearing it – it was that good. Oh, David Haas, something went very right when you wrote that setting . . .
I quickly showered and then rushed out for an early lunch date. Mrs. Zhang, the woman from church who invited me over to celebrate the Chinese New Year, had invited me back to eat spring rolls and, what with my upcoming trip tomorrow, we quickly scheduled the meal for lunch today. She told me to bring a friend, so my Korean Mass buddy ChengJun and I went over.
Going to Chinese friends’ houses is always an adventure. Being a guest in a foreign language and foreign culture can be tiring. There were long stretches of Minnanhua and Guangdonghua (Cantonese) that I had to tune out. I suffered unfavorable comparisons with ChengJun, who’s only been in China for a month and speaks as well as me. Their grandmother pointed out the dark circles under my eyes and asked what was wrong with me. But it could have been worse . . . at one point they brought a scale into the living room and I seriously thought they were going to weigh me.
Despite everything I just said, I had a wonderful time. For instance, when they did speak Mandarin, I learned that my Chinese mom’s mom’s little brother was classmates with the bishop of Hong Kong. So basically . . . bish and I are besties. I also got to look at their family pictures, including wedding pictures which are, by far, my favorite thing in the entire world.
And of course there was the food. Oh, the food! See, I’ve had spring rolls before – thin pastry stuffed with chopped cabbage mix, rolled up and fried; it’s great. But this was like a Chinese burrito. The table was covered in bowls of different ingredients, which we piled on our thin sheets of pastry and rolled up ourselves.
Like DIY Chipotle, only with 辣椒 instead of salsa, cabbage and sprouts instead of beans and rice, seaweed instead of lettuce, and a devastating lack of guacamole. But seriously, there were three major similarities with Chipotle – there was cilantro, it was delicious, and sometimes the burritos were the size of small babies. LiJun, the son, was the best at making oversized egg rolls and shoving them methodically into his mouth, but I held my own. Poor ChengJun, with no Mexican heritage, had a little difficulty with the rolling technique.
It was wonderful; you really shoulda been there. But I couldn’t dally too long because I had to get to my next meal. We picked up some ingredients at the supermarket then headed over to Aleid’s apartment for a pancake dinner! I was in charge of the pancakes, sharing the kitchen with Jimmy, Chef of the Gods, who grilled us some insanely good meat.
Those were the main planned courses, but it was one of those meals that just went on and on. Aleid whipped up some fried eggs and cut up the Dutch cheese I brought, Yanyu sliced bread and boiled some 汤圆, Jeremie and Virginie contributed guava paste, and their two new roommates (Paul and Amanda) brought cheese cake and fruit for dessert.
There were several times today when I looked up from my food, took in the faces around me, and realized that some of the feelings I’ve been having recently are totally ridiculous and completely unfounded. How could I possibly feel lonely when surrounded with such lovely people? The fact that I’ve known none of them longer than 7 months and 11 days is irrelevant to our relationship. And how can I be so concerned about what I’m missing back home? The truth is, while choosing between two hypothetical futures is one of most painful things for me, when it comes down to the present and an alternate reality that might-have-been, the present wins. Hands down. Every time.