Tea, tea, tea, food, food, food, there is barely a moment when something to eat or drink isn’t being thrust into our hands.
Our bedroom is only separated from the dining room by an intricate wooden shelf with no backing, so it was impossible to sleep through a meal. We had rice noodles cooked with shrimp and algae for breakfast along with leftovers from the night before. Nate, who is not a fan of the algae ate his as quickly as possible to get them out of the way. Sonya’s mom however was on refill patrol and every time Nate ate the last of his algae she’d give him a big scoop more!
The neighbours have been slaughtering roosters all day to the point where there’s a river of blood running across the road. The roosters waiting to be killed are tied up and left beside the chopping block as if they’ve been placed on death row. Must be terrifying for them.
Sonya’s house is like a fort, with tall walls surrounding the courtyard, and a walled in roof. Led by Sonya we hung our blankets over the wall, in the sun, in order to warm them up. Paige, as we have given Sonya’s niece as an English name, soon hooked us into a game where we ran across the roof and hid from her Sonya and her grandfather. The roof was the world’s greatest playground, well except for the lack of walls on the inside, and the concrete floor below, and the crumbly-ness of the brick on the outer walls… Regardless the game went on all day. Paige was not shy any more. She was a big fan of giving us food and hooking us into her games, but became very grumpy when she didn’t get her way, or when we ignored her in order to help Sonya with her chores.
We had pigs blood and green peppers along with pig meat and bean sprouts for lunch, which went out beside the leftovers. Pigs blood wasn’t bad. The pepper was delicious as were the bean sprouts. Was too full to eat a lot. Sonya’s family thinks we’re strange because we like to make sandwiches out of buns, meat, and cheese. Nate made a bean sprout, pigs blood, and cheese sandwich, which he then dipped in his pig broth.
We visited one of Sonya’s cousins after lunch and were served sunflower seed and tea.
We helped Sonya make dinner. We made a flat bread and cooked it in a big round flat machine with a lid that plugged into the wall. Nate and I kneaded dough and then Sonya put Nate on cooking duty while she rolled. I rolled out some as well but mine looked more like amebas then perfect circles.
Sonya’s older sister (the one that lives in Jinan) arrived while we were preparing the food. Paige was very excited and ran up to her shouting “Mama! Mama!” Paige is only five years old, and it has been three months since she last saw her mom.
Sonya had Nate make eggs and tomatoes, which she seemed to think was an American dish, even though we insisted we’d had it for the first time in Jinan. Everyone liked it except Sonya’s mother who decided that she didn’t like that weird foreign food. She tried to feed hers to Nate, who was still full from lunch! She was always trying to get Nate to eat more.
Sonya cut up tomatoes, bok choy, and onions to make sandwiches out of, the problem was the bread we’d cooked was the size of dinner plates, like wraps but too crunchy to roll. Nate and I folded ours over, while Sonya used two giant flat breads to make a humungous sandwich.
Bumpity. Bumpity, bump the red van had no shocks and we had very full bellies, and the road was not smooth. I had a sprite in my hand that kept sloshing everywhere, and the road was insanely narrow. I was sure we were going to roll off the edge. We were on our way to visit more of Sonya’s relatives.
Nate went out to use Sonya’s cousin’s bathroom while I attempted to get the baby to warm up to me. She cried every time she looked at me! I asked Sonya if the bathroom she’d sent Nate to had a pig in it.
“No no no!,” but then paused and asked her cousins. She started laughing and I asked her what they said. “No pig,” she laughed, “but there are chickens and some sheep.” she took a deep breath, “I didn’t warn him because I didn’t know!”
A few minutes later Nate come in, “I went to the bathroom and saw something white move out the corner of my eye, then I hear coo-coo-coo-coo… and when I tried to pee the dog kept on running in front of me and I kept shouting “go away, go away!” I don’t think I peed on it.” he paused, “then when I opened the door he ran out and I started saying “come here, come here!” and then I realized he didn’t speak English!”
We had more sunflower seeds at every house we visited, and Sonya passed on the story about Nate peeing with the chickens to each new set of relatives! They thought it was hilarious!
We taught Paige to count to ten, and she in turn attempted to correct our English pronunciations. She was convinced apple was pronounced appo. Every time we said apple, she would remind us that it was appo and wait for us to repeat it properly.
At the end of the day Sonya’s family all sat in her parents bedroom, which has a heated bed and a TV, and weaved strands of straw to be sold at the market. I helped but mine are not nearly as good as theirs.