I thought I would spend my Friday kind of just lazing around in my room. But Sophie texted asking if we would like to join “us” for a hotpot dinner. Initially I thought I wouldn’t go, but then Birdy pulled a face saying she didn’t want to be only vegetarian in the group, so I went along.
And I was glad I did. One of the teachers, who I think is the Assistant to the Dean, was there. It gave me the impression that this was some school-sponsored dinner. Along with Sophie there were a bunch of others apart from our usual group of Yoke and Dawei. The hotpot restaurant was just a short walk away from the campus. When we entered at half past seven, the place was buzzing. Three tables were pulled together to make way for us. There were 3 unknown Asians – we weren’t sure who they were – students, guests of the laoshi (teacher)? One of them had a gigantic camera that immediately captured Birdy’s attention. I found myself sandwiched between Dawei’s newest male friend – a Chinese whose name we couldn’t quite get but who was studying for his Master’s in Accountancy and Yoke. Birdy found herself next to Ian, a very talkative Canadian, who completely engrossed her attention, so much so that I don’t think she would have recognized if she was having tofu or cow innards.
Yoke and I had a rather rambling conversation, but the food! We obtained one half of the pot – it’s usually divided into two portions – one contains the spicy broth, and the other half another kind of soup. Our half was the spicy half into which all the veggies went – so cauliflower, potatoes, giant mushroom, cucumber, bean sprouts all merrily boiled in the steaming cauldron of red. Inside the inner circle went unidentifiable pieces of meat. Ladle a small portion of the veggies into your bowl containing garlic, soy sauce and sesame oil. Mix it together. And wait for the spice to numb your tongue and mouth. It was delicious. Hao Chi, as the Chinese would say. It was around 10PM when we finished, and walking back, I was astonished to see food stalls still buzzing. Chengdu is known as being the capital of gastronomy, and I can see why. Afternoon/evening/morning/night – you eat. If you are not eating, you are drinking tea in one of the hundreds of tea houses that dot the city. If you are not eating or drinking, then you could be playing mahjong. Seems like this city knows how to live life. Eat, drink, laugh and play. Isn’t that how life should really be?