The Chinese grandmother that prevented me from eating raw cucumber salad

One day in the June of 2012 I was sitting in a little restaurant in a mountain village a few hours from Chongqing. The plain white walls were decorated only with a print that showed Mao Zedong in the middle and politicians surrounding him. Although the village was a domestic tourist destination, the restaurant was frequented only by locals.

As is the case in many small restaurants in China, most of the things were made of plastic. You would sit on plastic chairs, eat out of plastic bowls and at the end of the meal, you would reach for the plastic napkin holder.

I had been hiking the whole day without having a decent meal for lunch, so after finishing my bowl of noodles I still felt hungry. I reached for the menu again and studied their dishes. While I was going through the menu, the Chinese grandma that belonged to the restaurant started talking to me in her local dialect. She was very curious as to why I would travel to their little village on my own. After all, the other tourists all came in large groups, like swarms of bees (had I known earlier, I probably wouldn’t have bothered to go there). I explained that I liked traveling on my own and that all my friends had to work, so there was no time for them to accompany me.

After a while her son came back home from work. As he saw her talking to me, he told her that she shouldn’t try so hard as I wouldn’t understand her speaking in the local dialect. As she told him that we were actually able to communicate, he was quite surprised. Sometimes you don’t need to understand every single word in order to understand what people are trying to say. I’ve met people who have travelled around the remotest areas in China without being able to speak Chinese but they were still able to communicate with locals.

All the while the grandma’s daughter-in-law – the owner of the restaurant – was nowhere to be seen. When she came back I ordered Sichuan-style cucumber salad. As she went into the kitchen to prepare the meal, the grandma was fast to follow her and tell her that she can’t just prepare cucumber salad for me like that, after all, raw cucumbers were not healthy to eat. So in the end I was served cucumber-with-century-egg-soup instead, which was also very delicious.

Do you like travelling around on your own or do you prefer travelling in a group? What are your experiences?

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