I started off my Thanksgiving this year with a family gathering on Skype at 6:00 am Monday morning. "What are you doing today? Doing any hikes?" I was asked after we figured out the time difference and determined what time of the day it was for both parties. "We are buying food, making food, and eating food," I informed them. The lack of family in the area had forced us to build our own. We had invited co-workers, and local friends over to our house, promising them roasted duck and mashed potatoes. They were to pitch in on sides, desserts, and drinks.
Nate and I crashed back in bed after I hung up with my parents, grabbing a few hours more of sleep before commencing our busy day. We made a plan of action: where we were going to go and in what order, and then bundled up in boots and coats to combat the rain that was drizzling down.
First order of business was breakfast. We stopped at the restaurant we have named "The Noodle Factory" despite the fact that it does not serve any noodles what so ever, bought some thin crape-egg thing, a deep fried bread stick, some mysterious dough balls, some chicken on sticks, and a bowl of rice. Stomachs filled we left our dishes on the table, as is customary in most Chinese restaurants, and obeyed the sign on the floor that reminded us to "Please Carefully Slide." We crossed the the road through the crazy traffic with nonsensical stop/go rules, and pulled one yuan each (1/6 of a dollar) out of our wallets for our bus fare.
First stop was Quan Cheng Square, the city centre, containing the symbol of Jinan. We had heard of an imported food store that we hoped might have some necessary ingredients for our upcoming feast. On our list of things to buy were: good wine (Chinese wine is terrible. The big brand here is Changyu, and it is only tolerable if a previous bottle has numbed the taste buds before it is opened), pumpkin pie, gravy, cranberry sauce, and perhaps a toilet seat. The pumpkin pie was a no go, as was the toilet seat, but the wine was a success, and Nate even picked up some Moose Head beer. We had to get creative with the cranberry and gravy: we bought dried cranberries, and cream of chicken soup, figuring we could wrangle up something half decent.
We went to the super market by our work-place for cups and plates, the rain had picked up, and we were dripping wet when we burst in the door. The Chinese employees, who probably recognize us better then we recognize them, were laughing at our soaked figures. We were just glad to be inside for the short amount of time it took us to get what we needed.
We had discussed getting a cab home, but it seemed the rest of Jinan had the same idea. There was no good bus route, and we didn't want to wait for a bus that wouldn't quite take us where we wanted to go. Instead we bought umbrellas for roughly three Canadian dollars, and trudged home.
We were soaked when we got back in the door, but our adventure wasn't over yet. We still had not found ourselves a duck. We went back out to the market at the base of our mountain where we had been fairly certain we had seen them before. Every day since our arrival to China we had walked by windows filled with roasted ducks turning around and around on spits, fat dripping from the dark meat. These roast ducks were everywhere, and out of everything we had needed to find that day the ducks were what we worried about least, yet, on Thanksgiving monday there were no ducks in sight!
"Ni hao, jigga?" we asked pointing to Nates tablet's translation of "roast duck". We kept getting sent farther and farther down, and there was still no sign of any ducks.
"I know there's ducks by the school," Nate said, so we formulated a plan of action. We only had and hour and a half before people started arriving, and the house was a disaster area. One of us would go home and clean, the other would get the bus to the school and pick up the duck. I volunteered for the cleaning position, earning myself an escape from the rain.
When Nate returned about an hour later we were looking in much better shape. I had everything cleaned and just had to sweep the floors and deal with broken toilet seat, which I fixed China-style with tape and cardboard.
The food was Nate's masterpiece, and despite the hick-ups everything smelled and tasted great. Our "gravy" had noodles and carrots in it, our cranberry sauce looked like pink slop from the flour added to thicken it up, and our duck with chopped up with the bones inside. Our mishmash of guests and friends, despite their differences, managed to hold back the drama for the night and act like civilized beings. To go with the duck we had tomatoes, crackers, bread, a corn dish, and peach cobbler for dessert. We ate squished in around our little coffee table, talking and laughing. After our bellies were filled and a considerable amount of the wine had disappeared out came the cards and the bijo (very strong Chinese liquor). Our Chinese friends; Selina, Kate, and Lina, started pouring Bijo in each others glasses, trying to dump their own liquor on their friends! A lot of it ended up on the floor, but it was all in good fun.
It was a true thanksgiving spend with our China comrades, complete with family drama, full bellies, and spinning heads.