Hope you had a great Thanksgiving holiday. We sure did with one of the best dinners ever with some fabulous friends this week. A local Shanghai man was the brilliant cook who took an imported American turkey (and yes, I’m grateful that America still has some things worth exporting!) and created a masterpiece of tender, moist poultry–or as tender and as moist as turkey gets, which is still not quite up to the level of traditional Chinese-style duck in southern China (Guandong style, to be exact, which I prefer even over the delicacy of Beijing roast duck). The secret to his outstanding turkey is that he turned it over halfway through the baking process, redistributing the juices or something. It was amazing to watch how he served it, removing the skin, slicing the meat carefully, and then slicing the skin in strips to lay back over the flesh to give each piece a beautiful appearance. He was using Chinese duck preparation skills to enhance the turkey. Just beautiful and delicious. His mashed potatoes were some of the best ever, too.
China has its share of problems, as all nations do, but I’m so grateful to be here and to have a wife with a sense of adventure and a willingness to make the sacrifices that we thought we were making when coming to this land of promise. We have experienced miracles here and so much kindness. I’ve suffered from frequent discrimination, I’ll admit, in which I’ve received special treatment and unjustified kindness for being a strange-looking foreigner who seems similar in height to Yao Ming (he’s only a foot taller than me, a barely noticeable difference, it seems). I love how people are willing to talk and explain things to me or just chat. I love the smiles and nods I get, especially when I try to talk Chinese. Even the police have been friendly, as I can testify after last night when I thought someone had unzipped my bag and swiped my iPad somewhere on the subway. I just wanted to report the possible crime so I called the police and was surprised to have two officers at my door within 10 minutes to get more information.They were very kind and patient. I explained there was a chance I had somehow left it in my office, and would check in the morning. I hoped it would be there, but by using the “Find My IPad” feature of my iPad with the help of iCloud.com, my iPad was allegedly found and located at a location close to where I had been on the subway and several blocks away from my office. Turns out it that it was just in my office after all and that the map feature was highly inaccurate. Hurray, my iPad was found and no police action was needed. But how surprised I was to get personal attention from the police so quickly, and with a smile. I’ve seen many examples of police and officials who struck me as nice, hardworking people–something one doesn’t find everywhere in the world. Again, not to minimize the problems that do exist here, but I rejoice in the many positives I’ve experienced.
China, at least Shanghai, is a lot like the Wild West. There’s a surprising amount of freedom in some areas. Ok, not all of that is good, like the freedom people get when they buy electric scooters: once purchased, they never have to obey a traffic law again. (Pedestrians, beware.)
We Latter-day Saints from overseas are generally pleased and surprised at the freedom we enjoy to meet and worship in a beautiful setting. We need to keep our religious activities separate from those of our Chinese brothers and sisters, with no attempt to proselyte or otherwise violate the rules. But even with the uneasiness that Communist leaders in general may have with Christianity, it is flourishing. Surprisingly large numbers of local Chinese are Christian (I’ve heard estimates of 3%, and understand that the 100 millionth Chinese Bible will soon be printed). May that trend continue!
Not all people here share my optimism. Some local Chinese are unhappy with life here and it is a difficult struggle for many. Some foreigners really dislike their experience here, and depending on their situation and expectations, it can be very trying. There are many things my friends back in the States should be grateful that are less abundant here–especially Jello. It’s one of the hardest things to find here. How can there be a true Thanksgiving feast without that? But what a feast we had nevertheless.
At our dinner, we each took turns to share something we were grateful for. Mine was hot water. Hot running water. When so much of the world lacks this luxury, what a marvelous and unfair blessing I enjoy in being able to simply turn a tap here in my small little Shanghai apartment and have warm water flowing for a shower anytime I need it. Amazing. And that’s just the beginning of the wonders we are blessed with here (say, have you heard about the roast duck here?). How about you?