Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Oriental women - widely admired, widely misunderstood...

All things Chinese have been much on the mind recently, what with the dawning of a new Year of the Tiger and what-have-you. I brightly greeted Mrs Byard on Sunday morning with "Kong hee fat choi!", to which she responded by furrowing her brow and replying "Did you just call me fat?"

Djangolina - or Liem Kwee Lee as she is now styled in connection with all things Chinese - is quite fired up by this being the Year of the Tiger, which is her birth year. Having established my credentials as one cohabiting with 1.5 (ethnic) Chinese women, let me share a few intriguing observations for those watching from further afield.

The popular stereotype of a delicate, tottering, parasol-twirling "Lotus Blossom" character is utterly, utterly wrong. Chinese women are very, very tough in all kinds of unexpected ways.

I have already had cause to mention Mrs Byard's capacity for eating palate-scorchingly hot food and shaming "hard lads" in the process. Last year, we were served a platter of seafood at a restaurant in Indonesia which included whole crab. After a while, the following dialogue took place:
Her: "Aren't you going to eat your crab?"
Me: "Um, I've got nothing to open it with."
Her: "What are you on about?"
Me: "Well, in Europe you'd get crackers and a pick to open the shell up with so you can get the meat out."
Her: "Oh give it here, for goodness' sake..." (Picks up crab claw and cracks it open with teeth)

We have had similar conversations back at home - steered elegantly toward the conclusion that I am a useless wimp - over my pathetic attempts to find oven gloves rather than just pick up a roasting tray fresh from a prolonged stint in a hot oven with my bare hands.

I have encountered little old ladies - albeit in Indonesia, but I'm credibly informed by a Sinologist friend that China has an extensive supply too - capable of carrying loads on their backs you wouldn't believe. I once felt very proud of myself having scaled a relatively modest volcano in Java, to find at the top an entire drinks stall which had been carried to the peak, in its entirety, in a scarf wrapped around a 70-something lady shod in flip-flops.

I paid her an exhorbitant sum for a luke-warm bottle of jasmine tea (the legendary Tehbotol - Indonesia's finest soft drink....) and slunk back down the mountain feeling duly humbled. Which is no bad thing, after all...


Gadjo Dilo said...

Yep, they do put us to shame in several ways. And the speed they can attain in so many arenas of human endeavour. It's a rather crass and obvious example, but since 2003 I never played table tennis again.

The Jules said...

Are you still writing Year of the Ox on your cheques though?

Scarlet Blue said...

I had a similar experience in the lake district. Northern women are also quite hardy.

Gyppo Byard said...

Gadjo - One of Djangolina's classmates is already highly-ranked nationally for his age in table tennis. His older brother is a realistic prospect for the 2012 Olympics:
That's him on the left. As you may be able to divine from the photo, his mother is from Beijing...

The Jules - What's a cheque? I think I remember hearing something about them in the last millenium.

Scarls - Northern women scare me. Especially the bare legs in sub-zero temperatures...

Daphne Wayne-Bough said...

Yes but is it true about Chinese men?

Gyppo Byard said...

Dapphers - Is *what* true about Chinese men?

There are so many possibilities, so here are a few answers: Yes, no, no, sometimes, depends which province they're from, not always, used to be true but a lot has changed, no, only on Thursdays.

No Good Boyo said...

Twins. Except Siamese.

Kerrie said...

I love our multi cultural society. You can learn so much from others. I would have been humbled by the flip flop lady but I probably have tried to do it in stilettos.( and failed).

No Good Boyo said...

Gyppo is otherwise engaged, as this blog posting would indictate, so I'll take it upon myself to reply to rtfgvb768, if that is his real name.


Fu Man Minh was not entirely without blame in this matter Those pandas don't bait themselves, you know.


Boyo cc Gyppo

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