Wednesday, 18 January 2012

From chopsticks to English husband.

Like most schoolgirls in Hong Kong, I had occasions of fantasising about 'boyfriends and husbands' with friends. When we were about 10, in one of these talks, a friend named Hui Yuet Au who liked all things glamorous whose goal was to become a celebrity, told us that one day she would marry  a westerner because she would get to eat dinners with knives and forks instead of chopsticks. Perhaps, chopsticks represented in her mind as something ordinary and uninteresting when compared with knives and forks that you could only use in expensive restaurants, or seen in foreign films used by westerners in suits and beautiful dresses.

Without telling them, I had the feeling that one day I would end up in England and could possibly have an English husband.

The only westerners I knew personally were the American couple Mr and Mrs Morgan, Mr Morgan was our church pastor who wore nice suits all the time, his trousers always looked straight and crease-free because he didn't seem to bend his legs when he walked. Mrs Morgan wore immaculately ironed dresses in floral prints who had hair that never moved in the wind. No, I didn’t have the chance to try my English on them since they spoke good Cantonese though understandably in a heavy accent, I would have been too shy to do so anyway had I been given a chance. 

Mr Morgan delivered his sermons in Cantonese, sang hymns in Cantonese and prayed in Cantonese that always made me wonder if God found that confusing because He must have expected English from an American. They did try integrating and identifying with the Chinese life of their congregation by using chopsticks, eating out of bowls and serving food communally at the table, that I admired so much until one day in their house, I caught them using that glamorous eating tools!

I felt betrayed and disappointed, Mr and Mrs Morgan shouldn't be them, not what Hui Yuet Au would have imagined, they should be one of us.

So, Mr and Mrs Morgan were glamorous after all, they lived up Hui Yuet Au’s stereotypical image of the glamorous westerners, nice suits, pretty dresses and they used knives and forks.

Soon, I bid goodbye to my parents, friends and Mr and Mrs Morgan. I came to England with their blessings, to be amongst glamorous westerners in suits and floral-printed dresses who ate with knives and forks. I was one step ahead of Hui Yuet Au’s dream, she would have felt so jealous of me if she knew I eventually married to an English gentleman.

Hui Yuet Au’s dream didn’t come true, instead I am living out her dream. In our kitchen cupboard, we keep knives and forks and there is only one pair of chopsticks. I have a husband who looks good in suits like Mr Morgan used to look except he has creased up trousers because he bends his legs when he walks. My late mother-in-law used to wear immaculately ironed dresses, also had hair looked like Margaret Thatcher that wouldn’t move in the wind.

In her house, I had to follow her dinning ritual by laying the silverwares, Hui Yuet Au’s glamorous eating tools, neatly on the starched white tablecloth. I was expected to sit straight at the dinning table and cut the food up into small pieces on a large shiny plate, meanwhile making sure I didn’t drop the food and stain her brilliant white tablecloth. Conversation with her was minimal as I didn't think she would tolerate my accent and my grammatical mistakes. Eating at her house was such a challenge though I found myself playing a role in those foreign dinning scenes that I saw in Hong Kong cinemas.

Hui Yuet Au might still be using chopsticks somewhere in Hong Kong. She might have worked it out by now; a 10-year-old girl’s dream usually glamourises reality hundred times. I am now living in her childhood dream world that she would not have recognised.

Mr and Mrs Morgan fulfilled God's calling and are now with Him whom they faithfully served for the most part of their lives. To me, they were my good prototypes of all westerners I would soon meet and they sealed in me a solid impression of what an ideal westerner should be.

That disappointed little girl in their house many years ago, is also using knives and forks now, she is still hoping to discover the glamorous western life for Hui Yuet Au,  but deeply convinced that it would never come. 

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Talking about Cup Noodles

I thought I would join in with the social-network conventions by posting pictures of my lunch at work, partly because I want to experience the experience of others who did similar things. 

To make it interesting for myself, I will bore you with the whole process of preparing the cup noodles. 

I came across this brand of cup noodles the first time in a Korean grocery store. The packaging is different and attractive, so I thought I would try out this Thai Tom Yum flavour.

It wasn't the 'less than 5% Fat' that caught my eyes for I only noticed it just now on the picture, it was  the 'Tom Yum  HOT  & SPICY' that made me decide to try it,  it evoked that hot and tinkling sensation in my mouth. 

Out of the attractive box, it's an ordinary looking cup 

It came with a fork and the sachet of sauce that you mix in with the prepared noodles
(I know you are more interested in the text on the book)

The pre soften up stage

After 3 minutes of softening up in hot water, I mixed in the sauce

The box comes handy for this purpose

After 5 minutes of eating it, conveniently the cup was put back in the box and I discarded the whole thing 
My verdict for the noodles is 'there won't be a second time for me'. It doesn't live up the 'hot and spicy' expectation it proclaimed, in fact it wasn't that at all.

What interests me more is the experience of consuming the product i.e. choosing and buying, preparing and eating such thing called Cup Noodles, and have the audience (you) who understand what it is all about.

Cup Noodles is a recent invention originated from the Far East and is now consumed world wide. The connotations of the product is something oriental, quick and easy, economical and filling and is food on-the-go. We also have the shared knowledge of how to prepare it. Just imagine if your great great grandmother came back and saw a Cup Noodle sitting in the cupboard, would the product connote the same things to her as it does to us? And would she know instantly as how to turn it into something edible without reading the instructions?

What I'm trying to say here, and I personally find it interesting is that, consuming Cup Noodles is a cultural practice for it is a product that certain meaning (oriental, quick and economical etc.)  has been ascribed by us. Whilst we have the shared meaning about this product we also have the shared practice of consuming and preparing the product. It is because of the shared understanding of the cup noodles eating culture in which we are the participants of, I am able to share the pictures with you knowing that you would know what it is all about.

So, every time we consume Cup Noodles, we automatically position ourselves as the participants of the Cup Noodles eating culture.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Simple experience, beautiful memory.

Last night my daughter asked if I could remember the name of the village where we bought her the 'Alice in Wonderland' book when she was 5 or 6. She wanted to know because in her memory it was a beautiful place. I had to retrieve hard for that bit of memory though I finally recalled fragments of images of the place, but there wasn't any cue that helped link a name to it.

Experiences we had in the past may no longer be in our memory, yet could be remembered by others as long-term and therefore significant memories to them. Realising that I was responsible for providing this simple experience that represents in my daughter’s memory now as beautiful awed me. Furthermore, it is the working-together of all her experiences that shape her, and the memory of the beautiful ones can sustain her enthusiasm for life throughout her lifetime.

Perhaps, preferred parenting is to give our children memorable and beautiful experiences, no matter how simple they are.

We've been to many quintessential villages in England, this could be one of them. 

Monday, 2 January 2012

I wasn't Eva Golding

‘Eva Golding’ is a name that I acquired over two separate life events rather than given by my parents, though I do have a birth name that reflects my Chinese heritage.

Under the British colonial influence, it is not uncommon for young people in Hong Kong to adopt an English name in addition to their Chinese birth names. ‘Eva’ was picked by my sister for me when I started secondary level schooling. From then on, I had been called Eva Chan.  

Eva Chan was a name on my passport that I came to England with as a student. Soon, in London, through marriage, I acquired a new surname as Golding. Like most newly married young women, I mourned the loss of my unmarried status and felt strange when I was called Mrs Golding.  ‘Eva Chan’ was quaint if not trendy, but a total western name ‘Eva Golding’ seemed more than wrong to me.

My image of a ‘Eva Golding’ is someone who resembles the younger Margaret Thatcher or woman of her kind, no wonder I keep seeing surprised looks from people who call out my name in waiting rooms in public places i.e. surgeries and hospitals. 

It has been many years since I acquired the name 'Eva Golding'. I do feel I am a 'Eva Golding' if I don't think too deeply about it. 

Argos Experience

With a reservation number, I went into Argos to pick up a Juicer ordered last night on-line. In Argos, firstly I paid the cashier by this reservation number, then I was given a collection number '805' and was given 4 minutes waiting time for my collection. So I sat down on one of those hard chairs, joined with others silently staring at the machine above for our numbers to appear.

'Number 805, please come to the collection point' was clearly called out in a electronic-voice. My automatic response was to make my way to the collection point and collect the box by the number '805'.

The whole buying/selling process was technically and systematically conducted, it has been predetermined and there was no room for any un-predicted outcomes to be arisen at any moment. My decision to buy came in contact with this system, through interacting with this system I was drawn into the 'conveyor belt' of its operation of which I became part.