Shen invited me to a pre-Thanksgiving dinner over at her apartment this past Saturday. I had a wonderful time. Her roommates and some Chinese Translation & Interpretation classmates were there. Moments like that dinner are what makes this school such an international environment. Sure, the Chinese T&I students were the majority, but there were people who spoke Korean and Japanese. And, I chimed in with the little Spanish that I still remember.
Lin did most of the cooking. A fantastic job… women who can cook are a rare breed these days. And, I always admire those who can.
However, it wasn’t the food that made the evening remarkable. It was the conversation. Mina and Bruce were the only individuals who were married at the party. Mina’s husband is still teaching in Japan and Bruce’s wife is back in Taiwan. They shared with us their stories of how they met and the trials of early marriagehood. Mina and Joe have been married for over five years. Bruce and his wife have been together for eight.
I was amazed to discover the degree in which Bruce, his wife and in-laws were dog lovers. They didn’t just love dogs. They worshiped them. Well… specifically one. Beer. Pi jiu in Mandarin, but they all just called the dog “Beer.” This is because the mother-in-law is fond of beer. Naturally, the dog was to be named the same. Bruce’s wife works in the airline industry as a flight attendant. She flies to Germany to buy USD$100 dog shampoos and to Japan for high-quality dog toys. These dog toys would only be a 2-minute affair for Beer. Apparently, he chews the toys so furiously that they only last a short period of time. And the family would buy enough dog toys to satisfy Beer once in the morning and again before bedtime. Hence, there are a closet full of these expired dog toys. Ten thousand of them – can’t be reused or washed because Beer can tell. It has to be brand new.
This extreme form of dog loving, apparently, is a phenomenon not uncommon in Japan and Germany. I never thought that dog owners would give their pet first choice on, say, the turkey during Thanksgiving, or first pick on a Beijing duck. Amazing. I never knew that USD$20 cans of dog food exist, where the quality of beef is even greater than the quality that humans would eat.
Bruce said that many people will find this weird and do not understand until they have a dog of their own. He said his dentist, known for stern seriousness, was an ideal example. Before he owned a dog of his own, he could never understand what the fuss was all about. He thought that his own children filled that role. This doctor came to discover, Bruce retells, that there is a bond that one’s own children cannot duplicate. To the dog, the owner is its world: source of food, provider of shelter, giver of affection. A dog does not go through puberty. A dog never gets to an age where it needs to move on. No, no… a dog will always depend on its master. This reality sinks when you look into the dog’s eyes.
I scoffed. I understood what they were saying, and I do not deny that this phenomenon exists… but it was just difficult for me to believe.
We talked about more than just dogs. Honeymoon spots was a highlight of the evening. I found that kaiseki is a type of Japanese cuisine that is beyond description. A typical dinner would cost about USD$300. I was warned not to try kaiseki in the U.S, but to fly to Japan and eat the cuisine at its origin.
From the conversation, I made note of Hokkaido, one of Japan’s islands where it’s famous for its milk. It is there where I should try lavendar ice cream.
Also, outside of Tokyo, there is city/village/place called Hakone. The hot springs there should be the destination for any honeymoon. Moreover, there is kaiseki.
The evening was fantastic… made even more so because I got to drink. Although it was only sauvignon blanc, I was pleasantly inebriated and stayed over on their couch. Quite a wonderful group of people. I am blessed.