This morning B learned a Chinese phrase which means, "I chicken," or possibly "I chickened." Oyce taught me to say "I am a chicken," but when I tried this useful phrase on her mother, I was informed that I had actually said "I am a prostitute" in Cantonese. I can see how that could be a cause of misunderstanding.

Today we went to an auntie's house and helped her prepare an enormous feast. By that I mean that I chopped up some salted hard-boiled eggs, Oyce chopped mushrooms, B fashioned lettuce leaves into cups to hold fried rice, and N watched. Three large crabs were dispatched by stabbing them through their little hearts with chopsticks, and a pan of shrimp lay on the counter and occasionally leaped out.

The crabs were steamed, two plain and one in a butter and garlic sauce, and there was plenty for everyone. The shrimp were steamed with a spicy dipping sauce, and followed by the lettuce leaves with fried rice, a cabbage casserole, pumpkin with preserved egg, sweet rich spare rib chunks, bok choy, and chicken soup made with two hens (it was very chickeny.)

The auntie who cooked all this went to cooking school, by the way. I think she could easily teach at cooking school.

Lest we grow faint from hunger before all this was served, as appetizers we were given rolls of sticky rice stuffed with pickled radish and soft bread surounding crispy bread, plus some sweet squid jerky and "pork floss," which is highly addictive sheets of pork jerky of the approximate thickness and crispness of toasted nori (seaweed.) Cooking auntie very kindly gave me a bag of this, as I may not have time to go to the food market and buy some to bring back to the US. "Better put it in a box," she warned. "Otherwise you'll end up with minced pork.'

I am told that we are going to a banquet tonight. I am hoping that I will have a chance to hit the treadmill in between.
Oyce's Dad has been watching this movie on DVD for several days, so I keep seeing bits and pieces of it. It is set in historical-make-believe-China, and looks extraordinary: everything is gilded and ornamented and every shot displays about fifteen different brilliant colors, so every scene seems to be taking place inside a Faberge egg, or a stained-glass window. This is remarkable to look at, but makes it rather difficult to follow the story. Luckily, the story does not appear to be very complicated.

Every time I have glanced at the screen or even watched for extended periods, one or more of the following events is taking place: Gong Li drinking poisoned "medicine," looking pained and haughty; Gong Li's or the poison-carrying maid's breasts are prominently displayed, in corsets so they're practically popping out of their heavily ornamented dresses of cloth-of-gold; people hurrying down technicolored corridors; gigantic gilded and baroque doors opening or closing. The soundtrack appears to consist entirely of BOM! BOM! BOM!

Oyce's Mom wandered in at one point, glanced at all the gold onscreen, and remarked disapprovingly, "Too expensive."

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