July 17, 2005

It’s all greek to me

We get a daily food allowance of $20 when travelling in China, which makes RMB185. RMB stands for The People’s Currency, in case you’re interested. If I ate RMB185 worth of food every day, I would have to pay an excess baggage charge on the flight home.

At lunch we break from auditing, and drive to the nearest restaurant. The auditors order for me, after checking that I can handle spicy. Then they show me how to wash my chopsticks in the first mug of tea, and slosh the tea around the bowl before discarding it. The tea is lovely; I’m never going back to Typhoo. I have been told I am good with the chopsticks, but suspect that might be said in the same spirit of patronisery with which I tell my colleagues they speak good english: not going to starve, but clearly not a native speaker.
Even if you are a native speaker of chopstick, it’s still a messy way to eat; that’s why they hunch over the table with a posture that our parents would severely disapprove of, clutching the bony bit of meat with the tips of the chopsticks, chewing it while it hangs out of your mouth, then just dropping the bits of bone and gristle on to the plate. That’s the part I have a real problem with; just too British to spit bones out like that.
Every day is a feast, and costs around RMB20 per head. Yesterday they made a fuss about ordering dim sum for me. Dim Sum is something I need more information about, but seems to have the appearance of products one can purchase in Lush. I would have liked to take a photo, but thought that it might be rude.
My Chinese room-mate thinks I’m highly decadent because I have the RMB40 hotel breakfast every day. She describes it as very expensive. This four star hotel, by the way, is costing $50 a night. In Europe, our daily allowance is $35 a day; if she had to buy an evening meal for that amount in Switzerland, she might revise her opinon.