Mrs. Stevo and I had dinner with a former student of mine and her parents this past weekend. Island, who has changed her name to Ellen, is starting Grade 3. She was/is the apple of Sti Fu’s once-calloused eye. Honestly, she was the only reason that kept me from quitting during my last term at the incredibly badly managed Chinese private school. Seeing her each afternoon gave me purpose.
I had grown accustom to seeing Island everyday. Mrs. Stevo called her parents and we met at a local and somewhat swanky restaurant. Island/Ellen jumped up and down upon seeing me. She handed me gifts: A stuffed animal (a red cow), a small plastic kangaroo in a box, and a sheet of lined paper plastered with stickers.
The father, a department head at an airline, ordered: Turtle soup served in a coconut shell, sea cucumber in a delightful sauce, steaks, and an assortment of other gastronomic delights (eat your heart out Donna).
Paying a restaurant bill in China isn’t an easy task. Who invited who dictates who settle the mai dan. They invited us, but I had wanted to see Island: A quandary. Mrs. Stevo thought I should pay.
I had 600 RMB in my pocket, more than enough to cover dinner for five. (The night I got engaged I bought dinner for eight, and the better part of a delivery truck full of beer, and that bill was less than 300). I knew the rare (and pretty) food we had consumed was out of my price range. Mrs. Stevo has a credit card but keeps it locked away in a drawer.
The bill came.
Mrs. Stevo: Pay the bill.
Stevo (whispering): I can’t.
Mrs. Stevo tried with verbal acrobatics to take the bill . I projected screams of “NO! NO! NO!” with my mental powers hoping to curb Mrs. Stevo’s generosity. In the end the father brushed Mrs. Stevo aside and paid the bill. Of course, when we dine out again it will be my turn.
The good of this: I got to see Island/Ellen again. The bad? Not really anything. Perhaps a back-breaking dinner expense sometime down the road. But, Island/Ellen is worth it.