Thursday, March 8, 2012

Healthy gossip

Something happens nearly every day here to clue me into some top secret hidden underground gossip ring that seems to be lurking jussssst out of reach. Word travels quickly here. Whether it's good or bad or just eh whatever, word of mouth is crazy fast. There have also been many times when I've been let in on it, but only those times when it concerns me in a very harmless way. Usually it's some sort of curiosity about me or Americans in general that some of the other teachers will be gossiping about, and then finally one of the teachers who speaks a little English will ask me the question.

Is it this way all over China? Or just where I live? Or just in my school? In any case, it's very amusing, and it's become a big curiosity of mine as to how this gossip underground works. Maybe when I learn more Mandarin and am able to eavesdrop more effectively, I'll uncover its mysteries.

Anyway, what made me think of this is yesterday one of the teachers who speaks a little English came up to me after class, and she looked like she had something important to ask, but seemed a bit hesitant. She said, "Some of the other Chinese teachers were wondering...uh, can I ask you a question?" and I said, "Sure, of course." And she said... "They are wondering...what do you eat?"

Oh boy. And this is right on the heels of me feeling extra huge here because I can't find clothing my size. (Btw, I'm about a size 6-8 in U.S. sizes, so I feel pretty average by American standards.)

I sort of giggled out of surprise at the question, and asked her, "What do you mean? Like what do I like to eat, or what do I cook at home...?" and she said, "Well, they think you look really healthy, so they are wondering what you are eating here."

The first thing that popped to mind was...what does "healthy" mean here? Is it a healthy glow, like rosy cheeks and good skin? Is it healthy like she's got a few extra pounds on her and is definitely not starving. Or do I look so huge in comparison to other women that they are fascinated as to what foods could be causing this??

And then she said...

"Do you eat a lot of rice. Do you cook rice at home?"

I laughed and pointed to my stomach and said, "Because I'm so fat?!" and she laughed and said no no no, and I'm glad she has a good sense of humor.

I told her I eat a little rice at the school (the kindergarten provides lunch and there's always a little rice with lunch), and at home I mostly cook vegetables and sometimes with noodles. She still seemed curious and asked what kinds of vegetables, so I told her.

It was a funny conversation and I'm still not sure what to make of it, but at the end of our conversation, it really did seem like a genuine curiosity. But what sparked it? No clue. As an American, do I naturally try to find hidden meanings and pick up on the undertones in everything people say? Is it just me? Does it happen in Chinese culture as well? Regardless, their curiosity is continually sparking my own.

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