Row, Row, Rowing Along in Chengdu

We’ve chosen an unconventional lifestyle. As a part of the Foreign Service, we will move roughly every two years for the rest of Thad’s career. This tour happens to be in the middle of China, but the next one might be Brazil or Sweden or Cambodia. We just never know where we will land next. This means there will be no white picket fence or BBQs with the same neighbors each summer for years on end. (Okay, there currently is a white picket fence in Nampa, Idaho, which I am trying to sell in a terrible market. If you know anyone interested in a beautiful Victorian-style house with a wrap-around porch and gazebo at a super price, let me know!)

I’m okay with unconventional.

Yet another marker of ways we tend to color outside the lines was visible last week on our anniversary. While many people would celebrate with gifts of jewelry and flowers (which we have done in the past, and I will always be happy with bright, shiny things that come in small velvet boxes), this year the commemoration went in a slightly different direction.

For dinner, we have a few options in town. There are some Italian restaurants (I’m sure it is Italian with a Chinese twist), a steak-house or two and some very fancy Chinese places. We could have gone to any one of those establishment and enjoyed a lovely meal to mark the passage of time together, but instead, we thought we’d shake things up a bit, break out of the prescribed “anniversary” box.

We went to Hooters.

Yup, Hooters.

The fact that Chengdu has a Hooters is one that I still can’t really wrap my head around. I have no idea why they came here or how great business is for them, but this fine restaurant is just a couple of blocks from the consulate and we pass it on a daily basis, so we figured it was time to give the place a shot.

Hooters is not good.

I’ve not been to this feathery-friend themed restaurant in the US, so I can only speak for its appeal abroad, but I don’t need an owl’s wisdom to come to the conclusion we will not be going back. My dislike of the place has nothing to do with what I can only imagine are a typical wife’s list of complaints, like the boobs and butts and wings. I’m fine with all of that.

I wasn’t looking for class or refinement when the idea of Hooters for dinner was tossed around. I was looking for some decent Western food in a place that had an American-feel to it. I got neither. The chicken carbonara seemed like a good choice off the menu that evening, so I went that route, while Thad had the enchilada. With our orders in, we waited and chatted while listening to N*Sync, the Backstreet Boys, Katy Perry, Britany Spears and Christina Aguilera. (Okay, I was totally on board with the music part. Seriously. I am a sucker for pop music, so while we waited, I tapped my foot, bobbed my head and sang along quietly. I’ve got terrible taste in music, but I’ve come to terms with it, so you’ll have to as well.)

After waiting an inordinate amount of time for dinner to arrive, my chicken pasta was eventually presented. (I would crack a joke about having to go kill the chicken, but this is China and I may be circling closer to the truth than I want to admit on that one!) It came with two plates and forks, as even at Hooters, everything is served “family-style.” I waited a few minutes for Thad’s meal to arrive, but when it was still MIA as mine was quickly cooling, I dug in. It was…meh. It was…okay. It was…nothing to write home about. (Apparently, it was something to write a blog about though.) I believe there were all of two pieces of chicken and the pasta was definitely not western-style pasta and I was thrown by the inclusion of carrots in the dish, but overall, it was edible. It was not the great dish of creamy pasta I had been hoping for, but it was tolerable.

Eventually, after I had finished probably half of my meal, Thad’s enchilada arrived, cut into pieces, to be served to a group, rather than one person. It was as if his mom had cut his dinner into bite-sized bits for him. I think his enchilada was more disappointing than my pasta, as the meat was sweet and most of the ingredients off just a bit. The high point of the enchilada was probably the sour cream. When sour cream becomes the high point of any meal, it is time to stop and reevaluate the menu.

So, the food wasn’t great, but the quirkiness of the evening didn’t end there. While we were *enjoying* our meal, one of the customers at a nearby table was apparently celebrating his birthday that evening. In a rush of orange hot-pants, tight t-shirts and a whole lot of clapping, an entire parliament of waitresses arrived to sing for him. The traditional “Happy Birthday” was out, as it is in many restaurants due to royalty issues, but most places come up with their own little ditty to replace the song whose singing officially means you are a year older. Not the Hooters’ waitresses though. They busted (yes, I went with “busted” as my verb of choice) out into a lively rendition of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.”

That’s right! I was lucky to be sitting with my back to the birthday boy, so I didn’t have to exert nearly the same self-control as Thad did, who was looking right at the nursery rhyme debacle. I giggled to my heart’s content while he watched in fascination as a song generally reserved for being sung in rounds on long car trips to the general annoyance of all adults present became the go-to song for an international restaurant business specializing in all things owl. (It is all about the owl there, right?)

Dinner was done and the bill so paid, so when the bejeweled top hats came out and the waitresses began a country line dance to a 50’s jazz song, we figured it was time to call it a night.

Conventional wasn’t what we were looking for as we celebrated our anniversary in Chengdu and conventional is definitely not what we got. As I look down the road to the various holidays and birthdays that we will be celebrating here in the land of pandas over the next two years, I think I can safely say none of them will include a rousing rendition of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.”

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4 thoughts on “Row, Row, Rowing Along in Chengdu

  1. That’s awesome, Michelle. I really enjoyed reading this, along with a few others. Greetings from Munich, where the family and I are visiting relatives and old friends for a month this summer. Vancouver’s going well so far, but I have to say I envy you guys a bit with the non-stop adventure the two of you have before you–who knows–maybe our paths will cross again one day. MMS days seem long ago already…take care and happy anniversary to you both! Jim


    • Jim,

      It is great to hear from you. I am glad all is going well in Canada! I assume that means you’ll be there for another school year?

      China is good. We did our year stint in DC and have now been in Chengdu for a little over two months. I have to say living abroad on a normal salary is much different than doing so as a Peace Corps Volunteer. This time around, I can actually afford to buy peanut butter! 🙂

      It would be great if our paths crossed in some random country in the future. Part of my position here is being a liaison with the international schools and whenever I go out to visit them, it makes me thing of you. (We were actually on board to go to a hiring fair, but Thad got the State Department job offer just two weeks before the planned trip to San Francisco.) The schools here are QSI and Leman. Did you work for either of them?

      Anyway, it was super to hear from you. Don’t be a stranger!


  2. Debbie,

    I’m glad you found the blog! Now you can keep track of our random adventures, wherever they may be! (Feel free to share the address with Amber and Autumn as well.)

    Love ya!


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