Sweet Sixteen

Sixteen years of sidewalk searching behind us and hopefully endless ones ahead.

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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Fourteen and Counting…

While last weekend may have marked our two month anniversary in Chengdu (click here for that commemorative post), this Wednesday marks yet another anniversary- the fourteenth of our marriage. Fourteen years ago, at the tender age of nineteen, I married an older man. (Okay, he was all of twenty-one. We were babies. I admit it.)

In honor of this annual event, I received a care-package from Idaho a few weeks ago. (It was the first package to be shipped our way, so without knowing how long that process would take, said package joined the rank and file of boxes heading from the US to every corner of the world at an early date. The early bird may get the worm, but the early package gets a skip and a hop and a little squeal of joy in the mail room. It’s the trifecta of excitement!) When the box arrived two weeks before our actual anniversary, I originally planned to set it on a shelf and wait for the big day to roll around, but I quickly found an excuse to not be patient! After picking the box up from the consulate mail area, in order to get it back to my office inside the consulate, I had to open the box as a security measure. Sheryl Crow wisely informed us that the first cut is always the deepest, which holds true not only in the world of heartbreak, but also when it comes to opening presents. Once that initial slice through the packing tape created a peak into the recesses of the cardboard box, it was all over. Package open.

This year’s anniversary goody package included beef jerky for Thad (not my idea of a treat, but he was quite pleased with it), tasty Idaho Spuds for us to share (four out of four of which I ate), fabulous summer plastic plates for our house (very much appreciated, as we are still living off of the welcome kit provided by the consulate, which means we have a veritable Noah’s ark of kitchen goods-two plates, two bowls, two cups, two forks, two spoons…you get the idea) and a couple of new shirts for me (desperately needed, as the few work clothes I bought are quickly getting tiresome, evident in that when I wore the new black and green shirt to work, I had no less than three people comment on the fact that I had something different on!)

But, as super-de-dooper as all of those goodies were, it wasn’t what was in the package that was important, nor even the fact that a package came, but the sentiment behind it. The fact that my parents, each year, acknowledge the anniversaries of the wedding dates of each of their three children and their spouses shows what a high premium they place on those unions.

As of September, my parents will have been married for forty-two years, so there is no doubt they understand what it takes to make a marriage last. In their four plus decades together, they’ve both worked to put the other one through undergraduate and graduate programs, they’ve raised three kids who turned out okay if I do say so myself (!!) and they have served their community through a variety of church callings and volunteer positions.  They’ve done all of this side-by-side, as each other’s best friends.

If one went looking for a role model when it comes to marriage, the search could stop at the home I grew up in.

The fact that my parents have spent more than forty years together and are happy is a testament to the value they place on their relationship. The fact that they now recognize that same united spirit in their children’s marriages with dried and cured meat products and puffed marshmallow goo covered in a thin layer of chocolate-goodness, sprinkled with coconut flakes is just an added bonus!

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