商务旅行:畅游长江 / Business Travel: Cruising on the Yangzi River



从重庆至武汉长江航路上的游轮(摄于1978年) / Cruising on the Yangzi River from Chongqing to Wuhan (1978)

商务旅行:畅游长江

在本辑博客开头,我提到过,我曾在1978年带领一对美国夫妇乘船游览长江。

他们是第一次来中国,充满了热情与好奇,满怀尊重当地风俗习惯的善意。在品尝中国地方菜的时候,两人也表现得颇具冒险精神。

在他们的想象中,他们还是深入白人甚少涉足的中国内陆地区的英勇先驱。这当然是无稽之谈,但早期来中国的外国人普遍抱有这样的幻想。

美食体验的高潮发生在重庆登船前的第一顿饭上。时值八月,重庆成了中国的三大火炉之一。我们在宾馆畅饮冰凉的青岛啤酒,享用了一顿非常可口的中餐。

我的美国朋友彻底爱上了当晚的饭菜。他们在美国从没有吃到过正宗的川菜。尽管这家宾馆的菜肴并不是令人倾倒的重庆正宗麻辣口味,但也十分好吃。

饭后,他俩满怀兴奋与感激的心情,都想亲自去谢谢厨师。于是,两人起身走向厨房,我留下来结账。

我结完账,去找他们,看到他们还没走出去多远,就遇到了一群刚吃完晚饭准备离开餐厅的日本老年女游客。

我的美国朋友误把这些日本女游客当成了厨师。

“你们就是给我们做了这顿美餐的厨师吧?”红头发的美国人面带灿烂而友善的笑容问道。“味道好极了!”他的太太在一旁插话。

这群日本老太太一句英文也不会说。她们搞不懂,这对美国夫妇为什么如此热情地向她们示好。所以,她们采取了以往在此种场合遇到不明情况时的做法。

她们深深地鞠躬。

美国夫妇把鞠躬理解为中国话里的 “别客气”。看来可以确定, 这些老太太的确是厨师,而且是非常讲礼貌的厨师。

于是这对美国夫妇也地深深地鞠躬,作为回礼。

那群日本老太太见状,也再次深鞠躬。

这对美国夫妇又以鞠躬回礼。

当我赶到现场时,这场鞠躬表演正因为体力耗尽而慢慢停下来。最终,那群日本老太太继续“开路”了。

我向那对美国夫妇报告了实情,并问服务员,能否让真厨师出来接受道谢。厨师出来了。这次没人再鞠躬了。

Business Travel: Cruising on the Yangzi River

Earlier in this series, I mentioned taking an American couple on a boat down the Yangzi River in 1978.

They were first timers to China, full of enthusiasm, curiosity, and good intentions with regard to respecting local customs. They were also pretty adventurous when it came to eating local cuisine.

In their imagination they were also brave and daring pioneers, reaching far into the Chinese hinterland, where few white men had ever been. This was of course nonsense, but it was a common fantasy for foreigners coming to China in the early days.

The culinary high point was our first dinner in Chongqing before boarding the boat. It was August, when Chongqing becomes one of China’s three furnace cities. We had a wonderful Chinese dinner in the hotel, washed down by cold Qingdao beer.

My American friends absolutely loved the food that evening. They had never had real Sichuan food in America. The hotel food was not the real knock-your-socks off Chongqing ma-la cuisine, but it was very good nonetheless.

So excited and grateful were they, that after dinner , both of them wanted to go and personally thank the chef. So off they went in the direction of the kitchen, while I settled the bill.

After settling the bill, I went to find them. They had not quite made it to the kitchen, when they bumped into a group of older Japanese tourist ladies who had also just finished dinner and were leaving the restaurant.

My American friends mistook the Japanese tourist ladies to be the chefs.

“Are you the chefs who cooked us that marvelous meal?” the red-haired American asked with a big friendly smile. “It was delicious!” his wife chimed in.

The Japanese ladies did not speak a word of English. They were clueless as to what this effusively friendly display by the American couple was all about. So they did what they would do when in doubt in such circumstances.

They bowed, deeply.

The American couple misunderstood this bow to mean “You are welcome “ in Chinese. This seemed to confirm that these were indeed the chefs, and very polite ones at that.

So the Americans bowed in response, deeply.

And the Japanese ladies bowed again.

And the Americans bowed again.

By the time I reached the spot, the bow-fest was tapering off through exhaustion, and the Japanese ladies went on their way.

I broke the news to the American couple and asked the waitress to see if the real chef could come out to receive their thanks, which he did. No bows this time.


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