Saturday, February 19, 2011

Mixing cultures and customs

Last night Tetsu and I went out to dinner with some pool friends. In the year and a half that we've been going to the pool we have made some good and interesting friends. But we are all so very different and maybe the cross cultural, wide-age difference, and different economic levels makes the friendships unique.

Mr. Company President is quite well to do and he keeps us laughing with his joking. Miss Pretty Walker is a new member who lives close enough to the swimming pool that she can walk there. Ms. Mountain Climber is a school teacher who loves mountain climbing on her weekends and holidays. Ms. Beautiful Smile is a lovely lady with a huge, generous personality. Dr. Soft Spoken is a dentist (also Christian) who compliments freely. Mr. Foreign Traveler is from Pakistan and he always has words of wisdom that balances out the hilarity. And then there's Tetsu and me.

The first time we all went out to dinner was to an Indian restaurant where Mr. Foreign Traveler ordered for all of us and told us about his Pakistani culture. In some ways, the cultural and religious differences are curious. Food has to be prepared a special way in order for Mr. Foreign Traveler to partake and it seems like a lot of extra work to Mr. Company President. It sounds much like keeping kosher in the Jewish tradition but that is unheard of in Japan. And Mr. Foreign Traveler retains his Pakistani customs (and dress) in his everyday life and rarely eats anything but specially prepared curry. For him to go out to dinner with us last night was truly an act of friendship!

The next time we went out to dinner (Mr. Foreign Traveler was in Pakistan for two months finding husbands for his two daughters) we went to a Korean style barbecue place and ate EXPENSIVE beef and seafood. Tetsu and I would never normally eat such dear and pricey food. (Like three slices of beef for $10 a slice! I remember one foreign friend's family going to such a place and even after paying a fortune they came home and made peanut butter sandwiches!) The Korean barbecue place was recommended by Mr. Company President and I think he paid for most of it after collecting a minimum amount from the rest of us.

And then last night we went out to a sushi place that Mr. Company President favors. Mr. Foreign Traveler was back from Pakistan (successfully found two husbands) and Mr. Company President wanted to introduce him and me, to the delights of Japanese cuisine. It was a little tricky and Mr. Company President went to a lot of work to make sure Mr. Foreign Traveler would be satisfied. For one, Mr. Foreign Traveler can't eat (for religious reasons) shellfish nor shrimp nor squid. And Mr. Foreign Traveler, in all his years of living in Japan (17) had never eaten raw fish nor sushi but he realized how important it was to TRY for Mr. Company President's sake. I'm not sure he enjoyed it but he was so polite to thank the sushi chef afterwards. To most of last night's dishes, Mr. Foreign Traveler added red pepper.

The main event of last night's meal was.... a large fish head! One for each of us... Okay~... Let's give it a try... I don't know if I've ever eaten such a big fish head before but Mr. Company President was so anxious that we enjoy the dinner that there was nothing to do but plunge in and eat. (I took off my reading glasses. The better to not see by!)

I am happy to say that both Mr. Foreign Traveler and I were able to eat our fish heads down to the bones. (Sorry... I couldn't manage the eyeball... Mrs. Beautiful Smile ate mine for me. She claims all the collagen in the eyeball makes a woman beautiful. Could be... She definitely is beautiful but I guess I'll stay wrinkled and dry, thank you anyway...)

Mr. Company President collected a minimum amount from each of us again but I'm sure he forked out a lot of money for last night's meal. Mrs. Beautiful Smile gathered all the fish head bones from everyone's plates and took them home to make fish broth today. She probably appreciated last night's dinner the most... A good meal, fish broth the next day and a beauty treatment all in one evening!

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