One of my best friends in elementary school was from Hong Kong. Her family had moved to Canada when she was 3 years old, so she had a little bit of an accent, but her English was great. Her mother, on the other hand, did not speak English. Whenever I would go over to their house, she would do one of two things: Either smile and nod her head quietly in my general direction; or yell at Zoe at the top of her lungs.
Or at least I always thought it was yelling.
I was only 8 and to be honest, that women scared the shit out of me. I just assumed she was angry all the time - or even worse, angry that I was there. Aside from the mother issue, I was fascinated by their house.
The colours. The smells. The décor. It was all so very different from my house.
My favourite was their pantry. It was fully stocked with goodies - well, the bottom 4 shelves, anyway. Every sugary treat of goodness you could think of - and everything I wasn't allowed to have at my own home.
Wagon wheels. Jellybeans. Twinkies. Cookies. Fuzzy Peaches. Coke bottles. You name it; it was there.
I was in heaven.
In complete contrast, the top 2 shelves were filled with items such as seaweed, dried fish heads and chicken feet. They looked like terrifying science experiments to an 8 year old Caucasian girl who's understanding of multicultural food was that Chicken Parmesan was Italian.
Every time I stayed over for dinner, which was often, her mother would make an elaborate traditional Chinese dinner for herself, her husband, her son and Zoe... and then she would place 2 boiled hot dogs with ketchup on my plate. I never questioned it; I was being polite... and I was 8.
Every. Single. Time. It was a damn good thing I liked hot dogs.
It took me THREE YEARS before I finally got the courage to ask my friend about her mother. It was just after she had yelled at Zoe through the wall, in her usual fashion:
"ZZZOEEEE, NÊN XIANG CHI RÈ GÔU MA?"
Zoe slightly rolled her eyes and replied to her mother, "Ya, ya!"
"Zoe! Why is your mother so angry at you all the time? Did I do something wrong?"
She looked at me like I was an idiot. "Nope. She just wants to know if you want hot dogs for dinner."