To Throw a Zhongzi or Not to Throw it – that is the question.

Photo Credit: MaDonna Maurer

I’ve come to conclude that no matter how long you’ve lived in a country you can always learn something new. Sometimes, it is as simple as a vocabulary word or phrase. Other times, it is something more cultural like holidays, food, or traditions.

And sometimes, and honestly most of the time, it is learning or relearning to obtain a teachable attitude sprinkled with humility (okay, maybe humility needs to be poured like water out of a bucket).

Why is it so difficult sometimes to do this?

I am an adult, I should be able have an adult conversation and not sound like a child, age 6.

I’ve lived here x-number of years and it still bothers me when I am told certain things about my body.

Why is it that I either have too many clothes on my baby or not enough clothes on? I’m never right?

The answer I believe to why it is so difficult is Pride. Some of us just have more of it than others.

Yesterday was the Dragon Boat Festival. School is off for a few days and people are making zhongzi, which is sticky rice mixed with mushrooms, shallots, small shrimp, and sauces stuffed inside a bamboo leaf along with a piece of meat, duck egg yolk, peanuts, and another mushroom (or as I have learned this week, a variation depending on where you live). After the wrapped bundle is steamed, you unwrap it and eat the fragrant delicacies inside.

This week I was invited to participate with some other moms to make zhongzi. I knew this would be challenging, but fun and tasty. I honestly wasn’t prepared for what the challenge would really be. Let me unfold the events for you…

I watched as the “teacher” showed us how to do it. In my mind, I thought it didn’t look too difficult.

I could not have been more wrong.

On my first try I was told by one lady that it wasn’t a triangle. Another laughed. The “teacher” came over and took it out of my hands and showed me again.

I tried again.

And again.

And again.

Yep, I stuffed and wrapped, but according to those around me none of them were quite right.

Here’s where the battle began for me.

After the fourth one, as I was “laughing” along with the others, but on the inside wanted to through the ball of sticky-ness across the room – I had a choice to make.

  1. Quit and be angry.
  2. Laugh with them, but inside be seething angry.
  3. Laugh at myself and keep trying.

The first option would be bad. Some of these women I’m friends with and I didn’t want to hurt their feelings or make them feel guilty. Honestly, their critiques were signs that they wanted me to succeed with this project – not put a dunce cap on my head.

The second one would be easy. I can fake emotions for the sake of the situation. (Don’t looked shocked! I know you can do it too.) And honestly, I did this for the first bit while I was thinking through my reactions (remember I wanted to throw it across the room). But, I didn’t like how it was making me feel.

As I looked around at the other tables, I realized that they were laughing at each other as they were also having trouble making them. You see, in my mind, I thought I, as the only foreigner present, was the only one getting critiqued and laughed at. Not true.

So, from that moment on I chose to laugh at myself and to keep trying. I’m not sure I made any that were exactly right, but I do know that I left with a better attitude and a bag full of zhongzi to feed my family.

My zhongzi bundle.
My neighbor’s zhongzi bundle. What it should look like.

Two days later another friend invited me and my daughters to her house to make zhongzi and jiaozi together. Let me say, I went into this situation much better equipped for the challenge that I knew would be there. Plus, I was able to help my daughter “laugh” at herself, reminding her that it’s okay not to get it right at all this first time. What is important is spending time with our friends laughing and talking; building relationships.

Photo Credit: MaDonna Maurer

Moral of my story? Don’t let pride stop you from building relationships with the people in your host country. They have so much to offer. And don’t forget that our children are watching us in how we respond to situations that seem a little difficult.

So, got a story to share on something you’ve learned or relearned? Please share in the comments below.

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