We made it from the Cities to Grand Island, Nebraska today. It was a great drive, although we had a hard time getting out of the starting block. After picking my sister up at her house at 9, we headed west out of town on highway 169. At Jordan (about 30 miles from Minneapolis), a voice in my head (or was it my stomach?) told me to pull over at the apple farm to buy some apple donuts. That’s where I discovered that I didn’t have my billfold with me. No money, but more importantly, no driver’s license. Since my sister wasn’t into being the only driver between Minnesota and California, we had no choice but to go back! The billfold was right where I’d left it–on my bed! Back on the road. We passed the infamous apple orchard again at noon, just two hours from when we’d been there before.
We stopped for a late lunch in Windom, where I ended up in one of those “conversations from the twilight zone” that I often find myself having in China, only this time, I had taken up the role of the Chinese person.
As we stopped at the local DQ, I suggested that we make a kitty of money for our food along the journey. My sister looked at me funny, then said she didn’t think that was a good idea. I couldn’t fathom why she didn’t immediately see the brilliance of my idea. I’d done this a few years ago with some friends on a driving trip from Beijing to the ancient Mongol capital of Xanadu in Inner Mongolia (follow the link to read all about it), and it had worked so well.
Finally she spoke up and said that since she is on a diet, she may be ordering less food than I or my mother, so it probably wouldn’t be a fair system. Since I’m no good with math, I looked at her funny, and seeing that she wasn’t going to go for this plan, said “no problem.”
After we ate, and I was back behind the wheel of the car as we drove through mile after mile of cornfields, I was still trying to figure out what was so odd about that conversation and why we had been talking past each other. Then it hit me.
In China this system always works because meals eaten out are always communal affairs, with dishes ordered and shared by everyone at the table. If the bill is divided, it can always be divided up evenly. No one orders individual meals for themselves. I don’t get kung pao chicken and you get black pepper beef. We get them both. But that’s not the way it is here. We all get our own individual meals.
Who knew I might have such a cross-cultural insight in the middle of a cornfield?
Our day ended with a gorgeous Nebraska sunset.