Black Fiction East Asian

“ All these ones with vegetables, are they like this truly or is it just pictures?”

“ Everything in that menu is exactly as they were in real life. Just order and see for yourself”

“ With amount of the vegetables in it, the price most be something else”

“ That number you saw with RMB behind it is the price for each plate”

“Are you sure? Even with a chicken laps as big as this?”

“ Why not order and see them life. You are still watching pictures”

Mr. Johnson and his guest at the air port restaurant. Mr. Joe his guest had just arrive from Nigeria on business trip as he had put it a month ago he called requesting for help to get Chinese visa. That was his ever visit outside Nigeria and his first ever at the foreign airport. “ it seems as if you are not hungry from what I can see. What is that they feed people in the planes now?”

He had not liked the food serve them in the plane. It is too small and not well cooked. “If they are like the ones in the plane, I am not interested” he said. He was still surprised from the images on the menu he was holding wondering and calculating the economic merits and demerits of what he is seeing in the menu. “ this treat is on me, I will do the ordering for you if you’re still confused” Mr. Johnson was observing him and seems to know what is going on in his mind. The same with most that comes from Nigeria on business trip for the first time. They worry so much about money and when they finally saw things for themselves, they became reckless with the same money. 

    When the server dropped all he ordered, he became afraid, observing what was before him as if it’s an enemy. Then he muster strength to tackle it and was at it as if it is the food eating him. Money is still in his mind until Mr. Johnson waved to the waiter to bring the price. He paid and tipped the waiter too. Mr. Joe observing all the transaction was surprised at the price. He never believed his host. He descended on the food as if it will develops wings and flew away. 

He was talking with food in his mouth and don’t even realized that he was raising his voice. Those beside them were casting glances their direction. The sign Mr. Johnson was sending went unrecognized. 

   He have to cut him short and send his message directly and that brought its own awkwardness. The man became over cautious. Mr. Johnson smiled inwardly and shake his head. Nigerians and our way. Noisy nation and noisy people. Poor people talks louder than the rich, rich among themselves talk a lot of nonsense and threw money around anyhow. He have seen two that behaves like Mr. Joe before.

        What is actually wrong with them. They threw money around recklessly in cultural gatherings and on girls, why then once they are on business trip, to feed themselves well is initially problem. Too conscious of money. They see vegetable in their meal and meat, they became afraid. He suspected that it has something to do with their wives. Those rich guy’s wives come into marriages with poverty from their fathers house stuck to them like glue. Even with years in rich man house, the poverty still remain deeply embedded in their psych. 

Give them money for food, they will enter market with their house maid, spent hours there and come home with bag full of bones. Ask them why, the usual line is: 

      “ What gives the soup it’s taste comes from the bone marrows. is it meat you are after or food?”

“ I can't believe this. I thought you was joking when you said the food was 30RMB. Shit. How do they make it?”

“ Their agricultural sector is developed well. Government works here”

“ Shit, no wonder these whites and yellow people always worry about weight loss and hype on exercises a lot. If I feed in this way for a month, I will burst for sure”

      Mr. Johnson smirked and continued sipping his Chinese tea he have switched to after meal. “ What is that colored water for?”

“ This is in almost all the Nigerian super markets and departmental stores. The problems is that you rich guys prefers open market to patronizing super markets where there are price tags”

“ Why would I enter super market to buy bag of rice or shoe when there is special markets for them?”

“ that is reason you don’t see things like this Chinese teas and other wonderful items.”

“ what is it for?”

“ it is sliming agents. It is medicinal in nature too”

“ medicinal?—it cures water”

“ I just told you. Excess oil, malaria, indigestion among other things”

“ How much are they selling that one?”

“Why is it that rich people always worry about money?- over here, people will start eyeing you negatively if you ask “how much” questions a lot. Many things has price tags and fixed prices and they are cheap to compare to Nigeria”

Mr. Joe jumped into the Chinese tea after finishing his meal. A cup of it, he twisted his face to a wrong angle. “It tastes like African ‘Dogonyaro'. How can this be medicinal and why call it tea instead of ‘Agbo'”

“after a month of drinking it, you will find 30 million reasons it is not Agbo”

“How much is the price?”

“ This one you are drinking is free. It is the culture of the Chinese to present to their visitors not drinks like we do in Africa but water or Chinese tea. So, it a free”

“ Who is their visitor between us?”

Mr. Johnson smiled and was still eyeing the man opposite him. People don’t change that much. Even when they are still in school, mighty Joe like he was called then worries a lot about money. How he made it as a person and in business still surprises him. He realized that the man doesn’t even know how much the dollar changes to RMB. That must be why they are rich. Miser. Even to put good things into their own system, they found difficult at times to deep hands into their own pockets. 

    He eyed the wall clock opposite him and turned to his friend. “ I think we should be moving. It is almost 11pm”

“ What?- 11pm already? Why is so much people still walking around?”

“ it will take only one day to figure that one out yourself. Just exercise patience”

They entered taxi and throughout their 30 minutes drive to the garden Mr. Johnson lives in, Mr. Joe was lost in his admiration of the landscape. “ Even in taxi, you can not haggle prices. That meter in front there reads the fee I believe?”

“Yeah, you are catching up quickly”

In front of the garden, Joe was lost in thought. He was admiring every thing even the ground he stood on. He was lost in thought. Debating within himself whether to move his family there even for a decade alone. He was so entranced with everything that he did not realized he was talking out to himself. “ you said what?”

“Ah!, I was wondering if it is not proper to move my family over here even for a decade”

“ You have not even gotten to where you are going and have switched to impulse decision already. Wait for few days first”

They were alone in the lift and Mr. Johnson decided to use the opportunity to educate him on how’s of the lift. “ But since you are worrying about your weight, you can always use steps over there.”

“ is that steps?”

“ Yeah, many people prefers it to the lift. It is part of their exercise”

After showing him to his room, teaching him how everything works there, and the showers, he wasn’t sure that the man understood anything he said. He was eyeing everything in the parlor and suddenly, he asked: “How much do you pay monthly here?”

“seeing is believing, I will be paying in two days time. You will follow and see how for yourself. It’s almost midnight. Sleep first. See you tomorrow”

Mr. Joe did not see anything like sleep through out that night. He was doing calculus, in his head and relating everything to everything. He has a month visa and came with intention of staying three weeks. Now, he is contemplating a decade. Throughout that night, it was calculation of “How much” that was running around in his brain. 

    Since he was advised to keep away from “How much” kind of questions openly, he decided to use his eyes more than his mouth. He is determined to cook up reasons to move his family to Asia. Two days later, he had done a lot of ‘how much' observing that he reached conclusion already. 

A week later, another interest have replaced the shifting of the family to Asia. Culinary channels is what occupied his time 24 hours each day. He dreams of food each night, wonders whether to buy the books on “how to” of Chinese food or records it live and sent to his wife to be learning before he returns. He don't think he can do with any other kind of food after the experience he is passing through. 

   The more he watched those culinary channels, the more his “How much” increased. It has found its way into family food budget and he was doing the calculation for family of six.

    “ I think I can handle it. I mean moving my family over here. If all these Africans can, I can too”

“ Of course. Only that you would not be doing your selling back home and once it is in the hands of those apprentice, they will be sharing your gains into three and keeping one. That is what we are suffering here” 

“These vendors I see in these food programs in TV, do they have stands anywhere around here?”

Mr. Johnson eyed him and concluded in his mind that his friend is going to have only one problem if he eventually settles there. FOOD.

September 03, 2022 07:42

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Bryan Thompson
14:00 Sep 08, 2022

“You are still just watching pictures.” That’s a great line! I love the dialogue. We get closer to other people from all over the world with open minds and food is a great way to begin that journey. Have a great day!


Philip Ebuluofor
09:10 Sep 09, 2022

Thanks for your time.


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Graham Kinross
23:28 Sep 05, 2022

I like the fish out of water scenario here. His culture shock is familiar. When I arrived in Japan I was shocked by how expensive the fruit and vegetables were but also by how delicious all the food is. The restaurants here are almost all excellent even when they are cheap. It shocked me because when I found a good restaurant back home it is a big deal. Too many businesses make bland food and people are used to it. In Tokyo the standard is very high. I can understand why things like the price difference and the casual way easy access to all ...


Philip Ebuluofor
10:55 Sep 08, 2022

In China, most of those wearable things are cheap at least I was there. Nowadays, i hear about inflation now.


Graham Kinross
11:51 Sep 08, 2022

Cheap clothing?


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Graham Kinross
21:17 Sep 08, 2022

China isn’t the cheap place it was. Wages are high there now. Only it’s workplace efficiency keeps it competitive for manufacturing.


Philip Ebuluofor
09:08 Sep 09, 2022

I guess so from what am hearing. Inflation was hitting them hard.


Graham Kinross
10:14 Sep 09, 2022

Economic growth can’t go on forever. China lifted itself out of poverty very quickly. I think companies will want to move production to cheaper countries if wages keep going up.


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