I’m slowly staring to get the hang of dinner here at the Home.
At 6 pm, all the kids and their aunties (house moms) gather in the front room. The stand in lines according to the table they are randomly assigned to and recite their memory verse for the week. One child is asked to pray. Sometimes all I hear is quiet mumbling and a loud “amen.” I don’t think they’re too crazy about praying out loud for every one.
Then, everyone goes into the dining area. There are four tables with short stools for about 7 kids and an autie at each. I’ve been sitting at the same table in hopes of better connecting with those kids. The auntie at my table seems especially fun and friendly, too. She tells the kids riddles during dinner and asks me to say the foods in English. On average, two out of the five dishes are something I’ve never seen in the U.S. before.
The food is already out on the table, with metal bowls and chopsticks in a stack. We each grab a bowl and a set of chopsticks. They let me dish up my rice first — such sweet, respectful kids. The older kids dish up whatever they want… all into one bowl. The younger kids have their food dished up by the auntie to be sure they’re eating everything they should. My chopsticks skills are slowly improving. Sometimes I get frustrated and just stab the food, though. Especially the pesky little cucumbers we had tonight.
At some point, the head auntie says something in Chinese, and everyone replies with a “thank you.” This signals that it’s time for dessert — fruit! The auntie at my table, Melody, again offers it to me first. The littlest kids show her their empty bowls before they can eat the fruit.
There is a serving dish on the table for bones and other inedible bits. No napkins — they just all use the same damp washcloth. They also don’t drink during their meals.
The foods we are served vary, with rice at every meal. I’ve learned that everything we eat was donated. Such proof of God’s provisions. Tonight, we had chicken soup — broth with a WHOLE (head, feet, etc) chicken in it. The boys played with the chicken’s floppy head until they were scolded. The girl next to me fished out at foot and sucked the black skin off of it. We had spicy cucumbers, tofu, some spinach-like vegetable, honeydew, and a fruit Melody called “little pear.” I thinks he meant “plum,” though… She told me they thought cucumbers were actually called “computers” for a long time. Something got confused along the way, apparently.
Towards the end, the head auntie says something in Chinese again, which signals the end of dinner time. The kids stack their stools back against the wall, the aunties bring the dishes to the kitchen, and a few kids wash the tables.
The kids are pretty used to having volunteers and adoptive families eating with them. They were shy at first, but they’re warming up to me. The older kids know some English, but not all are confident enough to try to talk to me. Mostly we just communicate through smiles and laughs. We had a good laugh when we found a weird yellowish chicken organ in someone’s bowl tonight. I think the girl sitting next to Iowa-shirt-Eli must be his girlfriend, as I’ve never seen her before. And Chloe kept plugging her ears when another girl talked to her.
I’m starting to love these routines.