Urumqi, China

  • Date
  • 6 April 1999

6 April 1999 – Mr. Wren’s boss and a couple of co-workers invited us to our first Chinese Banquet. The dinner consisted of cold starters – bean curd, cucumbers, walnuts with sesame seeds, dried beef. Then we devoured delicious roasted duck. Followed by fried sweet potatoes, which are not as red as the ones I grew up knowing, served with caramelized sugar (which was long and stringy when you pulled the potato from the platter), sweet and sour mutton, chicken with peanuts, fried wantons stuffed with meat and then duck soup. Tea flowed throughout dinner, along with carbonated carrot juice, beer (they love Pabst Blue Ribbon but Jim and I drank Chinese beer) and Ili – a Chinese liquor that tastes of licorice. After a couple hours of eating and talking, everyone smoked except for Jim and me. The Chinese men talked about how much they liked Cuban cigars and I told them I liked small, thin ones. This comment led Mr. Wren’s boss to offer me a Chinese cigarette explaining that Chinese tobacco is as good as Cuban tobacco. Not wanting to offend him, I accepted and on the first inhale, I felt my stomach start to churn. My head started floating and I worried I might not make it out of the banquet without turning green. My advice to anyone trying to quit smoking – try Chinese tobacco.