Nina had her first operation in life – grommets. A grommet (or ‘tympanostomy tube’ as listed on the official paper) is a small ring that’s put into the eardrum that helps the air to pass through to the middle ear more easily and to clear the fluid within so that (in Nina’s case) she doesn’t get ear infection that easily.
To cut the long story short, the operation went well, and Nina coped by sleeping for almost two hours after the operation – to wear off the effort of the anesthesia I suppose. Then she woke up, being totally herself. That means she was ready to eat anything that was put in front of her.
So guess what was the first thing that the hospital gave to her? Ice pop (or ice lolly, ice block, popsicle, freeze pop, freezer pop as you would call it in some other parts of the world)!!!
For Chinese, hot and soupy things are the best, and almost the only, things to give to the weak, the young, the pregnant, and the unwell. Ice is a big no no for these people. The body needs comfort from the warmth of the soup while icy stuff only agitates the body – that’s the theory behind that all. Chinese were educated from the very young age.
That’s why till this date, I didn’t dare to tell her that, right after delivering Nina in the hospital, while still on the theatre bed when the midwifes were checking/cleaning Nina, exhausted and hungry, I was given food and drink – and guess what was the drink? Icy cold lemonade … If she was around, I would have be given … you guessed it … the chicken soup.
It’s almost a guaranteed culture shock for Chinese to go overseas for the first time not being able to find 温水 easily (warm water – or boiled water that has become only warm), while non-Chinese for not being offered just cold water when visiting China for the first time.
When I was working for a French company in France, once while receiving a group of Chinese delegates (which didn’t happen very often by then), as the only Chinese in the company, I was pulled aside by one of the delegates to the back of the meeting room secretly asking for some 温水, as they just couldn’t stand the cold water anymore. I had to run around the office to mix the hot and cold water from the coffee machine to make 温水. Many colleagues asked me what I was doing.
I did end up drinking some chicken soup in the maternity ward of the hospital though – a visiting friend couple (Japanese/Korean wife and HK husband, so perhaps it’s an Asian thing) kindly brought me a big serve of home-made chicken soup. While I was heating it up in the microwave in the hospital kitchen, it started to smell extremely nice. It’s almost like smelling home. After all, no matter how further you have travelled away and how much you think you have changed, home is always there and always smells nice.