The Backdrop
One has to imagine the scene for oneself
A man and a woman are on holiday with their dog in China. They go to a restaurant, and want to order food for their dog too. They point to the animal, which is wagging its tail in anticipation. The waiter smiles and gestures that it will be done and disappears into the kitchen with the dog.
A short while later the man and woman are served their meal, which they eat with relish. When they ask for their dog, the waiter points to the dish full of gnawed bones between the man and the woman on the table.
I don���t know when I first heard this story, but it must have been a long time ago. It���s one of the stories told in the West to illustrate the cruelty of the Chinese. I���m really not interested in stories of this kind. What does interest me is how people who tell this story imagine the backdrop against which it is supposed to occur.
What do people see when they think of China? Do they base their ideas on the Chinese restaurants they know in Europe, or do they imagine a Third World hut somewhere along a dusty road? Maybe they imagine a large bare room with white tiles on the floor, bright lights, and crowds of people smacking their lips as they eat.
One has to imagine the scene for oneself; since the story is only about the way they do things in China, not about what it looks like.
For myself, I see the restaurant on some quiet, potholed country road. It���s a little restaurant where people sit on benches at a wooden table, drinking beer under a light bulb hanging from a tree. The tourists, a man and a woman, are in their forties and they wear roomy cotton clothing. The dog is tan in colour, with little legs and dark, pleading eyes. There is also a TV In the restaurant with a Chinese martial arts film showing. It���s dark and what little light there is comes from the refrigerator with its glass door, filled with cans of cold drink. The kitchen is hidden by a curtain hanging in the doorway. The waiter who vanishes into the kitchen with the dog wears a white shirt with a worn collar and round oil stains on the chest.