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Final Days in the U.S.

My dad is the most recklessly generous person I know, and no matter how hard I try to wrap my mind around his foolish tendencies when it comes to giving both strangers and relatives money, I can’t bring myself to understand the scale of his generosity.

This means, without exaggeration, that if you’re lucky enough to ever meet my dad in person and treat him with decency, you’ll inevitably be granted cash at some point, if not immediately.

It’s madness. It’s truth. And, yes, it’s frustrating.

Sure, it’s his money. His prerogative. He’s worked hard for it, and I myself can’t even make a decent living at this point, so who am I to judge?

On the night we landed in Chicago, as I mentioned in my last post, we went straight to Chinatown. We were lucky enough to be waited upon by a man whose name I now can’t recall, who was part of the team full of young employees who work at MingHin Cuisine.

This waiter definitely stood out with his professionalism, kindness, and refreshing honesty—convincing us not to order another dish (“I think it’s too much”) and that certain dishes weren’t actually that good (“Actually, it’s not that special”).

Soon enough, my dad attempted to slip him a tip. He refused to accept. And that was that.

I looked over at the booth behind my dad. A man with presumably his girlfriend had seen the failed transaction. My mom and I softly scolded my dad, who nonetheless kept that goofy smile on his face.

Typical Dad.

The rest of the night went rather calmly, although I felt incredibly disappointed at the restaurant’s lack of working WiFi and cell signal and even the Fairmont hotel’s lack of free WiFi. Coming from China, not having free WiFi everywhere I go in the U.S. feels just wrong. #catchupamerica

The next morning, we returned to the same restaurant for dim sum, because this place is actually known for having the best dim sum in town—and it’s not just Foursquare that says this. Of course, the humble waiter says otherwise. Yes, we inevitably saw him again and discovered that he’s actually related to the manager. It makes sense.

Then it was back to the heart of the city to explore the famous Millennium Park, home to the classic Cloud Gate, or more fondly called The Bean.

Chicago Cloud Gate, aka The Bean

It was surrounded by summer tourists, and I regret not thinking of the more artsy way of taking a photo in front of it that I later saw on Instagram. At least I managed to get a shot during a rare moment without as many people around. Because otherwise it just looks like this:

Chicago Cloud Gate, aka The Bean
So many people.

We spent most of the afternoon walking throughout the city, first down the beautiful Magnificent Mile, where Foursquare helped point me to the Eataly down one street.

Eataly gelato

In typical dad exaggeration, just exploring the wonders of the insanely successful Eataly was worth the whole trip, he told me.

Then we walked along the Chicago Riverwalk and beaches, observing how both locals and tourists celebrated a beautiful Saturday during summer.

It was a lot of walking, and by dinnertime, we made our way back to Chinatown to a restaurant that waiter we love recommended.

Chicago Chinatown dinner
Chicago Chinatown dinner with the parents.

Here, my BU friend, who happens to be interning here for the summer, met up with us. He had already met my parents in freshman year when we went on an Alternative Spring Break trip to Atlanta and stopped by my house on the way back (yeah, hellishly long drives from Boston). So it was funny to hear that my parents immediately remembered whom I invited to dinner.

Before he arrived, I couldn’t help but notice the white American family seated a table diagonal from us and what they had ordered, which looked like every fried dish on the menu, plus an elaborate display of cutting Beijing duck skin to be made into what they probably considered Chinese tacos.

I should at least give them brownie points for even having dined at one of the more authentic Chinese restaurants in Chicago, but then to order only fried dishes makes me lose all respect. #sorrynotsorry #notchinese

Anyway, our last meal was Sunday brunch, which meant, again, dim sum in Chinatown—convenient in more ways than one, because we needed to go to the convention center afterward for the food show that my parents wanted to check out.

And although experiencing the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas as my first trade show ever last year was one of the the most thrilling things I’d ever done, I’m already done with trade shows.

Really, if you’ve been to one, you’ve been to all. For me, I think after exploring Canton Fair last fall in Guangzhou, the weird joy I had going to these shows has officially run its course.

This time, especially at a food show all about what essentially was how all these companies used science to make “food,” I just wanted to get out as soon as possible.

As if I had any interest at all, I walked around with my badge that labelled me as a buyer from my parents’ company. I felt like a sham, but more importantly, I felt like the world’s food chain was a scam. None of what we were seeing and what was offered was real food. It was chemicals. It was genetically engineered food marketed as “healthy” for using “organic” or “natural” ingredients. It was scary.

And yet, I and most of the world population still live off this stuff. This stuff that we call food. Oh has our perception of what food is changed over the century.

Home!

Soon, we left for the airport. Finally, the week of traveling across America ended, and I felt happy to be home, even if it was just for another two days.

My last days were spent with family and friends, with outings that included dinner at Honey Pig Korean BBQ (which by the way pales in comparison to Korean food in Guangzhou), lunch with my parents at an old Chinese restaurant, exploring Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, getting pedicure spas with my mom, appreciating again the simply joy in Fage Greek yogurt with Bear Naked granola, catching up with high school friends over froyo at Maple Lawn, and even being able to spend my last moments at BWI airport with my best high school friend who happened to be leaving for Berkeley. Just how I wanted it be and more. ❤

The only thing I didn’t have time for was running at Centennial Park, but, as I’ll explain further in an upcoming post, I’ll be able to do that again sooner than anyone expected 😉

Related reading: Fancy Food Show