Jinshui Technology Park’s cafeteria is a buffet-style feast for the eyes and stomach. But first– here’s one interesting sidenote observation that I found fascinating: When I arrived at Jinshui, I didn’t receive a visitor’s pass. I half-expected one to be zapped to my phone just like everything else has been electronically delivered. But nope. Instead, I was required to swipe into the cafeteria with my American passport (which was also on my phone). Apparently, there are only two ways to swipe into all CCP properties (universities, laboratories, government offices, hospitals, etc): If you’re a foreigner– with your passport that’s on your phone. If you’re a Chinese citizen: With either your Chinese passport or Chinese National Identification Card– both of course, on your phone. The entire system is apparently unified that way– it’s like Single Sign-On, but for real-life. I’m probably the only person who finds this nerdy detail amazing but it genuinely impresses me. The Chinese had finally, at long last, done it: Achieve the dream of unified identity across all platforms and properties, both virtual and material. Hallelujah.
Anyway, the cafeteria is an eccentric bazaar of food offerings. While the bus ride over had been predominately dominated by a monolithically Chinese ridership, the folks in the cafeteria are considerably more diverse. I spy white people, black people, middle eastern folk, and even a sprinkling of Japanese which surprises me. Historically, Japan and China have had their fair share of, uh, differences. I guess I can’t generalize when it comes to populations of entire nation states but it honestly just surprises me a bit.
After some indecision I decide to try the station that serves South Korean hotpot and eventually make my way back to Erin who waves at me from the seating area. By the time I get to her table, I see that she’s settled on a Philly cheesesteak sub that’s oozing with melted provolone over pastrami and salami. It’s a monster sub but she’s already halfway through it.
“If there’s one thing you Americans get right,” she says through a mouthful of submarine sandwich, “it’s sandwiches. Bless your little American hearts and stomachs.”
“Uh huh,” I say. “They don’t have American cheesesteaks back across the pond?”
“Oh please. Of course we do. But this is such an American food. I wouldn’t be caught dead eating it back home.”
“But you seem to be enjoying it so much.”
Erin licks her fingers, finishing her sub. “Appearances, dear, appearances. Gotta look the part of prim and proper; can’t be eating like a barbarian from the land of the Americas.”
As I watched Erin stuff her face with Philly cheesesteak sandwich, a simple but undeniable truth finally clicks in my brain.