Monday, June 7, 2010

Weekends at Abuluzi

Abuluzi is the only locally owned and authentic Tibetan restaurant in Jiuzhaigou. The family also runs a fantastic homestay. At the restaurant Zhuo Ma is the hostess, waitress, and general manager. Ke Zhu is the cook. At the homestay Zhuo Ma is the general manager and a fantastic host, Ke Zhu is the breakfast cook, Ama (their mother) is the host, housekeeper, waitress, and dinner cook, and Lopsong (Ke Zhu's son) is the entertainer. He's 2. Another time I will tell you about the homestay. We *love* their Suyou Cha (yak butter tea) which has honey, barley flour, tea, and yak butter. In any case, today I wanted to write about the restaurat. On most nights at Abuluzi their only guests are the handful of foreigners who hear about the restaurant and go for some delicious food. However, on Friday and Saturday nights (at least the last two weekends), a group of Jiuzhaigou residents gathers for food, drink, and good company. the last two weekends we ended up with them partly by accident and partly because we happened to stop by to see Ke Zhu and Zhuo Ma. The group is awesome. It includes: Kieran, a Chinese friend of his (a lovely Han lady who used to do Tibetan dancing and now works for the park; Han is the ethnic that 95% of Chinese are), a lady from Lhasa who (I believe) runs a hotel, a man from Amdo who speaks English, a famous local singer, and the singer's personal assistant. I think that's everyone. Plus us. So there are people from several different parts of Tibet, a Han woman, an Irishman, and 2 Americans eating Tibetan food in a very Chinese touristy Tibetan area. How cool! They are totally understanding of us not drinking alcohol. In fact, one of the local guys (the Amdo one) is currently not eating meat and not drinking. I'm not sure how long for. But we have been buying non-alcoholic beer in Chengdu and leaving it at the restaurant so that we can drink something tasty when we're hanging out there.

Last Friday night we showed up after a movie screening at the local orphanage. Kieran has a tradition that we participate in of showing a cartoon to the orphans once a week. In any case, we went to Abuluzi after the movie and discovered that Ke Zhu had made some fantastic hot pot (note: normally I really dislike hot pot).  While we ate the hot pot, we discovered that Lhasa lady was really worked up because she and her friends had gone to see what one of the Zang Jia Lou (Tibetan Family Home) places was like. She discovered that it was not at all representative of Tibetan culture. The proprietor was almost certainly Han and these places cater totally to Han tour groups. Inside they serve fake suyou cha (hardly any yak butter) and the wait staff are pushy, rude, loud, and generally "not Tibetan". In her mind, Tibetans are polite and quiet and gentle people and these Zang Jia Lou places are making a total spectacle out of her culture. It not only is a case of their culture losing face but that these places are a way for Han to believe that they have a superior culture.

It was interesting. I totally see where she is coming from, but I also totally see why these places have developed - they are exactly the kind of "renao" (hot and loud) places that the Han tour groups like and want to see while on vacation. So how can the Jiuzhaigou Tibetans preserve their culture, make a living in a place where the entire economy is tourism, and pass their culture on to future generations?

1 comment:

  1. by overthrowing the chinese. simple. revolution!