“Did you know that:
1) To manufacture 1 calorie of beef protein, 78 calories of oil are used; Yet, to grow 1 calorie of soybean, only 1 calorie of oil is required to be used. If you persevere in being a vegetarian and not a carnivore, you will be contributing to the conservation of the world’s decreasing natural resources that cannot be regenerated.
2) Did you know that to manufacture animal protein, 3 to 15 times more water is used up than to manufacture plant protein? If you persevere in being a vegetarian, you will help humanity conserve precious water natural resource.
3) If you knew that in order to manufacture one pound of beef, 16 pounds of soybean and grains need to be feed. Why don’t you eat the soybean and grain directly. That way you can save on the manpower and packaging needed to produce beef. Contribute to the protection of the environment.
4) If you knew that in order to have more pastures to increase number of animals raised, people are cutting down forests and rain forests. The carbon dioxide on earth is filtered through these trees. If you persevere in being a vegetarian, we can protect the forests and purify the atmosphere.
5) Vegetarians won’t be undernourished. Vegetables can offer all the nutrition we need.
6) Do you know that amongst food, animals are placed higher than vegetables. Thus, there are higher amounts of agricultural chemical residue in meat products than in vegetables. For example, pesticide and herbicide.
7) Do you know that, in order to raise better animals, people use more than twenty thousand drugs to maintain their health and their high yielding rate, including steroids, antibiotics, and hormones. Think about it, if you love to eat meat, it means that you are eating antibiotics every single day.
8) Think about all those parasites and microorganisms that cause diseases on the body of animals that can harm the health of humans (Have you ever seen pork tapeworms?). The amount greatly surpasses that of vegetables.
9) Place a white radish and a drumstick outdoors, at the same time, for an entire day. See which one will make you sick after eating it.
10) Medical studies have proven that eating meat will increase the chances of getting heart disease.
11) Vegetables can help prevent cancer. Right now, everything found to prevent cancer, Vitamin C, B-17, Beta Carotene, and NDGA, all come from plants, not animals. And cooking meat products will release all kinds of benzene and carcinogens.
12) Vegetables can decrease illnesses, osteoporosis, kidney stone, gall stone, diabetes, all kinds of sclerosis illness, arthritis, acne, obesity blood poisoning.
13) As a result, you will live longer. As you live longer, you can also save on a lot of medical expenses.
14) Vegetarians save money, the prices of vegetables are generally lower than animal products.
15) Scientific research shows that vegetarians’ IQs are higher than carnivores. People from the ancient times all said, “Being carnivorous is being rustic, it cannot be a long term solution.”
16) Consider ethics: Protect animals, never kill them.”
Vegetarian Society: Care about your body, care about the animals, care about the environment, care about the earth. Beijing Chaoyang district N Street Number 32. Meetings once a week. Phone number: XXXXXXXX, please ask for Mr. Nan Gong.
I lived in a one bedroom one bath apartment near Jiu Tong. It cost $2000 a month, one third of my salary. It was the dormitory of the graduate students. The landlord had two apartments. It was originally set aside for after his son got married, but the son went to Shanghai. Therefore, it was rented out to me. It was small, but was brand new and clean. It had a kitchen and bathroom completely installed.
Every day, when I opened my mailbox, I would have received a few strange advertisements. Before, I would throw these advertisements into the trash without sparing a glance. But, recently life was rather depressing. It was boring enough for me to even grab ads when I go shopping and then, whether I needed them or not, going out to snatch up discounted goods.
Since coming back from Wenzhou, I spent two weeks translating the auction handbook for Xiao Guan. After completing it, I sent it to him and he exchanged it for $10,000. I took it readily. I suddenly realized that money was very important. I also really needed money. Before, I placed all my thoughts on missing Li Chuan and didn’t take life seriously. Naturally I also didn’t take money seriously. Now, Li Chuan wanted me to move on. How could I move on without money?
Besides needing money, I also needed a way to live.
These past several years, I lived in a muddle. My daily life was both clear and orderly, yet completely chaotic. The clear and orderly part was because I was still making progress and was dedicated to my work in an attempt to prove that I hadn’t failed. The completely chaotic part was that if I wasn’t looking for work or studying, I would immediately sink into absent-mindedness. sink into my memories, into the middle of this boundless spiral. Therefore, my daily life had to be fully packed, making me extremely tired. My time was broken up into small parts. Each part was a half hour interval. This way, I didn’t have superfluous time to let my imagination run.
I had yoga class three times a week. Each time 60 minutes. There were many mothers who had come to lose weight. After yoga, everyone sometimes found a place to drink tea and have have refreshments together. Afterwards, I would go to the sauna. After twenty minutes in the sauna, I would then go swimming. The yearly membership for the sports center was very expensive, so I used it as much as possible. It would be eight or nine o’clock by the time I got home. I would be extremely tired and would quickly fall asleep. If I couldn’t sleep, I would drink beer and nibble at chicken wings. Or I would go eat lamb kebabs at the small restaurant outside, and chat with strangers. On the weekends, I would go clubbing. I didn’t go to just any clubs. I like to go to the one called “Bohemia” the most, that had a semi-salon characteristic to it where many in art and poetry would go to. I went there for three years and was familiar with everyone, but didn’t have a single close friend. I loved going there because it allowed smoking, had good coffee, had good drinks, and was decorated in my favorite Bohemian style. The entire lounge was dark and noisy. The smell of patchouli oil permeated the air. The eyes of the women were drawn pitch black, their long hair permed into waves, and bright, glittering jewelry hung around their wrists and necks. The conversations were all very refined. From (Victor) Hugo to (Emile) Zola, from (Charles) Baudelaire to (Arthur) Rimbaud, from (Jack) Kerouac to (Allen) Ginsberg… Of course not all discussions were about them. Men would also talk about women and women, men. Or recite poetry. I didn’t take part in any of these. I just melancholy sat there smoking, drinking coffee and alcohol as if I was a suffering author. If I saw anyone I knew, I would chat for a while as it suited me. It wouldn’t be a for long time. As long as “Soul Mate” (知音 magazine) or “Reader’s Digest” was mentioned within an hour, the battle would terminate immediately.
I don’t know why I lost all interest in associating with men after Li Chuan left me. Whether they were neighbors or coworkers, I would maintain a certain distance from them. I would participate in some social activities and behave politely. Apart from this, I wouldn’t say more than I needed to nor take more steps closer than I needed to. My goal was to hide my deficiencies, work hard to earn money, not be indebted to others or weighed down by anything.
Despite this, I still had one or two free nights every week. It made me feel that life was worthless and meaningless. Li Chuan, was I only living for Li Chuan? Trapped by emotions and using tears as face wash — is this the situation I was in? No! I needed to break away from everything entangling me. I needed to exist for a much nobler purpose. I couldn’t think of anything that was a nobler purpose in my life until I saw that advertisement.
In this world, there wasn’t just a Li Chuan. There were endangered animals. There were exhausted natural resources too. And, there was a polluted atmosphere and wars to be worrying over!
I wanted to protect animals. I wanted to care for the earth. I wanted to become a Vegetarian Society member.
From that ad, I called the number to look for the man called “Nan Gong” (Palace). A pleasant baritone voice came from the other end.
“Welcome, vegetarian member. We are a free club where everyone is a lover of vegetarian food. We get together and chat once a week to exchange our vegetarian knowledge. Each time it’s one to two hours, there are no limits on the length.
“That’s right, we have our own activities room and our own kitchen. Many times we exchange our cooking knowledge.”
“You should come, we have a social gathering tonight.”
That Nan Gong was really called Nan Gong. At first I thought it was an alias.
“I am Nan Gong Liu Ru.” I was admitted by a medium statue man with ordinary looks and around thirty. His complexion was rosy, looking healthy and energetic. His voice was great and deep.
“I am Xie Xiao Qiu.”
“May I ask, are you a vegetarian?”
“Now…I’m intending to head towards it now.”
“That’s not a problem, we will help you.”
“I quite like to eat meat, but, after seeing your flier, I felt guilty.”
“The flier is used to spread the word. It’s not that severe. Hehe.” He said, “We have many members, but normally there are only ten people in the small group activities. Everyone comes together to chat. We chat about anything. All of us come together only because were are all vegetarians. We have nothing else in common with each other, so don’t that we talk about being vegetarian all the time like we’re a pack of herbivorous dinosaurs.”
He invited me sit on the couch and handed me a cup of boiling water, “Let me introduce myself. I am a vegan, the strictest type of vegetarian. I don’t eat meat, fish, or eggs, drink alcohol or milk, don’t eat honey, and don’t eat anything that was produced or extracted from the body of animals. I don’t wear leather.”
He glanced at me, his gaze falling on my silk scarf, and said, “I also don’t use any silk products. Silkworms are also animals.”
I hurriedly took off the scarf.
“Of course we have some people who are not too strict. Some people eat fish. Some eat eggs. Some drink milk. But no one eats meat for sure.”
“I will learn from you. The things that you won’t eat, I won’t eat either.”
“Have you kept a pet before? Such as a cat or dog?”
“No, but I love small animals. ‘Animal Planet’ is my favorite program.”
“There’s still half an hour before the start of the activity. Do you have any specific questions you wanted to ask me regarding vegetarianism?”
“I want to know how to become a vegetarian. What are the specific steps?”
“First of all, when do you intend to start?”
“Today.” I looked at him, “Right now, this moment, this second.”
“Generally, I would recommend progressing step by step,” he said, “considering you’ve eaten meat for a long time, your nature is strongly dependent on meat. You can stop eating red meat in the first week. Stop eating white meat in the second week. Start slowly.”
Strongly dependent nature. I thought this statement was very important.
“You’re right. I precisely want to overcome this strongly dependent nature. I want to decisively enter into the vegetarian stage.”
“Then the first thing you have to do is send emails to all your friends, especially those who you frequently go out to eat with. Tell them that you have made the decision to become a vegetarian starting today.”
“Do you cook for yourself at home?”
“I cook once in awhile. Most of the time, I eat take-away. Work provides lunch.”
“I suggest that you stop eating take-away. There is no nutrition whether it’s meat or vegetables, it’s all been stir-fried. You can try to make some vegetable dishes yourself. We have many recipes here. It’s very easy to learn. Furthermore, this list here is of all the vegetarian restaurants in Beijing. There’s not many, but they taste quite good and aren’t too expensive. Especially the few that are run by monasteries. We often go there for meals together.” He handed me a green leaflet.
“Normally, what makes us worry the most is when our colleagues and friends decide to go out for meals. We can’t require others to put up with our preferences, so the most awkward situation is when we go to a restaurant and discover that there’s nothing we can eat there and we can only go hungry. Thus, I suggest that you always keep a small supply of snacks in your bag just in case. Peanuts, almonds, and walnuts are all okay.”
“Okay.” I took out my notebook to take it down.
“When you are eating vegetables, you must chew slowly. Pay careful attention to your body’s response. Experience the original taste of organic food. Think about your own self at all times. Think about how you are saving animals. Think about humanity. Think about the earth. Man is an integral part of nature. By doing this, you are making the world better and promoting peace. You should feel proud.”
“Understood.” I thought about it and suddenly asked, “Why haven’t you asked why I want to become a vegetarian?”
“We never ask this question. This is your choice. You don’t need my approval. Everyone has his or her own reason. We only have a common interest, so when we are together, we are like a study group, a chess society, a poker society, a fishing society and such.”
It really was an ideal club.
“Do I have to participate in every activity?”
“Our organization is very relaxed. You can come if you want. You don’t have to come if you don’t want. Some people participate a few times a first, find it too hard to continue, and then disappear.”
“Mr. Nan Gong, can I ask you a personal question?”
“Why are you a vegetarian?”
“It’s like this. I am from the rural area and would eat anything before. I have a younger brother who I was really close with. It’s just that he was very mischievous so I pressured him to join the army. He went. Something happened during a military exercise and he was killed in an explosion. The kind that shatters everything. Ever since the second I heard this news, I could no longer stand to look at meat.”
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have asked this.” I murmured.
“It doesn’t matter. It’s already been many years.” Saying this, he suddenly turned around and said with his voice choked with emotion, “I need some quiet and peace for a bit.” And then he went into another room.
I didn’t participate in the first activity, and escaped home, ashamed.
When I got home, I earnestly sent emails to several of my translator colleagues, declaring my change to vegetarianism, asking them to look after me. And then, I cleared out my fridge, throwing away all meat and eggs. I cleared out my snacks and threw away all beef jerkies, dried fish, and shredded pork. I carried my vegetable basket to the marketplace and bought a huge pile of vegetables, fruit, tofu, and soy milk. I ate a whole day of vegetarian food and didn’t think it was too hard. It was only when I smelled lamb skewers and roasted chicken wings on the streets at night did my heart extremely quicken. I hurried home, got into bed, and covered my head with the covers. Afterwards, I couldn’t help it and ran outside onto the streets to watch. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that there was also vegetarian food being roasted, such as, roasted tofu, potato slices, corn, greens, lotus root, and mushrooms. Besides not being meat, the flavor was still the same. My god! So good! I had dinner there and was quickly full.
At work the second day, I didn’t put on perfume. My body emitted a vegetable smell.
For the two weeks after returning to Beijing, I didn’t see Li Chuan at all. Li Chuan’s office was upstairs. He didn’t have a set time to come to work every day. I could only seem him during meetings or sometimes lunch. Li Chuan always deliberately maintained a distance from me. He didn’t take the initiative to speak to me, and I didn’t try to worm my way into his grace either. Most of the time, our eyes would meet and we would nod at each other, getting our own dishes and heading to our own seats. We didn’t even exchange any conversations. Li Chuan never called me. Besides when work required it, he would also never email me.
I was quite broken-hearted, but I didn’t care. As long as I knew that Li Chuan and I were in the same building and I could see him once every day, even if we didn’t speak a word to each other, I was satisfied. Without this condition, I couldn’t move on. I was a good-for-nothing like that.
CGP’s lunch was absolutely a huge trial for a vegetarian. Eighty percent of the employees were men who were full of energy, they were not happy without meat and the rest of them were women who were all seafood lovers. I discovered that the things I could eat were only bread, rice, fruit, and salad. In addition, after I finished eating, I would become hungry again very quickly.
Fortunately, I had comrades. In order to go on a diet and shape her body, Emma had basically become a vegetarian too. She would occasionally eat a bit of fish, but it wasn’t often. She used a lot of salad dressing that actually contained a lot of dairy. I also didn’t eat salad dressing. I would only eat vegetable leaves. Us few female translators normally sat together gossiping. I would eat and listen, sometimes sneak a glance at another table in the distance where Li Chuan would have his meal alone. Li Chuan was still just as good looking. He was just leaning towards being a bit too skinny. He looked very mysterious and charming in his fitted suits. He would never look at me.
“Hey! Did you guys see the notice sent by headquarters today?” Emma said in a low voice, “Li Chuan resigned from the chairman position of CGP. He has switched to being the Chief Designer of the Beijing branch. He dropped two positions. I wonder what happened.”
Another translator called A Qian smiled and said, “I also thought it was strange. Doesn’t that mean Director Jiang has become his boss?”
“What boss? Chief Wang is the CEO, he is the owner, alright? Director Jiang is merely working for the Wang family. The reason he’s no longer going to be the chairman is probably because he’s tired. I heard that his health hasn’t been too good recently. He can only work for five hours every day.” Emma said.
“His health seems fine to me. That’s right, why is that leg of his crippled? Was it polio?” Ming Ming from the German group asked.
“My guess is rheumatoid arthritis.”
“My guess is Parkinson’s disease. Annie, what’s your guess? Let’s all bet ten bucks.”
“I don’t know.” I thought for a bit and said, “Car accident? Prosthetic leg?”
“Prosthetic leg? No, no, no! Li Chuan can’t have a prosthetic leg. Having a prosthetic leg would break our hearts. I would rather he had Parkinson’s.”
Everyone unanimously opposed this suggestion. I had nothing to say.
“Isn’t not too kind to use someone else’s handicap to gamble over?” I whispered.
No one paid attention to me, they continued their discussion, “Emma, you go. Go and purposely spill a cup of water on his leg. And then pretend to help him wipe his shoe and touch it in passing. We’ll know then.”
“Touch? How to touch it? I’ve been here for nearly ten years. Li Chuan has also been here for nearly seven or eight years. I’ve never seen him fool around with any woman. That Zhu Bi Xuan ,who left, chased him to death. Even when Li Chuan transferred away, she still persistently kept watch for six years. Didn’t she still gave up in the end?”
“Speaking of chasing him. We’ve all chased after him, haven’t we? Emma, didn’t you also chase after him?”
“I’ve even written such baring emails as ‘Li Chuan, I love you!’ Which Valentine’s Day didn’t I give him chocolates? But nothing works, he has never noticed me.”
“That was before. He was prideful of his looks and kept himself deliberately mysterious. Now, I think he looks a little depressed. It’s the perfect time for you to attack. Seize the moment. Swoop in. In the end, Emma, you aren’t young anymore either. You and Li Chuan are around the same age, right?”
“Older than him by one year.”
“Perhaps he likes someone more mature. Seize it tightly, Emma. We’re still looking to you to become Mrs. Wang and raising our salaries. See, he’s sitting there by himself. So lonely. Go talk to him.”
“Do you think I’m afraid to go?” Emma laughed, “As soon as I heard Li Chuan was back, I was smiling in my sleep.”
She stopped speaking and picked up her plate, turned her waist, and really headed towards Li Chuan’s table.
“Remember our bet!”
“Hey, Annie, what’s wrong with your hand? Why is it shaking? Nerve problems caused from being vegetarian?”
I forcefully forked a slice of apple, sticking it into my mouth, “It’s nothing. First day being vegetarian. Not used to it yet.”
“Why be a vegetarian? You’re not even fat. You even neurotically sent emails to everyone. Did you have to go so far?”
“I’ve joined the Animal Rights Protection Association.”
They looked at me and burst out laughing.
I quickly cleared out my fruit and headed back to my office with my head lowered.
I ordered myself to focus all my attention on the path of becoming a vegetarian and not to think about Emma. And especially not think about Li Chuan. I kept telling myself, It’s over! Over!
I turned on the computer and saw someone looking for me on MSN. The avatar was a beaming tangerine. Surprisingly, it was René.
— Annie, how are you?
— Very well. You?
— Pretty good. Do you like cats?
— I quite like them. Why?
— It’s like this. Li Chuan originally said that he would come back together with us. But now that he’s staying in Beijing, he gave his Mia to us.
— Isn’t Mia Li Chuan’s cat?”
— See, you even know about this. This Mia is the granddaughter of that Mia. That old Mia was quite a good reproducer before she died, making it so that every relative of his was compelled to adopt one. Annie, ever since Li Chuan left, this Mia has had quite the temper. He chews on my models every day. Models that I painstakingly made are chewed into pieces by her within half an hour. Can I ask someone to bring her to give to you? I know you will treat Mia well.
— Will Li Chuan agree?
— Mia is my cat right now. I have disposal rights.
— Alright. Send me an email for when she arrives. I’ll go pick her up at the airport.
— I just happen to have a friend going to Beijing for business. Leaving today. Arriving tomorrow. I’ll quickly go handle the procedures right now. Bye.
His avatar disappeared. I sighed a deep sigh. When Li Chuan left, he left so thoroughly that he didn’t even leave me anything. Now, I will unexpectedly have his Mia!
I took a leave of absence and left work early to go to the pet store to purchase cat food, cat food tins, cat pillow, and cat sand. I bought books on cats, toys, and even some backup medicine. At night, I nibbled on a corn-on-the-cob while delving into the books.
The next day, I took a leave of absence to meet the plane. I received a pretty and tall man holding a grey pet cage. We informed each other of our names. He was also evidently Chinese, but his Chinese could not be complimented.
“I am Xie Xiao Qiu.”
“I am Allen Wang.” [Note: The sentences spoken by Allen emphasizes his accent and struggle when speaking Chinese.]
“How come your surname is also Wang?”
“I am his cousin from his father’s side.”
“You…are also an architect?”
“Yes, how do you…know?”
“It was a guess. You aren’t going to see Li Chuan? He is in Beijing.”
“Oh…no. I am very busy. I leave tomorrow. I will give him…a…call.”
He then gave me another bag, “Inside…is something for you from René.”
“There’s something else besides the cat?”
“Yes, yes. This…box…chocolate is from me to to you.” He gave me a pretty golden box.
“Thank you, you are too kind. I didn’t prepare anything.”
“No worries, no worries. René said that in the bag there is …a…scarf for you. When you see Li Chuan, you must not…must not wear it. He will…become angry.”
It gave me a scare, “Why?”
He smiled and didn’t speak anymore Chinese, “(English) You will know it later.”
I looked at Allen. He wasn’t too much older than Li Chuan, might even be the same age. Their brows and eyes were a bit similar, however, you could tell that he was like Li Chuan, shy around women.
I happily held Mia and returned home. Mia was a short haired small tabby cat. She had a round face with large eyes and always looked sleepy. I changed her name to “Amy.” Amy was very docile and was scared of the cold. She would sleep with me at night.
When I opened the package that René gave me, I discovered a handwoven scarf inside with five different colored stripes. It was brightly colored and large. It was really nice and warm when worn around the neck. The two ends were even decorated with small silver beads. It was a bit strange. Don’t tell me that René could knit scarfs? And then, there was a huge round azure coffee mug. It was a beautiful ceramic with white designs. There was a row of text etched on it:
“No dream is ever too small; no dream is ever too big.
Practice random beauty and senseless acts of love.
Happiness is not given but exchanged.
Truth fears no questions.
Dare to be wise.
The mug was very worn, as if it had been used for many years.
The next day, I brought the mug with me to the office. When I ate lunch, I used it to drink coffee. I saw Li Chuan. Li Chuan also saw me and ignored me as usual. See what kind of brother he is. [Xiao Qiu used to call him Ge Ge aka brother]. I hadn’t returned to my office for long before someone knocked on the door. Unexpectedly, it was Li Chuan.
It was Li Chuan, but his face was overcast and looked very fierce.
“Allen said that Mia was at your place?”
“Are you talking about my cat, Amy?”
“What is Amy?”
“Mia is called Amy here.”
“Xie Xiao Qiu, Mia is my cat. Return her to me.” Such an imposing manner. Do you think I’m afraid of you?
“No way. I’ve already got a ownership certificate. Owner name, Xie Xiao Qiu.”
“Then…can you lend her to me for a month? I really miss her.” He was quick to compromise for the cat.
“No way.” He didn’t want to see a living person but would see a cat. I was jealous.
“Lend her to me for three days?”
“Lend her to me for one day?”
“I won’t even lend her for a minute.”
He became silent and then angry. After awhile, he said, “There’s a brand of fish canned food that she only eats.”
“Amy is like me, a vegetarian. Her main food right now is spinach.”
“What? Spinach?” Li Chuan’s face started reddening, “You’re mistreating Mia?!”
“How is that mistreating? Mia really likes to eat spinach. She even ate sautéed bean curd last night.”
He was at a loss for words. Glared at me and then his gaze lowered to my mug. He became angry again, “Who gave you this mug?”
“It’s not like this is your mug!”
“Of course it’s mine!”
“How is it yours? Your name isn’t written on it.”
“Look at the words at the bottom of the mug. Don’t tell me you also graduated from Harvard?”
I urgently turned over the mug to take a better look. Who knew there was still half a cup of coffee inside that suddenly spilled all over the laptop. The screen immediately turned black.
“Li Chuan, you owe me a computer!!!”
“That has nothing to do with me? Who knew you were that stupid?” He ducked out and left.
This chapter was pretty random. If you were confused by the beginning of this chapter, don’t worry. You weren’t the only one. Vegetarianism and a cat. Who woulda thunk?