My mother in law hath cometh for the summer - Part 1
I kid, I kid. Actually, my mother in law is pretty great. The moment we need her she is on a plane from Canada to the UK and she has welcomed me into her family more wholeheartedly than I thought was ever possible.
Doesn't mean we don't still have our moments though. She's a mother in law and I'm a daughter in law and the laws of nature are not to be messed with.
I was recently reading a forum post in which women were sharing their most embarrassing moments in front of their inlaws. There were some good ones in there, accidentally flashing the father in law, sending sexts to your mother in law accidentally and a pretty good story involving a spider and a vacuum.
I figured I would throw my hat into the ring with two stories - both stories which should have stopped my mother in law ever travelling with me again - but she's a pretty strong woman and not too much can properly faze her.
Back in 2002 my husband and I were living in Northern China, and my mother in law had come to visit.
We had been living there for about a year or so already, but my Chinese still wasn't actually very good yet (although I certainly thought it was). I was able to get by just fine at work, on the street, in shops, restaurants, on trains... so clearly I was practically fluent.
My husband's Chinese was somewhat limited to ordering beer, rice and sweet & sour pork (the necessities) though he could understand quite a bit more than that.
So my mother in law had arrived and we took her to Beijing to see the sights, staying in a hotel there. Now, we had been living in the North of China for a very long time and went a little bit nuts on the wide array of western food available in Beijing (Subway). I think we ate every meal at Subway for three glorious days of sandwiches without sugary bread and real lettuce. The novelty was amazing, but wore thin once we got back to the hotel. The piping in China isn't meant to take flushing toilet paper and so the western toilet in our hotel plugged. Badly.
This was not something that could be fixed ourselves - clearly a plumber was needed. Alright, I can totally do this. I sat down on the bed and picked up the hotel phone - the one we had unplugged earlier in the night once we had tired of the constant 'you want massagee? You want roast duck? (wtf?)' phone calls. I plugged it back in and dialed 0 for reception, speaking to the woman at the front desk completely in Chinese to explain our predicament and order a plumber to the room.
My husband and mother in law were impressed. Epic daughter in law win!
And then they asked me what I actually said.
I told my mother in law that it was actually very simple - my vocabulary isn't that large yet so I fill in gaps where I can, but I usually get the message across. I'd said something along the lines of:
"Hello. This is room 214. I have a problem in my room and need a hotel man to come here to help me. It is not difficult, is a small problem. But I need a man quickly, a strong man. Does the hotel have a man that can help me?"
My husband was the first of us to catch on, and retreated in silent giggles to the back of the room to await whatever was coming to the door. My mother in law still thought I was brilliant.
That was until there was a knock on the door and my husband muttered "I don't think they sent a plumber". Mother in law and I opened the door to find a tall, half naked Chinese man with an oiled chest leaning provocatively up against the doorway.
Oh. My. God. I had ordered us a male prostitute.
I turned bright red and burst out laughing, apologizing to the poor guy and absolutely dying of embarrassment. My mother in law didn't even have words, she just backed into the room laughing to join my husband on the bed - both waiting for me to somehow deal with the prostitute and the toilet in Chinese. I took the gigolo by the hand and led him into the bathroom, pointing at the plugged toilet and explaining with a mix of language and charades what the problem was. He finally understood and left - a plumber arriving a few minutes later, laughing his ass off.