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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Exotic (08/08/13)

TITLE: Birds Nest Soup
By Emma-Jane McLennan
08/15/13


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"Beijing has captured my imagination like a snare. The bustling city, crazy culture; exotic sights and smells- they have swept me away completely. But I do miss home. Nothing is familiar here, excepting McDonalds of course. Little New Zealand feels so far away." I shut down my laptop, and sigh. Only 3 days until I go home. Right now, I've got to find something to eat.

Stepping into Hanaro Mart is like entering a magic emporium. Towering shelves are stacked with interesting bottles, whose labels read like incantations or spells. Birds nest soup... pickled quail eggs... dried sea cucumber. Hundreds of pickled shrimp watch me from their prison bottle, eyes glassy. It looks claustrophobic in there. I shudder.

Prickly durian fruits lie in piles on the floor; their smell hanging heavily in the air like a mouldy curtain. Chinese symbols are unreadable to me, they might as well say "fried rats". Actually, I shouldn't joke. Running my fingers absentmindedly along the shelves, I feel something furry. I shriek, jumping back in surprise.

Unfortunately, I land in a bin of rice crackers, which crunch sickeningly. "Its a.. it's a... rat!" I point and stare wide eyed at the shelves. The shopkeeper rushes to see what I'm staring at.

"Ah, what wrong? You think is rat?" he questions me

"Yes, yes, there! Can you see it?" I point at the offending brown thing.

"Ohh, you think is rat? Is kiwifruit!" he picks up the small, furry fruit and smiles a gap-toothed smile.

"Oh. Right". I pick myself up from the barrel. "Uh, sorry, I didn't mean to.."

"Ah, is ok. Is funny" his upper lip twitches almost imperceptibly.

And he's right. I begin to laugh, and he joins in; relieved. As my hysterical giggles and his deep belly laughter combine in a raucous cacaphony of noise, the other shoppers turn to see what's going on.

Shopkeeper Min Chu translates in rapid Mandarin, holding up the kiwifruit. "Ban! Ban!". Soon everybody is laughing. I know what they are thinking... silly white tourist girl. But that's ok.

The shopkeeper's wife bustles in from the back room, looking perplexed. After a quick explanation from her husband; she smiles. "You hungry girl? You like bird's nest soup?"

A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
Proverb 16:22


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This article has been read 206 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Larry Whittington08/15/13
Good opening sentence with the first paragraph explaining it.

Through the whole story I was wondering why you were there. I just knew you wanted to go home. It may have added a little to the story.
Virgil Youngblood 08/16/13
The title drew me in and the story did not disappoint. Definitely on topic and a delight to read. Well done.
Camille (C D) Swanson 08/19/13
Love Proverbs and the one you chose is one of my favs. Good story...nicely done.

God bless~
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 08/21/13
I really enjoyed this piece. Your MC is realistic and likable. You had me chuckling throughout.

The only red ink I would offer is the beginning was a tad confusing. I wasn't sure if you were blogging or maybe skyping someone. Also it's a good idea to start out with an attention grabber. I might have started of with screaming in the store and then ended with the laptop. I know you used it as an introduction, but I think it's so easy these days to just click on something else to read it's vital to start with a real grabber.

You did a wonderful job of writing on topic. I also liked the suspense when the MC wasn't quite sure what she was looking at. I think the irony of the rat being kiwi fruit was a touch of genius and can show how we can let our fears take over. You did a great job with this well-written piece.
Camille (C D) Swanson 08/22/13
Congrats! God bless~
Bea Edwards 08/26/13
I know many older Asians and
when you wrote about 'the imperceptible twitching of his upper lip' it was a perfect representation of that culture and their respectful manor, so convincing also was when the shopkeeper dissolved in laughter- only after your MC led the way.
Great realistic and humorous story.
Congrats on your level placing.