|We had an inauspicious start to the week with a
surprise visit from a local government agent. He arrived with his
assistant Monday morning and informed me that he needed to “survey”
the property. Despite my uneasiness, he was very friendly as he inspected
the front and back yards and under the kitchen sink for standing water.
Apparently, some folks ignore kitchen leaks until the giant puddle under
the pipes turns into a mosquito nursery. Thankfully, we had no such leaks,
and I had dumped out the overflowing flower pots before I walked the boys
to school. Had he stopped by on Wednesday, however, things would not have
gone so well, as the fountain in the front yard – that is supposed
to run 24 hours a day, that we were assured would not yield itself to
fornicating bloodsuckers – stopped working that morning, and now contains several
gallons of illegally stagnating water. We have been told that someone will
fix it as soon as possible; I have my eyes open for the little beasties, and the long arm of the law,
in the meantime.
Thursday morning the boys went on their first ever
field trip, and I happily accompanied them as a chaperone. We and their
classmates and respective parents rode a giant yellow bus to
The Lunar New Year is by far the most significant holiday in the Chinese culture. In many respects, it is like a combination of Thanksgiving and Christmas in the U.S. It is at this time that people take a break from their work to celebrate life with family and friends, and to ensure a healthy and wealthy new year by adhering to long-held traditions and superstitions regarding colors, clothing, household decorations, and all manner of activities. In accordance with one of these traditions – the requirement of new clothing, symbolizing prosperity – the boys wore brand new Chinese shirts to school Friday morning. Unfortunately we purchased white clothing, ignorant foreigners that we are, which is a big no-no since white symbolizes mourning. Not surprisingly, the boys were the only ones wearing white at school, because by the time we realized our error (Thursday), the local mall was all sold out of red and gold shirts. Later in the morning the pre-K campus enjoyed a festive parade, complete with a traditional lion dance that the boys thoroughly enjoyed. They came home with little bags of chocolate coins – again – to help bestow more prosperity on the house, which will be a great help when it comes time to pay for the dental work they’ll need after all of the candy consumption.
Saturday night was New Year’s Eve, the time for family reunions. It is the Chinese custom for all family members who have moved out on their own to return home on this night for a huge feast: “reunion dinner.” After the meal, the adults give small red envelopes full of money (hong bao) to the children, then the family stays up all night to welcome in the new year, being sure to open every door and window in the house at the stroke of to allow the old year to leave the premises. We celebrated by having spaghetti and going to bed a few hours after sunset.
Sunday was the official start of the new lunar year, the Year of the Dog, and is designated as the day to wear new clothes, visit friends, cast aside grudges, and, according to the late night ruckus on our street, set off fireworks into the wee small morning hours. It is considered very bad luck to sweep the floor on the first day of the new year, because one might accidentally sweep all of the good luck and wealth out of the house; and bad language is severely frowned upon during this time, as it does not promote peace and happiness. I, however, did not learn of either of these superstitions until today (Monday), and thereby screwed the pooch on both accounts, as I vacuumed the whole house Sunday afternoon and cursed mightily while I did it. Our only potential saving grace is that we had plenty of live plants in the house (symbols of wealth and good vocational position), including an arrangement of pussy willow stalks that are supposed to be particularly lucky, despite their contribution to the dirt on the floor, and hence the need to clean. Perhaps if I just dump the contents of the vacuum bag back onto the floor all will be right again.
Just to be sure, though, and under the heading of “when in Rome...,” Greg hired some traveling lion dancers this afternoon to bless our house - something we needed greatly since last year’s evil spirits have been trapped inside by the closed windows, but still having a great time, I am sure, partying with the vacuum cleaner, wearing all of our white shirts, and swearing profusely. To chase out these ethereal hooligans, one man beat the crap out of a giant drum on the porch, one slammed some cymbals together, and two more danced through each room of the house wearing the traditional lion head and tail. I am confident the noise level created was sufficient to cause all things evil to promptly evacuate; unfortunately, it also caused Alec to cower behind a chair in the guest room until the strangers packed up their things and left. Cameron, little thrill-seeker that he is, followed them around with a mixture of horror and awe spread across his little face.
It has been a very interesting week here in the land of the black spitting cobra, to say the least. It promises to get even more interesting over the next few days, as we did not sufficiently stock the refrigerator and pantry before the new year festivities began, and all of the local stores and restaurants are closed until Wednesday. Instant oatmeal and potato chips make a pretty nutritious meal though, right?
Gong Xi Fa Chai! (Happy New Year in Mandarin, I think)
Alec checking out a festive puppet
Cameron & Alec, at the end of the day
2006: The Year of the Dog
“People born in the Year
of the Dog possess the best traits of human nature. They have a deep sense of
loyalty, are honest, and inspire other people’s confidence because they know
how to keep secrets. But Dog People are somewhat selfish, terribly stubborn, and
eccentric. They care little for wealth, yet somehow always seem to have money.
They can be cold emotionally and sometimes distant at parties. They can find
fault with many things and are noted for their sharp tongues. Dog people make
good leaders. They are compatible with those born in the Years of the Horse,
Tiger, and Rabbit.”
|Sign||Year of Birth|
|Rat||1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008|
|Ox||1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009|
|Tiger||1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010|
|Rabbit||1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011|
|Dragon||1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012|
|Snake||1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013|
|Horse||1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014|
|Ram||1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015|
|Monkey||1920, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004|
|Rooster||1921, 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005|
|Dog||1922, 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006|
|Pig||1923, 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007|
Victoria & Cameron... :)
Alec, in new Chinese shirt (white, alas)
Ms. Karen's Class
Alec & friends
Cameron & Alec, doing the lion dance
Cameron roaring in the mask
Victoria & Cameron
Alec in the mask
Cameron & the ladies
Ms. Karen's class
musicians scaring evil spirits with very loud music
Dancers (and a guide to keep them from tripping over anything), scaring evil spirits out of the dining room
Greg, Cameron, & Shannon, after the house was blessed
heading upstairs to scare more evil spirits