Thursday, February 19, 2015

Happy Chinese New Year

Happy Lunar New Year

We have enjoyed getting to see all of the decorations and customs unfold the past few days.  Yesterday, New Year's Eve, was the quietest we have ever seen the city since we arrived.  By late afternoon most shops were closed and the streets were mostly empty of cars and scooters.  We took advantage of this and walked some of the narrower and less accessible areas.  We walked through some of the alleyways where the locals live above the business that they run....but the shops were closed and the people were hanging around outside.  What we saw a lot of was little firepots and people were burning "fake" money.  It is believed that by burning this money it will be passed on to their ancestors to be used in the afterlife.    Another tradition is the huge family reunion meal.  A huge meal is prepared, often packed up and taken to the temple where it is offered as an offering to their ancestors.  They lay the food out, pray to their ancestors and when the dead are done with the food they pack it back up and head home for their meal.  The red lanterns and firecrackers are our favorite part.

A few weeks ago we saw a sign at a local mall that we decided meant there would be a lion dance today.  We can never be totally sure that we understand what is being advertised, but we both felt pretty good about this one.  We have been excited all week waiting for this morning.  We planned to get there early, we were not sure who else knew about this.  I suppose it could have been widely advertised and we would never know.  Trucks drive down the street everyday and play things over a loud speaker, they could have been talking about this!  We left the apartment, walked to Starbucks for coffee and a muffin and then walked over to the mall.  We were the only ones around for a little bit. Shortly a small group started to form a line at the door into the mall. Evidently they do Lunar New Year's promotions sort of like our Black Friday deals.  We had secured a good seat for the show and then the dancers showed up.  Zane and I were very intrigued by them.  The first ones to arrive were a van full of young men dressed in red with flames on their pants.  Most  of them had interestingly colored hair.  They were very high energy and they approached us, curious about Zane.  After they took some pictures of the tiny American we asked if we could take some pictures of them with Zane. They got very excited and started pointing to a big truck that was just arriving....the lions!  They wanted us to get a picture of Zane with the lion dancers. They quickly unloaded one of the costumes and put it on and posed with us.  We were the only ones who got to do this...hanging with the tiny American has its perks.

Z and the big lion

The Lion Dancer

Once the dancing and drumming began Z was excited.  We all enjoyed it.  They were pretty amazing. The costumes reacted to tiny gestures that the acrobats made.  Their eyes would blink and their ears flapped.  It was very cool!  The front guy does a lot of jumping and controlling the head, but the guy in the back has the harder job as far as I could tell.  The position he has to been in to make the lions backs hard and he is also the guy that lifts the guy in front to make the lion stand tall.  The yellow more skilled lion was a couple of older men but the red lion was younger men.  At the end of the show the youngest of the group dressed as two red lions and threw candy to the crowd, the kids loved this part rushing the lions!  The drummers were amazing.  I could not get over how loud the drums were.  It was a performance all its own.  One of the things I liked most about the whole group was that it was clear the older generation was grooming the younger and then there was the littlest ones that arrived with them, probably boys about 7 or 8 years old, waiting their turn. And it was clear they
lived what they were doing and wanted that to come across to the audience.  It did!

Monday, February 09, 2015


I am not a fan of hot tea.  Once in awhile I drink a little before bed, but it's not an everyday thing for me.  I love iced tea with lots of ice, a very foreign concept to my new neighbors. They will fix cold tea drinks, but use very little ice. And they don't usually drink anything but hot water with their meal. I am so not on board with drinking hot water. When our babysitter couldn't find a tea kettle to heat up her water in our apartment the other day, she was confused.....

I'll be honest I don't know a lot about different types of tea and had no idea how to make tea without a tea bag.  We were out and about this weekend and went to an outdoor market where a very nice gentleman showed me some different teas and how to make them.  I walked away armed with knowledge, some tea, and the cutest little teapot.  I had no idea that raw tea, like wine,  gets better with age and more expensive.

I am probably not going to start drinking tea after every meal and before bedtime like he suggested, but at least now I can properly offer my guests a cup of tea when they come over.  So if you are ever in the neighborhood, pop by, I would love to share a pot of tea with you!

My teacher.  He was very passionate about his tea.

My new teapot.  The detail of the design is what sold me on this one.