Hello again and Shen yen quai leu. Which means Happy New Year. Today is Chinese New Year and Shanghai has ground to a hault. Nothing is going on in this town other than fireworks. And boy do these people love their fireworks, but more on that later. It's the year of the dragon. Last year was the year of the rabbit, but maybe not for us. More on that later too.
I always end these blog entries thinking I'm not going to have anything interesting to write anymore. Then I wake up the next day and think "oh, I've got to tell people that". I don't even know exactly where to start. I'll start with my hair, not hare (remember, more about that later). I went to have my roots covered. I chose a beauty salon that is part of a mall/hotel/apartment complex that is familiar with the expat consumer. I called for an appointment, they got me right in, and bravely I went. There was a slight language barrier, but more comically was the problem with my height. The hair dresser was "ahem" short in stature and not only had the chair down so I felt like I was in a preschoolers chair, but also then asked me to slouch so he could see the top of my head. When picking a hair color, my choices were pretty much brown, darker brown, purply brown, dark dark brown, black and black hole black. No more light highlights for me. I pointed to one color and then he said, "no" and pointed to another. Ok, you're the expert. He went with purply brown. I've had people say everything from "oh, you got your hair done", to "it's only hair, it'll grow out". So, I just blame it on the language barrier. I've got to take Mandarin lessons.
I hired an Ayi (which means Auntie in Mandarin, but it's really "the help"). She is just about the cutest thing. She's, I'm guessing, a little older than me. She is from the Schezwan province, and knows very little english. There has been very little communication because she knows exactly what to do and I have no idea what I should expect. She comes in the house and does the floors, bathrooms, kitchen, laundry, straightens up the bedrooms, irons and has even organized our closets. As soon as we hire a driver, we'll go to the grocery store together to buy food and she will teach me how to cook real chinese food. The kids love her and she likes to help them with their homework. I'm 90% thrilled with this Ayi thing. The other 10% is so uncomfortable with someone doing the work while I piddle around, but if I try to do anything, she jumps in and does it for me. She is off this week and I already feel like I don't remember how to do anything.
Most of the migrant workers go to their home provinces during the holidays. This is the biggest human migration in the world and it occurs every year at this time. I was watching an english speaking show on tv that said if you count all the legs of a trip taken (cab ride, train, bus, bike, ect) in the next 20 days, it would equal 3.1 billion legs. China's population is 1.6 billion. That means everyone has to take almost 3 legs of a trip. The news coverage of people waiting in line for 10 days to secure a train ticket is unfathomable for me. But if you do not go back to your home provence for this holiday to celebrate with your family, you are in the dog house for a year. It's a big deal.
Ok, now to the rabbit. For those of you who do not know, when I was a kid, I used to raise rabbits thru 4-H. I love bunnies and want one when we get back to KY permanently to replace Max the guinnea pig who seems to be able to live forever (sigh). Keep this in mind while I tell you about our New Years Eve. There will be a question for you all when I'm done.
One of Scott's co-workers, Mr. Xie, is an incredibly generous man who seems to have taken it upon himself to feed us real Chinese food. He was the nice gentlemen who hosted the dinner at the restaurant where Quint tasted the duck tongue and almost blew chunks. He invited us to his new house to have a typical Chinese New Years dinner. It was incredible. After we left, we tried to count the number of dishes that his wife prepared. I think we were up to 15. We tried cold fermented tofu, "1000 yr old" eggs, squid, chicken, jelly fish, curried beef, vegetables, bean curd covered meat balls, crab, clams, spring rolls, eel, whole fish soup (q threatened to eat the eyeball, but I shot him a look and he decided it could wait) and rice desert and orange slices. I know I'm forgetting something, but I can't remember what. They have a lovely home. We thoroughly enjoyed the conversations with Mr. Xie, his wife, and their daughter, who is a fashion design student at college. Which was then followed by Scott, Lauren and I belting out some serious tunes on their karaoke machine. Quint sang a little, but has been under the weather so he took it easy.
But here's where it all went wrong. They have a rabbit. Lauren spent most of the evening sitting and talking to the bunny in his cage, which sits in the living room of their house. I couldn't resist and asked if I could hold the bunny. He is a mini lop about one years old. As the kids and I sat on the couch with Mr. Bunny, Mr. Xie remarked at what a good job we do with holding him and how he's never that calm when they hold him. And then he said…… wait for it………"would you like to take him home with you?". Now Instantly I said no. It's not practical, we want to travel while we're here in Asia. Mr Xie said they would be happy to babysit the bunny (grrr). I said when we go home, what will we do? Q and Lauren said "We'll find him a home". So now, dear friends and family, what do I do? Q says he wants the bunny more than a laptop. The laptop is way more practical. Can't do homework on a bunny. Scott totally threw me under the bus and said it's up to me. I'm taking a poll. Please respond.
Then we came home around 10 o'clock and boy did the fireworks start. Now for the last couple of nights we've heard fireworks and firecrackers going off. Some of the fireworks on Wed night were so close, our windows shook. But that was nothing compared to last night. These were not local community fireworks. These were people just doing them off of their porches or on their driveways. All the developments have signs forbidding people to use fireworks in the neighborhoods, but that was ignored. These are the same fireworks that they use on the 4th of July celebrations in DC or for Thunder over Louisville. Huge, loud, colorful. And all over. And for 3 and a half hours. We just sat upstairs for the first hour and looked out our windows. It was so loud because the sound bounces off of the high rises. After the first hour it just sounded like a really bad thunderstorm and lost its appeal, so we went to bed. Apparently last night was the big night. This wed night will also be big, but I don't remember why. Q says it's to let the fortune in. I'm sure by then I'll have new stories.
We love you all
1983 Huamu Lu, No. 157
Pu Dong New District, Shanghai, PRC, 201204
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