Friday, January 31, 2014

meeting the family: day five.

Yesterday was Chu Xi (Chinese New Year's Eve). It's a pretty important day in this culture and I should probably try to explain it to you, but honestly, I'm feeling a little burnt-out, so I'm just gonna let you google it and find out about the decorations, fireworks, and red envelopes with money. Then I'm gonna write a few words under these photos, tell you a couple stories from last night, and call the Day 5 recap done. 

Tony helping his mom in the kitchen.

"Hi, buddy!" I said.

Me: "How much did that water cost?" Him: "3 kuai." Me: "WHAT?! We pay 18 kuai for it in Beijing!"

I call this photo: Awkward Bubble Gum Selfie In An Alley.

The name of the game yesterday was LOUD. During Chinese New Year, fireworks and firecrackers are on sale at every "convenience store" and they were set off ALL DAY yesterday and MOST OF THE NIGHT.

A home ready for the New Year, with "chun lian" hung around the door. Please note the firecrackers that have been set off.

Tony and his nephew set off fireworks last night while his niece laughed and I yelled, "Be careful!"

So, the stories: 

(I hope you googled the red envelopes and giving money.) After dinner, Tony's mom stuffed a huge wad of money into my coat pocket. I mean, a lot of money. And since I'm not a little kid, I really wasn't expecting it, especially the amount it was. I tried to push her away and said, "Bù, bù, bù!" (No, no, no!), but she wasn't having it. Tony, his niece, and I were on our way to visit his aunts' and uncles' houses, and I didn't think it was a good idea to carry around so much cash, so I hid it in our room. 

Fast forward to a couple houses later, we were leaving Tony's aunt's house (his mom's sister), and I had both my hands in my coat pockets. His aunt reached for my right pocket, and I thought she wanted to hold my hand, like she did the other morning. So I took my hand out and she grabbed it, roughly, and reached her other hand into my pocket. The pocket the large amount of money had just been in. Tony started shouting at her and she shouted back. She was also shouting at me and they both sounded angry and her hand was still in my pocket and Tony started yelling at me, "The money! THE MONEY!" I was so confused and I was getting upset because I didn't understand anything and they were YELLING and she still had a death grip on my hand. Tony yelled at me again, "The money!" and then it dawned on me: The money! She's trying to take the money! Her sister must have told her she was going to give me so much money and she isn't happy about it for some reason, so she's trying to take it from me. Tony and his aunt were still yelling at each other and at me; she was still grabbing my hand and my pinky felt like it was going to be torn off, so I started shouting, "Let go of me! LET GO OF ME!" They kept yelling at each other and finally she let go, clearly upset. Tony walked over to me, reached into my pocket, and pulled out some money. Oh. She was trying to GIVE me money. Now I felt stupid. Really stupid. But still upset. And Tony and his aunt were still yelling at each other as he took the money and walked back upstairs to her apartment. 

Afterwards, I took a few deep breaths because even though she wasn't trying to steal my money after all, just wanted to give me more, the whole thing still freaked me out. And Tony didn't really understand why I was upset and I was all, Hello? If someone had just given you a lot of money, and then a little while later someone else reached into your pocket and grabbed your hand so hard it hurt, and someone else was screaming at you, "THE MONEY! THE MONEY!" and they were both screaming at each other, and you couldn't understand anything, what would you think was happening? 

"Ohhh," he said, "I should have told you my aunts would try to give you money for the New Year. You know, the red envelopes." And I did know about the red envelopes, but I thought it was for kids, and wouldn't be so forceful, and also, I hadn't seen any red envelopes.


A few houses later and we were visiting one of his cousins and her husband. Like everyone else, they tried to give us food, and we ate a little and politely declined the rest. And the cousin tried to give me and Tony's niece money, and we politely said no and didn't take it. And as we were about to leave, they said, "Wait! We're making her [me] a coffee!" And they were. They were brewing coffee in their kitchen and it was 9 o'clock at night so I asked Tony, "Why are they making me coffee? Just me?" So he asked them and they said, "Because she's Canadian." It made me laugh and they poured the coffee into two little paper cups and I double-fisted it while we visited the next few houses and I drank it happily because they made it especially for me and because it was the first non-instant coffee I've had in days. 

P.S. I think it goes without saying, but I just want to make sure you know, all of the people talking always speak in Chinese. I understand some of what they say, Tony translates some, and the rest is completely lost to me. 

P.P.S. Days one, two, three, and four.


  1. Wow! I would be freaked too if people were reaching in my pockets, but hey live and learn right? Also you two are such an adorable couple and it looks like you are having quite the adventure.. especially in the food category because it looks delicious.

  2. Wow, Amanda! I'm so enjoying reading about the experience you're having. How amazing and difficult (all at the same time), it seems to be! I think you're doing a fantastic job at dealing with it all. It takes a special kind of person p, I think. Way to go! This is a time you're sure not to forget. :)

  3. Erika: Thank you! And yes, the food has been delicious!

    P.S. I just checked out your blog and it and your artwork is beautiful! Also, I feel the need to tell you that I did one of those quizzes (from Buzzfeed, maybe?) and it told me I should live in Portland haha! And Nora is on my list of names for possible future daughters; has been since I fell in love with Nora Ephron and the show Parenthood.

    Amy: Thank you so much! You summed it up perfectly (probably summed up the whole expat experience, actually), amazing and difficult!


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