Saturday, February 9, 2013

It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year!

Happy Year of the Snake everyone! Chinese New Year is upon us now and as I've mentioned before, I rather like this holiday. Sure, I spend a lot of time making snarky (and rather bitchy) comments about life over here but this is the holiday I enjoy most of all, except for the incessant popping of fireworks of course.

Getting ready for the new year here is much like how everyone back home prepares for Christmas. My husband and I went to Metro the other afternoon to get some things. Technically, it was a working day, but his schedule is flexible. We figured it would be a breeze since everyone else would be shackled to their desks or assembly lines. We did not want to wait until the weekend, when Metro would be transformed into a zoo with aisles of food and such instead of animals for the masses to gawk at.

But even at 2pm on a Wednesday, it was pure insanity. The parking lot alone was a feat to conquer. Somehow, Jeremy managed to snag a spot at the very end of the lot. There was still snow and ice on the ground and other cars were sliding and honking, adding more to the chaos. Inside, people were everywhere, swarming about the displays, searching for the perfect gifts to bring their relatives for the new year.

Jeremy had already planned ahead for that. All we needed were some grocery items. We actually gathered what we needed quite quickly. Then we had to settle into a line. And the lines were loooooooooooooong. The man behind us was fascinated with how beautiful Raelynn is. He kept smiling at her with his decaying teeth. At least he was kind though. A few lines over, some screaming erupted. A fight was about to break out. I stared at the people, bickering away about who was first in the line and honestly, it reminded me of home. How many times have I seen that before? It was just in a language that was not my own now. Ah, just like Christmas shopping back home! The most wonderful time of the year indeed!

For the start of Chinese New Year itself, which officially began yesterday, we of course had to go to my in-laws' house. They added some new decorations which looked rather nice for what it was. Certainly not my taste but at least it looked less like a crack bunker and more like someone lived there.

Unlike my family, my husband and his family won't crack open the beer until it's time to eat. But I didn't need any beer to keep me amused with some of the things we found on the TV. My in-laws have basic Chinese cable. I know I've mentioned before that even my husband will tell you that Chinese TV is extremely boring. It truly is. But some of it is so insanely horrible, you just have to see it. For example:
Let me attempt to explain as best as I can. I believe the show's name translates to "Journey to the West" or something like that. My husband claims it is old - from the 1980s. It certainly seems much older than that though. It's like they ripped off Planet of the Apes. There is also a pig-man creature but I couldn't get a good shot of it. Right now, if you listen carefully above the din of firecrackers being let off all over China, you can hear my dear friend Aaron Gordon laughing so hard his sides are splitting. 
There is also this odd little boy, who is no longer a little boy if the show is from the 1980s. Yes, this is what passes for entertainment on the Chinese channels. I would additionally like to mention that this show had the most terribly obsolete-looking special effects, even coming from that time period.

Soon, MIL began bringing out some food and now we could crack open some bottles of Tsingtao. We all know she's not the best cook. At all. But during the Chinese New Year, she makes her very best dishes. I must admit I'm kind of worried about her. During the previous 2 years, she really made some incredible things. But now she's kind of floundering. Maybe she didn't feel like doing the work? I don't know. In any event, here are some food photos:
In the back, from left to right: some egg pancake thing filled with a mixture of pork, shrimp and vegetables which was quite delicious; tofu with carrots and celery; ribs. In the middle, we have boiled peanuts with celery and carrots and that annoying fried, small bony fish that I despise. In front, we've got cashews AGAIN. Well, at least they did go wonderfully with the beer, which you can see in the background.

A short while later, MIL brought out more food. If you look in the center, you'll see a dish with a bunch of spoons in it. It's some weird jelly thing. I don't know what the hell it is really but I hate it. I cannot stand it. I've tried it several times and the best way I can describe it to you is that it tastes like saltwater and semen with garlic thrown on top. And then to the right of that, shrimp.

And again, another dish has arrived. Next to the semen jelly, there is a chicken and peppers dish. I was quite impressed with this one actually. The sauce was amazing. But one thing people in China tend to do that bugs me out is that they hack up chicken into little bits so there are shards of bones everywhere, and you can't tell which part of the chicken you're eating. I'm not down with that. David Sedaris, an amazingly talented and hilarious writer, wrote this piece about his visit to China and you really should go read it just to hear what he has to say about the food. Honestly, he sums it up perfectly.

The picture does not do this justice. MIL made another attempt at making Beijing-style eggplant, which is one of my absolute favorite Chinese dishes. She did much better than the last time but something is still missing that would give it that authentic Beijing taste. Maybe chili powder? I don't know. I'll have to try to make it myself. In any event, this was fantastic.

This isn't too exciting...just some small but very fresh tomatoes and the standard cucumbers with too much garlic that people here love to eat.
 Tradition has it that you serve your big fish dish at the end of the meal. Here is MIL's signature steamed fish in some sort of savory sauce. As I've said before, this is one of her most delicious dishes.

And finally, keeping in accordance with Chinese tradition, you simply must have dumplings. These come at the very end of the meal. By then, you are so stuffed you can't even fathom eating another bite. But you must at least have one or else it would be rude.

After my obligatory last bite, I passed the rest of the time by drinking lots of beer. And laughing at more of the cheesiness they aired on TV. Because there really isn't much to do aside from that. I wonder if everyone's Chinese New Year is boring because Chinese people aren't very interesting (and don't think I'm being a bitch here - that is something that has come out of my husband's mouth!) or if it's because my in-laws are the most mundane people in existence. In any event, I managed to amuse myself with the TV crapfest. Here's a look at that:

We have this lady and her hair. This absolutely fascinated me. Maybe it's a wiglet?

 And then, something truly remarkable happened. I couldn't even believe it. Guess who showed up to this spectacular gala for the Chinese New Year?

You won't believe it...

Celine Dion! No fucking way!
I'm not a fan but I don't hate the woman really. I like her hair here.

I was actually quite impressed with her - she sang a duet with this crazy-wiglet-haired Chinese lady...IN CHINESE! That must not have been easy for her to learn. Kudos!

Yes, that is the ultimate in excitement for our Chinese New Year, that Celine Dion was on Chinese TV and sang in Chinese. Also, that when we got home, despite all the fireworks, which honestly seemed like much less noise this year, Raelynn went right to sleep when I put her in the crib. Wow. We're walking on the wild side!

I'll finish this post with one last picture...the cutest picture of the cutest little girl's our special dumpling! Happy Chinese New Year to you all!

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