Friday, January 31, 2014

Guo Nian Hao! (Wishes For A Good Year)

The day after the big Chinese New Year celebration, you're supposed to go around to visit all your older relatives in town. I went once when I was pregnant with Raelynn. I've gotten out of this every year since because she was small. This year, Jeremy told me I could stay home again but I knew the old troll would want to take Raelynn and show her off without me. I wasn't letting that happen so, on very little sleep, thanks to fireworks at night and, even worse, early in the morning, we went off to pay respect to the elders.

Fortunately, in Jeremy's family, we only have to go to 2 houses. Unfortunately, MIL came with us instead of FIL. He had to stay at their house for other family members to pay respect to him. Lucky devil. We picked up MIL and ventured off to her oldest sister's house.

Raelynn was just fine until we entered their home. It looks like a decent place. 19th floor apartment. Fairly spacious. Yet, all you could smell upon entry was the bathroom. And the door to the bathroom was closed. It smelled like every public bathroom in China. If you've never had the displeasure of having to breathe while using a public Chinese facility, then you're in luck. But my fellow expats over here KNOW what I'm talking about. It was HORRIBLE! No wonder she didn't want to try to use the potty when we arrived. She screamed and freaked and wet herself in the process.

 Eventually, we were able to calm her down with some chocolates and a cup of water.

 This is MIL's oldest sister and her husband. You can also see some of their apartment behind them. It's not too dreadful, considering we know how MIL decorates her place. These folks are much cleaner than her. At least in their living quarters. They need to do something about that bathroom smell though. Yuck!

 They had this interesting lantern hung up. But the view was totally obscured by the smog. It was smoggy yesterday and then those buttfaces let off all those fireworks so I knew today would have the most disgusting air quality ever. Thanks, assholes.

 Raelynn is still not too happy to be here though I'm keeping her busy with a deck of cards. You can see some of the ugly pillows on the couch and the typical old Chinese person plastic covering on the table.

 Here Raelynn and I are forced to take a photo with these relatives. Oh joy.

But after this, we get to leave. And we head next to Jumu's house. Jumu is actually MIL's sister-in-law. I forget the brother's name, but in any event, they live in a very dirty and tiny apartment. It's a shame because they are really nice people.

First stop, the bathroom. Here's the sink...
It's just like how my in-laws' bathroom was before they fixed it up.

But it's MUCH smaller than their bathroom. 
I took this photo standing outside the door of it with my back to the wall in the hallway. I couldn't step back far enough. The toilet doesn't flush so you have to pour water down it after you go. OF COURSE!

 Raelynn was unhappy here too, until they gave her some candy.

 What's interesting about this home is the detail in on the ceiling. Why would they have such fancy details and such a crappy bathroom? It's so weird!

 Also, old people here love to do shit like this. Cover an A/C up with a giant ugly doily.

Check this out...remember those jars of baiju with the lizards inside of them? Well, MIL's big brother has a jar that I would have loved to try if I weren't pregnant. It's got ginseng and opium in there. Yes way. No wonder this guy is so mellow and cool.

Here's Jumu. She's trying to give Raelynn a red envelope filled with money. MIL doesn't want Jumu to give it to Raelynn though because they do not have much money. So, instead of quietly slipping it back into her sister-in-law's possession, what does MIL do?

She starts fighting her. Yes, really. 

Hooray for the holidays, eh?

 But all is soon well again. And then, we leave. And I'm happy because I am hungry. They served us some fruit and nuts for a snack but it's now lunch time. Raelynn is hungry and tired. We just want to go home.

Did we though? No, because stupid MIL argued with my husband that we should come there for lunch. Even though we have a buttload of leftovers at our house. Jeremy promises it will be a short, casual lunch and then we can go. GOD HELP ME.

 When we get there though, their house is full of relatives visiting FIL.

 They're everywhere! This house is very small. It is so crowded I want to run outside in the pollution to gasp for air.

 But as quickly as we arrive, these relatives all leave. And Raelynn gets her grandpa to spoil her with candy.

Meanwhile, MIL makes us this crap for lunch...
 Potatoes and Lord-knows-what kind of meat. It was so vile, I almost spit up on the table. I couldn't eat it.

Vegetable and egg barftastrophe. No thank you.

 Tofu with garlic, the only edible option.

 And some dweeb on TV during a rerun of that New Year special.

 As we started to eat, more cousins came to visit. This mother and daughter were really nice. The daughter also teaches kindergarten and she speaks English quite well.

Finally, we got to leave and Jeremy has promised that he will be making this hell up to me on Valentine's Day. Plan well, Honey. Plan well.

When we got home, we saw that someone had used the ashes from all the fireworks to write this lovely message.
My thoughts exactly.

Happy Year Of The Horse!

It's officially the Chinese New Year! Xin Nian Kuai Le everybody (that means Happy New Year, in case you're too dense to figure that one out). Last week, we celebrated the Small Chinese New Year. Well, yesterday, we celebrated the official day. Come check it out!

First, click here if you would like to see how last year's celebration for the year of the snake went. Spoiler: Ugh, because it was at my in-laws' smelly house.

This year was so much better, just because my in-laws came to our home. And I have to say, it was a really pleasant evening. Yes, I actually used 'pleasant' to describe an evening with my in-laws. Hopefully this doesn't mean it's the end of the world.

MIL provided us with these leaves. Jeremy says they are to give us more livelihood. An interesting custom indeed!

She cranked out some things and FIL and I went to move them to the table.

 And she's busy as a bee in here, making even more stuff.

Here, we have, from left to right, beef intestines (in the back) and jellyfish (in the front). I won't go for the intestines. EVER. But I usually love jellyfish. Either pregnancy or MIL made it taste weird too me. In the center, it's one of my favorites, la pi, before mixing the ingredients together. On the right in the back, we have some cold meat dish. Whatever Chinese spices she used on it just didn't appeal to me. And more cashews, just like last week. And last year.

 MIL added the garlicky sauce to the la pi.

Now she mixes it up. YUM!

Close-up of the jellyfish.

Here's something else that smelled dreadful. I stayed away.

 Talk about jumbo shrimp! These were great!

 Raelynn plays around with her grandpa during the meal.

 And while we eat, we've got the Chinese cable on so we can watch the New Year special. This caught my eye because when they first came on, I thought to myself, "Those are Korean people." I was right. For whatever reason, they included a Korean dance song.

 The best part was this insane creature behind this guy! WTF!

 Back to the food for a minute...we've got more abalone soup.

 And this egg thing again, only this time, she made it SO much better than Small Chinese New Year. I think she overcooked the egg last week. It's supposed to be like this, almost creamy in texture. She also added scallops to it. Great job, MIL!

 Next, some sugared yams. I guess this is China's answer to our candied sweet potatoes.

 Here's some of the firework action that was going on. There were better ones later but it was either drop my kid out the window or get you good pictures, so too bad.

 The meal is drawing to a close when the steamed fish comes out.

And of course, if you've read about how our Chinese meals go on these occasions, then you know MIL is busy making jiaozi, or dumplings. So here is what I caught on TV from the New Year special. Take a look at that head piece! Wow!

 And this guy!

 I have to hand it to them...their sets are amazing. This is so much more interesting than last year's. Or maybe MIL just picked a crappy channel to watch last year. I'm not sure.

And then, there's this guy. I've no idea what's happening.

 And this guy! Check out his backup dancers!

 Kind of blurry, but check out this costume! It's stunning!

 Here are the hosts of the program. I think the guy is wearing a velvet suit. Velvet!

 This is some insane horse dance they did. I could not capture it well enough to do it justice. The acrobatics and coordination that went into this were amazing.

This next guy made me realize that perhaps my Chinese is better than I think it is. Because as soon as he started singing his stupid happy little song, I thought he was from Qingdao. Turns out, I was right on. 

Incidentally, the graphics behind him coupled with the guys in what looks like prison uniforms from the US made us all laugh quite hard.

And here we are with more bad hair and insane clothes...

 Were the backup dancers a tribute to Robin Thicke with that whole Miley twerking bit? Not likely. I do think of Beetlejuice as I look at these though.

Then, there was an impressive martial arts performance by a group of young boys. I was absolutely mesmerized. Then, this guy appeared in the middle of it...

Do you see who that fucking is?!?!?

That's right! It's Jackie Chan! Jackie Fucking Chan! Now that's awesome! I thought he was busy making Rush Hour 10 with Chris Tucker.

 And finally, the dumplings are done, around 9pm. I should add this all started around 4pm, though we didn't begin eating until 5:30pm. The dumplings she made for the Small Chinese New Year had the cabbage and pork filling, which are my 2nd favorite. Now these...these are the shit. They have the beef and leek filling in them and they kick everything's ass.

We enjoyed some dumplings and then this dorky ventriloquist came on.

Followed by these pretty but strangely dressed women. 
And finally, after all this, it was time for MIL and FIL to leave. I got busy dressing Raelynn for bed. We let her sleep with us because all the fireworks were so loud. At least they weren't as bad as last year. Last year, people kept letting off those kaboom cannon sounding things. ALL NIGHT. This year, they weren't nearly as annoying. Well, except for the asshat who let off a bunch of poppy-sounding ones at 5am. And the fuckers that kept letting off ones at 6am. And 7am. I hate them. I hope they have a shitty new year. Urgh.