13 February 2010

Mudanjiang

In my mind, Mudanjiang was always a small country town. I always envision all Chinese hometowns as being small country homes. I think I’ve watched too many Zhang Yimou films. Well, was I surprised to see that Lu’s hometown was a big, bustling city. Once again I was afraid of all things taxi drivers and their ways, but luckily we never had to venture away from safety—a.k.a Lu.

I always wanted to get the experience of a traditional Chinese New Year and well folks, I got it. Everything was how I imagined. So much emphasis on family, food, fireworks, just togetherness in general. It’s the Chinese version of Christmas really. We watched the traditional Spring Festival gala program on T.V. We ate dumplings at midnight to bring luck for the New Year. The shape of the dumpling represents the traditional gold ingot. So by eating them at midnight, we hope for money and good fortune to come. We set off fireworks to scare off the monster Nian who tried to plague the city in ancient times. We also adorn everything with Red which Nian doesn’t like. We put Chinese couplets on our doors with the character of fish upside down. The word fish in Chinese is similar to the word “surplus.” So many meanings—you almost miss them all.

Chinese parents are so welcoming of their children’s friends. They treat you like family. They will do anything for you it seems. I remember when I first arrived in Shanghai and Shizhang’s mom did everything she could for me to make me feel comfortable.

In America, I find that many parents don’t seem interested in their children’s friends. They rarely want them over for dinner. They especially don’t like the idea of doing favors or bending over backwards for them. In fact, I believe most consider them an annoyance.

So, this is one part of Chinese culture I love and will embrace in my life. When my children have friends, I will do everything I can to make them feel at home at my place. I will try to cook them great meals and just try to be generally interested in them.



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