This is the New Year‘s Holiday… and as like Christmas the Chinese folks get their families together for a dinner. Usually for the past years, Michael went to the family dinner alone, due to the fact that I visited the states or friends invited me to spend the holiday with them. This year the “Family” wanted me to attend the dinner.
Another one of the reasons I usually don’t go is because Michael’s family lives in a small village. The house they have has no heat, no running water and no indoor bathroom. It is a very old and very poor home and Michael feels that I would be more comfortable in our home. His parents usually came to our home and cook for us or clean, etc. But this year I was going there to show them I could get down in the countryside and I was not a western snob.
I made sure to wear 3 layers of clothes my gloves and my winter coat and boots. I did not want to complain about being cold in any way. I made sure and went to the bathroom before we left and I tried not to drink any liquids. I was ready with my Chanel purse in hand and Iphone in my pocket…. at least I thought.
When we got there … it was freezing outside… so I rushed inside their modest home where it was even more cold and sat down in a wooden chair as they suggested. The home only had the basics…. table, chairs, one TV… the frig we bought them and a bench. You could tell by the worn walls and floor that the home had been there for years maybe centuries. The front door was a double door that opened into a private court-yard… where Michael’s mother was outside plucking a duck in hot water. Behind the back door was a well where they had a bucket to get their water. It has to be boiled to be drinkable and if they wanted to bathe there was no bathtub or shower so they needed to fill buckets to wash. Talk about roughing it.
I sat quietly as his parents raced around pouring me hot water, and getting me fruit that was so cold it was frozen. After sitting there awhile, I couldn’t stand the cold and I really couldn’t understand how they could live in such a cold place. I asked Michael to take me out to buy a floor heater since I was going to be here for a while. I figured it would help me and them later to have one. While we searched for a place that was still open to buy the heater, I turned the heat in the car on full blast.. and made Michael stop at a gas station so I could use the facilities. All that hot water I was drinking to keep warm was running thru me.
I really do not think people in the states realize what poor is until they have seen how some people live in China. It makes you really thankful for the things you have. I was poor growing up.. at least I thought I was until I saw the people in this village. I have never seen anyone in my life be as poor as some of the people in China. To live in cement houses with no insulation, just bar walls and floors. It was like living in a cave. I asked Michael why his parents did not have a fireplace. I figured at least a fireplace would keep them warm and they could even cook something. He laughed like that was the craziest thing he ever heard… people don’t use those that is old fashioned. I was confused they would rather freeze than use a fireplace? unbelieveable.
After returning from purchasing the heater, the family proceeded to set up an altar to honor the ancestors. They cooked food and placed it on a table with candles and bowed before it, burning paper money for them to use in the afterlife. After they each bowed on their knees on that cold floor with the door open, they took the food and placed it on the dinner table for us to eat. While the food was being brought out they wheeled out Michael’s grandmother. Although she was 80 years old, she looked to be like 150 years old to me. This was the first time I was seeing his grandmother and her seeing me. I stood up as they wheeled her in as a kind of respect. She looked at me and point at the chair and told me to sit down in the Chinese I could understand. I guess that was her way of acceptance because after that she paid no more attention to me. She just sat in her chair and smoked cigarettes until it was time for dinner. I could not help but stare a little at the woman because she just seemed so out-of-place. Like she was from another time, which I guess she kind of was. Mind you I have always liked old people they have so much history to tell and knowledge. But this woman just seemed to be out of the time where people just invented the wheel, she seemed so old.
I watched Michael’s mother in the kitchen for a while finishing up the food. Homemade dumplings, vegetables, spring rolls, beef, fish, and a mushroom dish were the things I could recognize. The others I could not tell you for sure.
The conversation around the table was all in local dialect, which I cannot understand so I just ate quietly and said a few things when Michael translated the small things that were directed at me. I did understand the grandmother asking if I was Michael’s wife they all said yes and then she just said “oh” in an no important kind of way and continued eating. Five hours past by in the time I was at the in-laws, it was the longest and coldest five hours I have ever had. No disrespect to Michael’s family be I was very happy when he said we had to leave. I was ready to get back to civilization.
On the drive back home, we saw people shooting fireworks all over the place I even got a photo of some of them. I now see why families go back to their old village home during this time every year. It reminds them of how things use to be and how they need to keep working hard to obtain things so they do not go back to that way of life. Lessons taught to their children, who have never had to live that way. All in all, except for the freezing part, the time was okay… however I was happy that the next few days Michael and were going on a trip to Suzhou, Jiangsu Province to see some friends and I was even more happy to get home and turn on the heat.
Until next time…..
- Year of the Dragon (mamaonthemove.net)
- 新年快乐！ (ripplesoftruth.wordpress.com)
- 4 million cats eaten in China each year (khamerlogue.wordpress.com)
- Food Traditions and Symbols of Cinese New Year (leggotunglei808.wordpress.com)
- A Chinese new year special: steamed shui mai, dumpling soup and spring rolls (thebigfatnoodle.com)
- Happy New Year! Again! 新年快樂! 恭賀新禧! (sufenwang.wordpress.com)
- 2012 – A Retrospective (astardly.wordpress.com)
- Happy Chinese New Year. (kongyee.wordpress.com)
- More on Chinese New Year (djcadchina.wordpress.com)
- How My Family Celebrates Chinese New Year of the Dragon! (ladaray.wordpress.com)
- Warmest Festival in Coldest Winter (blogatquic.wordpress.com)