Chinese New Year

Celebration of the Year of the Horse officially ended on the day of the Lantern Festival, the 15th day of the new year. 15 days of feasting, drinking, covering various corners of Shanghai to visit relatives close and distant, at the end of which my holiday spirit was nowhere to be found and I was more than glad to face the rest of the year with quiet acceptance.

Right in the middle of all the busing, taxing around, tired of having to choose between entertaining guests that are not mine and hiding out in my sister’s room, I left the house to have lunch with a girl friend.

The Korean restaurant we had originally planned on visiting was closed for Chinese New Year so we went to get dim sum instead. I’d hardly warmed my seat when she asked me how my trip to Vietnam was.

“Great,” I responded. “I want to learn Vietnamese this year.”
“Do you have a boyfriend in Vietnam? Is that why you go back every year?”
“If I had a boyfriend in Vietnam, would I only visit once a year?”

How could I explain to her why I loved Vietnam? That if Europe stayed in the past and China focused on the future, as friends have postulated, then Vietnam was the present. That for someone whose thoughts are occupied by nostalgia and worry, the present is like waking up from a long nap, pulling aside the curtains, finding the world outside covered in snow and seeing it anew.

My girl friend stared at me for a minute and suddenly chuckled.

“What is it?” I asked.
“I was just thinking about how unpredictable life can be.”

Another pause in the conversation as I sipped my tea and stared out the window.

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All Is Bright

Sometime in the early afternoon, I found myself staring out the window and cheerfully humming “Silent Night”. The drab of the scene outside hit me like I was only seeing it for the first time: the grass sparse and yellowing in the courtyard, the pond never as clear as it should be, Thomas the cat dragging his languid, portly self to the nearest tree, the concrete, worn-down eyesore masquerading as an office building across the street…

Still, I hummed my little tune happily.

Last night, when I arrived at the Center, I saw that the halls had been decorated with decals of snowmen. Against the rigid structure of daily life and the oppressive weight of finals looming just around the corner, the decorations seemed a half-assed, juvenile attempt at spreading some cheer. Nevertheless, they worked. My spirit was immediately lifted upon seeing them and remembering that amidst papers and presentations, there was Christmas.

I was thinking about Christmas last night in the cab ride over from the train station. Specifically, I was thinking about presents. While my driver and I flew through emptied streets of Nanjing, I mulled over how many presents I should prepare this year. And while I hummed “Silent Night” and stared at the grey outside, the matter returned again to my mind. And so my train of thoughts continued until I felt overwhelmed with love and gratitude. I reached for the Christmas cards on my bookshelf and began addressing them, each one more emotional than the last.

I wonder if I’ll still be here in Nanjing next Christmas, sending cards west. I quite like that image.

Valentine’s Day

I’m a fan of Valentine’s day.

I know some people like to boycott this holiday.  I agree, it is a little overblown with the flowers and chocolates and gifts.  And yes, it is all just a ploy for businesses to make more money.  And yes, everyday should be Valentine’s Day, everyday you should remind your loved ones how much they mean to you.

But who can argue with the sentiment behind this day?  It doesn’t hurt, does it, that there is one day in the year dedicated to love? And I am a huge fan of love.

This year, there will be no flowers, no waffles with strawberry and whipped cream, no fancy dinner, no trip to Monterey Bay, no one to whisper sweet nothings to me, yet I feel very much loved.  I feel enclosed by love from my family and friends.  Even during my dark days, I know I am never truly alone.  If I needed help, all I’d have to do is reach out and ask.  I am a lucky girl to have so much love in my life.

One of my friends recently got engaged, she’s going to be the first one of us to walk down that aisle.  I just want to hold her in my arms and tell her how happy and excited I am for her.  And maybe cry a little.

As Valentine’s Day draws near, I’m asking all my coupled friends what their plans are.  I am a sucker for romantic gestures and tales of such.  I’m also trying to give my guy friends that gentle push so they remember to do something nice for their girlfriends.  I know, I am so smooth.

Since Freshmen year of college, I have been unable to resist partaking in some kind of gesture of love on Valentine’s Day.  I like to remind the people nearest and dearest to my heart that I am thinking of them on this day.  This year, I’m taking it easy, just a couple of Valentine’s Day cards.  I’m sending yours out today, Mom. ❤

Homesick

I didn’t realize the week leading up to Chinese New Year would be so hard.  I was not prepared for this.  I knew the day of, next Monday, might be tough, having to go to work and all. But I figured work would keep me busy.  This week though is killing me and it’s only Tuesday.

Why am I not going to SoCal this weekend for Chinese New Year? That would’ve been the smart thing to do.

J. Shih called earlier to let me know he’s flying out to Taiwan tonight to see his mom.  Chris is driving down to Irvine this weekend.  Even Joy, who I randomly bumped into yesterday, is going to L.A.  to visit her mom and sister.  I’m surrounded by friends who want to share their excitement for the upcoming holiday with me; I feel like the beggar outside of a restaurant watching the patrons eat through the window.

This is such a lack of foresight on my part.  I forgot how difficult Chinese New Year is for me because last year I spent it in Shanghai with my dad, my grandparents, my cousins.

It doesn’t help that I’m still sick.  I’ve made up my mind to not take any sick days this year but this flu is really kicking my ass.  I’ve been sick for a month straight now and I’m at the end of my patience.

If I put on my red shoes and knock the heels together three times, will that take me home?