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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Happy Lunar New Year!

There's been a lot going on lately, as I usually find when the new year starts - and I'm not just talking about the coming of 2013 (though it's honestly been a while into the new year and I'm a bit ashamed I haven't update more often!) As any self respecting Asian should know, the lunar new year had recently passed, bringing on bucketloads of fortune with the coming of 4711.

I was actually a bit disappointed we hadn't been in Chinatown this past weekend to celebrate the new year.
Despite the multitudes of Asians that currently reside in our hometown, the school district refuses to have an official holiday for the occasion, or at least to call off school. It's only by sheer luck that President's Day falls on the same weekend, giving us a well-deserved three day weekend. However, in most cities and towns of mainland China and surrounding areas, kids are off for about three weeks.
In case you hadn't already heard, there was actually a visit to our middle school by a travelling dance troupe from a club in Nanjing, China. The performers were a group of amateur dancers ages 8-16, travelling as a school performance group on international tour. This was one of their many stops they made throughout the year, and it seemed as though they already knew what they were doing. The kids were adorable - their little dances were definitely something to marvel at, as well as their conversation level English. There's just something that you can't pass over about stuttering Chingrish mixed in with the adorable qualities of pre-pubescent innocence. Anyway, the press came to interview us about our part in the event. The Chinese teacher at our school, Mrs. C, had connections with several travelling performance groups from mainland and she was able to set up some pretty neat opportunities for the students to experience culture. This was the second such cultural experience, and the Chinese class was heavily involved, even putting on a school-wide talent show to welcome the new year.

The kids had been with us for about three days. Our parent-teacher groups were able to house all of them in various families throughout town, as well as provide for their food and travel needs. I had the privilege of leading around one of the younger girls - a sweet ten-year-old with the most adorable stash of Hello Kitty merchandise that you can really only find in China - for their stay. They left last Friday, after we conducted a closing ceremony consisting of a gift exchange (plenty of good-luck charms, oranges, and jade pieces), final interviews, and a heartfelt goodbye.

On the same note, our local Chinese school had been featured in the same newspaper. Yesterday was the (postponed) Chinese New Year celebration, drawing in a crowd of local townsfolk, VIP Board of Education members, local company heads, and students of all nationalities. Our school usually organizes an annual dinner party, with raffles, food, games, and a talent show that lasts from 4-6pm. This year, the nor'easter, snow storms, and other winter madness forced the hosting schools to close their buildings for the weekend of the celebration. To make matters worse, the auditorium, our customary stage for the performance, was reserved this week to make room for a Wizard of Oz musical rehearsal. They transported all of the sound systems, lighting crew, and stage crew to...the gymnasium.

Nothing more than a few bleachers greeted us, but at least the show was able to go on. As one of the performers, I came to the high school, for indeed it would be held in the morning of Saturday at our high school commons area, and helped set up the decorations the night before the performance. In a pizza-induced coma, the orchestra feverishly practiced their cantankerous melodies on ill-tuned erhus and dizis, the dance team stumbled as they tried to coordinate on a hardwood dance floor, and the little kids ran through the legs of anyone who was standing with their feet wide apart enough to glance through. In other words, a pretty productive Friday night.

Come Saturday, I was awake at about 6AM, making preparations. There was too much going on to sleep at any rate. My parents prepared the red envelopes that were given to all of the Chinese school students, made final orders for the food (because our usual take-out restaurants were receiving catering orders to nearly a dozen other Chinese New Years in the area and Papa John's pizza was being uncooperative as usual), and reviewed the announcements they'd be making before the culmination of our celebration.

I won't even go into details about the performance. Let's just say, a magic show without the fancy footwork and lighting that goes well is already a miracle in itself. And an orchestra minus surround sound whose songs are heard at the back of the changing room is pretty amazing, too. Someone had brought in a box of Munchkins, so in between acts all of the performers were on a sugar high, pretty reminiscent of the night before. I could barely keep my eyes open for the reporters as they gawked about our dragon and lion "puppets." Nice try guys, but it's for VIPs only.

To sum it all up, we came home exhausted, filled to the brim with mei fun and lo mein, and otherwise pretty satisfied. Despite putting on a performance at the last possible minute, we were able to get pretty much the same satisfying reaction from the community and I guess in the end that's what really counts. So there you have it. Chinese New Year.

(By the way, if you ever happen to go to our new year's celebration and have a few raffle tickets in hand, the red envelope raffles are probably the most lucrative. Either that or the electronics and games for the kids. They were raffling off a set of Pokemon figurines and a Hello Kitty waffle maker, which I literally pulled out my eyebrows begging, but there's no telling whether the goddess of fortune heard. Summary: my brother walked out with the Pokemon, my friend with the lil' kitty.) Anyway, have a safe and happy new year, eat lots of great food and remember to listen to your parents!

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