Monday, February 11, 2008

Chinese New Year, part 4

After we shot off fireworks, we went back upstairs and the adults finished their game of Mah Jong. It was now about midnight and I didn’t know where I would sleep that night. I had been with Shawna the whole day, though, and for most of the evening she was contentedly sleeping on my lap while we played cards, so I wasn’t that worried any more. We weren’t being attacked by wild animals or falling into ditches—well, when we took Shawna for a walk late that night, she did fall into a duct that carried water to the house, but she wasn’t injured—and we were warm enough, especially with the long underwear the wife’s mom had given me that morning. I was to the point where if I really couldn’t get back for a few days, I thought it might be okay.

When everyone was done, though, the mom told me that some of the family members were going back to Chengdu, so if I really needed to, I could go with them. By this time everyone had fallen in love with Shawna, even her son who a day before was terrified of dogs, so everyone was willing to take care of her during the nights if I still wanted to stay. I actually thought about it for a few minutes, but decided that my adventure had lasted long enough, and that although I appreciated her offer, the best idea would be to go back.

I thanked them, and started thinking about all the Chinese experiences I had had in the last day. There’s a tradition of giving kids money for Chunjie, similar to how we give presents, but the agonizing of wondering what to get people. It’s called hongbao, which means “red envelopes” because of the standard containers for the money. So through the day, the relatives would give hongbao to the little kids, and I learned how you were supposed to accept it: adamantly insist that you didn’t want it. The little boy is six, so he had his technique perfected. As soon as he saw the red envelope, he would shout “I don’t want it!” and fall on the floor hanging onto his mom’s leg like someone was going to drag him away. Then the relative would whisper something to him about how they really did want him to have it, and after he shouted his politeness a few times, his mother would tell him to say thank you. He would, then would hand the money to his mom for safekeeping and go back to playing. When the mom gave me honbao, I was tempted to be as dramatic, but let only two “Bu yao” suffice.

I had also had my first experience being made fun of by a little kid in Chinese. We were playing cards, the boy wanted to lay down a fantastic move, but it wasn’t quite allowed, and he got really angry. The niece, the cousin, and I thought it was a little ridiculous, and after a few minutes of him acting up the cousin told me the name for his behavior in Chinese. I said that the closest thing we had was the word “temper tantrum,” but that it usually referred to two or three year olds. When this was translated with great amusement to the little boy, he felt insulted and had to retaliate, so he said in Chinese, “Pan Wei (me) is zero years old!”

My time with the family had finally come to an end. I said good bye, and got in the car with the cousin and brother, and we started driving. But I wasn’t home yet.


April said...

I think you should have been as dramatic resisting the money, and I'm absolutely going to start using "You're zero years old" as an insult.

Katie Lee said...

It makes me laugh--I recognize so many of these behaviors in my extended family. We get red envelopes--in Cantonese, it's "lay see"--but we don't usually reject them. My grandparents and her siblings always fight over who gets to pay for dinner, though.

Jaclyn said...

funny story.

On Monday I had dinner with Mimi, Pop Pop, Aunt Michelle, her boys, Jim, Tc and my Mom. Well I brought up that I had read your blog earlier that day. Also I said I was very surprised that you wrote about some girl named Shawna falling asleep on your lap. I said to our family I can't believe Will would write things like that for his family to read!!

Anyways, everyone starts to laugh at me. And I'm like uhh what did I do.
Here Shawna is a dog. You know it would have been nice of you to at least mention that in that blog I was so embarrassed. Haha. Here I thought you had a girl friend or something. : )