Leaving just when the fun’s getting started

We’re in the middle of moving out of our apartment, getting ready for an extended stay in Canada (there’s a family wedding in Feb, and then we have this baby thing going on). It’s too bad, because Tianjin is gearing up for Chinese New Year!

Chinese New Year’s Terms for You!
Last night was 小年, the official first day of the Chinese New Year holiday season, one week before New Years. Big fireworks stands are being set up on the street corners, and you can hear stray firecrackers going off in the evening. Supermarkets are a nightmare, but not near as bad as the unbelievable line-ups for train tickets.

Since we’re leaving before Spring Festival, we went to Mr. Song’s and Mrs. Li’s last night to 拜个早年. I’m not sure how to translate that, but it means making your New Year’s visit early. We brought them a bunch of chocolate chip peanut butter cookies that Jessica baked, and some photos from when we’d spent time with them. We still don’t have a feel for all the proper social cues and stuff, but it’s so nice to at least have a little bit more of a clue. Comparing last night’s visit with our first visits make us feel better about our language progress (though we still have a looong way to go).

Giving Gifts in China
Some ways are better than others when giving gifts in China. At our language school, when students bring a few cookies or brownies or whatever for their teachers they often commit a little faux pas. Bringing two cookies wrapped in plastic wrap that are just enough for your teacher isn’t the best way to go. It looks tiny, like leftovers, and it’s not enough for her to share with her friends or co-workers. If you’re going to bring cookies for your teacher, it’s better to give her enough to share in the break room, and it needs to look good (wrapped up neatly, etc.).

We filled a colourful cookie tin with cookies and piled some on a plate that was tied up with a ribbon, and put all that in a gift bag. Mr. Song was really pleased with it, and displayed in the living room. It looks good, and there’s enough for them to share with their relatives and friends that will visit during Spring Festival, and when they share them they can say their foreign friends gave them to them.

Time for bed. If there’s time tomorrow night I’ll write about going back to the bathhouse and getting guasha‘d with some friends.

2 thoughts on “Leaving just when the fun’s getting started”

  1. Have you found that your Chinese friends typically like peanut butter? I usually discover in my travels that non-Americans could do without it, which absolutely flabbergasts me. I’ve got to have it several times each week, if not once each day!

  2. I remember a homesick American girl on a bus in Honduras eating peanut butter out of a jar with a spoon.

    There’s a sesame sauce common here that tastes a whole lot like peanut butter (foreigners sometimes think it is actually some kind of peanut butter when they first taste it). But our Chinese friends pretty much unanimously say that American food is too sweet, and it’s true that there’s way more sugar in American food. We got used to the less sugar diet, so now if we have a piece of pie or something it’s like, whoa.

    But, despite all the protesting about things being too sweet, if you put a plate of chocolate smothered brownies in front of our teachers, they’ll eat one, say it’s so sweet, and then eat like four more in the next 30 minutes.

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