21 January 2009

新年快樂 ... Xīnnián kuàilè ... Happy New Year!

Known as the Spring Festival here in China, the lunar or Chinese New Year falls on January 26th this year. No matter what you call it, millions of people will be traveling home to spend this oldest and most important festival with their families.

The Spring Festival celebrates the Earth coming back to life after winter and marks the beginning of spring plowing and planting. The Chinese lunar calendar follows a 12 year cycle, with each named after an animal. The year 2009 (or 4707 in the Chinese calendar) represents the year of the ox.

It is an exciting time in China as everyone prepares to celebrate with family. People in town are busy decorating their homes with messages of peace and good fortune in the coming year ... symbols such as peach blossoms and koi are used to symbolise luck and prosperity. Many people have shopped for new clothes to wear when bringing in the new year.

On New Year's Eve, people light up their homes with red lanterns and have a special meal with their families. Special foods are served, such as jiaozi (dumplings) and jin juzi (mandarin oranges). Most people will stay up late and send up fireworks by the car-load in an attempt to scare off evil spirits. Traditionally, hong bao (red envelopes) are given out as part of the New Year's celebrations. The envelopes usually contain money and are typically given to unmarried young adults and children ... the amount contained within should always be of an even number, of course, so as not to be unlucky ... unless it contains the number 4, as the word for 4 in Chinese sounds like the word for death and would also be very unlucky!

It is a fascinating time to be here and a good chance to learn about Chinese tradition. With the week off of work, though, many expats take the chance to travel ... us included ... we'll let the cats enjoy the fireworks for us this year

16 January 2009

Meet Haibao. Haibao is the mascot of the 2010 Shanghai World Expo that takes place in ... er ... 2010. Modeled on the Chinese character ren, meaning people or a person, its name is based on si hai zhi bao, or the treasure of the four seas. Haibao can also mean the treasure of Shanghai.
Everywhere you go in Shanghai, you will see Haibao. He is our new friend ... and hero

13 January 2009

Explore. Dream. Discover.

Jump!, originally uploaded by StrudelMonkey.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~Mark Twain

11 January 2009

Tam Coc

In a couple weeks, we will welcome in the lunar new year ... saying goodbye to the Rat and hello to the Ox. From what I am told, the ox is a symbol of prosperity through hard work ... people born under this sign are diligent, pragmatic, sincere and honest ... they are driven not by desire for financial gain but rather to help others in need. It seems fitting given the state of things in the world today ... we need all of the oxen we can find. I just looked up Obama's birthday ... August 4, 1961 ... interestingly enough, Year of the Ox

07 January 2009

Blowing out the Candles

Catching Some Rays, originally uploaded by StrudelMonkey.

Another day, another "happy birthday" ...

To my wife on this 1st anniversary of your 29th birthday ... may the next 30 be as wonderful & full of adventure as the first!

06 January 2009

Happy Birthday, Little Man!

Go, little man!, originally uploaded by StrudelMonkey.

You're 3 already ... how can that be??

Rainy day, dream away

Rainy day today ... one of those days where it seemed like the sun never rose ... dark so early. This is winter in Shanghai ... no snow, but a cold rain that chills you to the bone ... Spring Festival begins soon, but it will be some time before we see leaves on the trees. Can't complain, though ... you don't have to shovel rain off the sidewalk

03 January 2009

Into the Unknown

Into the Unknown, originally uploaded by StrudelMonkey.

There seems to be so much uncertainty in the world as we head into 2009 ... global recession, conflicts in the Middle East, what will happen in the season premier of Lost, etc ... time to grab a paddle and push on into the unknown ... enjoy the ride!