There are a few things that are not allowed in China.
Facebook. Google. Honey-Boo-Boo. And in our home?
This freak of nature fruit looks like something from an old
sci fi movie.
The venus fly trap fruit opens up to reveal creamy albino pods.
Inside the slimy center of each pod is a large almond shape pit.
But the real mystery is the smell. Durian would be the kid in your class with the
Body Odor problem, forever making it
hard to make friends. It’s uber pungent, like papaya, onion or a fart in an small elevator.
Nothing is worse than over-ripe durian. Beware of buying
it pre-packaged from street vendors on a hot sunny day. If it’s wrapped under a
few layers of cellophane, it was for a good reason.
But I took a liking to durian.
Jeff will allow it in the house, or actually,
on our balcony.
But only on a very windy day..
After three years living here, I finally ventured to the Minority Village. It’s Kunming’s
Disney-like park that contains reproductions of homes of the various ethnic groups scattered around Yunnan
Province, with one big difference:
Minority Village had western style toilets.
The the most popular minority at Minority village was me. Stop staring, already!
This lady had to call and tell her friends that she
saw a Meiguoren (an American)
This guy would call his friends if he could get up.
I learned about all of the minority groups in Yunnan, like the Mongolians. They are the people group that they ran away with the circus.
But instead of performing tricks, they put on a cooking show.
The chickens weren’t so happy about the concessions.The Miao people go to church.
Their communion wine is a bit stronger than grape juice.
You can also take in some of the unique ethnic apparel of
China at Minority Village, including this plaid squirt, striped sock combo, a common look for the young fashion-challenged school girl.
Or the bootleg designer bag with the traditional ethnic outfit. Fashion no-no.
This reminded me of Halsted Street in Chicago.
The admission to Minority Village during Chinese New Year’s week was 65
RMB, or about $10.
The best part is, you can walk for hours without fear of getting hit by a
However, you could get trampled by an elephant.
Or a rickshaw.
Or another rickshaw.
What is New
Years like in China?
video by ten hours.
China ushered in the year of the Snake. The celebration started around dusk and
fireworks went off non-stop til about 3 am, purchased at stands like this
At six, the firecrackers began. It is customary for the Chinese to set
off some firecrackers at their doorstep to keep away evil spirits.
off a few car alarms.
It’s also a
day for everyone to dress up in red and black and hang out at Green Lake Park.
I didn’t dare enter the labyrinth of people, vendors and gardens. Instead, I
watched the human parade from the outside.
this elderly woman’s shoes. Ouch!
Kids would try
their luck hooking a gold fish in the Kunming’s City Center. Good luck for the kid, bad luck for the fish.
Chinese New Year customs include spreading pine needles on your floor to
promise a year of evergreen, whatever that means. Also, if you were born in the year of the Snake,
you’re supposed to wear red underwear all year long.
will give you good luck or a very bad rash.
would touch the Good Luck “Fu” sign hanging on the city center’s doorway.
Tibetans have a tradition of making jiaozi (homemade dumplings) and hiding a
nugget of cow dung in one of them.
If you find
it, it’s supposed to mean good luck.
what the lucky guy gets, I’d don’t want to know what’s in the rest.
One thing I learned living in China. Avoid going to Walmart
or Carrefour the week prior to New Years. Every person who is not at the
airport or train station is packed in the aisles.
I decided to brave Carrefour, a French superstore chain in
Kunming, and give you a peep of what the store is like.
The floor plan isn’t that much different than a Krogers or
Albertsons. You have your end aisle displays, free sample ladies, the seasonal
items and a mountain of Budweiser. What is different is the meat section. You
have your choice of shriveled chickens and dried yak wieners or, you can pick a
handful from the “blood and guts” pile.
Yes, I spelled wieners incorrectly on the video.
Just consider it part of the Chenglish experience.
There is also a flipping fish section, a huge display of
dried seeds, dried fruits and of course, tea.
While the video captures the sights, it can’t record the
unique smells of a Chinese grocer, even Wal-mart or Carrefour.
It’s a fragrant mix of dried sea creatures, durian and
overly ripe shoppers.
Also, count how many westerners you see.
Today might be Superbowl Sunday in America but in China
it’s the Little New Years. It’s the Sunday before Chinese New Year or Chūnjié
春节. This massive celebration is full
of firecrackers, food and traditions.
Some of those traditions start today.
It is customary for Chinese to so spring cleaning today, get their haur cut
(except for that long one that dangles from their lucky mole) and to offer
sweets to the Kitchen Gods.
Yes, Kitchen Gods.
Traditionally, families offer this god a bowl of sweet sticky
rice or candy as a way to say “thank you”.
But if you ever tasted Chinese candy, you could see why I
opted to make home-made strawberry jam for this Domestic Deity instead. Yunnan has the best
strawberries this side of Berrien County, Michigan. I bought a kilo for about
three American dollars at the local market near our home in Kunming.
And along with appeasing the Kitchen God, the jam made Jeff
quite happy as well.
Now, you think the Kitchen God would
be assigned by a Chinese Betty Crocker or someone from the cooking channel. Not
so. According to Chinese tradition, this god was assigned by Yu Huang, the emperor of heaven.
Yu will watch
our home throughout the year, making sure that the parasites that invade our
intestines are happy ones.
Another tradition is to eat long noodles, which symbolize a long life.
And to eat Round oranges, which are a sign of completeness.
But what did we eat?
Tacos. Which is a sign that Jeff brought back way too many corn tortillas from Las Golondrinas at Christmas.
F.U. means good luck and happiness in China, unlike
what it means in America.
The other tradition is that everybody head to Carrefour to
stock up for the holiday.
I mean everybody.
Chinese New Year kicks off on New Years Eve, Saturday,
February 9th and will go until the 24th. 2013 is the year
of the snake.