Chinese New Year


Yesterday, we circulated back to Lao Lao’s side of the family. This time, meeting with her and her two younger sisters just inside of the South Fifth Ring Road. We had a great time at San Yi Lao Lao’s house, and then headed off to an absolutely huge restaurant for lunch.

One of the main dishes was doufu (mostly known in the West by the Japanese name of tofu). When the waitress brought the doufu out, it was covered in four flaps of cloth. She gingerly pealed back each flap, scooped out a small piece with a spoon, and laid it on top of the dish.

btw, San Yi Lao Lao means the third daughter born to Shanshan’s maternal great-grandmother. Which is to say, the youngest of Shanshan’s maternal grandmother’s two sisters. Yep, this time of year also means trying to keep the names in the family hierarchy straight.

To make things more fun, in relation to Chong Chong, she’d be San Yi Lao Zu. Enough.

Home for the Holiday

The couple that run our neighborhood bodega have gone home for the Spring Festival holiday. This is a migration that they, and perhaps half of the 20 million people who reside in Beijing, undertake each year.

There is a palpable change to the city during this time. In many respects, it slows down… becomes more like the city many older Beijing people remember from their youth. Areas which are prone to traffic congestion during the rest of the year are suddenly wide open.  Usually crowded spaces can be quite barren.

Well, with exceptions like the Temple of Earth, which I visited once during this period long ago, and vowed never to do so again.

Since most of the family lives in Beijing, we spend the holiday bustling around to lunches and dinners with them. Tonight, with the fireworks and firecrackers that mark the start of the new lunar year, is a nice lull for us. Chong Chong is asleep (at least until around midnight), and the animals are settled-in (except for Leo,  who will be my shadow tonight, as has been for every lunar new year he’s had in Beijing).

Tomorrow, our trek inside of the north capital of the middle kingdom begins…

February 2nd: National Haircut Day

Last Sunday, February 2nd, was what might be called National Haircut Day here in the Middle Kingdom. And, of course, Chong Chong joined with the masses and had his first haircut on this very auspicious day.

Folks in China uses both Lunar and Gregorian calendars. A very simple illustration of this is that a month ago we celebrated Chinese New Year 2014.

In Mandarin, if you want to refer to the first month of the year, it is called  “one month”. Likewise through to the final month, which is “12 month”. Pretty straightforward, and applicable to either calendar system.

The fun comes when this is translated into English. Instead of saying the “one month of the Lunar calendar”, they say “January of the Lunar Calendar” or just January, with which January it really is being discernible by context.

Now, it is considered unlucky (as in placing a curse on your mother’s brothers) to get your haircut during the first month (January) of the lunar new year. And, even though many folks don’t believe that old uncle Sigmund will fall over and croak, they’d rather not take the chance. So, folks who work in hair salons that actually cut hair usually take an extended holiday for the Spring Festival.

Which brings us back to last Saturday, February 2nd, when the ban was officially lifted, and one could once again seek the services of a barber.

With that out of the way, the shot above is Lao Lao holding Chong Chong in preparation for his grooming.

I started with the clippers. The blur of my right arm, unfortunately, is more a product of me shaking than the speed of the shutter. Chong Chong was moving as well. We all quickly decided it’d be best if I held Chong Chong and the wife did the cutting, so…

With Lao Ye (and Leo Shu Shu) looking on, the cutting commenced, and was finished in no time.

Top view.

Front view.

That is all.

Red Lantern with Snow

It snowed yesterday. Just a light dusting, but still nice. It was strange to hear the sound of firecrackers (and loud booms of bigger stock) amidst the landscape… but, one must chase away the evil spirits during Spring Festival.

Although yesterday was a workday, many people still haven’t returned from their hometowns… which was a good thing since even this little amount of snow can play absolute havoc with the traffic.

Today is “converted” into a workday. Seven years here, and I still haven’t used to the swapping that happens in order to make holidays longer. (There is one less swap this year then last year… I’m hoping this is a sign of a downward trend.)

I went back to my D300/14 mm for the above shot. Such a great combination for doing photography in close spaces, or when you’re shooting from the hip and want to get as much of the subject in frame as possible.