Sunday, February 20, 2011

Family Road Trip

My dad took the girls and me to the airport. For the first time, I took three little girls alone on the plane. We flew non-stop to Miami. Yuni was there at the airport to meet us. We stayed in the home of one of Yuni’s customers. It was all fixed up, but they were still in their alternate housing, so we had a whole house to ourselves. Even though we were in Miami six months after the hurricane, the streets were still piled high with debris. Some of the houses in the cul-de-sac were inhabited, some were partly repaired, and others were still completely ruined.

We spent a day or two in Miami meeting the people whose houses Yuni had helped repair and visiting the places he had scoped out during his time there. He had been working six days every week and had not really done any sightseeing, so he only knew how to take us to the beach. He had a van and we headed north on our first family road trip.

We visited friends in Orlando and took the kids to Disney World. Then we visited Lynne in Atlanta where we saw Stone Mountain and the Coca Cola bottling plant. We went to up to DC where we visited our friends from church, Cousin Brian’s family, and the pandas at the National Zoo. The twins turned five while we were in DC, and Cousin Brian took us all to Chuck E. Cheese’s for a party. It created a dangerous precedent.

From DC we went north to Philadelphia where we met my mother’s cousins. They had a parrot named DB (Dumb Bird) that had the run of the house. The kids were entranced. We also visited Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, but I think the parrot was more interesting to the children. From Philly we headed up to Connecticut to visit my brother Tom. He took us to Mystic Seaport. It is a living history museum with people in period costume working and doing the normal activities of people in a seaport around the time of the American Revolution. The girls thoroughly enjoyed it.

On the way back, we went to a number of other living history museums. There was one in Virginia with a number of different colonial farmhouses, each in the style of immigrants from different countries. We also went to Williamsburg. We stayed with friends of friends from church. They homeschooled their children, and their son played the piano and harpsichord. The night we arrived he was giving a harpsichord concert in one of the halls in Williamsburg. We all attended. It was fascinating. We spent another two days there, and every evening, I had long conversations with the mother about homeschooling. It seemed that it could be a feasible option, especially if there were resources in the community that gave the kids opportunities for enrichment. The second day we were touring Williamsburg, the daughter of our hosts was in a sewing circle in one of the mansions. The girls were so excited to be in on the secret.

When we got back down to Miami, we did more sightseeing based on my guide books. We went to Sea World and the Everglades. The highlight of the Everglades was an airboat ride where the guide fed marshmallows to the alligators. I expect that the alligators in the Everglades all have rotted teeth.

We were on the road a little more than a week. The girls and I went back to Seattle first, while Yuni finished up a job or two before coming back himself. Upon his return he began to set up his own business. Business was quite slow. The first month he had one half-day job and earned less than $100. Of course, we had spent what he thought was surplus on our great trip. I continued with my translation and took on more students. By the next month, more work came in and things got better and better, but we had a tense time of it for about six weeks.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Happy Year of the Metal Rabbit

Today is Chinese New Year’s Eve. In less than two hours, it will be the Year of the Metal Rabbit. The Chinese horoscope says that the year of the rabbit is a welcome respite after the tribulations of last year’s Year of the Tiger. I have also read that because this year is a Metal Rabbit, it carries a little bit more of a kick than an ordinary year of the rabbit.

This lunar year begins tomorrow, February 3, and ends January 22, 2012. Since the new year falls before February 4, it is considered a lucky year for romance and marriage. It is also a good year for endurance and creativity. The rabbit energy likes comfort and serenity in its surroundings. The metal energy implies courage to face the changes in the world around you. And rabbit years are supposed to be good for healing. They are also supposed to be relaxed and more easy-going than other years. It may be a year to forget the rules!!

People who are born in the year of the rabbit are supposed to have temperaments like rabbits. They are serene and easy-going. They are peaceable, sensitive, and creative. They like to be around other people, but they do not like conflict. They love their homes, and their homes are usually well-kept and nicely decorated. My mother is a rabbit, and this description seems to fit her.

In Chinese mythology, the Rabbit is related to the moon. Some Chinese see a hare in the moon with the elixir of immortality in his hands. The moon represents the power of Yin, which is dark, secret, and passive. People born in the year of the rabbit tend to be lucky naturally. Their business deals tend to go well without much effort. Rabbit years are supposed to be lucky for pretty much everyone, as the luck of the moon and the rabbit rub off on all. So many Chinese horoscopes warn people not to get too lax in the year of the rabbit.

On New Year’s Eve, Chinese tradition says that each household should finish their spring cleaning before the evening meal. Everyone in the family puts on new clothes before dinner—preferably bright red clothes. They all eat together in the biggest family get-together of the year. Dinner consists of many special dishes like dried meat, sausages, different kinds of rice cakes, and always there is fish. Everyone eats a little of the fish, but there has to be fish left over at the end of the meal. This means that the family will be prosperous and will have abundance to spare at the end of the year. After dinner, unmarried people get red envelopes of money from the married people. Once you are married, you are expected to grow up and contribute. Before you are married, you can relax and enjoy the bounty of the family. After you get old and your children are married, they give you red envelopes, too.

And everyone says: 恭喜發財,紅包拿來! Then you get a red envelope like the one here.