Saturday, September 13, 2008

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival to You!

Zhong Qiu Jie Kwaile! And that would be Happy Mid-Autumn Festival.

Today is the second most important Chinese holiday in the year--the first being January's Lunar New Year. This holiday is all about family: coming together, feasting together, gazing upon the moon together. Today, however, my hubby took off for the airport, and masses of utterly dark clouds are masking the sun as I type. So I'm a little skeptical about the moon making an appearance in a few hours.

Still, there are so many people to celebrate in our new home. If there's one thing living abroad, both here in China and years before in Australia, has taught me, it's this: each of us can create community and family. We can find people to connect with. Our kindred spirits. Our home away from home.

So here in our first 4 weeks in China, these are the people I am grateful for:

First, there's my college BFF, Shelli, who lives ten minutes away from me. (My other ones live in SF... Kelly and Drew, where are you?!) Shel calls me every day to see how things are going. She lets me crash at her house, just minutes away from my kids' school. She tells me about all the places to go... The organic market every Friday morning from 7:30 a.m.-9:00 a.m. just a 10 minute walk away from my home.

And those places to avoid....

Second, there are the people who are taking care of us here. My husband's driver is at the top of the list. (My hubby's company won't let us drive here since the liability is so high; instead, like so many expats, he was given a driver.) Mr. Zhang is our hero. Literally. If there is one SAFE driver in all of Shanghai, he's the man.

A couple of days ago, his sister asked him to meet The Boyfriend. So I bought Mr. Zhang a little packet of French cookies to take to The Meeting of the Boyfriend. And the next day? Mr. Zhang gave me an enormous, beautifully packaged box of mooncakes. Egads! Mooncakes are hugely important here: they are symbols of your esteem for people. They tell people that you care. And that you think they have meaning in your life. This has been weighing on me. For days and days. Even before Mr. Zhang preempted me with his box o' mooncakes.

What mooncakes were worthy of Mr. Zhang who audibly gasps when I open my own door, who races out with the umbrella so not one drop of rain drips on my children's precious heads, who practices Mandarin with me even though I am probably insulting him unknowingly by using the wrong tones? So yesterday, in the middle of a typhoon-esque deluge, I sprinted through fat raindrops to get the man his mooncakes, while my hubby goodnaturedly trotted along, asked me, "Is this really necessary?"

Ummm...not necessary, but mandatory. I had to get his driver the Porsche of all mooncakes:

(Yes, Shelli told me These were The Mooncakes to get.) I would have taken a picture of the massive outpost filled with racks and racks of these mooncakes, but my camera would have drowned in the rain. But the important thing? Mission accomplished. Mr. Zhang was moved to tears.

Third, there is the family we left behind who we hope are coming to visit (hint, hint). My mom loves Buddha statues and has been eyeing them for years without buying a single one for herself. So the first thing I bought on my recent shopping expedition?
Not one, but two Buddhas for my mom's garden and meditation room. And then, there's my mother-in-law who is also an artist. I have already started stockpiling beautiful art supplies for her artwork.

Fourth, there are my new friends. Like my awesome neighbor, Pam, who took me under her wing and said, "Girl, we must take you shopping because you have nothing in your house." Shopping Pam-style is efficient because she knows exactly what she wants (the concubine seat above) and where to go (Angel & Tony's Antique Shop manufacturing site, among others).
We saw, we bargained, we bought...and a few hours later, the furniture was delivered. For free. From shop to home in three hours. Now, that's something you don't see in the states.
As cool and appealing as this cart was, I had to leave it at the store since it's just about the size of my home in Seattle.
But couldn't this could be my daughter's bedroom? Do you think?

And then there's my new peep, Francine Martin, the Shanghai Savant who knows ALL about Shanghai hotspots.She inspired me to imbibe the city--in all of its beauty and ugliness as embodied by its plethora of...mops. (More on Francine soon, I promise. Whether I continue my photomontage of mops as Francine encouraged is to be determined.)

And fifth, there are my adventurous kids and hubby. I love traveling with them, visiting new places, learning new things together. My daughter didn't have school two days ago, so we had one of our Adventure Days. First, we zipped over to the South Bund Soft-Spinning Material Market (better known as The Fabric Market) we could finish off her fantasy canopy bed. I must be getting inured to the massiveness that is China because we sailed through the multiple floors and countless stalls of fabric without completely shutting down. And with my new negotiating skills (bu xing! impossible!), I bought 20 meters of tulle for the price of two American lattes. Then it was off to the Cricket and Bird Market where my daughter in all her cute nine-year-old-ness masterfully negotiated for two pet turtles: Oogey and Yertle.
(They're in there somewhere, but don't ask me where. So much for my writerly observation skills.)

One note about this market. If mooncakes are big business once a year, then crickets are an industry year round. These aren't just pets. These are little emperors with wings and antennas. They have their own beautifully carved boxes. And these? They're plates and dishes for the bugs. I screamed (by accident) when one shop vendor thoughtfully opened up a box so that I could take a photo. I just hadn't realized he was going to shove the cricket right up to my lens. All the men laughed. I did, too. Sheepishly. And then I forgot to snap the picture and was too embarrassed to ask him to open the lid again.

And finally, I am thankful for YOU, my peeps who are reading this blog and offering me support. My writer-pals! My readergirlz. Lots of people who've lived in or are living in China. And even a reader from Uganda! Thank you.

Tonight, I'll take a nibble of one of my mooncakes from Mr. Zhang, and let the sweetness of my friend and family fill me.

1 comment:

Sherry said...

Yay for the turtle purchase! I had turtles as a young girl, but was disappointed that I couldn't share that fun with my kids, as no one sells them in the US anymore.

I'm amazed how quickly you've found "community."

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