So it’s Chinese New Year once again, this time the Year of the Rabbit (my brother’s year by the way). Apparently the bunny year will go against its name and be all all conflict-ridden, especially for those born in a rabbit year:
In feng shui lore, people entering a year whose sign is the same as their birth sign are considered to be “in conflict” and may encounter bad luck.
Be careful, bro! You too Angelina and Brad, both rabbits, which means they’re 12 years apart(!), which means, holy shit, Brad’s almost 50(?!?!).
Anyway, we non-Brangelina folk don’t have any plans today. I’m feeling a bit under the weather so I’ll probably just laze around at home. MB has some sort of industry-related party tonight. But this weekend we’ll head over to our new favorite Chinese place and gorge ourselves on dumplings.
The last time it was a rabbit year I was in China. I can’t believe it’s been 12 years since then. Everything still feels so fresh. But at the same time I know a lot has changed.
SB and ES had come to visit me then, and we stupidly picked Lunar New Year’s Eve, the heaviest travel day in China, to fly from Beijing to Xi’An. It was complete insanity. Imagine Penn Station and JFK on the day before Thanksgiving, and multiply that by a hundred. On top of that, I had a shit ton of stuff that kept falling off my luggage cart.
Then the surly ticket agent guy informed us that while we had tickets, we didn’t have seats because we were supposed to call to reserve them beforehand. Sure, that makes sense! We were at a loss till this random guy literally jumped out of the crowd to help us. My bags had fallen again, and as he was helping me, he asked, “Where are you going?”
“Xi’An,” I said, then told him what happened.
Then for no reason at all, he ran around for the next hour, trying to get us seats on a plane. I don’t know who he was, if he was a government or airport employee. I only knew that he was from Shanghai and kept flashing some sort of ID.
Eventually somehow he was able to help us find seats. At first they thought we’d have to travel separately, on account of all my crap. It seemed logical that I should be the one since I knew the language, but then I thought it wasn’t a good idea to leave two who didn’t speak Chinese. The blind leading the blind, basically.
SB very bravely volunteered to go by herself, but then, thankfully, in the end we didn’t have to. Somehow they were able to find us, not just three seats, but three in a row.
“I have to catch my flight now,” the young man said.
“Of course,” I said. “Thank you so much. We were so much trouble.” His friend, who stood nearby glowering at us the whole time, definitely thought so.
“Mei shi,” answered the young man. No problem. He waved, and was gone.
Once we were on the plane, we breathed a huge sigh of relief.
Getting to Xi’An and then our hotel were totally anti-climactic after that. The airport was dead, and the bus ride incredibly peaceful. I remember the guide’s murmuring soft voice as she told us about the passing countryside, pointing out the gravestones in the farmland, as farmers like to be buried in their own fields.
By the time we got to our (gorgeous) hotel, we were starving. I asked the concierge for a restaurant recommendation, and of course he pointed us to some crummy place that served pseudo-xi can, or Western fare. We were in China on New Year’s Eve – why would we want a burger, and a terrible one at that? Then we spotted a Chinese place across the road, and took a chance.
It was one of the best chances we ever took. The restaurant was empty, but they were open. The owner was playing the piano, but when we walked in, he stopped immediately and came over to personally take our orders.
To this day, I still remember this meal. Fried rice, stir-fried broccoli, something the owner called snow fish, and a free platter of dumplings, all for 88 RMB, about $11 American. You can’t beat that!
I really miss my mom’s dumplings. Hopefully the ones we have this weekend will be at least half as good.