the gregarious homebody

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Happy New Year!

One of the best things about my new career is learning something new every single day.  I love that.  And the fact that the things I learn are so interesting certainly helps.  I've always considered myself a pretty open-minded (though opinionated) person but working with international students has opened my mind in ways I never could have imagined.

The two portraits below were taken by Anthoni, who is graduating in May. I miss him already!  Look at him--is he not the cutest??

One culture I thought I knew pretty well from books/movies,etc. was Chinese culture. I've always loved Chinese literature.  I love the poetry of their words.   But one part that I misunderstood was that I always thought of their culture primarily as one of obedience to the state.  There's much more to it than that.  China is such a large country that, just like the US, there are subcultures just as there are so many dialects.  I think you would have to travel to every province to begin to understand it all. But one of the best parts of their culture is shared by all Chinese and something that I share with them--a love of tradition and family (friends and blood relatives).

Qin is an artist and as lovely as she is quirky.  Those glasses have no lenses but they look cool!

Filial piety is an important part of that.  Sometimes, in books and movies, the respect for elders can seem binding and restraining, but I've seen the other side of it in these students--a genuine love (and like!) of their parents and a desire to make them proud.  It's not something I consciously thought about when I was their age.  I wanted my parents to be proud, sure, but mostly I was all about me me me.  The balance can be delicate between making themselves happy and their parents proud but at its heart it is, for lack of a better word, very very nice to see.

Chenkai had the nerve to go back to China after getting his MBA because he didn't want his mother to miss him too much.  I miss making him blush by telling him about his awesomeness.

And the food!  I love the symbolism of almost everything they eat and the attention to detail in a simple dish.  HH would love to eat Chinese food every night but what is served to us Americans, so I've learned, is a bastardized version of the authentic dishes served in China.  When I asked what the difference was between what we have and "real" Chinese, my friend Chenkai said "Sugar.  Everything you eat is so sweet." And I get that.  As I get older, I'm finding I like things less sweet and more savory or tangy.  I can't wait to go to China to taste the difference. Until then, I'll just have to make my own.  Here's what I made for our Chinese New Year dinner--a new tradition!

Back to front:  Noodles for long life, spring rolls for family reunion, and crab dumplings for wealth.  (Edamame was there because we like them) 
Tangerines for luck
Almond cookies for a sweet life


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