Happy Travel Tuesday! I’ve been in Beijing for a week already. I don’t think I’ve been this cold for a lonnnng time! I’ve borrowed a coat from my mom’s friend, a sweater from my mom, and wool pants from somewhere, and I’ve literally been wearing these same few pieces of clothes every single day (which you’ll see in the pictures below). But nevermind the weather, I’m loving being back at my birth city with my favorite people. :)
And Chinese New Year proved to be a wonderful time to be back! Because everyone gets the week off of work for the holiday, we were able to spend a lot of time with family and friends. I wanted to do a photo-a-day kind of thing (a la Kerri), but I had such a hard time picking out just one photo to represent each day! So I decided to do a little mosaic thing for each day (can click on each picture to enlarge), to give you a look of how my family spent the first seven days of the Chinese New Years!
Day 1 – Arrival & CNY festival
I landed in the Beijing airport in the wee hours of the first day of Chinese New Year. My cousin picked me up and we headed to my aunt + uncle’s house in the suburbs, where everyone was staying at for a few days.
In the morning, I woke up to the greetings of my mom, grandma, aunt, and uncle. Then I tagged along with my cousin and his girlfriend to a Chinese New Year festival in the heart of Beijing city (at the Temple of Earth park). The festival was supposed to have a lot of performances, street food, and handicraft stalls… but all we saw were people, people, and more people! I thought Beijing was supposed to be emptied out during this CNY week, but it was as if the entire leftover Beijing population decided to congregate here. After fighting the crowd for an hour or so, we gave up and went to watch a movie and eat hotpot at Haidilao.
Day 2 – fun with portraits
In the morning, we first visited my grandpa‘s burial site to take care of some business before the burial date (which is today, actually). It’s a beautiful place next to the mountains. Right next to it is an attraction site (Man Shan) that we had visited a long time ago when I was a kid. So we decided to stop by on the way back.
The centerpiece of this site is the large Buddha. I remember climbing on it as a kid and have a picture somewhere of me sitting on his hand, but now it’s all fenced off and no longer climbable. Right in front of it are stone statues of the 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac, so we all found our own signs for a photo. We all about died laughing when my mom imitated a rooster crowing, complete with stance and arm movements. And at the end, we took a picture with the dragon (my grandpa’s sign) for a complete family portrait.
Day 3 – CNY festival and family dinner
This day saw the reunion of our two families (mine and my aunt’s) as we all headed to a Chinese New Year festival at the base of a mountain in the suburbs of Beijing. About half of the group (the more active half) climbed the mountain, while the other half (the grandmas and the lazy ones… ahem) stayed behind and chatted and entertained ourselves with tai-chi and yoga. Then we all had a wonderful lunch of dumplings and corn pancakes and browsed the stalls selling traditional Chinese handicrafts. As this is Year of the Monkey, the festival was monkey-themed, and we even saw a live little monkey posing for photo ops!
Then later that night, we all went out for a huge traditional Chinese New Years feast (drool-inducing post here).
Days 4-5 – back in my childhood home
Since we have all been staying at my aunt + uncle’s house so far, on the 4th day, my grandma, mom, and I moved back to my
grandpa and grandma’s house. This is where I lived until I was 6 years old when I moved to America, and since then have moved around to a lot of different apartments, and I love that my childhood home has always been a constant in my life.
These couple of days were spent just relaxing at home and helping my grandma clean up a little. We spent a lot of time looking at old photos and laughing at the poor fashion choices of the 80’s (my mom had a god awful perm) and telling stories about my grandpa.
We also went through the cupboards and found a lot of my grandma’s artwork. The last photo in the mosaic is a large painting that my grandma made for my grandpa’s 80th birthday. It features 8 cranes to symbolize 8 decades of life and 100 different 壽 (meaning “longevity/life”) to wish him a long happy life. For burial day, we are burning this painting to send it to him in his afterlife, so he can continue to hang it up in his new home. :)
Day 6 – lunch with my aunties
I always go out for a meal with my aunties – my mom’s very best friends – whenever I’m in Beijing! My mom has known most of them since her teenage years, and now four decades later, they’re still best friends.
This is one of the old pictures we dug up! This is the five of them 30+ years ago when they were in their mid-twenties!
Reunions such as this are hard to come by now since my mom lives in the States and one of the other aunties lives in Japan. But for the first time in years, everyone is back in Beijing at the same time and the group is complete! My mom was the first one out of her group of friends to have babies (and ended up being the only one to have girls!), and so I was a novelty. My aunties loved taking baby me out to play and eat. I guess we still do the same today. :)
I can’t help but wonder if I will have friends like these someday.
Day 7 – best dumplings in the city
This was a very very cold day. My mom and I met up with another one of her best friends, my auntie Qizheng, for a lunch of dumplings. Every time my mom comes back to Beijing, it has become their tradition to meet up at Xian Lao Man (馅老满), the best dumplings in the city.
This restaurant has a few locations, but only the Andingmen location (Metro Station: Andingmen) is good for dumplings. The reason why the dumplings are the best here? Apart from a mind-boggling number of filling options and the good clean flavors, they are known for having really big fillings in each dumpling. It’s really hard for a normal person to make them that big, and trust me, it makes a difference in the enjoyment factor!
So that was our past week. On the 8th day (earlier tonight as I’m writing this), the two families went out again for a dinner, this time to Beijing’s oldest roast duck restaurant (which deserves it’s own dedicated post!). As this post is being published, we are burying my grandfather’s ashes.
Maybe we have been having way too much fun in the wake of his passing. Maybe we should be mourning more instead of being out at festivals and feasts. But you know what? This is also a celebration of life and of the family that’s left. We shared stories and laughed and grew closer as a family and I know he wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
I don’t think I’ve ever done this “diary” style of post before. I actually found it kinda hard to be terse (this post ended up being pretty long). What do you think of it? Is it interesting to see what someone does everyday? Also, this one and the last post I wrote probably hold the record for fastest turn-around time ever! Should I try to blog in real-time more, even if it means less detail? Let me know what you think!
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