My niece joined the family on July 12th, 2010. This special young lady's mother is my younger sister, which in classic Chinese culture makes me her Jiu Jiu (舅舅) -- thus the title of this blog. Here I intend to semi-regularly post reflections, thoughts, stories, and assorted whathaveyous pertaining to our trip to China, adoption in general, and (mostly) watching my niece grow up. Since the web is a very public place, I will attempt to maintain my family's privacy while telling the story... but I invite you to follow the blog and come along for the adventure!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Happy New Year of the Monkey!

Yes, yes, I know the Lunar/Chinese New Year was back in February... I'm still catching up, bear with me!

Just as they have done for several years, Lakeforest Mall in Gaithersburg hosted a huge, multi-day celebration of Chinese New Year... and just like last year, the Pipsqueak's dance class from the CCACC school performed for the crowd (February 7th). Last year her class performed a ribbon dance that was later repeated at several venues over the course of the year, but this year they were learning a more complex dance from another part of China -- it actually looks & sounds vaguely Arabic so it might be from the Uighur or another Western Chinese group, but I really don't know[1].

AJ always takes Miri to the mall early for costume change, set-up, etc. and the rest of us follow later in another car. This was a good thing last year, since I was running up to the stage literally as the girls lined up to begin their performance. This year we got there a lot earlier -- only to find Cousin E and family already holding seats for us in front of the performance area near some of our friends whose daughters were also dancing. AJ periodically appeared & disappeared as backstage preparations moved forward, but we were able to enjoy the opening lion dance and several other performances before our girls came on.

The Tai Yim Kung Fu group getting ready.
Working the crowd...
A quick personnel change mid-dance
Oh, no -- I'm being eaten by the lion! (This happens to me every 2-3 years...)
AJ feeds the hungry beast.
Great luck -- Mom caught some lettuce when the lion barfed! LOL
After a number of groups (some professional) appeared, it was finally time for our girls to take the floor and show the world what they'd learned. One added surprise was that they were a little short-handed backstage, so my sister was drafted to deliver the group's intro to the crowd! (Sorry for the blurry images; they're frames from a small Quicktime video file... and I didn't want to break AJ's "no clear photos of my daughter online!" rule.)

The girls exited to solid applause, having put on a spirited performance with only the smallest of "oopses" at any time -- all understandable, since their rehearsal schedule had been severely limited and various members of the group were missing at one time or another. This was the first time I had seen the dance in its entirety and I was struck by how complex the moves and the beat were... so a hearty "BRAVA!" to all the girls for a wonderful show!

Those costumes are kind of expensive, so there was a lot of undressing and re-dressing once the dance was complete, and the girls all came out to join the audience.  AJ and her BFFs S & C all parked themselves right in front, and we all watched a number of acts together. Several numbers were marred by serious glitches with the sound system (I could see the young guy running the sound board repeatedly reading an instruction sheet and asking people around him for help), and one was so bad that the lead singer asked the crowd for permission to start over. He received loud assent and the group proceeded to deliver an exceedingly well-done performance... with someone literally leaning over the sound guy's shoulder the entire time to ensure it all ran smoothly.

Performances or not, the kids were all soon getting restless so we all headed farther down the mall to see some of the CNY-related exhibits. There were a couple of "just plain shopping" stops along the way, so I took a few minutes to run back & watch some of the kung fu demonstrations that left me convinced there are kids out there less than 1/4 my age who could break me in half if they wanted to.

We eventually got to the storefront where the CCACC had set up an art gallery and crafts table, and I wandered around the room admiring the paintings, calligraphy and other exhibits while the kids took advantage of the crafts table to paint their own miniature parasols. I learned a few new things from an exhibit on tea (I keep forgetting that much of it is fermented!) and was happy to recognize a couple of the sites in a video presentation on different regions in Western & Southern China. A number of paper cuttings were bought and somehow we managed to keep all those paint-covered little fingers from touching any of the exhibits (or silk frocks) and were soon headed back into the mall to an Asian furniture/art/bric-a-brac store that was holding a closeout sale. Things were a little rougher there, since there was less to distract our bunch of increasingly bored youngsters; an increasingly raucous game of hide-and-seek that I was unable to stop was brought to a quick halt by a lecture from an appropriately annoyed member of the store's staff. With dinner reservations at a Chinese restaurant coming up fast on the clock, we all headed out to our cars and met up again at the restaurant.

Unfortunately, things didn't go quite as planned at the restaurant. We had hoped to be there in time for their usual afternoon dim sum offering (which is usually pretty good) but after being brusquely offered several items we didn't want from one single cart and having to order a couple of things from the regular menu, it became nearly impossible to get hold of a member of the serving staff. It didn't take too long to figure out why -- in plain view of the (increasingly annoyed) patrons of the restaurant, the staff all gathered at one end of the dining room for their own Chinese New Year celebration!  We all agreed that they were certainly allowed to celebrate all they wanted -- but should have either closed the place or at least warned the customers that service would essentially be suspended for nearly an hour while they did. (I posted my first really negative Yelp review from my iPhone.) We eventually had enough food, but none of us felt a need to stay any longer than absolutely necessary so -- after clearing up a mistake in which we were billed for food we never got -- we started rounding up the kids for our respective trips home.

While the adults were all sitting and being annoyed at the lack of service and problems with the bill, the kids had all gotten bored with all that grownup stuff and were having a grand old time nearby, pretending to be an orchestra. Chopsticks were suddenly horns, woodwinds, strings, and tympani, while one of the girls used hers, quite artistically, as a baton to lead the motley collection of instruments in all kinds of (totally imaginary) symphonic wonderment. We all took a cue from the kids and walked out the door in a good mood.

Of course, this was just the first of several CNY celebrations for the month, so you'll be reading about more soon...!

[1] Sorry, but I'm still working on finding out which region and/or ethnic minority this year's dance is from! I'll post the info when I get it.

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