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!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Dancing In the Year of the Rooster

On January 29th, for the third consecutive year, the Pipsqueak and her CLAPS classmates performed a dance routine at Lakeforest Mall as part of the mall's big Chinese New Year celebration.  Each year's dance has been different, starting off with a memorable ribbon dance (Miri's ribbon was nearly three times longer than she was high) that featured  a mid-dance wardrobe malfunction that had AJ dashing in from the sidelines to save the day.  This year's performance was a fan dance... I'll get to it in a moment.

Unlike the year I'd literally come skidding sideways into a good spot for taking photos just as the girls began their routine, we arrived at the mall with plenty of time to spare -- and still barely got good seats even though the  crowd was slightly smaller than last year's. We ended up with Mom & Dad sitting while I stood behind them with good line-of-sight for my camera. There was the usual confusion as people tried climbing into vacant spots on the bleachers (with a lot of good-natured help and "oops, waits" from those already there) but after a little while everyone settled in to wait for the show. We could see AJ and some of the girls peeking around the end of the curtained "wall" that marked the backstage area, and I even got a smiley wave from the Pipsqueak when she saw me windmilling my arms in her direction.

The gentleman sitting next to Mom turned out to be the father of one of the girls, and she had an interesting conversation with him (with me kibitzing over their shoulders) about the girls' sense of self & identity as cross-cultural & interracial adoptees. It was fascinating -- and a little sad -- to hear about their experiences but the conversation was cut short by the beginning of the lion dance. (I'll be revisiting the subject of identity in future posts.)

The lion dance was performed by the same group we've seen numerous times in the past at Lakeforest and other venues, but this year's Nian was a lot less reserved than in past years. First, a child's coat lying at the bottom of the bleachers was chomped and tossed into the air a few times...

 ...and then the hungry creature began climbing into the bleachers to snack on the spectators!

The dance soon reverted to the usual chain of events, with the Nian accepting lots of hong bao from the crowd (although a few of the kids were less than thrilled to be that close to such an imposing creature).

At this point a minor crisis began unfolding backstage among Miri's group so AJ suddenly put in an appearance, dashing out to get some cosmetics and such from the bags at Mom's feet and then zooming back out of sight in a red-tinted blur.

Then things got a little strange again. (Dude, isn't it funny you don't consider your sister dashing madly in & out during a performance as "strange"...?) The highlight of the lion dance is the Nian eating, then throwing up(!), a head of lettuce or similar leafy vegetable; catching the pieces of veggie tossed from the creature's mouth will bring you luck in the new year so everyone looks forward to the event, sometimes with results similar to the scramble for a bridal bouquet among a particularly desperate group of bridesmaids & guests at a wedding. (Note: The lion dance and its equivalent in various Asian cultures is the only case I can think of where having a lion barf on you is a good thing. But I digress...)

A young girl appeared at the edge of the performance area, head of lettuce in hand, and patiently waited for the Nian to approach and take the offering. That's when this happened...

And then this happened....

Until the intrepid young snack lady made good her escape, all to the laughter & cheers of the crowd.

 Shortly after the girl "escaped" from the hungry Nian (which we have never seen behave that way!)  it developed the requisite tummyache and soon the greenery went a-flyin' into the crowd. I failed to catch any of it this year, although one chunk literally sailed past my ear close enough for me to hear the whoosh. We enjoyed the various performances that followed the lion dance, and soon could see AJ ushering the girls backstage from where they'd been watching to prepare for their own performance.

And then it was finally time for the Pipsqueak & Co. to shine in the public eye!

The performance came off without a hitch, made all the more impressive by the fact that not even once had all the girls been able to rehearse together! (Unfortunately, a couple of our cousins had been rushing to come see Miri perform for the first time, only to arrive just as the girls ran offstage -- I guess it runs in the family -- but we all enjoyed each others' company for the next hour or so.)

The girls joined the crowd for a while, and then changed out of their costumes for the rest of the day's activities.  I perused the CCACC art display set up for the event while the assorted moms got the expensive costumes carefully packed away and several of the girls totaled several adults' worth of Italian ices as a reward for their hard work. We did a little shopping en masse, losing a trickle of families along the way, and then the remaining group headed into Rockville for a spicy-hot but very good CNY dinner at the Peter Chang restaurant.

The besties on their way out of the mall.
Eventually, after a couple of "could we please have another order of that?" episodes everyone's tummies were as full as the Nian's (thankfully without any tummyaches) and we all wished each other one last "happy year of the rooster!" before heading to our respective homes....

..knowing that we'd all celebrate again the very next weekend!

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