My First Hong Bao

During the Chinese New Year here in China people celebrate 15 days each day having a particular purpose or activity that you preform.  Throughout the New Year grandparents and parents give the children a Hong Bao.  Hong Baos are small red envelopes with money inside.  These Hong Baos are meant to give joy and good fortune to the receiver.  Well, yesterday we were invited over to the house of a family from our school who are Malaysian for a End-of-Chun-Jie party.  At the party we talked about each day of the Chun Jie celebration.  At the party our hosts gave each of the unmarried guests (it is the custom to give Hong Baos only to the unmarried) a Hong Bao.  I am constantly learning about new customs and traditions in China!  I was so excited to get my very first Hong bao this year!

Usually the Hong Bao envolope is red but this time it is pink so we called it “fen hong bao” meaning “pink treasure” where as Hong Bao means “red treasure”.


Lantern Festival

On February 28 the the Chinese people have a celebration called the lantern festival! They have many fireworks and families still visit together. It is really great but also very noisy!


Skating on a Lake!

A while ago me and my friends wen to go ice skating! The ice skating rink is actually a lake frozen up use as a skating rink.  You could chose between skating or chair skating. Chair skating is where you can get small a chair and a set of poles and you skate around on a chair! It is actually really fun! We played tag, racing, and believe it or not train on the chairs. I really enjoyed skating with my friends and can’t wait till I can chair skate again!


Lantern Festival

We’ve become friends with a Malaysian family from our church and school.   We were invited to their home for the Lantern Festival (the last big holiday during Chun Jie – Chinese New Year).  The family has two children, Boyie in Maddie’s class and Bo Wen in Jessie’s class.    During the evening Bo Wen had prepared a slide show explaining the various traditions celebrated in Asia during Chun Jie.  It was really neat to learn more.Our hostess, Mrs. Chin on the left, and one of our English teachers at TIS, Ms. Tan, on the right


One of the customs in Malaysia is to join together as a family around the table to toss this salad made up of smoked salmon, shredded carrots, radishes, cucumber, bacon, dressing, etc.  The higher one tosses the more blessing one receives.


Here’s the salad, ready to be tossed


Pouring the Dressing


Tossing the Salad


Rachel and Jessie get a few final tosses before tasting

Rachel met a new friend, a Chinese girl her age who had very good English.  They exchanged e-mail addresses and have been corresponding.


Jessie and her friends Bo Wen and Zach


Maddie and her friends, Boyie and Hannah


Pizza Order Substitution

Friday night when I ordered pizza from our favorite take-out pizza place (really the only choice we have for pizza that tastes like home),  some in the family asked if I would cut the mushrooms. We usually order one cheese and one veggie pizza (called The Garden of Eden Pizza on the menu). Just a side note, the pizza place is Korean-owned and is called Galilee Pizza. We are happy to support our fellow workers here in China. Anyway, back to the story…I asked the lady on the phone, could we take off the mushrooms and substitute a  few pepperoni instead?   She said, ” sure” and there was no extra charge. About 30 minutes later, the friendly man arrived at the door with our yummy pizza. I giggled when I opened the veggie pizza to find this…(I thought it funny that they lined the crust with pepperoni)  As usual, it tasted delicious. ..a little taste of home.


Chun Jie, Night

Last night is the loudest and most colorful night of the year.  Unlike American laws against fireworks in certain places, the Chinese people set off fireworks everywhere around the city.  Last night was new years eve for them and the city went crazy!  Because we live on the eighth floor, we can see over most of the apartment buildings around us and at twelve o’clock this morning fireworks were surrounding us.  Looking out the windows on either side of our house we could see bright, beautiful explosions for miles around.  There were some right outside of our windows, then others far out into the distance.  It was so amazing to see that many fireworks exploding all at once!  I loved watching the different kinds, for example the perfectly round red and green ones, the golden spirals that shot right up into the sky, the ones that exploded twice into tiny sprinkles that sparkled, the ones that reached up then came flowing back down like a water fall, and so on.  The noise was another thing to write home about.  It was loud enough with the windows closed but when we opened the windows it was like standing all alone in a crashing, booming night with sparkling fire bursting in front of your eyes.  The celebration on this night is definitely one that i will never forget and look forward to each year.

Megan playing with sparklers!!


Leftover firework boxes


Chun Jie, Day

Maddie standing in front of some BIG fireworrks!


Jessie returning from her mission to get a hawthorn stick 🙂


I know its a little dark, but this is a man who is about to light one of the long lines of firecrackers.


One of the places to buy firecrackers, there are stacks upon stacks for sale.


Yesterday was Chinese New year’s eve.  Chun Jie (pronounced Choon Jeeu) is by far China’s biggest holiday.  A few weeks before the awaited new year firework and fruit sellers lined the street corners.  This time of the year is equivalent to our holiday and Christmas seasons for the Chinese people.  School is let out and everybody travels back to their hometowns and families.  Everyone gets into that festive mood, they decorate with red and they buy oranges and other fruits.  Many foreigners like to leave on vacation for our two week break but I enjoy being here to see all of the festivities.  Yesterday, new years (chun jie) eve Mom, Jessie, Maddie, Megan, and I went for a walk.  Most of the stores were closed due to the holiday but fruit and fireworks sellers and larger stores were still open.  As we walked down the streets we were surrounded by the sounds of  firecrackers exploding.  Chinese people like to buy very long strips of these firecrackers, then they roll out the line and set them ablaze, popping away!  Although the crackling is very loud I love to watch the flying paper and glowing lights when they are set off. Fruit is a big part of this celebration.  Fruit sellers line  the street with their fresh oranges, apples, and colorful packages of every fruit imaginable.  The fruit is given as gifts to friends and relatives.  We’ve gotten delicious pears and clementines from some of our Malaysian friends! When we walked and perused the different fireworks and special snacks and fruit, there were few people around. Most city people have traveled back to their relatives and family in the country therefore leaving this city a little less full.  I personally love to see the overpowering red color at every door, store, and street corner, and hearing the loud popping and booming sounds of fireworks. I think this time of year is definitely the most festive and joyous.

My sisters and I are standing in front of a fruit seller.


This is a fruit called hawthorn berries covered in sweet sugar! yum…



Chinese Countryside

A few days ago our family went with another family to a school in the countryside of Tianjin. It was very interesting seeing the different ways the people live in the countryside compared to the city. When we got there we were welcomed (or you could say not welcomed) by watch dogs.  The school was very small and only about 5 rooms. The people who went to the school were in their twenties and lived at the school. Since we were pretty far away from our apartment, we stayed the night there.  It was VERY cold and had no heating!   But, the students were prepared with huge blankets so it wasn’t too bad.  Also you had go outside to get to the squatty-potty bathroom!  Although we had to get out of our comfort zones, when we were there the students and teachers were very kind and loving to us.This is where they cooked their food


This is where we slept


The fire under the stove


Me and my friend, Jason from  my 6th grade class


Out for a walk before dinner


China Day= HUGE lines!

On the last day of school before Chun Jie break we had a China day. Some people dressed up and we only had a half day of school the rest of the day we ate lunch and did Chinese activities! Last year in elementary we had to go with a group. So you didn’t exactly get to do what you wanted to do.  At the end we decided to get some Chinese traditional lollipop things with our group. There was a Huge line and when we finally got to the front of the line we ran out of time! So this year I had one goal it was to get one of those lollipops! After I ate I immediately went to the lollipop line. The line wasn’t that long but it took a while to make them. Also lots of people were holding there friends tickets as well as theirs so it took extra long. I was standing in the line for literally 1 whole hour(the only time we had)! It was frustrating but I got what I wanted and I achieved my goal!


China – The Pyromaniac Country

My first Chun Jie here in China many people told me how loud it would be on the Chinese New Year Eve.  I set my expectations pretty low knowing that sometimes a lot of fireworks to some one won’t be too impressive to another person.  At 12 ‘oh’ clock my expectations were blown away!  This year, I told myself “Last year I just came to China and was easily impressed, the fireworks are probably not as impressive as I remember.”, but Oh ho! Low and behold, from 11:30 to 12pm and after you couldn’t hear the person next to you if you didn’t shout!  Tons of firecrackers were POP POPPING and On every side of the house, whichever window you looked out had a wonderful view of  hundreds of fireworks painting the sky green, red, orange, etc.  Each one fanning out in beautiful arrangements of colors. Some would cackle at the ends and others would fall like rain when exploded, still others would create perfect circles (however that works out!)!  I felt like every family in Tianjin must be setting off fireworks!  Even now, on “Chun Jie Yi” as the Chinese call it meaning the day after the new year began, I am watching large green and red fireworks unfold in the night sky.


Here are my favorite type of fireworks; they pop and crackle when they explode.


I especially like the colors in this firework!


This is one of the many beautiful fireworks we viewed on Chun Jie Eve!