Friday, February 4, 2011

Kung Hei Fat Choy

I've struggled this week with a form of writer's block. I've actually been working on a few posts but I haven't managed to finish any of them, at least not in a way I was happy with. We've got a lot going on and my head is full of the things happening out there in the big world as well as in our little world. The last few months have been great and we've had a lot of time together as a family, but it hasn't all been fun and games. Looking at the bigger picture there are many who have had a worse time of it; there has been political unrest, war, tragedy and heartbreak. Not to mention the natural disasters that recently had us glued to the TV, the flooding and cyclone that hammered Queensland weighed heavily on our minds as we worried about family and friends.

Foremost in my mind this week is my sister-in-law in hospital in Melbourne. She has been waging her own private war for two years now and we're flying to Manila on Monday to entertain her 2 year old daughter. It's always lovely to spend time with family but it stinks that it's not under different circumstances. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else at the moment but I know we'll have our work cut out for us. If I'm a little distracted and a bit slack with the blogging in the next few weeks it's because I'm suddenly in charge of two toddlers, in a foreign country, and my capacity to form sentences is compromised.

I can't complain, like I said, we've had a great start to the year but I can't help feeling like we need a do-over. Chinese New Year is the perfect opportunity to start again, again. If you've had a crappy January or you've already failed at your New Year's resolutions you can just put it all behind you and have another go at it in February. I have to admit that after three years in Hong Kong I'm still fairly ignorant when it comes to the traditions surrounding CNY, and I felt like I was missing out by not knowing more about it.  So I've spent a lot of time this week with my friend Wikipedia, researching this huge cultural festival, and I'm definitely going to embrace the holiday wholeheartedly from now on. The timing of the start of the new year is based on solar and lunar cycles and coincides with the beginning of spring; in China it's called the Spring Festival. It's steeped in tradition and superstition and there are rules and rituals for every day of the 15-day festival. The lead-up to the end of the year is a time for cleaning your home and removing all the 'bad luck' that's accumulated, literally and metaphorically. It's mostly about family and getting together to eat and give gifts - much like Christmas but on a larger scale, if you can imagine that. And instead of turkey there are lots of dumplings! There's something so organic and hopeful about the new year and the celebration of spring tying together like that; it really does feel like a clean slate, and a chance for something new to blossom.

This year, being the Year of the Rabbit, has a good vibe to it too. The Year of the Ox was about hard work, and the Year of the Tiger was a constant battle. But the Rabbit inspires fun and romance and is apparently a "placid and indulgent" year, a time to sit back and let the good times roll. The sun has been shining in Hong Kong this week, and it's warm again after the coldest January in 35 years. That fact alone is enough to make you feel positive and hopeful, given that it's normally so damn cold over the CNY weekend. Clever marketers are also cashing on the cuteness of the bunny and the abundance of chocolates in the stores and connecting CNY and Valentine's Day. It's all very sweet and romantic and, with all the love in the air, it really does feel like there are good times ahead.

So while the Chinese families around us are sitting down together and wishing for good health and prosperity, I'm thinking of the families who are now homeless after Cyclone Yasi, the parents of the young Aussie soldier killed in Afghanistan this week, the people fighting in Egypt for a better life, and all those who have experienced tragedy or hardship recently, including those in my little world, and I'm sending my share of the new year's blessings their way. I have hope that this year will be better, and I think that's a really good start. Kung Hei Fat Choi, or Happy New Year everyone!

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