The city was covered with a thin layer of snow early this morning. By lunch time, it all melted. And by night time it turned into black ice; one of my greatest fears. But at least there’s a chance I’ll have a White Christmas this year…a girl can dream.
I had a Cranberry White Chocolate Mocha (my parents insisted) at Starbucks the other day while waiting for my flight at the airport. Normally, I don’t step foot in Starbucks, but the cozy couches and the Christmas decorations lured me in. That was the first moment I felt homesick for America.
Around this time of year back home, I would be walking out of my way just to step in piles of dry, crinkly leaves to hear the crunch, crunch, crunch under my boots. My roommate would probably be working on her stewed beef recipe or baking something delicious with Golden Girls or Christmas music playing in the background. Our apartment would be decked out in oranges, yellows and reds in preparation for Thanksgiving. I would be brewing up a Hot Toddie with fresh apple cider from the farmer’s market…
Just writing this is making my Brooklyn-sickness stronger. This is the best time of year to be in the States, and particularly in my former neighborhood, South Park Slope, where everything inside and out just feels so homey. I miss window shopping in the cold and stepping into one of the many cozy coffee shops to warm my hands and stomach with a hot cup of coffee. I miss walking down the block to my favorite neighborhood bar (Bar 718, if you’re ever in South Slope, you should pop over for a visit–you’ll feel at home in no time) for my typical whisky-ginger and a good chat with good people. I miss the smell of apple pie, the excitement for the holidays, the decorations, and even the music. I miss my backyard.
One thing to be grateful for this holiday season, however, is that I will be spending it with my parents. I can’t remember the last time I spent Thanksgiving or Christmas with them. My mom moved back to China 6 years ago, my dad 4, but even when they were still living in the States, they always worked then. But life is about compromises, so I guess this year–and maybe the next–I will compromise the Hot Toddies, the decorations (I don’t know where to find a pumpkin around here!), the crunch, crunch, crunching, the apple pies, and the strolls in Brooklyn for time to spend with mom and dad. That’s what the holidays are all about after all–family! This winter won’t be Park Slope homey; it’ll be a different kind of homey, but that’s just as well.
Besides, I can still watch Love Actually.
There’s a Chinese tradition behind all that free lettuce (mentioned in yesterday’s post) that I learned today; when China was still very poor, lettuce was one of the few available vegetables people could eat during the wintertime. Now any kind of vegetable can grow, or be chemically produced, in the cold season but for older generations eating lettuce has become a wintertime tradition, for that’s all they had. Although, rather than calling it a tradition, I would say it is more of a habit since being restricted to lettuce wasn’t exactly by choice (though not all traditions are practiced by choice either…). Anyhow, now it makes sense to me why my neighborhood is handing out free lettuce–overproduction and contractors are just convenient excuses for keeping this tradition alive. Whatever, I’ll take it!
Another mystery I solved today was how window washers (aka Chinese Spidermen) do their job: they sit on wooden planks wound tightly to a rope which a lady at the bottom holds onto (for unknown reasons) from which they slowly descend! Brave souls; I commend you!
Something that still remains a mystery to me, however, is why there are so many old school thermoses parked by the bikes at this university, though they do add a nice touch of color to the campus.
I thought these things were “vintage” now. I’ve seen mini versions of them at stores sold along Maoist propaganda that has become part of the pop culture. It’s so hipster–Chinese style. I should stock up while I’m still young and relatively cool.
Two mysteries solved! Infinitely more to go.
Today is “Lidong,” the beginning of winter on the lunar calendar. Funny because it was mighty warm today, though the sun did go down around 5 pm.
The view at work was clear because it drizzled early this morning. Normally, my view looks like this:
Winter is lovely, but the sun goes down too early making the last stretch of work absolute torture.
For my friends who care, this is what my office looks like:
And for those same friends, can you picture me in one of those slots under the translucent lighting??! I can barely sit still in front of a TV in a cozy living room!
Lidong… yes, on Lidong Chinese people traditionally eat dumplings. But who follows traditions anymore? Instead, I came home to a MOUND of surprise.
My neighborhood was handing out free LETTUCE! Insecticide-free! Each apartment unit can carry home 2 bags. My mom and I hate turning down free things, so in the elevator we went with our share.
Why, you might ask, is our neighborhood distributing lettuce to its residents? It’s because a nearby farm yielded way more lettuce than they could sell (one gigantic head of lettuce at the market costs .90 Yuan, which is about a $0.16, so basically it’s worth nothing). More significantly, however, it’s because contractors bought the land and need to clear it for apartment complexes that will be sold at exorbitant rates.
Anyhow, this lettuce is going to last all winter long. I foresee a mountain of dumplings, endless bowls of chicken soup and maybe even kimchi (which is Korean!) in the upcoming months. Too bad I don’t have rabbits or turtles to share my treasure with.
Sleep tight, sweet lettuceheads.