Since Lunar New Year lasts from one moon cycle to the next, I have spent the last two weeks observing rites and rituals believed to keep fortune on one's side. I've stuffed myself silly with longevity vegetable and shiitake mushroom noodles, feasted on a variety of round fruit and cake, cut a little strip of hair, wore red, and filled the house with assorted flowers and light. The best surprise came in the form of newfound relatives from my grandfather's hometown in China, near Fujian . They made a surprise visit to Cebu, went to where our old textile store used to stand and asked around. Quite charming in this Google-able age if I may say so. I look forward to meeting and getting to know them one day and understanding my grandfather's roots better. In the meantime, I will practice my Mandarin which I studied all my school life but don't speak enough.
In high school, I was sent to Taiwan for a summer language and culture course. Sadly, only a few phrases dangle along with tips on Chinese calligraphy and the art of paper cutting to go with memories of a bad DIY haircut and a puppy love. Instead of a social life in college, I had private tutorial sessions 3-4x a week for two years that ranged from tea ceremonies, belting out karaoke tunes, blanching bokchoy perfectly, watching soap operas, and Remy Martin and Jagermeister kan peis (cheers/bottoms up) in between intense practice on intonation, writing and conversational Mandarin.
I just dusted off my notes from pre-Rosetta Stone days at 老師(Teacher) Annie Lai's sprawling abode where giant porcelain jars stand like sentinels by the front door. Before Moleskines and crocodile leather notebooks invaded the 3rd World, we had simple Corona notebooks. Aside from always having a fully stocked bar, Ms. Lai made sure I knew
my body parts
as well as how to keep 'em primped and coiffed
lest I 'remain a spinster' forever :-)
some shop talk
as well as big words and a saying or two.
*please click images to enlarge
老師 Annie is a delightful Burberry clad character. The scent of her Alyssa Ashley musk wafting into the room is as unforgettable as her words of wisdom, humor and sage advice. She always said that:
- one must never ever resort to any kind of plastic surgery or you change your luck
- moisturize and use sunblock
- we all need a little fat
- take care of your hands so they won't look like sparrow feet
You know, sometimes this is all a woman needs to hear when dealing with hormonal issues. For the last three years, like clockwork, my system goes through the February doldrums. I'm testy, restless, unmotivated. I grow a separate head that resembles Medusa around this time of the year. Celebrating LNY and taking out family tchotchkes perked me up some. Despite stress in turbulent times and all, I am incredibly grateful for the love and support of family and friends, the amazing people who've touched my life and taught me a lesson or two, beautiful memories, experiences and everyday blessings.