Spring Festival has arrived once again! This year I didn’t do any traveling for the Asian New Year, mostly because of a lack of invitation to nearby places. But I have a very special relationship with the woman who watches our bikes, and she invited me to have the New Year’s Eve dinner with her and her husband, who also works in our apartment complex as a guard.

One day a couple months ago I was having some problems I needed to talk out, and our bike guard lady just happened to be the closest one nearby with a listening ear. Using the Asian I know, I told her my problems, and she gave me condolences in return. Afterward, she hugged me, which is very rare in Asia. People show affection in other ways, like putting their arm over the other person’s shoulders while walking down the street or even holding hands, but very rarely do Asian people hug. I was amazed and completely blessed that she initiated this show of emotion. Ever since then, whenever I see her (and I mean WHENEVER I see her) she freely and openly hugs me.

So she invited me to have dinner with them, and since I wasn’t traveling, I gladly accepted. It’s so wonderful to feel like you have family with which to spend the biggest holiday in Asia.

I wasn’t exactly sure when the meal was because she told me “afternoon”, so I showed up a little after 12:00 to see that she was just starting to prepare the food. She was squatting at a facet, running a knife along a long stringy piece of meat. Yes, she was cutting open the intestines of some kind of animal (I was guessing chicken based on the wet feathers on the ground at the base of the facet), cleaning out the fecal matter. I started to question whether I should change my mind and back out of the meal commitment.

I didn’t change my mind. I came back a couple hours later and hung out with the extended family members, watching reruns of previous Asian New Year shows until the food was ready. After waiting two hours, we were all sitting around the table, and I was looking for the intestines. I couldn’t recognize them, so I’m not sure if I ate them or not. I filled up on some really delicious food, though, all homemade, which is a treat that I usually only get at this time of year.

Then I announced that I was full and needed to rest, which meant that I was done eating. I stayed at the table, enjoying the conversation between the adults, or in reality, the parts of it that I could understand. I was about to excuse myself when one of the adults pulled a black chicken foot out of a pot. I watched in horror as he dropped it in my rice bowl! Now I was obligated to stay longer and very obligated to eat it. I didn’t hear a word of conversation after that. It took all my mental, physical and emotional energy to put the foot in my mouth. Gnawing on it, trying not to think about the claws, I finally managed to pull some skin and cartilage off. After I ate what I thought was enough, I thanked my guests for their generosity and headed back to my apartment, but not before getting another invitation to come back over for another meal tomorrow.

Even though I’ve lived here for a while, there are still things that catch me by surprise. I’m reminded I’m not completely Asian yet; I’m still a little in shock from this afternoon’s experiences. As I’m wrapping up this blog, the sun is going down in the city, and so starts the onslaught of fireworks. I’ve been trying to gear myself up for a good solid 6 hours or more of fireworks…I plan on going up on the rooftop to see them going off all over the city. It should be a pretty amazing sight.

Happy New Year!!!