What foods did they make for New Year?
饺子 （Jiaozi) Boiled dumplings filled with pork, mushrooms, and nuts.
They really were the best dumplings I have EVER had. We ate these New Years morning for breakfast, steaming hot, a huge bowl full. And I had an even bigger bowl of them on the morning I left, because her mom found out I liked them so much.
汤圆 （Tangyuan） Sweet rice flour dumplings filled with peanuts, sesame seeds and sugar.
Her dad made these. We ate them New Years Eve while watching the CCTV Spring Festival Gala. Below is a picture of the filling before it’s lightly tossed in rice flour and boiled. Yum! When I came back to Harbin, I bought some frozen ones, but they’re not as good.
馒头 (Mantou) Lots of steamed buns! Whenever one of their younger relatives brought a gift (a large box of milk or breakfast biscuits or cooking oil) they’d return the gift with a large bag of steamed buns. Some of the buns had red beans in them. All of them were handmade by my friend and her mom.
New Years Eve Dinner was big spread of about 7 or 8 dishes including: pigs ear, preserved yellow eggs, pork with garlic scapes, pickled lotus root, potato and tomato stir fry, another pork dish. In addition to the dishes we also had two kinds of “main food“ 主食 steamed buns and rice porridge. There’s also a fish on the table in this picture, but it disappeared when we actually sat down to eat.
What did her parents think of you? Did they speak any English?
It’s hard to know what her parent’s thought of me because not only did they not speak a word of English, but their native dialect of Chinese was mostly unintelligible to me. Most of the time in Harbin, I can understand 60-80% of what’s being said around me (depending of if I know the context), but down in that area of Henan I could only get about 10-40%. I did learn a few words like “le” is “er” for “two” and well, that’s all I remember. Both of her parents were really patient with me, though, and before I left I was able to have conversations with each of them without assistance from my friend. I hope they liked me!
What kinds of things did you do there?
New Years Eve was spent as most of China spends it: watching fireworks be set off on the street (her dad set off firecrackers and then the neighbors/relatives had some real big fireworks) and watching the CCTV Spring Festival Gala. (My favorite part was the funny sketch about college graduates selling potatoes…I hope this is not the future for my students).
New Years Day my friend, her parents and I took at trip to a local Buddhist mountain and climbed to the top with hordes of people. I never expected to see a temple so packed in this country. Her mother went into each pavilion to burn incense or offer something while the rest of us waited outside and took pictures.
The other days I spent there were passed going around her hometown, visiting her relative’s houses, a bamboo garden, and the downtown shopping area. And one day my friend and I went to a larger city about 30 minutes away to visit the Henan Jiaozuo Film and Television City where they film those TV series like “Three Kingdoms” or other period pieces.
All in all, we really didn’t “do” much, but it was really relaxing just to sit next to the coal stove, eat sunflower seeds, chat, and observe life in “small town” China.