Gong Xi Fa Cai means 'Happiness and Prosperity' in Chinese, and this catchphrase is oft-repeated as an introduction when meeting friends and family during this time of year.
This Chinese New Year (CNY), we visited four homes and experienced some degree of both happiness and prosperity. The happiness came through being together with Lauren and seeing how much she is well-loved by everyone around us. The prosperity came as Lauren received no less than 17 'Ang Pao' or 'Hong Bao' (in Mandarin) which translates as 'red envelope/packet.' The delicious food we devoured fell under both categories!
Lauren poses with some of her ang pao
CNY began at 10pm on Saturday night as a clutch of fireworks were exploded over the field behind our house two hours before the big day.
A firework cracks open and fills the sky with colours
Our first visit was to Hendry's house where I delighted in consuming my favourite food ever in Malaysia, Nasi Dagang, of which I got through three rounds. After eating I played a little basketball with Lauren, and as you can see in the picture below, she's getting rather good at it, even if she does have a head start!
Hendry's parents run a hotel directly opposite their house. It is like a traveller's lodge, a semi-detached house wonderfully converted into a nice and comfortable homestay. The celebration was held there and we rested for a while in the living room where Lauren was obviously excited to hold her treasured ang pao!
I noticed a humorous little poster on the wall near the television, in a persuasive effort to save electricity:
Yes, I enjoyed that one. After the guests were full, a small plate of fruit and vegetables with a delicious sauce was prepared by Hendry's mum, after which the Chinese love to grab a pair of chopsticks and lift the food in the air, to mix it nicely in preparation to eat.
All enjoy the traditional food-lifting activity
Later in the afternoon we journeyed to Yuki's grandmother's house for Round Two. Lauren quickly found her preferred meal on a small table where we sat.
I have to hand it to the Chinese - they know how to eat well! My absolute favourite which I look forward to all year is the pork. It comes in squares and can be cut into smaller pieces. It is moist and absolutely divine.
You might want to wipe that ball of saliva rolling down your chin!
Lauren wasn't feeling too well at this time, she had a fever and runny nose, but she perked up when she slowly became friends with two extremely and delightfully quiet dogs. She even fed them, as can be seen below:
Lauren was our joy during these two days. We would be eating our food at the table and a party of people would be just staring at her, absorbed by how cute she is and the way she spoke so well in conversation.
My favourite dialogue went like this:
Chinese woman: "What is your name?"
Chinese woman: "What is your name?"
Lauren (looking forlorn) "I'm not well."
Chinese woman: "What's wrong with you?"
Lauren "I'm not sure."
We visited Raymond at night and had a few snacks there. He and Nina are going to China on Tuesday to savour CNY over there in Nina's home town of Qingdao.
The following day, Monday, we went to my student Orion's house where we enjoyed chatting with his father, Doekle (pronounced 'Derr-ke' I think!), from the Netherlands. I always enjoy talking with him and he told us all about the making of his house and showed me the extensive garden he has nourished by the banks of the river running beside their house. We also enjoyed food from the Kuantan Curry House of all places, which is located just below our apartment!