Tuesday, February 3, 2009 ;
4pm - 12am
We reached Z's house early because she cautioned that once it is close to dinner time, there will be a massive jam on the roads due to everyone travelling to their relatives' and parents' house for the traditional dinner similar to the American's Thanksgiving dinner or Xmas eve dinner.
The kids played together in Sof's room first. There were my boys, 2 other boys (a 5+yr old and 8 mth old baby) and Sof. ds1 busied himself with a huge Lego castle and knight set, while ds2 was engrossed in a kitchen/ cookery set.
Sof's dad prepared some traditional Swedish wine for us. We told him we don't drink, and he remarked that it is very unusual. He didn't take offence though. We did sniff the aroma of the wine (very strong spice and herb smell) and admire his cups. The alcoholic tonic is drunk very hot. There seems to be a lot of cinnamon and fennel in it too. Interesting aroma. Glad to learn more about his culture even though we don't drink.
Then I went to the kitchen to kaypoh (be a busybody). Z wouldn't let me help so I just stood there and chatted with her. Her other friend was busy with the 8mth old baby, so it was just us 2 yakking away. Doesn't her kitchen have the loveliest view? I would be very distracted if that's my kitchen. I'd spend more time looking at life pass by below than cook. haha.
She lives right in the city on a high floor, and the apartment has a superior bird's eye view all around. She was making the jiaozi for us then. She is a Beijinger and she made the jiaozi wrap herself, from scratch. Yum.
Z then announced that one special jiaozi contained a candy and whoever gets that jiaozi with the candy will have good luck for the rest of the year. Guess who got it? Sof! This is a pic of her, overjoyed to taste the candy in her mouth, and so she showed it to all of us. :-) She is so adorable.
Her dad then told us the Swedish also have something like that. They get an almond nut and remove the seed coat, leaving the bare white almond. They'll hide the almond in a rice pudding (which also white in colour). Whoever gets the almond will be married in that year. This is traditionally eaten at Xmas time. See http://preparedpantry.com/swedishricepudding.htm for the recipe.
That's the 8mth old Sam who is very curious abt Sof's new dog. Sam's parents are HKers. Dad is working for HSBC Tianjin. Their elder boy is studying at the British Intl School here. Sof met him when she was studying there. She just switched over to ds1's school this year. The 2 moms seem very close, and Sam's mom is very fun. She plays a lot of tricks on Sof. She used to be an air stewardess, and it shows. She is still svelte and beautiful.
They keep discussing the pros and cons of both schools. And they compare notes on how each school is doing now. My conclusion from hearing both of them: every school has their politics and none is perfect.
After a very sumptuous dinner where Z whipped up steamed fish, prawns, fried pumpkin cakes, we went downstairs to buy sparklers and watch others.
We have already heard many firecrackers being set off before we went down, so look at the ground! All strewn with the fall out.
Many such stalls are found everywhere and there is one right at their doorstep. The diversity is eye-popping. There are tanks, motorbikes, race cars, all made of cardboard but hiding the explosives within. All kinds of shapes, sizes and types to tempt the kids.
Z was the expert since she is the local. Sam's mom says HK prohibits it too, so Sam and his brother have not played with this before. So we let Z do the selecting and haggling.
To the right of the stall lies the big ones. All the box-like ones are fireworks. They all have little rockets on top, to be fired one by one, once lit. All the rockets are connected, so you light just once.
I took a look at the price of a mid-sized one. 228 yuan (S$40+). Wow. Cheap if you want a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Expensive if you buy many of it and keep firing them for the 15 days of the CNY and fire a few at a time too. And considering the average pay per month here is 1000-2000 yuan. H told me a fresh Uni grad at the engineering firm her hubby works at gets paid 1000+ yuan per month.
Right now, we are poor, so maybe we will buy it next year. Thanks to having to pay off all the business suppliers before CNY, and the fees for the boxes that have arrived, we are living like paupers till the next pay comes in.
The kids, happy with super long sparklers that Z and Sam's mom bought for them.
The 4 older kids playing together. Baby Sam was left with his dad in the apartment so he won't be terrified by the loud noise.
Playing with sparklers and using the sparklers to light the little different small explosives that Z bought for the kids to try.
After that, we got back to the apartment. It was freezing cold anyway and we can't stay out too long. My nose was getting numb and frosty.
We chatted for a long while. The adults. The kids watched Tom and Jerry while snacking on Swedish candy and gingerbread cookies.
Z described their summer house and vacations in Sweden and Dh and I were like, let's go this summer. Ya, just dreaming, ok? She said they can see deer and rabbits and all kinds of wildlife from the house. You wake up in the morning and hear the birds chirping and see all the teeming wildlife. And when you drive along the roads, you may have to stop your car for a long while so that all the herds of wild animals can cross safely. She related it as something she was impatient about. And she said after just 3 days, she was very very bored, cos she is a city girl. That's why they chose to live in Tianjin.
Cos actually if they lived in Sweden, they can enjoy all the benefits, which Sweden is famous for. Her hubby pays taxes in Sweden still, so she says they are the model family for Sweden. Pay all the high taxes yet don't claim any benefit.
Her hubby says it still makes sense to live in Tianjin because everything else is much cheaper than in Sweden. Food, transport etc.
After it got near midnight, the sounds of fireworks were so loud we were shouting to hear each other, so we left for home. It was easy to catch a cab still and it's still always a nice feeling for me (even though we have done it many times) when I take a cab past midnight have have no midnight charges to pay for (unlike in Singapore).
Along the way, we saw fireworks everywhere. Every house, every building. Firecrackers too.
Huge paper cuttings. Lanterns.
And back at our apartment block. Our neighbour did a good job in decorating his house! So brightly lit.
The kids slept around 2+am close to 3am. I slept at 4am I think. We made calls home to Singapore to my in laws and parents to greet them too.
Showed my mom the fireworks via skype.
Such a fun and festive atmosphere.
rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow