Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Dumpling Fest

In addition to all the trip planning we did this past weekend, I spent Sunday in a bit of Chinese immersion.

First, I had lunch at a neighbor's house.  She and her husband were performers with us at our other neighbor's church's Chinese New Year's celebration.  She travels to China very frequently for work.  Her husband is ... eccentric.  He's really nice and he plays bongos, but he's just so unlike many of my other friends.  Let's just say I could never imagine him going to law school.  I think that's a good thing.  Well, she decided to host us all in honor of the Dragon Boat Festival.  Our neighbor who is actually Taiwanese had her cousin visiting, so the cousin and our China-traveler neighbor went shopping at a Chinese market, and bought the fixings for dumplings.  They also bought these little packages of stuffing (red bean paste in some, seaweed in others, mushrooms in others) wrapped in sticky rice, wrapped in bamboo.  The dumplings were homemade and delicious.  They made a bunch of vegetarian ones just for me. 

Fruit skewers that I made to contribute (and the crystal bowl I left at my neighbor's, ugh, it was my grandma's and I hope she's careful with it):

I learned a little about the Dragon Boat Festival, which is actually celebrated today.  Our neighbor said it's one of three main festivals (New Year's, Dragon Boat, and Mid-Autumn or Half-Moon in October).  端午节 is how it's called in Chinese.  Next year it will be on June 20.  The holiday's backstory is that a cadet was banished for opposing a new alliance.  While banished, Qu Yuan wrote lots of poetry, and many years later, he was captured and committed suicide by drowning in a river.  The local people admired him for his poetry so they raced their dragon boats into the river to try to save him or to save his body.  They couldn't find him or his body, so they dropped balls of sticky rice into the river so the fish would eat them instead of the body.  I must say, if the drops of sticky rice were filled with red bean paste and tasted like the one I had for dessert on Sunday, lucky fish.

You can see the bamboo rice packages of sticky rice as the top dish in this picture: 

From the dumpling lunch, I went straight to Chinese class. My second class.

Chinese class was different -- I was the only student to show up, so I got a private lesson! When I showed up for the first class, it turned out they were on lesson 10. Ugh. Fortunately, I remembered a fair amount from my studies before our trip there in 2012, so I was able to limp along. But this past weekend, since it was just me, we did lesson 1. Basic introductions, etc., which was great.

The instructor spends part of class going over a lesson in the book, which is usually about 10 lines of dialogue on a given subject. We spend time doing pronounciation, vocabulary, and a bit of the roots in some of the written characters. That seems to take 60-90 minutes. And then for the rest of class, another 60 or so minutes, we learn about something more conversational -- sometimes with writing. For example, we learned how to say i-phone. Since it is a loan word, it sounds pretty much like i-phone (a bit more like i-fung). But we got to learn about the written characters, which I loved. I-phone is comprised of two characters, one for each sound. I, or ai, which means love. I knew that one since I often say that to my husband as "I love you" (wo ai ni) was one of my first Chinese phrases, though it did not prove useful in China country. Anyway, the second part of i-phone is fung, which means crazy or insane. And when we learned about the written character for fung, it has two parts -- one that means disease or illness, and inside of that, wind (the blowing weather kind, not like winding a watch). And then the lightbulb went off for me (about a millisecond before he espressly explained it) -- a crazy or insane person is like someone with a disease of having wind in their heads. Oh I love it!

Among the words I was happy to learn:
husband (3 forms: my mister, my old man, and my husband)
younger brother
left, right (and how to march, left, left, left, right, left, which I loved and practiced with my old man!)
to want
to like
help/rescue in urgent life-threatening sense
help in a non-urgent, I dropped a box or this is heavy sense


  1. I miss having Zongzi! My mom says they have a bunch in Taipei so my brother and sister will get to enjoy them this summer.

    Looks like a ton of fun :)

  2. Homemade dumpling feast sounds amazing. One of my favorite types of food, never been fortunate enough to have homemade, always from a restaurant.

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  4. i would love to learn vietnamese...being in texas, there is a fairly large vietnamese community and it would actually come in handy...plus i love listening to them speak it

  5. The skewers look beautiful in that bowl. The dumplings look so yummy, too! I love how immersed you get in the things you're interested in. One of your best qualities, I'd have to say. (And the reason I think we'd be fast friends in person, too).