Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Happy Chinese New Year!
It's the year of the Dragon- woo hoo. Or rather, sighhh. Because it means my age is now a multiple of 12 (whether it's 24, 36, 48 or 60 I'll let you decide, but I'll tell you that story sometime this week).
Anyway, if you're a Malaysian expatriate like me living outside of Asia, you know it can get pretty damn boring, and it gets pretty homesick too. After all, for many of us we grew up having CNY as the BIGGEST event of the year, one that's filled with all kinds of smells, sights, tastes and traditions. But if you're living in the northern hemisphere, it's cold and white and pretty much nothing else that reminds you of the festival.
And so, we're determined to have Alli experience some of this. We dressed her up in a cheongsam her uncle and aunt bought her, and put on her gold necklace Ah Kong and Ah Ma gave her, and took her to a Chinese festival in one of the local colleges. She got to see her first lion dance (good effort though it was weird to see 4 Caucasian women perform it)(wait, then again I'd bet many Malaysian men would PAY to see that).
And though she was too young to understand it, I told her of some of the traditions and things we'd do. Like:
  • Having a family dinner on the eve of CNY, then going out to the relatives' for our first angpow hits of the year
  • Going to the temple for prayers early in the morning, then coming home and getting dressed in our new New Year clothes
  • As kids, after the open-house crowds had died down (ie I had seen the girls I had crushes on), I'd head out on my BMX with my neighbourhood buddies looking for trouble. We'd have a bag of fireworks, and would look for things to blow up. One of our favourites- freshly made cow-dung. Yes, we have a fierce-looking Sikh guy who'd walk his herd of cows from one area to the other, and inevitably they'd leave a trail of dung. And so, we'd dare each other into sticking a single firecracker into it, and lit the fuse. We never ran fast enough to come home totally clean. There was always some green/black splatter on us, or our bikes. It's a wonder none of us died of E.coli poisoning!
  • After all that work, we'd be famished and head to each others' houses for snacks, drinks and the all-important gambling sessions. Yes, even parents allowed this, once a year. We'd be playing Blackjack or Cho-tai-tee, with 10-20 cents a wager. It made me feel like a cardshark. But alas, every year I lost. Even to my little brother. The lucky red Superman underwear never worked.
  • I miss the fireworks! My favourite was the dinky little Moon Travellers; mom and dad would get use a carton and my brothers and I would preciously divvy them up. They were small little things, with only a minimal pop, nothing like the Thunderclaps people eventually used. I loved the smell of the burnt gunpowder at Chinese New Year time.
  • And of course, the food. Mom and dad always had an open house, and they always catered Malay food (yes, race wasn't as big a deal then, unlike what the idiot politicians are making it to be these days). And always, we'd have rendang which was my favourite even now (despite it one year pretty damn near killing me; remind me, there's another story to be told someday), dumped on a serving of fried beehoon.
Yes, wonderful memories. My buddies and I were just reminiscing that on Whatsapp the other day. The 11 of us, spread over numerous continents and most with kids now. But those were wonderful times. Someday, I hope to show Kris and Alli what CNY is like. And someday, I'm going to show my little girl how to blow up a fresh cow dung!


Blogger edina monsoon said...

Happy Chinese New Year Vagus + family!!! Such a cute cheongsam and a lovely shade of pink. In the spirit of getting closer to my roots...I shall attempt to wear cheongsams on a more regular basis ...yes even to work. A sure way to keep the weight at the same level:)

5:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

KONG HI HUAT CHAI!!!!!!didn't know you were so naughty when you were a boy....did anyone thought it was an act of God with all those cow dung exploding and flying around??Way back when I was a kid,one new year eve,we left a pile of freshly cut grass on someone's front lawn(her compound was all cemented up). When the very 'pantang larang'landlady woke up early next morning and saw the pile of grass, she started praying and chanting...she thought it dropped from heaven!!!no kidding

10:48 PM  
Blogger vagus said...

happy new year, guys! Hope you're enjoying it

11:08 AM  

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