Tag Archives: year of the snake

Looking back at 2013

2 Jan

I set three goals a year ago for 2013 – do you remember what they were?

It seems like a very long time ago that I set those goals.  The last year, 2013 – or the year of the snake – has been an exciting one.  On a personal level (our weddings in China and the US and celebrating our first wedding anniverary), a professional level (starting a career at a new organization), a physical level (becoming a regular at my yoga studio) and at a friend level (lots of people moving and coming and visiting) – it was a great year.

As I look back, I will focus on the positives and the negatives will slowly slide away.  It’s the only way that you continue forward.  I am lucky that my blog documents many of those memories.  If you have favorites – let me know!

My specific goals were that I wanted a new haircut, to do another demonstration in yoga class and to visit another two countries.  By those measures (and others) – I had a killer year!

My hair, as I joked previously is now past my shoulders and long enough to braid and twist or fuss and leave down.  I never would have guessed that I would have continued to grow it out instead of chop it off.  At this point it will stay long for a while – at least until the cold weather is over.  I haven’t had hair this long since college.


Yoga is going well.  I went to class over 100 times in 2013 and did several demonstrations.  My core and arms are stronger and I have even done a couple of assisted handstands.  When I do yoga I feel better, more focused and more flexible.

And travel wise – you’ve been along on the trips with me.  I went to Cambodia at the beginning of the year…

Framed by an intricate carving

Framed by an intricate carving

Then Taiwan with my colleagues…

Ready to explore!

Ready to explore!

And Japan with my best friend from college.

I like the red colored barrels.

I like the red colored barrels.

Then later we went on our belated honeymoon to Greece

We made an effort this trip to get more photos together.

We made an effort this trip to get more photos together.

and finally I had my work trip to Dubai.


That was five new countries in one year.


The year of the horse will be starting in a month – What goals should I set?  Any predictions for what surprises will be in store?  I have a feeling it will be a great year.


The end of Chinese New Year – Yuanxiaojie

26 Feb

Two weeks after the official Chinese New Year’s eve is the end of spring festival – Yuanxiaojie.  This year Yuanxiaojie fell on a Sunday, so I didn’t have to work.  The moon is full and the tradition locally is to eat “tang yuan” which roughly translates into soup balls.

The moon on my walk home on Yuanxiaojie - even visible among the bright lights of Shanghai

The moon on my walk home on Yuanxiaojie – even visible among the bright lights of Shanghai

The translation however doesn’t do the actual food justice.  A tang yuan can be sweet or savory with different fillings included inside – my favorite is black sesame and peanut, but there are lots of options including different types of meatballs, chestnut, green tea flavor, taro, coconut…  It looks like a little moon nestled in your bowl before you bite into them to discover the flavor.

Frozen tang yuan - before cooking

Frozen tang yuan – before cooking

A bowl of tang yuan before I ate them :-)

A bowl of tang yuan before I ate them 🙂

This time of year they are on special at the supermarket and tang yuan shops pop up where people can get fresh ones made as well.  One year a vendor that I work with gave me a couple of packages for free.  Ours this year were left by Li’s mom that she hand made before she headed back after celebrating the festival and were a sweet mixture with goji berries which I hadn’t had before.   To celebrate we boiled some up and watched the fireworks.

The year of the snake is starting well – and having tang yuan makes it even sweeter.  One of my friends sent me a weixin with holiday wishes which had an animation of a tang yuan turning into a small snake which made me smile.

Have you noticed any traditions from other countries that you have adapted into your day to day life?  Sometimes the small holidays are the easiest to absorb and make your own.

Decorating the door

12 Feb
Our door - ready to welcome the new year!

Our door – ready to welcome the new year!

One of the traditions for the new year in China is decorating the door with words of good luck and fortune for the upcoming year.  The piece of paper on the sides are called “chun lian” (春联) which roughly translates into “communication with the spring” and the piece on the top is “he nian men tou” (贺年门头)which is kind of like “connecting the years at the top of the door.”

In traditional times you would paste it on the outside door and then it would slowly over the course of the year come off because it was exposed to the weather.  Since we live in an apartment I expect that we will need to remove it ourselves sometime in the summer when it is obvious that the beginning of the year is over.

The sayings that are written on each piece have special meaning and I have to confess that they are beyond my ability for Chinese translation.  This year that was one of Li’s jobs to choose the saying that will lead us into the new year.  I do know that the piece on top of the door says “万事如意“ which means literally 10,000 good things.  That seems like a good New Year’s wish.

One additional decoration that I have especially noticed this year was lots of blossoms in the advertisements.  Below was a beautiful display in the building across the street from my office.  It looked like a fairy land between two very expensive name brand stores.  I like this type of decoration as it reminds me that spring is coming soon (despite the frigid temperatures we have had recently).

New year decorations of a more formal variety in a shopping mall

New year decorations of a more formal variety in a shopping mall

I wonder if I could start a new Chinese tradition by decorating a door with blossoms?

More snake decorations are also showing up since I made my post on Sunday.  The doors of my apartment building now have a pair of cute snakes in traditional Chinese garb welcoming all visitors.

What type of holiday decorations do you enjoy the most?  If you had to post a message on the outside of your door welcoming the new year, what message makes the most sense to you?

Welcoming the Year of the Snake

10 Feb

Each year as the lunar calendar turns the page a different animal gets front and center in the Chinese psyche.  The year we are just finishing was the year of the dragon, a very auspicious year, that was considered lucky for getting married and having babies.  A baby boom occurred in my office with three pregnancies out of 30 women in my department.  Quite a high percentage for one year!

This year  (starting Sunday) is the year of the snake.  The snake year is an important one for Li as it is “his year.”

Last year with the year of the dragon, everyone was talking about China rising and the dragon from the east overpowering the west.  Snake year is a little harder to make those kind of statements.  Snakes can look very evil very easily and so most people have gone to the other extreme with very cute snakes that look like something out of a children’s book or a cartoon series.

The ubiquitous hong bao!  This one with a cute little snake

The ubiquitous hong bao! This one with a cute little snake

For me snakes conjure up memories of my younger cousin who was obsessed with snakes when we were growing up.  He’s now in his 20s so it’s not a current memory, but a strong one.  I also remember our trip to Bohol last year when we saw the snake below up close.

Can you feel the scales?

Can you feel the scales?

Finally, due to my western upbringing, snakes make me think of the original snake story – Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden – snake as a temptress.

This last image is one that is supported in a strange way by many of the ads that are appearing – using snakes to tempt you to buy a watch or a car or anything else that they may feel like.

Here are a few snake images that I’ve seen over the last couple of weeks.

A modern take on the snake - but still mildly threatening

A modern take on the snake – but still mildly threatening

This free form version stretched over two stories in a shopping mall close to our place

This free form version stretched over two stories in a shopping mall close to our place

This one is selling jewelry - a well known Hong Kong brand.

This one is selling jewelry – a well known Hong Kong brand.

Which is your favorite?

Happy year of the snake to you all!  蛇年快乐!万事如意!新年大吉大利!身体健康!我给你们拜年! Happy snake year – best wishes for a year of prosperity, health and all good things!

Resolutions and goals for the year of the snake

27 Jan

One book that I have read over the past year that impacted my life was Gretchen Rubin’s “The Happiness Project.”  In that book she talked about the importance of taking charge of your own happiness – not waiting for someone else to come and “make you happy.”  That was my core theme for last year, making sure that I didn’t get complacent and still looked for new ways to define what happiness was to me.

I can't "make" him happy either

I can’t “make” him happy either

It’s a little late to do New Year’s Resolutions by the western calendar- which, as I wrote about last year, are not common in China but since the New Year doesn’t start until February 10th (at least the year of the snake), I am actually early.  Last year I had one public resolution where I resolved to keep Zhongguo Jumble updated throughout 2012.  Thanks to your great support I was able to keep that resolution in fine fashion.

This year I am thinking of things in two contexts.  Resolutions are life changes, they are ways of looking at where you want to be and making changes to turn yourself into that person.  Goals are set events, something you can check off your to do list after you finish everything.  To give a concrete example:  A goal would be to run a marathon (something I’m not interested in), but a resolution would be to run for health or to get into shape (something that will never really end).

So, I thought here I’d share a couple of goals for the year.  I will resolve to continue my blog posting, but here are a couple of things that I have on my mind for the goals aspect.

1) A new haircut – I have been growing my hair out for a couple of years now – I’ve gone through more hair styles here than I did in total in the US.  I don’t know what style I will choose but I think it will be interesting.  Here’s a cut I had three years ago now – my short stint with a perm.

One of my many China hairstyles

One of my many China hairstyles

2) Be picked for another demonstration in my yoga class.  Two weeks ago when I went to a class with a new teacher he picked me to do a demonstration.  I’ve never had any teacher ask me to demonstrate a pose before and it made me feel validated that the nearly 100 classes in the last year have paid off.  Continuous practice (which may also be a resolution) should merit another demonstration opportunity.

My poses continue to get better, practice really helps

My poses continue to get better, practice really helps – this is an old photo, I can now see that my hands are not pressed down flat enough in this downward dog

3) Visit at least two new countries – we already have one trip planned for February (which I will keep under wraps for the moment) and I’d like to add another country to my list before the end of the year.  That seems doable.  Last year we went to Boracay, Philippines and I also had my quick jaunt to Korea – both places new to me.

The hotel on the beach in Boracay - where will the next one be?

The hotel on the beach in Boracay – where will the next one be?

And there are other goals (and resolutions) that I am considering that remain private but as they become reality I will be happy to share them with you.

Did you make any resolutions or set any goals this year that you feel comfortable sharing?  What time of year seems to be the most productive?  I still get that feeling in September, the back to school syndrome but a new year also calls for new plans and ideas.  Do you too?

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