February 11, 2013
Sanlihn Faailohk Family and Friends!!! (I have no idea what that means. It looks more like Arabic than Chinese to me. So much for the Conversational Chinese classes.)
Happy Chinese New Year everyone! The Chinese just love partying and celebrating! I can tell because they’ve been doing it non-stop since Saturday! Officially Sunday was the start of the Chinese New Year! (The Chinese New Year is based upon a lunarsolar calendar and as such is sometimes called the “Lunar New Year.” This means that the actual date of the New Year changes from year to year – sometime between January 21 and February 20. It usually falls on the second new moon after the winter solstice. The Chinese New Year is also called the “Spring Festival” and was a time for honoring deities and deceased relatives. Kyle isn’t kidding about how long they celebrate. The traditional celebration lasts from the Chinese New Year’s Eve to the fifteenth day of the first month! Now that’s my kind of party!) 2013 is the year of the snake! And not just any snake but the water snake! A year that happens once every 60 years!! (Actually each of the Chinese Zodiac signs occurs every 60 years. In addition to the 12 zodiac animals – Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig – there is a ten-year cycle of heavenly stems – Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water – that are rotated every two years while a yin and yang association alternates every year. The result is that the sign “Yang Earth Dragon” for example, only occurs once every sixty years.) So party everyone!
I hope you celebrated because the members and the Chinese people sure did. We heard that in Beijing at 12:00 on the first day of every Chinese New Year the doors to the ancestor worship temples open and the first person to worship their ancestors is considered extremely lucky. They had an interview with the guy even apparently and it was a big deal. Maybe it’s their version of Black Friday?!!!! The members love it too; I mean not the worshiping ancestors part but everything else. The families dressed their kids up in traditional silk and stuff, the kind of thing you imagine when you think of Chinese apparel. Almost like what the emperors would wear. It is the funniest/cutest thing ever!!!! Church was only 1 hour and 2 wards were combined because everyone goes to mainland China for the holiday. (More on that later). But I mean come on… for a holiday that is 4 days long you can’t sit in church for 2 hours?!
The Chinese have a good tradition called Red Packets. During Chinese New Year you put cash in little red packets and just give them away to people on the street! It’s not a lot but the ward loves it! I got close to 100$ just on Sunday!!! But that’s not even high. An elder in my apartment got 280$ plus lots of food. There are stories about missionaries having rich investigators getting like 2000$ from their investigators!!!! It’s crazy! They just give the money away!! (Married couples or elderly people give red packets to unmarried juniors. Parents also give red packets to their children. It is customary and considered polite for the receiver to wish the giver a happy new year and a year of happiness, health and good fortune before accepting the gift. These packets almost always contain money, which is intended to ward off evil spirits. The amount of money given to celebrate the Chinese New Year should be an even number amount as odd number amounts are given at funerals. The dollar amounts range from a couple of dollars to several hundred and the people giving the gifts will often try to use brand new printed money. Everything regarding the New Year has to be new in order to have good luck and fortune. The person receiving the gift should take the red packet home, put it under his pillow and sleep on it for seven days after the Chinese New Year before opening it so that he or she will have good luck and fortune as well.)
Like I said, they love going to the mainland. Starting on Saturday and ending like Wednesday there was just no one outside! It was really weird to see the streets of Hong Kong empty. A little bit eerie in fact to see how few people there were! And since Tai Po is close to mainland everyone is just gone! It was hard for us since we still have only had one week where it was just the Tai Po Ward meeting so we don’t know the members! But luckily, on Tuesday the ward rented out a huge double-decker bus and we went to Sai Kung, a place in Hong Kong and had a BBQ by the ocean!!! It was really fun…the Chinese BBQ some weird stuff. Probably the weirdest was squid in some weird green/yellow sauce…weird. But it was our best opportunity to actually meet the members so it was good! Oh boy do I miss the beach and having BBQs!
It’s so crazy. I really am so close to mainland right now. In the apartment where other missionaries live you can go on the roof and see the Shenzhen building – just right there. (Shenzhen is a major city in southern China – immediately north of Hong Kong. It was one of China’s first, and most successful “Special Economic Zones.” It has a vibrant economy made possible by rapid foreign investment due to the special designation as an SEZ. Before that it was just a small village. Shenzhen is especially known for its tall buildings and vibrant cityscape.) It can’t be more than a couple of miles. I took some pictures of it! So close but just so mysterious.
This week was pretty much the same old thing! Just working hard and finding new investigators! The pillow gets softer and softer and the rock hard mattress gets more feathery everyday!
We have a good new investigator this week named Patrick. (Is it just me or has Kyle had a lot of investigators named Patrick?) He first stopped and talked to us just because we have the same last name and he thought it was weird that a foreigner had his Chinese name. It was the first person ever that he’s met with the name Au Yeung!!! Miracle of the week- I found another Au Yeung!!!!!! Ha-ha and he is so good! Anyway…after explaining our purpose as missionaries he was really interested. We sat down and taught him the whole first lesson right there and then. He has since been taught again. He is good but like everyone we teach the main obstacle we’ll have to work through is getting him to know the importance and the blessings of church. I just really want to help him and do everything I can because he has such a big heart and wants to do what’s right. He just has to know how to do what’s right and that’s why we are there.
I love you family! Sorry this email is so late! The Chinese just love to celebrate! Have a happy Valentines Day! If you’re reading this you’re my Valentine!!! Ha-ha. I’ll write to you on Monday again! In glad to hear that Grandma is doing better! (Mark’s mom was in the hospital briefly with a blood clot in her leg. She is doing much better now.) I love you all! Keep it up! Go Devils!