It has been about 15 years now that I have been part of Chinese New Year (CNY) celebration in some form or the other. Whether it was joining a friend for dinner, watching a lion dance, or going to an Open House. Having predominantly Chinese friends also had a role in that. So this is my first CNY abroad*. So, yesterday I joined N
's friend's Chinese wife and headed to Washington DC's china town
to watch the parade and other cultural activities. There were a ton of people. It was quite amusing also to see that Chinese were far outnumbered by other ethnicities in the audience and also in the parade.
To get to Chinatown I had to change trains at the Metro center. Chinatown was one stop away, and I had fifteen minutes left before our agreed time to meet. So, instead of waiting 15 minutes for the next one, I just walked as it was just four blocks away (Sundays they run slower & there was some maintenance work going on so were more delays). The weather yesterday turned harsh! It was freezing and the winds were really strong that day. As I got closer the number of people per square feet increased. The drums were blaring and colour of dragons & lions appeared as they bounced up and down the road. I had to cross two roads to get to where we were to meet and that was a challenge!
As I was walking down towards the destination, I overheard a lady tell her companion, "This is the best funded parade in the country, and the worst performed." That dampened my excitement a bit. I was also looking at the parade going by and I was wondering where the performers were. All I saw were various Chinese association members walking in the parade. Well, it just had started so how could I judge. We both met up and found a spot with a small gap to see the parade. There were two troupes with dragons dancing
and another two troupes with lion dance
. There was the Red, Yellow, Green lions and to my surprise the black lion. I didn't realise that they used black on lions.
Just as quickly the parade began, it finished just as fast. We were a bit disappointed really. But the weather was getting harsher and we headed indoors to get something to eat and have some hot Chinese tea. We headed to Chinatown Garden
to grab something to eat. They catered well to different tastes, western, Chinese, and vegetarians. I had lunch and so I just got a spring roll & spicy cucumber (it's Chinese style pickled cucumber). The sweet & sour sauce they usually give with the roll was sweet & syrupy. I liked the spicy mustard though (reminded me of wasabi..yum. We had a good time chatting away. The place was filled with non-Chinese families! It was quite amusing really! Mostly because just a few days earlier I watched a documentary on History Channel about the influx of Chinese food into the US culture.
As we sat through, we weren't too impressed with the service from the get-go. The waitress was in such a fowl mood, not just to us but also other customers. But what really did it was when friend was signing the bill. The waitress came over stood behind her and asked if everything was ok. She was looking at the tip amount and got so mad. Immediately she grabbed the bill from friend's hand (who still was signing her name) and showed that the suggested tip was $3.56 (15%) and friend was putting $2.40. wow. We sat in shock. I thought maybe I misheard something. Friend was in utter shock as well! I have never met anyone ruder than this. I suggested if anything to leave a penny or what she was planning to give. But she was shaken up completely and changed it to 15%. I kept sharing not to let her bully you. That was wrong. Well, I guess we were never going to return there. It was ironic that before the incident she was commenting on how she has yet to find a Chinese restaurant here that gave good service. And we really got the worst.
Anyhow, as we were getting up we heard the firecrackers go off. And so decided to watch it from the window than go out in the cold (we were on the second floor). Later we found that the lion was entering a building with people following them and so we also followed them in and found ourselves in the Chinese Community Cultural Center. It was great ending to our less than impressive impression of the parade. They shared about the story behind the lion dance and some other significance of the dance and symbols of the CNY. We later found out that the lion dance troupe came from the Boxing Association. This explained the sharp aggressive moves of the lion as compared to the graceful yet catlike movements of the lion. They showcased samples of kung fu, tai chi, and other martial arts.
With that we brought our outing to an end and made plans to meet the following weekend with husbands in tow and headed home.
I have to say though, last year
's was so much fun!
Gong Xi Fatt Choy!
* ok, I know I have been "abroad" for like almost twenty years now.