Monday, February 11, 2008

Tet.... not Tit.

It makes sense. The "new year" begins with Spring and that's why Chinese New Year, Vietnamese New Year, Lunar New Year... Spring Festival is in February.

For my family, we celebrate Tết, which is Vietnamese New Year and.. it's a big deal. Ever since I was young, I remember going to grandma's, eating food, crossing my arms and wishing my aunts and uncles a happy new year... and then receiving money in red envelopes! For the spoiled who live in Evergreen Valley, they get up to..1000 dollars ($100 from each Aunt), for others, $50 is WELL appreciated. To me, it was what my family did and I never realized how alien it could seem to those who've never celebrated it.

It's a brilliant holiday. I compare it to Thanksgiving and Christmas combined in one awesomely delicious spicy and sour soup. Instead of bad presents you get can't-fail money. And instead of heavy Turkey and gravy, there's sweet sticky rice and pastries. But of course you have to WORK for your money. There was a lot of pressure to prove your Vietnamesness by wishing your family good fortune in broken Vietnamese. And it didn't help that people were watching and smiling. But oh, it was well worth it. And the cousins never complained. Practice makes perfect and even though you didn't know what you were saying... you said it anyway in hopes of getting approval from family. Family family family.

This year was nice. The highlight was my cousin trying to teach us how to do a proper Body roll. My auntie joined in, but failed miserably. In fact, it looked like she was doing a face plant into a wall and her knees would jiggle. Not a body roll. My family was inspired by my mom's "Low" Video.
Before dinner, we visited my grandma's grave. There, we prayed and burned "money" so that she would something to spend in the afterlife. My mom told me that they have "paper cell phones" that you could burn to send to the deceased!


I had lunch with my dad and told him that I am considering moving out. To this he responds, "If you want to move out, we can't stop you. But we want you home for as long as possible. We're a small family Christopher, and without you.. it'll only be three of us." There was a saddness in his voice... I mean, his sister just died and my grandma passed away last year. Sigh. I guess, I'll be living at home for longer than I had planned.

At dinner, the cousins sat around picking at some "treats" that were probably purchased in 2005. My Auntie comes by, "you need to cover it, or it will get dry!" To this I respond... "but isn't it.. dried fruit?" My cousin laughs at my smart ass remark, my Aunt playfully makes an upset face. I always seem to say funny things around my cousin... or she just finds me really funny. "You crack me up Christopher!" It's feels nice to make others laugh.

This old man walks in who I kind of, sort of... maybe... recognize. He sits down and points at me, "come wish me a happy new year!" I whisper to my cousin, "who's that?!" She responds, "our Aunt's older brother." Great. A stranger. He apparently remembered me. "Pho? What strange and weird sort of name is Pho!?" I respond defensively, "it's NOT strange, it's unquie and awesome." I crossed my arms and said my schpeal, "This year, I wish you a happy new year. I wish you good health and prosperity. Restful slumber and live longer than 100 years." My Vietnamese was well rehearsed from years passed. He was impressed... he responds to my family, "Pho is really good because he uses the word "kinh!" that's very advanced!..." He turns back to me and says, "I wish you happiness and always listen to your parents... blah blah..." he handed me an envelope. Hehe, $5! "that's 3 more dollars than my cousin! I guess, he liked me, too bad, I don't like him. "Pho has a big presense, like he's going to be someone!" He stated to my family. My cousin responds, "big presense all right!" and pats my tummy. Great...off to the gym and google search community orgs when I get home. My cousin who is 30 still gets money because she is not married yet. I think this Holiday has some good elements, don't you think?


Sharing Tet with Friends
Sandy was in town and her sister gave us red envelops too! Smyr was having a great time learning such strange customs. "You must bow your head Smyr. LOWER! Now cross your arms and wish her a good new year!" I felt like a dictator. "Now receive your good luck money!"



After the group picture, we went to get some drinks and found a run down shop that was run by this older Vietnamese couple. The wife had a green beenie and was missing some teeth. The husband stood by the register. The shop was dirty and falling a part. The couple probably have a bedroom set up in the back of the store. I was asked to get nail polish remover for Sandy. This is how the conversation went.

"Hi, do you have nail polish remover?" I made the appropriate gestures.
"..oh.. uhh.. we no hab." He looked confused, but was confident in his answer. His wife asks him in Vietnamese, "what did he ask for?" he responds back in Vietanamese, "I have NO IDEA!"

Great. OK... second try, In Vietnamese, I said, "Do you have... you know... when you Paint your nails... and you want to erase it!" The wife threw her arms in the air! "NAIL POLISH REMOVER!" She exclaimed in Vietnamese and dashed to retrieve it. She was cute, I was satisfied and made bad Vietnamese conversation while Smyr bowed his head, crossed his arms and repeated what I taught him. "I wish you a great fortune this year!" Smyr stated confidently. "That's my good friend." I told the wife in Vietnamese, "my parents are from Vietnam, I was born here.. blah blah." I was saying the appropriate things that all Vietnamese people like to hear from the youth. The husband smiled, the wife was friendly, she gave Smyr a hug and we walked out with our nail polish and beer. I waved and smiled. They wished us a happy new year and warned me about the red envelope that was hanging from my pocket. I told smyr that they probably thought we were doing some drunks with the purchases we made. We were both amused.

At Sandy's we were really too tired to do anything, but it was nice to see her and her boyfriend and her sister, Smyr and Janelle.

Sunday: Tet Parade!
My parents never took me to the parade, and we went to a festival probably twice total. So, I decided to just go with my boys. Pictures below:


Yeah Berkeley! Downtown San Jose was very colorful! Yay Berkeley VSA! You are SEXY!

1 comment:

Aaron Benjamin said...

When did Sandy come to town?!!!!! And with Danny too?!