Celebrating Chinese New Year

It’s great that people celebrate Chinese New Year, no matter what their nationality. With that in mind, I am re-posting below, with the author’s permission, a wonderful blog from YummyMummyClub.ca about one woman’s reasons for celebrating Chinese New Year.

Check out YummyMummyClub.ca for food and decor ideas for your Chinese New Year celebration. 

Why I Celebrate Chinese New Year

It started with egg rolls when I was a kid

by: Evelyn Hannon

I am a Jewish woman living in Canada, and I am Caucasian. So, why in the world do I celebrate Chinese New Year?

Well, the simple answer is—I love all things Chinese. This affection didn’t develop overnight, nor did it develop lightly. My love grew from small likes to happy memories to intense experiences and gradually blossomed into full-bodied, full-blown LOVE.

To begin, when I was a kid in Montreal, Lee’s Garden on Park Avenue served the Canadian Chinese food my family and I ate on special treat nights. I actually grew up believing that all kids in China snacked daily on garlic spare ribs and countless egg rolls dipped in sweet plum sauce. Oh, how I envied them and their supposed diet. I loved that food.

During high school, my friends and I popped into that same restaurant walking home after school. Twenty-five cents bought us a Chow Mein Sandwich—a hamburger bun filled with steamed bean sprouts covered in a mysterious pale brown sauce. Lee’s was our teenage hangout with lots of young love and flirting going on. I remember eating that snack as slowly as possible so we could stay as long as possible. Such sweet memories!

My interest in Chinese culture blossomed much later, in my thirties. This time, it wasn’t associated with plum sauce or young love. It was Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) that intrigued me. Acupuncture, Qi Gong, massage, the use of herbs—these were medical practices thousands of years old, and in Canada, doctors were not yet embracing these ideas. But I read everything I could get my hands on. In 1989, I applied for a research grant to go to China to study the ways in which Chinese women were treating patients with TCM. It was a lark. I never expected anything to come of it. However, I did hope.

Oh my goodness! Imagine my surprise when I received a note on government letterhead awarding me $17,000 to go to Beijing and investigate my interest. That money took me to Asia for a month—my first time in Beijing, a city of what seemed like a gazillion people on bicycles. I was considered a “visiting dignitary,” and assigned a limo driver and translator who accompanied me everywhere I needed to go. There were also two local mentors tasked with watching over me during my visit. The first, a wonderful woman who was the Head of Beijing’s School for Traditional Chinese Medicine, and the second, her mother (in her eighties) who was the Honorary Chair of the Chinese Red Cross. I remember sitting on a couch in the elder woman’s tiny apartment, holding her hand, and (via my interpreter) telling her that even though we couldn’t speak directly, I could feel her words in my heart. Sappy, perhaps, but I had fallen totally “in like” with the people, their kindness, and their wonderful sense of humour. And even though I didn’t understand the words, I loved the sounds and the rhythm of the Chinese language. By the time I headed home, I was really hooked.

Fast forward to 2001. My younger daughter lets me in on a very big secret. She is adopting a baby girl from China. And would I travel to China with her to receive the newest member of our family? Of course I answered with a resounding, YES. Two months later, in a hotel room in Xi’An, we sat on chairs facing twelve orphanage nannies holding twelve crying baby girls.

My daughter’s name was called. She walked to the center of the room. Lotus, Xiao Ai her given daughter was placed in her arms. After three years of waiting, a dream fulfilled and one more very delicious family member for me to love.

Seven years later, Lotus and I skyped with her mom and dad who are in China, this time to receive Bexie, Fu Li the second little member of the Chinese contingent in our family.

You can imagine the excitement when the plane from China touched down in Toronto and the whole family got to meet this new, sweet little Chinese darling face to face.

And so now, in our mixed Jewish, Christian, and Chinese family, we get to celebrate all the major holidays. In November it was potato latkes for Chanukah, in December, Christmas dinner, and today, we are looking forward to Chinese New Year at the end of January. There will be a wonderful dim sum meal in Chinatown, cheering when the menacing dancing dragon comes into the restaurant and, of course, I’ll be joining all the other parents and grandparents of Chinese children handing out the traditional gifts of money tucked into Chinese red envelopes. Gung Hai Fat Choy—Happy Year of the Horse everybody!

 

How to Turn a Soda Can into a Wheelchair

DSC03253Fundraising for Mount Sinai Hospital

On the first day of the school year my sister-in-law, Hilda, who works as a lunch monitor at an elementary school, gets unusual packages from some of the kids: they give her little bags filled with tabs from soda cans that they’ve collected over the summer.

When she has a boxful, she delivers them to the Mount Sinai Hospital in Montreal who sells them to a recycler.  The money they receive goes to support the hospital. It’s a cause Hilda has been promoting for the past ten years. The children at the school and the teachers love the idea of helping out someone in need. Our entire family regularly snaps off the little tabs before dropping the empty soda can into a recycling bin. I decided to follow her on a recent delivery and find out more about the program.

Hilda's collection jar

Hilda’s collection jar

The Auxiliary of the Mount Sinai Hospital runs the Can-tab program. Lorraine Caplan, Co-president of the Auxiliary, explained that they receive bags of can-tabs from as far away as Florida. Every few months, several huge bags are sent to a recycler who pays them $500 to $600. Only tabs from soda cans are accepted as they are pure aluminium.  When Hilda first started collecting can tabs, the money went towards buying wheelchairs. Now, the money is used to support music and art therapy at the hospital. The Auxiliary took on the responsibility of paying the therapists’ salaries ever since government cutbacks took effect.

So the next time you’re about to drop an empty soda can into the recycling bin, help The Mount Sinai Hospital by snapping off the tab.  It’ll help take some of the guilt off the empty calories. 🙂

UP! with AMPower

I don’t have a bucket list.

If I did, gliding wouldn’t be on it. Cruising on the Mediterranean. Yes. Sunning on a beach in Maui. Yes. Gliding. No.

So why was I being strapped into that tiny, flimsy plane with no engine or propeller?

It’s all because of my friend, Phyllis McIntyre. She began organizing flights for her amputee support group three years ago, and now she’s hooked on flying three thousand or more feet above ground, supported by nothing but air currents.

I’m not a risk taker. I’m a writer. Sitting at my computer, I can handle whatever risk the limits of my imagination can come up with. But I’d heard Phyllis talk glowingly of gliding several times, and (darn my writer’s curiosity!) before I even thought about it, I said I wanted to try it.

That was how I ended up driving an hour and a half north of Toronto with Phyllis and her husband, Nate Redmon. The skyscrapers behind us had disappeared, and we drove down a highway that divided miles and miles of farmland. The farmland and clouds, Nate explained, are necessary for gliding. Heat rises from freshly plowed fields and lift the glider. I can’t remember what he said about the clouds because I was busy calculating when I should take a Gravol pill. My best travelling companion is an anti-nausea pill. I don’t leave home without it.

 

The York Soaring Association is just outside the town of Arthur in Ontario. It created the Freedom’s Wings program so that the disabled could experience gliding in gliders fitted with hand controls. Phyllis, a double amputee, thought it would be a great summer activity for the support group she co-founded with fellow amputees Kitty Lo, Malcolm Koss, and Roger Hunter who she met while receiving outpatient physiotherapy at St. John’s Rehab Hospital in Toronto. They all felt that they needed a support group for both amputees and their caregivers to discuss issues and to support each other as they worked to regain a “normal life.” Together with Nate representing caregivers, they formed AMPower. Through word-of-mouth, twenty-five people showed up at the first meeting in October 2010.

“You don’t feel like you have any kind of disability,” Phyllis said, about the Freedom’s Wings program. Pinned to her t-shirt is the Freedom’s Wings pin that is given to amputees who complete their first flight. “You’re sitting in this vehicle and you have the ability to fly just like anybody else. You don’t need to be as fast. You don’t need to be perfect.”

On this day, only one other AMPower member and her family arrived to take part in York’s soaring program. Gliders, leaning on one wing, are lined up on the grassy field. The clubhouse is a small clapboard structure with a long deck outfitted with picnic tables and a barbecue. It was a perfect day to go gliding, sunny and cloudy with a temperature hovering around 30 degrees Celsius. We had a picnic lunch while we signed up and waited for our turn. From the deck, we had a clear view of the take-off. A single engine plane dragged a glider across the field and up into the air. It was the first time I’d ever seen this and was fascinated…until my name was called.

“Would you like to do a little wing dipping?” Don, the pilot asked as he helped buckle me into the seat.

“NO!”

With the bottle of Gravol pills and a plastic bag tucked into my purse at my feet, I was ready. The glider rumbled (or was that my stomach?) as it was dragged along the ground before lifting into the air. When we finally reached 3,000 feet, I felt a slight tug as the rope was released. We were on our own, with nothing but plowed fields, clouds and Don’s skill as a pilot to keep us aloft. On a clear day, I would have been able to see the CN Tower, but I wasn’t disappointed. The view was spectacular. What was even more amazing was the hang glider flying about 1,000 feet above us. After flying for a half hour, we headed back to the club and Don made a smooth as silk landing.

 

This was Phyllis’s sixth flight. Nate lifted her into the cockpit and she buckled herself into the seat. After the hatch was closed, the glider was pushed into position. Her pilot, Rob, took her to the exhilarating height of 6,000 feet. She was glowing when she emerged from the cockpit.

“When I’m up in the air, I don’t even remember that I have prosthetic limbs,” she said. 

Freedom’s wings keep you soaring, even on the ground. 

 (Note: The group AMPower no longer exists.)

Want to experience my take-off? Click on the video below. It’s seven and a half minutes long.

Chinese Tea Salon in Montreal – video presentations on-line

On August 17th, I posted a blog about a Chinese Tea Salon in which I gave a short talk about the inspriration behind my writing. Well, the on-line video is now available on the Asian Canadian Wiki.  You can watch all of the presenters including myself by clicking on this link http://www.asiancanadianwiki.org/w/Chinese_Tea_Salon_in_Montreal . Each video is about 5 minutes.

Chinese Tea Salon in Montreal

A couple of weeks ago, I received an e-mail invitation to a Chinese Tea Salon. The invitation explained that the event was “to meet, eat, drink and exchange about diverse projects in the arts, community and academic sectors. This gathering is inspired from tea houses in China (茶館, cháguăn or 茶屋, cháwū ) traditionally similar to the America Café, but centred on tea and to chat, eat and socialize.”

It sounded interesting and it was potluck. I bought mini chocolate chip muffins at the grocery store after work and headed over to the Simone de Beauvoir Institute at Concordia University where the salon was being held.

The tea salon was inspired by Montreal artist Mary Wong who has been organizing tea houses for visual artists. This evening, which was organized by Janet Lumb and moderated by Alice Ming Wai Jim, an Associate Professor of Contemporary Art at Concordia University, was an opportunity for Montrealers to talk about their projects.

It was a fascinating evening. Each speaker had an interesting angle on their research and artistic project:

  • Olive Li Hui, a visiting professor, teaches a course about Chinese-Canadian women writers at Sichuan University in China;
  • Tracy Zhang explained how acrobatics is used as an instrument of cultural diplomacy in Taiwan and China;
  • Alan Wong spoke of race and sexuality;
  • Cheryl Sim, a media artist, talked about her project exploring the relationship women have with the cheong sam;
  • Parker Mah presented a trailer for his documentary Être Chinois au Québec (Being Chinese in Quebec). You can see a trailer on Youtube or at Être Chinois au Québec.net 
  • Leslie Cheung, a PhD student, talked about youth of color, the second generation and their search for identity;
  • Joanne Hui asked and answered the question “How does art teach?”
  • Henry Tsang, an associate professor at Emily Carr University in Vancouver, B.C., gave an impromptu talk on what it is to be Chinese;
  • And yours truly gave a brief talk about the inspiration behind my writing.

I wouldn’t be able to do justice to the speakers by trying to explain their projects, but a five minute video tape of each presenter, including me, will be available soon on the Asian Canadian Wiki site. I’ll post it when its available. To read more about the presenters and the evening itself, click here.