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Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Friday, February 18, 2011

Lantern Festival 

Melissa invited me to her place for the Lantern Festival last night. She and her roommate had invited some Pakistanis who are here on a short term training visit.

In China, the Lantern Festival marks the end of Chinese New Year, or Spring Festival. So basically, the Spring Festival period lasts two weeks. Fifteen days, to be exact. New Year's day this year was the third of February, and the Lantern Festival was yesterday, which would be the fifteenth day of Spring Festival. The loudest time of the whole period, of course, would be New Year's Eve (except in Hong Kong, where there were NO fireworks on New Year's Eve), which fell on February 2nd this year. The second loudest time of the whole period is the evening of Lantern Festival, both because it is the last celebration of the Spring Festival period, and because everybody has to use up all the fireworks they haven't blown up yet.

I was talking to one of the Pakistani guys about my interest in Afghanistan. I told him that there were two million children there who had no school. He said the number was probably larger than that, and the ones who did have schools, did not have very good ones.

Interestingly enough, these guys are studying at my previous university. I guess that's where they have the short term training set up. Lots of folks come to China from developing countries to get training or advanced education. They are taught by Chinese professors who "speak English a little."

Our dinner was a little awkward getting started, because the hostess had gone to quite a bit of work to prepare a Chinese hotpot without being fully aware of the exigencies of Muslim dietary laws. Muslims cannot eat food which does not meet the standards of Halal. It isn't good enough that you don't serve pork. Even meat that is permissible must be slaughtered in a certain way. Unless a strict Muslim can be assured that the animal was slaughtered according to strict Halal standards, he will not partake. The hostess had decided to compensate by making a rice dish for them, but I said, "We can make this work. Let's put the vegetables in first, and then we can add the meat after they have had a taste of Chinese huo guo [huo=fire guo=pot or pan]." It took a little talking to convince the guests that there was nothing sacrilegious in the water, but they finally decided that it would be alright to have some boiled vegetables. We kept the mutton out until they had had their fill. The hostess (bless her heart) had kindly prepared some mutton for them because she knew that they would not eat pork. But she didn't realize that they won't eat mutton either, unless they are sure that the beast was slaughtered in the proper manner. It worked out, though and turned out to be a very nice dinner.

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