by Monika Jingchen Hu
2013 in the Chinese lunar calendar is the Year of the Snake, and it is my second Chinese New Year spent outside and far away from China. Though not being together with my family, I felt well received by some people (Chinese and non-Chinese) whom I just got to know, as part of my Chinese New Year celebrations â thanks to my house mate.
I needed to travel to D.C. for some visa issues, and my house mate happened to be attending a conference in D.C., so we made the plan to travel together and spend the Chinese New Year in D.C. She is Chinese, but she lived in the States (somewhere close to D.C.) for one year with her parents when she was young, so she had some family friends around area, and we were about to meet two: one a Chinese immigrants family; the other a white Christian family. I was a little nervous about these meetings, as I didnât know them at all. My flat mate again and again said that they are super nice people, so I made up my mind to meet them all, especially the Chinese family, as we would be staying with them for one night â the Chinese New Year eve â and I was particularly expecting a happy family-style gathering, like what we usually have over Chinese New Year holiday back in China.
The Chinese couple became U.S. citizens some years ago. They were Ph.D. students more than 20 years ago, studying abroad in the States (like we are now), majoring in science and engineering. After obtaining the citizenship status, they started working in government agencies, still doing research, but in a less stressful place than in universities. They are about my parentsâ age, but their children are younger than me, and the youngest one is like 3. They are lucky to have more than one child, unlike my parents â under the restriction of the one child policy â my parents could only have me. But at the same time, this Chinese couple has more financial burden as well as education burden than my parents. They are hardworking, diligent, earnest, and caring for people like us â Chinese graduate students. During our stay, they kept offering advice on choices of staying or leaving the States after graduation, how to buy reasonable priced air tickets to China, how to purchase apartments, houses and cars when necessary, etc. We talked over about our thoughts, our preferences, our concerns and our hopes. Though meeting for the first time, their passion and care made me feel at home. And of course, we had a wonderful Chinese New Year dinner (see picture).
The other family offered something warm as well, but more from a religious perspective. A small percentage of Chinese people practice religion back in China, and if so, it is more possible to be Buddhism. I cannot say I refuse letting religion enter my life, but I have been generally ignorant and negligent about any religion. At some point, I learned to appreciate some religious behaviors/practices without believing, and I was moved by this Christian familyâs way of paying respect to us â they prayed happiness and health for all my family back in China. Before leaving, they again prayed a good journey for my flat mate and me, and many things that we talked about while we were there. I was touched by their prudence and their attentions to small details, which seems to reflect their great care for others.
I am very grateful for this wonderful Chinese New Year!