September 15, 2011
Mid Autumn Festival
There’s a Chinese holiday on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese calendar that’s all about exchanging special baked goods called mooncakes (月饼yue bing) with friends and eating together. This year the holiday fell on a Monday which created a three-day weekend and happiness all around. The weekend was one of the busiest I can remember in China, but also one of the best!
The craziness started Saturday morning with a trip to an awesome store called Metro. Our good friend, Jack, drove a group of us all the way across the city so we could stock up on some much needed items that are hard to find elsewhere in the city. Saturday evening, the team and our friends Cherry and Norton hiked a mile to a vegetarian restaurant to celebrate with Hui’s father who was visiting from Georgia, USA. The entrees at the restaurant all look like regular Chinese food, but they’re all made out of tofu! Weird and fun at the same time! On the walk back, we happened upon a large group of women doing an outdoor group dance/exercise class commonly referred to as zombie dancing (because the moves are simple and repetitive). Just for kicks, we all decided to give it try. To tell the truth, it’s a lot more of an arm workout than it looks. I’d like to join the zombies again soon to work on my triceps, and parading around in a circle with 100 Chinese women brought a smile to my face!
We spent Sunday morning at a University across town to attend an ELIC city team meeting attended by all 25 adults and 6 kids who serve at 4 different universities in Harbin. Later that evening, my good friend, Grace, and her husband, Mi, came over to our place for dinner and loved assembling their very own hamburgers. I’m really glad they said my hamburgers were better than McDonald’s! It was fun to see them get excited about a food that is so normal to us. After eating, Kanyon and Mi enjoyed playing Mario Kart Wii!
After our guests left and the kids went to bed, I trooped over to Jodi’s apartment for a game night with the new ELIC teachers from Harbin East College (the ELIC school where our old teammate, Dan, is now leading). I loved serving coffee and playing games with a bunch of China newbies who are still trying to figure out the basics of living in China.
As if two packed days were not enough for a fun weekend, we kept on trucking straight into Monday! Out the door by 9 am, our entire team trekked a mile and a half to a teahouse for some team building time (4 kids included). We sipped endless cappuccinos, mango juice and milk tea while entertaining kids and discussing individual and group communication styles.
The afternoon’s activity consisted of mooncake making at Grace’s apartment, complete with dumplings for dinner! Usually, mooncakes (which are totally different than American moon pies) are purchased from local supermarkets or bakeries and come packaged in fancy bags and boxes. However, as everything in China is so expensive this year, some people decided to make the special celebratory food with care at home to save money. I’m looking forward to buying my own mooncake mold from an internet site and making homemade mooncakes next year!
After stuffing our faces with jiaozi (dumplings) and surveying our finished mooncakes, I headed back home. And, believe it or not, the weekend was still not over. Monday evening, our team hosted a get-together for the campus brothers and sisters. Everyone happily enjoyed the great company, conversation, and endless supply of mooncakes as the excitement of many “family members” together created the perfect atmosphere for the evening of Mid-Autumn Day. At 9:30 pm as some teammates and students headed outdoors to look at the moon (another holiday tradition), I politely declined and ended the weekend by laying in bed watching fire lanterns released from the nearby square drift through the sky. A perfect ending to a wonderful weekend!