SONYA’S HOUSE: Day 156, Saturday February 1 2014

“As you know chinese new years ends after lunch today,” Sonya informed us after we got up Saturday morning. The firecrackers were still going off ceaselessly.

Breakfast was tofu porridge and more dumplings in the middle of the table. We were just thankful we hadn’t been given our own full plate (as we had for dinner yesterday. We’d joked that it was so they could make sure we ate!)

We visited one last set of Great Aunt and Uncle, and Sonya told Nate’s peeing with chickens story again. I’m pretty sure everyone in town knows that story now. She also likes to talk about how we always say we’re full (bao le) and her mom says foreigners eat so little, while we say Chinese people eat so much! “Bao le” (full) was the first Chinese word I said that Sonya’s parents could understand!

Every time I go to use the bathroom with the goats I have started saying “Ni hao maaaaaa,” to them. It’s very fun because when you maaaa at them they maaaaa back. When we got back to the house Sonya ducked into the goat toilet. Nate and I crept up to the bathroom (door). Nate held up his fingers, 3… 2… 1… “MAAAAAAAA” we both called, hearing three goats call back!

Lunch was another feast with chickens, grasshoppers, dumplings, celery, mushrooms, slimy crunchy sweet things, ribs, and a bowl of soup for each of us. Oh and tofu. Yum yum, so full!

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Well my belly is full, the meal’s cleaned up, the floor is swept, and the sacrificial feast has been cleared away. I’m happy to say it appears as if the majority of the meal will be eaten.Chinese New Years is officially over. We followed Sonya’s grandfather outside the gate. He had that yellow paper he and Paige had been folding the other day, and he collected all of the names of the dead from the sacrificial feast table. On the ground he drew lines the shape of grave stones and lay down the paper so that each name had a fan of yellow below it and it’s own dirt grave stone. Paige followed along laying an insense stick on each pile. The yellow papers were lit with fire, and baijiu was poured over the flame. Sonya’s grandfather stood over the flames waiting until they’d burnt out completely before leaving them. Sonya’s older sister brought out another strand of firecrackers and hung it from the tree. It already sounded like a war zone. The fire crackers were lit and we plugged our ears against the noise. When we returned to the yard the dog was shaking. Must be a stressful time for the animals.

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In came more visitors, out came more sunflower seeds. Sonya’s mother stuffed my pocket before we left to go back down to the lake. They were so full I couldn’t open them without seeds falling out! Down at the lake we got in old rusty metal boats and Sonya’s father paddled us out across the water. When we got out we walked through terraced corn feilds. We climbed up to a small house and gazebo, and sonya introduced the woman there as her grandmother. We left half our party at the gazebo while us younguns along with Sonya’s father climbed the mountain.

We came to a house made of shale with a yard full of chickens and goats. The old woman with sun warn skin and a missing tooth invited us in, but we refused telling her that we were mountain climbing (pa shun). The mountain had an earthy smell and the path we followed was covered in a layer of leaves reminding me of fall.

We paddled back as the sun sank in the sky. When we arrived on shore we followed Sonya’s aunt to her house over looking the lake, and snacked and chatted. After a while Sonya urged us to finish our tea so we could go, but every time we drank a glass her aunt filled it back up! Finally it was determined we must finish the pot!

Dinner was delicious: leftovers from the New Years feast, and some fresh cooked dumplings. Ended the night in the heated room again, playing cards and eating sunflower seeds.

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