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Lunar New Year’s Family Meal

Aiyun and I are in Shanghai to gather with her family to have the traditional new years meal. There will be an exchange of good wishes and Hong Bao for the kids and seniors. The Hong Bao are cash inside of a red envelope. The standard is 500RMB (about $75USD) for a niece, nephew, or grandchild. It feels like the equivalent of Christmas presents, but a heck of a lot more convenient.

We arrived at Aiyun's mom's place early to bring her a pile of fruit and a Hong Bao. The adult children in the family are the earners and are the ones expected to give the Hong Bao out. I've come prepared. Aiyun has two nephews and one niece under 18 years old. I guess it's a sign that I see myself becoming a part of her family. In a twist that I didn't expect Aiyun's mom (Chen Longying is her full name) handed me a Hong Bao. Aiyun told me it's a one time thing as a welcome to the family, but next year the expectation is that the money goes the other direction.

Calling Aiyun's mom anything other than mama is not an option. Having a real conversation isn't an option for either of us due to language, but it's easy to see that she's still a sharp lady at 84 (same age as my mom). Her apartment is small and modest. An entry, kitchen and dining, bedroom, bathroom, and outdoor patio. It's part of an enormous complex of apartments like most people live in inside China. Here are two pictures of mama from many years ago.

Aiyun is setting up a small camera that connects to the internet so she can talk to her mom with video. Mama has a flip phone and still navigates it fine, but Aiyun is thinking she will appreciate the video to see who she's talking too. Ease of use is a factor here moving forward as I'm sure she will eventually get to the same place my mom is at.

The giant lunch was super fancy and had too many dishes to count. This was the aftermath of the table. This is less than half of the dishes that were brought out. You name it, it was there. Every possible meat I could think of from abalone to yak and tons of other vegetables cooked in various sauces.

The rotating center was controlled electronically by small buttons on the table. In my best Borat voice, "Very nice". The family picture after dinner.

From left to right: brother Xiang, sister Aihua, brothers wife Kan, sisters husband Gu, mama, sistets daughter YiYi, me, brothers younger son Liang, Aiyun, and brothers oldest son Jack (Chen Chen).

Before the food started to arrive Hong Bao were distributed. I was the last to hand Hong Bao to the kids. Purposefully done with two hands and a "Xin Nian Kuai Le" (Happy new year). Parents were all pleasantly surprised and quite happy. It's a sign that I'm serious about being with Aiyun long term and a "this is me being a part of the family" message. This is Liang enjoying his day. As I'm watching this unfold thoughts of Randy Moss float through my head. Straight cash Homie.

It was awesome to feel welcomed. Feeding grandma was like a competitive sport between sisters to be the one who put the most food on her plate. Sitting next to her I made sure to keep her tea cup filled. After the meal we all went down to the bottom floor of the building to grab ice cream.

I got a chance to have conversations with Chen Chen and Aiyun's sister-in-law Kan. They've spent a lot of time in the states and their English is very good. Chen Chen (Jack) plays hoops so we had that in common to talk about. He's a Seth Curry fan. We all went back to Xiang's home and chatted for a bit before saying "bye bye".

We went back to our hotel to get into more comfortable walking clothes before heading towards the Bund. More on that tomorrow...

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