Why Hello, Snake! Gong Xi Fa Cai, Xin Nian Kuai Le!!!

We CANNOT believe that it’s been a full MONTH and a half since we last communicated with you, Stiletto-istas…

Indeedy, we had thought that January & February would be the slow & sleepy twins. Aren’t they always. especially for those of us China ressies? Caught in between the frenzied madness of Christmas/New Year and – for those unfortunate enough to be travelling – the chaos of “Chunyun” (also known as the world’s largest annual human migration, when millions of Chinese travel home for the Lunar New Year), January & February have been traditionally regarded in the China-based workplace as a “wash”. In other words, it’s fine if your brain went out to lunch and never came back because EVERYONE ELSE IS DOING THE SAME THING.

Anyhooz, I was all set to snuggle on my couch under a cashmere blankie and for my brain to be junking out for two deliciously lazy months catching up on DVD marathons of Downton Abbey, Revenge, Mad Men, The Walking Dead and the gloriously perverse American Horror Story. Oh – and of course, the final season of Gossip Girl – because, well, DUH! – I just HAD TO find out if Chuck did end up with Blair. I mean, seriously, darlings, don’t you????

Well, snow bunnies, looks like the Snake may slither over with blessings this year because work has been FRIGHTFULLY busy! We still work from home – we ain’t considering anything else – but let’s just say, we’ve thankfully picked up a couple of mighty lucrative and highly enjoyable gigs here and there.

Chucking aside the DVDs (for now) and determined to welcome the Snake and all the good luck that the Lunar New Year brings, we switched out our Christmas decorations in favour of Spring Festival decorations at Casa Stiletto. Here’s a quick Instagram look at our efforts:

Welcoming the blessings of luck & prosperity from the Snake discreetly begins at Casa Stiletto's front door. From our local Metro supermarket, can't remember the price exactly but hella cheap.

Welcoming the blessings of luck & prosperity from the Snake discreetly begins at Casa Stiletto’s front door. From our local Metro supermarket, can’t remember the price exactly but hella cheap.

On the first day of "Chunjie" (Lunar New Year), it is traditional to have a Lion Dance bless your place of business or home. Hang a vegetable offering and "hongbao" (little red packet containing cash in even-numbered denominations only) for the Lion to gobble and he gets to keep the hongbao and you keep the veggies.  Herr Hubby & I were excited that our residential compound arranged a lion dance for residents on the first morning of Chinese New Year and residents could invite them to their home, if they wished. So, we did! And so to Casa Stiletto they noisily and colourfully came, drums and cymbals banging & crashing, two golden lions gyrating & wiggling their tails. I have to say, it was FUN :-)!

On the first day of “Chunjie” (Lunar New Year), it is traditional to have a Lion Dance bless your place of business or home. Hang a vegetable offering and “hongbao” (little red packet containing cash in even-numbered denominations only) for the Lion to gobble and he gets to keep the hongbao and you keep the veggies. Herr Hubby & I were excited that our residential compound arranged a lion dance for residents on the first morning of Chinese New Year and residents could invite them to their home, if they wished. So, we did! And so to Casa Stiletto they noisily and colourfully came, drums and cymbals banging & crashing, two golden lions gyrating & wiggling their tails. I have to say, it was a FUN spectacle!

Gorgeous red lanterns abound during the weeks leading to Chinese New Year, so how could I resist? Picked up a couple from our local supermarket and hung them at the balcony. Love them!

Gorgeous red lanterns abound during the weeks leading to Chinese New Year, so how could I resist? Picked up a couple from our local supermarket and hung them at the balcony. Love them!

One of the most charming aspects of celebrating Chinese New Year in Guangzhou are all the Spring Festival Flower Fairs proliferating in the city. Herr Hubby & I ventured out with the camera one evening & captured the colourful festive sights - more on that in another post - and also picked up this cute little good luck flower offering.

One of the most charming aspects of celebrating Chinese New Year in Guangzhou are all the Spring Festival Flower Fairs proliferating in the city. Herr Hubby & I ventured out with the camera one evening & captured the colourful festive sights – more on that in another post – and also picked up this cute little good luck flower offering.

It's also traditional to have a Spring Festival tree during Chinese New Year, much as we have a Christmas tree at Christmas. Herr Hubby & I searched for something pretty while still fairly traditional and found these little beauties at a flower market. SO gorgeous!!!

It’s also traditional to have a Spring Festival tree during Chinese New Year, much as we have a Christmas tree at Christmas. Herr Hubby & I searched for something pretty while still fairly traditional and found these little beauties at a flower market. SO gorgeous!!!

Here's how the Spring Festival mini-tree looked on our coffee table at Casa Stiletto...and as Valentine's Day this year fell in the middle of Chinese New Year, our mini-tree is flanked by a bouquet of roses, a couple glasses of champagne and a bowl of late-night chicken curry. Hahaaaa!

Here’s how the Spring Festival mini-tree looked on our coffee table at Casa Stiletto…and as Valentine’s Day this year happened during the middle of Chinese New Year, our mini-tree is flanked by a bouquet of roses, a couple glasses of champagne and a bowl of late-night chicken curry. Hahaaaa!

...and check out the roses bloomin' when transferred to a vase. Looks hella beautiful on our living room console table.

…and check out the roses bloomin’ when transferred to a vase. Looks hella beautiful on our living room console table.

What about you, duckies, did you celebrate Chinese New Year in YOUR part of the world???
As we hunker down for the weekend, our dear Stiletto-istas…from the hearts of Casa Stiletto to yours, we would like to wish you a Happy, Healthy and Sizzlingly Prosperous Year of the Snake!!!
Gong Xi Fa Cai, Xin Nian Kuai Le, Happy New Year!!!

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“Mm hou yi si, hai bin dou?”

“Mm goi, hai bin dou?” – our Cantonese Phrase of the Week, meaning “Please/excuse me, where is it?” or “Please/excuse me, where at?” was extremely useful during a week when we vowed to eschew riding cabs and instead, use the efficient Guangzhou public transport system (buses and the subway) for our appointments and errands around the city.

A formidable task and one which I am proud to announce that I bravely accomplished with flying colours…well, except for one instance, when the 40C degree heat and almost 90% humidity finally got to me after a bout of sightseeing in one of Guangzhou’s prettiest spots: Shamian Island (more about this charming historical destination next week). Dizzy, I flagged down the first cab I spotted and sank back with eyes closed as we drove home.

” Mm hou yi si, tsing mun, dim heui Shamian Dao?” – Excuse me, may I ask, how to go to Shamian Island?

Sometimes, a girl has to know when to surrender to airconditioning. And how’s YOUR summer going???

– our Cantonese Phrase for the Week: “Delicious!” or literally, “very good taste”. These were probably the very first words I learned in Cantonese! Which gives you a very good idea about Guangzhou…at the end of the day, this city is really all about food.

Very appropriate considering as it feels like we’ve literally been eating our way through Guangzhou these past couple of weeks. With Cantonese cuisine reigning as one of the four legendary regional Chinese cuisines – and with our penchant for “yumcha” (Cantonese dimsum) on weekends – we’re constantly surrounded by food that’s all “hou hou” (very good) but not very flattering for one’s waistline.

It’s time to apply some much-needed self-discipline and just say “Ngaw bau laa” (I’m full) to all that delicious food and get up early during these summer mornings and exercise. Ouch. But what’s a girl to do? LET’S JUST DO IT!!!

– our Cantonese Phrase for the Week…”Gay daw tsin?” is probably one of the most useful phrases one can learn in this part of China.

Literally meaning “How much money?” and more often used to say “How much is it?”, with all the gajillion markets that we’re getting to discover and explore in Guangzhou these past couple of weeks, this phrase is definitely getting a lot of mileage!

And with so many, many tempting things to buy, probably a more useful phrase would then be: “Peng di laaaaa!” (and be sure to make the “laaaa” as dramatically whiney  as possible), as in “Cheaper!” Hahahaaa, let’s all learn this one, Stiletto-istas…STAT!

– our Cantonese Phrase for the Week: “Can you help me, please?”

Getting lost while getting to know a strange new city is a common occurence so this phrase has been REALLY useful this past week in Guangzhou!

The surprising thing in trying out this phrase in the streets is finding out that there are lots of people in Guangzhou who are NOT from Guangzhou but who may be considered “waidiren” (in Mandarin, meaning “outsider”) by native Cantonese as these people originate from other parts of China. Once you switch over to Mandarin, people all of a sudden spring into action in attempting to help a lost “waiguoren” (in Mandarin, meaning “foreigner”) and are chattering away!

So, knowing a little Mandarin still comes in handy even in this part of the world! What about you, are you a “waidiren” or a “waiguoren”?

Nay jong mm jong yi Heung Gawng?
– our Cantonese Phrase for the Week: “Do you like Hong Kong?”

Prepping for tomorrow’s day trip to Hong Kong, a hop, skip and quick train ride away from Guangzhou. Train tickets bought, passport ready…so, yes…jong yi! Ngaw jong yi Heung Gawng. I do like Hong Kong!

Mm goy huei lai gaw day zi…

– our Cantonese Phrase for the Week
Learning how to navigate any city while speaking in the local language is a crucial part of settling in. Today in a taxi we learned how to say “Please, go to this address…”. What fun exploring a new city!

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