Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Zombie New Year Party

Yali got the call from an old high school classmate that there was a party at a friend’s house in the county. Big wahoo festival and feast. Off we went in a mini bus with a bunch of classmates, their kids, and a stranger or two. The traffic was deadly slow. Everyone was off to some village for the same thing. All along the road, there were people lined up hawking cases of soda, fruit and snacks. Can’t show up empty handed!
Fortunately the village is not very far out of town, so we didn’t have to crawl along too long. We parked on the highway and hoofed it in, hauling our sodas, and other contributions. Soon the concrete turned to dirt and the streets were only wide enough to accommodate a cart or motorcycle. No signs, just a maze of dirt and old brick buildings. Somebody knew more or less where we were going, and after a couple of false turns, we got there.
It’s a nice home with a walled yard and covered patio. Outside the gate is an offering table of some sort with a cooked chicken, some bowls of rice and some cups of rice wine. Cooking is going on, and there are already lots of dishes on the table. We have some tea, and get to know the people there. Immediately someone sets up a Mahjongg table and they get to gambling. This is a huge pastime here. It is an obsession for many, and for some a serious addiction. Large amounts of money can be won and lost. So, four people were playing with a few watching.
We visited with some folks, and played with the kids. More and more food kept appearing from inside the kitchen. As the tables filled, my stomach started growling. More guests arrived, relatives and friends. Nice people and their friends. Somewhere along the way the single guys show up. I think we are talking the redneck cousins, because they have lots of beer and explosive devices. They showed up about the same time lunch was announced. Amazing how that is. We dug in. Squid, fried duck, pork, chicken, clams, fish, shrimp, beef, sausage, veggies of all sorts, glass noodles, soups. The Mahjongg people pulled themselves away from the game long enough to taste a few items then they were back at it. The rednecks started pouring beer and toasting.
While we were gorging ourselves, the pops and explosions in the distance were getting more frequent. We could also here some drumming, cymbals, and geese being slaughtered. We went to go see. Go right, turn at the first left, turn right at the horse, and down the dirt track to the noise.
After watching all the fun stuff and being deafened by drumming and explosions, we returned to find the rednecks in fine form, pounding beer and deafening themselves with explosives. The Mahjongg people haven’t left the table. The parade eventually comes by our “street” and they are blessed by cash offerings to the kids on the poles and strings of firecrackers from the rednecks. The Mahjongg players keep playing.
After about 45 minutes or so, the parade eventually disappears down the alley/street to be showered with gifts and explosives elsewhere. We burn some special paper for good luck and prosperity. It is very smoky at this point from all the fires and fireworks. My ears haven’t rung this much since that Rush concert in 1976. People are saying their goodbyes, and the rednecks are trying to get us to go off with them to get some drugs and hookers. We politely refuse and find ourselves standing around with our group, waiting for the Mahjongg players who are still at the table. They finally notice that all the people they came with are ready to go, and tell us to go, they will get a taxi later. They may still be there today.
It’s a reverse procedure going home. At one point during the bus ride home, I am watching a lady selling balloons who keeps passing us on foot. The only time we get ahead is when she stops to make a sale. We eventually get home, grumpy and tired, but not very hungry.

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