On our way to dinner, Allison and I feel a Christmas Eve-like anticipation. Streets are empty and strings of lights are lit.
A coworker of A & J’s, here in Taichung, has invited us to have Chinese New Year at his Taiwanese girlfriend’s house. We have, per usual, no idea what to expect.
When we get to the apartment, we’re given slippers to wear and pointed towards the table; the kitchen is small, crowded and smelling wonderful. The rooms are close together and cluttered, the walkway tight and the dinner table filled with plates of food.
We’re pointed to our seats where we drink a little rice whiskey (much like the burning Lao Lao we’re familiar with) and watch some TV (also a comfortable Lao norm–TV always on). Inside this family’s home, we are welcomed, warm.
The food keeps coming out and Minni, the girlfriend, does her best to explain each item and it’s New Year’s meaning, most of which have to do with a coming year filled with prosperity and money.
Our host, Minni’s mother, soon comes out after what must have been a long day in the kitchen. She sweetly, softly, in Mandarin, thanks us all for coming and says she’s happy we can be here.
With small bowls and chopsticks, we eat. And eat, and eat. Tofu skins, deep fried cakes, rice noodles, pork balls, grilled peppers. I’m impressed with my performance; I pass off only one item I can’t stomach into Allison’s bowl. B sits across from us, filling and refilling his bowl with pork ball lamb soup, slouching from fullness and going back for more.
And we continue this way, eating way past our fill, until the dinner is over.
After we thank our host and say goodbye, Minni leads us down the road to a small, smokey bar, the only open place on the street.
So here, with some 24 oz beers, a growing group of locals, and a little bit of family, we ring in the year of the tiger.
And its possible, just maybe, that we close out the night with a cousin karaoke duet of Like a Virgin .