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Chinese-banquet-table-by-Cecilie-Gamst-Berg Pen & Wok Blog - PenAndWok.comChinese New Year was a much better time for me than Christmas. The latter was spent in bed with a dose of the Covid, feeling sorry for myself and wondering how in hell the Moderna experimental drug dared calling itself a "vaccine." Yes I should be so thankful for getting this rammed into my arm by the kind government, but you know what, I'm not. Because it's by force.

Chinese New Year, on the other hand! The very first morning the temperature rose to 14 degrees from the usual 3. That's a big difference when you start the day with a cold shower in an unheated bathroom. Yes I take daily cold showers for self discipline, not to get clean per se. After starting the day in this horrible, inhuman way, I feel I have done my bit for the rest of the week. 

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I invited 13 people to a Chinese New Year banquet, 12 turned up. Something of a record for Palma which is even more flaky than Hong Kong. The only photos were taken (Hat tip: Pernilla Ewaldsson) before everybody had arrived, by which time it got too busy with precision cooking and what not. Seven dishes, all delicious by the sound of it. 

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But before that, something wonderful happened. 

There's an older Chinese guy in my street whom I used to address in Mandarin, having become used to all the Chinese here being Mandohooligans. One day about a year ago I was walking my dog and got talking to a young guy walking his dogs. I said I had lived 30 years in Hong Kong, he said his father was from Hong Kong - oh! His father was the older Chinese guy and I had wasted three years talking to him in imperialist language Mandarin! Once we got that terrible misunderstanding out of the way we started talking normally. 

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About a month ago I met the son again and had a brilliant idea. What if we did language exchange where I teach him his father's mother tongue Cantonese - in Spanish! Yaooooooo, I can't tell you how much fun it is, and so good for my comprehension and speaking ability.

And don't you think the family, mister Lau, his Spanish wife and their three children, invited me for a Chinese New Year meal AND they were retired Chinese chefs who used to run a restaurant in this very street? It was great! Mister Lau had become completely Spanified and never celebrated CNY - until now! It took a Norwegian  to tease it out of him of course. 

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So now I have a LIVE student again and it's wonderful. And the best way to learn a language is to teach in it.

Learn Cantonese the Natural Way - from a Norwegian

Today's Cantonese: 靚仔 - leeng tsai - handsome 





Untitled_Artwork_8 Pen & Wok Blog - PenAndWok.com恭喜發財

Gung Hei Fat Choi! Congratulations, get rich! That is the actual meaning. Not, as many think, "happy new year". Also not, as many think, "KUNG hei." The bad  Romanisation of Cantonese is one of my pet peeves. When you have two words like TAI (太)and DAAI (大), why spell both "tai"? Some half deaf geezer in 18 something must have started the trend. 

Well, today is the first day in the Year of the Tiger, and they don't call Chinese New Year 'spring festival' in mainland China for nothing - the day kicked off with its being 9 degrees instead of 3!

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Yes the first thing I do when I leap (ish) out of bed at 5:30 is to check the temperature, to see what thickness of tights I'll have to wear. I hate wearing tights but they do provide a bulwark against temperature related trauma. 

We have come to the last of the 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac, namely the Pig. This is the only one I sometimes ask people about and I'm seldom wrong. For the Pigs are so affable, charming and kind that it oozes out of every pore and they just can't hide it. Let's see what China Highlights has to say:

"Pigs are diligent, compassionate, and generous. They have great concentration: once they set a goal, they will devote all their energy to achieving it. Though Pigs rarely seek help from others, they will not refuse to give others a hand. Pigs never suspect trickery, so they are easily fooled.

Generally speaking, Pigs are relatively calm when facing trouble. No matter how difficult the problems are Pigs encounter, they can handle things properly and carefully. They have a great sense of responsibility to finish what they are engaged in.

People born in a year of the Pig are usually self-disciplined, straightforward, gentle, calm, quick in mind, and thirsty for knowledge. Among the twelve Chinese zodiac signs, the Pig enjoys the best luck with money. No matter what jobs they do, they have a higher possibility of being successful."

What, nothing about affable and super kind? Oh well, that's Chinese Highlights for you! 

Another highlight in the Chinese world is the language of Cantonese. And through the tried and trusted method of 

Learn Cantonese the Natural Way - from a Norwegian! 

I can teach you not only the language but lots of interesting things about Chinese culture and, of course, the ins and outs of reading and writing Chinese characters. The latter is not a must, but it's funnnnn!

Today's Cantonese: 豬年 - Jyu Lin - Pig Year 





Cecilie_Gamst_Berg_Hong_Kong_harbour Pen & Wok Blog - PenAndWok.comAhhrghhh! Here I was promising myself that I would present one animal in the Chinese zodiac per day until Chinese New Year started on Tuesday, but do you think I did? No.

Friday I had a salmon soup emergency and a sick dog, yesterday was another big march for the freedom to choose what experimental drug is injected into one's children. These things take all day, especially when one also must earn a living. 

Fortunately my living is earned by doing all the things I love, so that's okay. Still, it all takes up the hours. In addition I had to cut off the writing time on Friday so I could organise a better quiz night with Palan on Skype, so today I have to do three animals in one go. 

We start off with the Monkey; people born in 2016, 2004, 1992, 1980, 1968, 1956 and presumably 1944 although Chinese Highlights hadn't bothered with that year:

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People born in a year of the Monkey have magnetic personalities and are witty and intelligent. Personality traits like mischievousness, curiosity, and cleverness make them very naughty.

Monkeys are masters of practical jokes, because they like playing most of the time. Although they don't have bad intentions, their pranks sometimes hurt other people's feelings.

Monkeys are fast learners and crafty opportunists. They have many interests and need partners who are capable of stimulating them. While some like the eccentric nature of Monkeys, others don't trust their sly, restless, and inquisitive nature.

Although they are clever and creative, Monkeys can't always exhibit their talents properly. They like to accept challenges and prefer urban life to rural life.

Don't we all! I mean now. My village in Hong Kong (where Ann also lived) was so rural. In the beginning it was great because it was easy to meet people there and I felt part of the community, but after a few, er, decades, I got sick of taking transport to do anything other than dog walking and go to the local pub. Because I worked in the city when other people had time off, I never got home before 10:30pm. Including waiting 15 minutes for the bus, it took an hour and ten minutes to get home. Nightmare! Or what is now known as First world problem. 

Next up is the Rooster as westerners insist on calling it, but which is just called Chicken in Chinese: 

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People born in a year of the Rooster are very observant. Hardworking, resourceful, courageous, and talented, Roosters are very confident in themselves.

Roosters are always active, amusing, and popular within a crowd. Roosters are talkative, outspoken, frank, open, honest, and loyal individuals. They like to be the center of attention and always appear attractive and beautiful.

Roosters are happiest when they are surrounded by others, whether at a party or just a social gathering. They enjoy the spotlight and will exhibit their charm on any occasion.

Finally, as the second to last animal of the Chinese zodiac, we have the Dog: 

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Dogs are loyal and honestamiable and kindcautious and prudent. Due to having a strong sense of loyalty and sincerity, Dogs will do everything for the person who they think is most important.

As Dogs are not good at communication, it is difficult for them to convey their thoughts to others. Therefore, Dogs tend to leave others with the impression that they have a stubborn personality.

When thrown into doubt, Dogs think the world is evil and complicated. Then they criticize sharply when making comments, and infer that all things are according to their pessimistic point of view.

Awwww! So true. 

All right. Tomorrow is the last day of the Year of the Ox, and I think a lot of people will say 'Good riddance.' Not me! I had a good time.

Today's Cantonese: 猴年 Hau lin, Monkey year   雞年 Gai Lin, Chicken year   狗年 Gau lin, Dog year 






El-Terreno-view-of-bay Pen & Wok Blog - PenAndWok.comI knew I had done the right thing when I chose El Terreno as the headquarters of my life in exile. As I have mentioned many times in this blog, it's a beautiful neighbourhood with just the right amount of hovelage* and edge, it's close to the water and to a park so large it's a forest, and the people are friendly as hell. The streets are named after artists and restaurants and bars abound.

And as if I didn't need any more proof, don't you think I found a Cantonese speaker - from Hong Kong - only a few metres away from my gaff! Mister Lau, who has lived here 30 years and become Spanish. His three children don't speak a word of Cantonese and they have never been in Hong Kong. So a couple of weeks ago I had an idea. Why doesn't his son take Cantonese lessons from me, which I will teach in Spanish! 

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Explaining Cantonese grammar through a language I don't speak sounds a bit iffy, you probably think. No! Why? Because Cantonese doesn't have any grammar, innit!

But actually, I can easily explain the ins and outs of Cantonese in Spanish. I know words. I go into a zone and it just happens. It's fun! His name is 海傑, Sea Hero。

It was only after I started teaching online and now with Sea Hero that I realised how much I missed the dynamic of teaching Cantonese. In Hong Kong we had lessons in bars and restaurants and interaction with the waiters was part of the education.

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Sigh. But now I feel better than I have for a long time! Immune, no more jab nonsense, no QR nonsense - I have my own restaurant, my own people and my own language. 

I wonder if I would still have been me and been interested in the same things if I had been born in the year of the Ram, or Goat, as they call it on China Highlights? Ram, goat, sheep, ewe, lamb, of course it's just one word in Cantonese: YEUNG. I'm not a fan of the meat, but will take it in an emergency. 

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People born in a year of the Goat are generally believed to be gentle, mild-mannered, shy, stable, sympathetic, amicable, and brimming with a strong sense of kindheartedness and justice.

They have very delicate thoughts, strong creativity, and perseverance, and acquire professional skills well. Although they look gentle on the surface, they are tough on the inside, always insisting on their own opinions in their minds. They have strong inner resilience and excellent defensive instincts.

Although they prefer to be in groups, they do not want to be the center of attention. They are reserved and quiet, most likely because they like spending a lot of time in their own thoughts. Goats like to spend money on fashionable things that give them a first-class appearance. Although Goats enjoy spending money on the finer things in life, they are not snobbish.

I wonder how one has "delicate thoughts"? Must be Cantonese thoughts! 

Learn Cantonese the Natural Way - from a Norwegian

*Hovelage: Old, preferably a bit run down houses (hovels) excellent for photography

Today's Cantonese: 羊年 Yeung Lin - Sheep year 

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Oh! Cantonese! A source of constant joy. I have a new student, ah-On, who has become my eyes and ears on the ground in Hong Kong while I live in exile in Spain. He is a film maker and goes around filming various transgressions by the HK government. This morning he told me about a new (?) expression of which I had never heard, which perfectly sums up the Cantonese language in all its glory. 

Bye-bye 肉 (bye-bye yok, bye-bye meat. I.e. Bingo wings.) Yes! When the old ladies wave bye-bye, the bingo wings are a-flapping! Like meat. 

Oh how I laughed. 

For no other reason, this is why you should learn Cantonese! This, and of course to piss off the Chinese government. That goes without saying. 

Today's Chinese zodiac animal is the Horse, a venerated figure in Chinese painting. Strangely enough, the Chinese don't eat horse meat, which is a shame because it's delicious. My only sojourn in Kazakhstan, for example, was largely saved by that country's cuisine with its many ways to prepare horse meat. But more of that later. Here is the Horse:

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People born in a year of the Horse are extremely animated, active and energetic. Horses love to be in a crowd, and they can usually be seen on such occasions as concerts, theater performances, meetings, sporting events, and parties.

With a deft sense of humor, Horses are masters of repartee. They love to take center stage and delight audiences everywhere.

People born in a year of the Horse have a pleasant, amiable, easy-going disposition. With good humor and geniality, they are extremely comfortable to get along with as they have the ability to instantly put people at ease.

Horses are very quick-witted and are right in there with you before you have had the chance to finish what you are saying; they know what you are thinking even before you've said it. All these traits guarantee their popularity and a large following of friends.

Learn Cantonese the Natural Way - from a Norwegian! 

Today's Cantonese: 馬年 - Ma Lin - Horse year




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