Jillian R.
As far as I could remember, this is the first year that we have Chinese New Year and Valentine's Day falling on the same day.

I read newspaper articles about people having to work their schedules to accommodate both events while at the same time snickering to myself. Every year I see and read about people who sacrificed an arm and a leg during Valentine's day just to impress their other half girlfriends. This year, apart from spending a fortune on flowers (which cost 3-4 tmes more than usual), chocolates and stuffed toys, they have to brave through congested roads, crowded restaurants and overpriced food in order to win the girl. I don't mean to sound cynical but I still don't get how sending a grown woman stuffed toys is romantic.

Chinese New Year is all about Family. And food.

People visit their relatives on the first day of the Lunar Year. As a little girl, I would look forward to these visits as children and unmarried adults will receive ang pows* or red envelopes containing money. The tradition is to keep the ang pows unopened till the end of the 15-day festival. However, kids nowadays will rip their envelopes open as soon as they got into the car - some will open it in front of the guest(s) and risk getting smacked by their parents as it is considered rude to do so.

For me, this is my first year spending Chinese New Year as a married woman; and Eric's first time watching a manic Chinese family prepare for the festivities.

Apart from dealing with the extreme heat (It is now 34°C with 60% humidity) here in Georgetown, Penang, I have to deal with the continuous Chinese New Year songs in the background, all day long - the same cassette tape album from 10 years ago, which they play every year. After a few loops, any sane person would lean the other way. Throw in an extremely OCD stricken dad who cleans everything in sight and busy, grumpy mom and you have the recipe for Jillian-Losing-It**.

Several times a day, I throw my arms up in the air and wave my hands vigorously in no specific direction or rhythm shouting, "I can't, I can't, I can't deal with this", leaving Eric behind to deal with it all. I admire him for his extreme tolerance.

We're due to return to Korea in two days' time. As much as I sometimes miss Penang, I think it will take me a few more years to feel homesick again.

Here's to wishing everyone a Happy Valentine's Day and a prosperous year of the Tiger.

*ang pows are given out by married people
**a condition where I totally lose my mind and could actually hear a few veins sizzle and pop. May include inability to concentrate or drive
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