When Western Valentine’s Day meets China’s Valentine’s Day (Feb 14, 2014)

Feb 14, 2014, China’s Lantern Festival (last day of Chinese New Year celebration), it is also known as the western Valentine’s Day. It is said to take 19 years to have this “meeting” once. The next  time will be in year 2033.


Coincidentally this is my 19th year in the United States, since I first came to WA in 1995.  Wow!

Valentine’s Day in the US is not just to celebrate love between male and female.  It has broad meaning of love for all.  So schools will have all kinds of parties to celebrate love among students/friends, between teachers and students.  Children show their affection to their parents and relatives.  A husband  will get his wife a box of chocolates and beautiful roses to show his love.  images3VFCBHCQ

On China’s Lantern Festival Day, families will get together to enjoy Lanterns at night after eating Yuan Xiao or Tang Yuan (the sweet dumpling).  Young people will go to watch Lanterns and pray a romantic love story happens.

When you look at both holidays, they have the same meaning of celebrating either romantic love or just great love between  people.  When West meets East, the culture is connected – It is my wish that  LOVE between people lasts forever!

Starbucks in China

Starbucks in China opens in the early morning.  I sometimes meet up with friends or just go there to have breakfast after I drop off girls at school before 8:00A.  It is quiet without many customers in the morning.  Starbucks here in the US is crowded in the morning with people coming and going to get coffee for a refreshing morning.  I actually LOVE Starbucks in China, it is one of those places that reminded me of home in US, which I  missed from time to time while I was living in Guangzhou.  I remember the first time went to the Starbucks in Guangzhou’s CBD (ZhuJiangXinCheng) by Children’s Palace where Selena took her gymnastics class.  The small coffee shop was packed with foreigners.  With all the English speaking guests around, I felt like I was in the States.  That was such a welcome feeling for me who was away from the US  for six years–it was like missing a bit of home. At the

time, I missed the fireplace, the comfy sofa, my Chai Latte and the entire community feeling.  Each time when I was looking from the window facing the street, I though of people who walked on the street no matter in the rain or under the sun, they might be just like me — people who came from other places  to live in this big fancy city.  Where is home?  Home is where your heart sets, home is where your family members are, home is where you are with your loved ones, your children, your parents, your husband or wife.

 When I was complaining once how uncomfortable the Starbucks couch was, my friend said you were not supposed to sit here for very long.  They need other customers coming and going :)!  Yes, it was in China.  Now, when I am in the Starbucks here near our Bellevue home, I miss my  China friends.

My friend Lan lives in the same building above Starbucks.  She likes to go down there to have a quiet morning just for herself. Sometimes we run into each other at Starbucks downstairs, most the time, we met for breakfast there. She is the girls’ “godmother” — a virtuous Chinese lady.  I have another friend, named Yan who lived just a mile away from me along the beautiful Pearl River. Sometimes we would run into each other when we were both walking by the riverbank for exercise, sometimes we met at Starbucks near her home for coffee.  When we met, we each brought other a book for exchange.   Those are the most memorable time for me at Starbucks in China with my dear friends.

Moon’s Cafe

Lea and friend "Moon"
Lea and friend “Moon”

“Auntie Moon is ‘fancy’ and ‘stylish’.” (quoting from daughter Liane’s original words).  I knew Moon because her beautiful daughter Yaoyao was a  best friend with our second daughter Liane in preschool – one of the best schools on Guangzhou’s Ersha Island. 

 Moon talks and laughs loud , and though she is in her mid-forties,  she does not have wrinkle!!  In China I always admired her extreme-hospitality and her endless energy. She is never tired of dealing with all kinds of people who are guests in the most classic and elegant Moon’s Cafe located in a five star hotel in Guangzhou.  We became very good friends– like sisters( when she said so, I was flattered).  Moon’s husband, Lao Chen is a real gentleman. He is kind, gentle and very much supportive of his wife.  He is quiet (yes, his wife takes the opportunity) but he listens well and supports Moon from time to time.  I like his gentle smiles and he always sends his sincere compliment to ladies (I thought that was really sweet for a Chinese man). Yes, they are a nice couple and very special in our hearts. Performing group
Performing group

Moon’s Cafe is the best place for friends’ gathering, live music and seminars.  Our three girls were invited to play their little band at the café, which was broadcast on TV as part of the  “good night Guangzhou” program.  This took place right before our departure from China on Jan 12 — what a crazy busy time!  Moon called up all of our circle of friends and their children for the live performance at Café. It turned out really fantastic!! 

selenaLiane playing at the coffee shopkids music
We decided to have an art group called “Moon’s Cafe Children’s Art Groups”.  We made plans to go out performing all over the world including…  yes, Seattle.   We love a place regardless it is a country, a city or a cafeteria. For me, it has to do with “people”.  When you travel to a new place, you meet great people and because of that, you love the place.  Because we LOVE auntie Moon, we love Moon’s Café.  It’s just like girls said, Auntie Moon is the best!  (Of course, it may also have something to do with the fact they ate up all the Hagen Daz in the Café– oh boy, that was the most expensive ice cream in ChinaJ)

Lifestyle Differences — China and US

In China’s big cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, life is pretty” internationalized ” meaning shopping, food, entertainment, information standards are mostly at an international benchmark.  Living costs between Guangzhou and Seattle is  much higher.  For example, a grande ChaiTea Latte costs USD4 in Starbucks in Seattle, but it cost 38 yuan($6+) in Guangzhou, China.  A Polo shirt costs about average $40 in US, but over RMB1000 (almost $200) in China.  Guangzhou has a high cost of living, as does Beijing and Shanghai.


A bread from the  BreadTalk  shop for example costs RMB7-8 ($1.2-1.3), three girls at least ate three in the afternoon and three next morning for breakfast.  Each day I would spend between RMB50-80 ($10-15) just for bakery items.

A spot where I felt it every day in Guangzhou while living there was that I bought some bakery  goods in Guangzhou for girls daily before I went to pick up them from school.  My “mommy heart” realizes it is a long day for them (7:00A – 5:00P) though they do get a longer lunch break than US kids.  From what I heard though, the school lunch was really yukky.  I always got to feed some hungry kids as soon as they saw me. I found a yummy whole grain bakery called BreadTalk.


Pork floss bun


In Bellevue, WA, just the other day, Louie and I had a Genki Sushi for lunch in the Factoria Mall.  The total cost for the two of us was less than $20, which is much less expensive than Guangzhou.  Our girls could eat more than us.  In China, the cost is always over RMB200 (USD40) just for our “three little piggies”.In Gangzhou, there  are lots of good restaurants from Hong Kong (like my favorite Jade Garden for dimsum), and the US (Burger King is girls’ favorite) and Southeast Asia (like Genki Sushi from Japan) are all very popular but expensive.  Talking about Burger King, it is actually not as popular as MacDonald’s in China even though I think Burger King’s burger is so much better. But Burger King’s each burger costs at least RMB24 (USD4) or more.   A dim sum morning tea at Jade Garden for 3-4 people easily costs RMB400-500 (USD70-80).   Yikes!  It was saved for a special occasion.

Most of our friends in China are businessmen or women, and we became friends because of children were in the same school.  So we our families got together a lot to go out.  For example, we might go out on the new year day (Jan 01), had dinners, went to Karaoke or join our friend Moon’s Coffee shop where there was live music performances.  I also enjoyed some afternoon high tea or coffee — which are the mommies’ favorites.  Of course, when the mommies get together the topic is always and forever ALL ABOUT CHILDREN.  The moms might discuss information comes from Wei Chat (very much like Facebook), Wei Blog, QQ and similar chatting groups. We compare notes about raising children and our lives and such.   

I think that now with the technology, people feel the world is smaller.  In some ways, we all live in the same village.  However life styles  in different parts of the world are different;  and certainly living expenses are a big part of that difference.

Lea by the windmill china heritage tours

Back in America for Chinese New Year

We were invited to a big gathering with our friend in their gorgeous new home on Feb 01 with four other of their family’s friends for a potluck party.  It included a total six families with 12 children and four grandparents.  It was nice to celebrate the new year with a big family gathering and we appreciate this as a welcome home party.  
I often still miss my friends in Guangzhou. They always dressed up and wore make up to each gathering.  While in China, our family hosted a few parties in our Guangzhou home, although most of time we went out together to eat in a nice restaurant.  Shortly after the potluck started, the party separated into different groups, grandparents, children, daddies and mommies.  Most families are pretty low key in their dress or make up, a few girls dressed in Qipao which were really cute.  The only NO change was the topic among mommies, – ALL ABOUT CHILDREN. 
It seems to me that, America Born Chinese(ABC) will share the same stress if their parents share the same “determination” of having their children to go to an Ivy League school.  Our friend’s daughter applied for  Lakeside school again which is where Bill Gates and his partner Paul Allen graduated from.   Most likely she will get accepted this time.  From what I heard, this daughter is already in a highly gifted program, she plays piano and violin, she runs track and is an excellent member of a swimming team, and of course her drawing is marvelous.  Our oldest one Selena adores her and they are good friends.  All mommies in the party work for big companies like Microsoft, Starbucks and investment groups.  Not all agree that an Ivy League school is the best choice (which I do agree on that).  Sometimes I think, when your child is very close to the top, you might not want to give up for that hope. 
For me, I feel the change from China to the US has been dramatic.  I am struggling with the choice right now if we should send Selena to a better public school or just do whatever the school district assigns to her, before we send her to a private school next year. I am open to the idea of her going to the public middle school with her new friends and see how things go before making a decision.
While living in China, I was greatly impacted by the experiences I had in working with Jasmine (our  6 year old) as she had the chance to sing in national talent competitions.  I told her you always have to get yourself ready first, but do not push too hard.  It can only cause extra stress and pushing can cause one to abuse the power or money which you may have.   I have become stronger in the opinion to let children grow naturally, happily and healthy.  Again, I think that although Harvard is a great school, being a fireman is just wonderful too.

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