On Fireworks, Birthday Pizza, Arriving Early and Blooming Late (Yeah, I don’t know what this is about either.)

January 29, 2012

Happy Chinese New Year, y’all.

I’d like to say I brought in the New Year this week with a big bang, but that would have required my leaving the couch.

And, well, I think we all know where I’m going with this.

I did get to listen to a whole bunch of other people bringing in the New Year on Sunday night with a bang – lots of bangs, really. Like, so many bangs it’s possible I went a bit deaf in my left ear.

Pretty much everybody, except me, was letting off fireworks in my neighborhood.

Not that this is anything special.

You see, you don’t really need a good reason to let off fireworks in China – any reason will do.

It’s the opening of a new store?

Let’s celebrate with some fireworks!

It’s your birthday?

What better way to say “happy birthday” than with fireworks?

It’s Tuesday at five o’clock in the morning?

Time for fireworks!

But for the New Year, there were even more fireworks than on, say, your average Sunday night. From my vantage point on my couch, I could watch the fireworks through both my bathroom window in the front of my apartment and my balcony window in the back of my apartment. And I would have totally taken a picture of those fireworks to show you on this here blog but, again, that would have required my leaving the couch.

And, again, I think we all know where I’m going with this.

I did manage to make it off the couch on Tuesday, as I was on a quest to find some noodles. Tuesday was my thirty-sixth birthday, and a Chinese friend had told me that it’s a Chinese tradition to eat noodles on your birthday as noodles represent longevity.

And, really, who am I to buck tradition?

Or resist a perfectly good opportunity to shovel carbs into my face?

Unfortunately, all the fine dining establishments in my neighborhood were closed as everyone was still celebrating the New Year.

My local eateries shuttered (or, err, blue plastic tarped) for the holidays.

Either that, or everyone was off planning a very elaborate surprise birthday party for me… so elaborate that they kind of forgot to invite me to it.

I ended up at the only restaurant in my area which happened to be open – the Pizza Hut at a local shopping center. Instead of a bowl of birthday noodles, I ate a birthday pizza with extra cheese.

Because, apparently, China doesn’t want me to live a long life.

It just wants me to live a life full of extra cheese.

I’m cool with that.

So, yeah, other than the fireworks, it’s been a pretty quiet start to both the Chinese New Year and my thirty-sixth year this week.

But that’s okay.

Because I have a feeling things are really going to pick up. You see, I have a good feeling about this year. Like, it’s totally going to be my year.

I should probably mention here that I have this feeling pretty much every single year. I’d like to consider this as a sign that I’m a perpetually optimistic person. And not, say, a sign that I’m a really narcissistic person.

I do realize that not every year can be my year.

And, admittedly, I have been wrong on this before. I thought last year was totally going to be my year, too. But it really wasn’t. Not that it was a bad year. But I suffered a way too many bouts of the Black Lung to make it my year.

This year, I’m telling you, is different. This year is my year.

Even Japan and China agree with me on this – and they generally don’t agree on much of anything.

They certainly don’t agree with me most of the time. For example, Japan and China have been insisting for years that I am a size XL or XXL or LL or some other size that I am truly not. I do not agree with them on this, but, yet, they refuse to see things my way.

We have agreed to disagree.

And I have agreed to cut all the tags out of my clothes.

But this time, Japan and China are totally on my side.

You see, when I was in Japan the other week, I bought two omikuji or paper fortunes while visiting shrines, and they both told me I was going to have an awesome year.

(You know, as long as I stay away from illicit love. But, seeing as I’m in my mid-thirties and I still haven’t figured out how to talk to boys, I don’t think there’s much chance of that. So I’m good.)

And, lest you think those fortunes always tell you good things about yourself or your future, once I received a fortune that was so bad my Japanese friend didn’t even want to translate it for me. When she finally did, she informed me that it said I had a cold, unfeeling heart and would perish in a fire.

So, yeah, those paper fortunes aren’t always full of flowers and illicit love affairs. Sometimes they are full of your fiery death.

Also while in Japan, I read this book about Japanese beliefs that told me that anyone turning an age that is a multiple of 12 is destined to have a year of really good fortune.

(Or really bad fortune. But I chose to ignore that part. But, uh, just in case, I’ll make sure to stay away from fire.)

Oh, and one of the temples I visited while in Nikko had this random Wheel of Dessert thing that you were supposed to spin to find out your fortune. I didn’t really understand what it was all about, but I spun it and it landed on cake.


Excuse me, if that’s not a good sign, I don’t know what is.

(Well, technically, according to the little sign above the Wheel of Dessert, cake is not a good thing. A friend translated it for me, and she told me that landing on the cake predicts bad things to come. But I think we can all agree that’s just crazy. Of course, landing on cake is a good thing. This is just one more thing Japan and I can agree to disagree on — just like what size pants I should be wearing.)

And, as you probably already know, it’s the Chinese year of the dragon. So China totally thinks it’s going to be my year, too, because the year of the dragon is totally my year, people!

Or at least it should be my year.

You see, I was born in 1976, which is a dragon year. But, I was born right before the Chinese New Year, which means, technically, I’m a rabbit.

Let’s just say I was not too happy when I found that tidbit of information out.

Don’t get me wrong. Rabbits are cute and all, but they don’t breathe fire.

And, really, I was supposed to be born a dragon.

You see, I was supposed to be born three months later – in March.

But I arrived a bit early.

I also arrived with an entourage. I’m the second of triplets.

Nobody knew my mother was having triplets – not even my mom.

She thought she was having twin boys. When I arrived after my brother, Sam, my mother informed the doctor that he had made some kind of mistake. She was not supposed to have a girl; she was supposed to have two boys, she informed him. When my brother, Tom, showed up after me, her response was something along the lines of, “I told you so.”

(This story should have been proof to me from an early age that my mom is right about everything. So, yeah, why I even bother arguing with the lady, I don’t know.)

I'm the cute one in the middle in the girly-colored plaid.

I can honestly say that my early arrival into the world was the last time I did anything ahead of schedule.

It appears I got that stuff out of my system early.

(It also appears I got the whole business of living in close quarters with other people out of my system early, too. I always claim that the reason why I like living on my own so much nowadays is because I didn’t get my nine months of “me time” in the womb. My brothers, who are both married and have kids now, don’t seem to have this problem – you know the problem where you want to growl at someone if they so much as make eye contact with you before noon? Yeah, that problem.)

These days, I do everything at the last minute – or later.

I spent my four years of undergrad and two years of grad school banging out papers ten minutes before they were due and kicking myself the entire time for not starting them earlier. (And, inwardly, thanking my mother for forcing me to take typing classes in high school against my will. Seriously, why I ever argued with that woman, I’ll never know.)

Unless I’m getting a paycheck to show up on time, I always arrive late. Even when I leave the house on time and I manage to catch the right train, I still end up being late.

I even learn things really late.

I was shocked in kindergarten to find out that everyone in the class already knew the alphabet. I remember thinking, “Did we cover this in preschool? Where was I?”  (Luckily, I was pretty good at faking it, so I managed to mumble my way from H to X for the better part of a year without anybody noticing.)

I had training wheels on my bike until I was, like, fourteen.

I couldn’t swim in deep water until I had outgrown every single pair of water-wings available on the market.

I guess I am what you might call a late bloomer.

(Except I’m not entirely sure I’ve bloomed yet. I mean, if I’ve bloomed, shouldn’t I know what I’m doing with my life already? Or at least, know how to talk to boys?)

To be honest, I get frustrated with this part of myself a lot.

I wish I could start projects at least a couple days before they are due and not a couple hours before. I wish it didn’t take me forever to learn simple stuff like how to count in a foreign language or how to flirt without turning the color of stewed beets. I wish I were one of those people who had her life mapped out for her at twenty-six, and not the type of person who at thirty-six and still hasn’t figured out what she wants to be when she grows up.

I wish I were born a dragon — fearless and confident and full of fire.

But I guess we can’t all be dragons.

Some of us have to be rabbits. Which I guess is okay because according to my online Chinese horoscope, I’m going to have a lucky year full of cake.


Seriously, guys, how is that not a good sign?

Besides, it’s probably for the best that I can’t breathe fire.

What about you? Are you an early arriver or a late bloomer?

I've blathered on long enough! Now it's your turn!

  1. On January 29, 2012 at 3:26 pm Theodora said:

    I intend to bloom. I’m getting around to it. I’m on the bloody verge of it. What the hell do you mean, “late”?…
    Theodora recently posted..Anatomy of a Bulgarian Restaurant

    • On January 30, 2012 at 3:39 am Sally said:

      How about “mature bloomer” or “time-delayed bloomer” or “I’m not late, I’m just getting around to it bloomer”? (The last one I’m giving you full credit for.)

  2. On January 29, 2012 at 3:29 pm TravelMaus said:

    I’m definitely a late bloomer! I still haven’t figured out what I want to be when I grow up and I grew up a LONG time ago ! Hang in there is all I can say ! ( Great post btw.. you always make me laugh)

    • On January 30, 2012 at 3:36 am Sally said:

      Aww, thanks, Hanna. You’re always such an encouraging supporter. I really had no idea where I was going with this post and felt like I was trying to jam 10 topics into one (okay, so maybe I was). But it’s nice to know it was at least entertaining!

  3. On January 29, 2012 at 3:30 pm NFAH said:

    I share your pain. I, too, was born prematurely in January of 1976. I went for years thinking myself a dragon until my very smug sister, while living in Nanjing, informed me cruelly and BY EMAIL that I was actually a rabbit. And then just to heighten my pain, started regularly buying me rabbit gifts to decorate my flat, cell phone, etc. And since I too am living divorced and childless in a foreign country, I suspect that there is a special curse on January, 1976 preemies. Although that said, my twin died, so at least I made it to be 36 this year and receive conflicting advice about whether that’s good or bad luck.
    NFAH recently posted..Customer Service

    • On January 30, 2012 at 3:35 am Sally said:

      I can’t believe she broke the news to you by email. Rude! But, I’m telling you, it’s OUR year (okay, so it’s MY year, but I’m willing to share). Even if we are rabbits (begrudgingly so) this year is supposed to be good for us… or at least bring us lots of cake. That can’t be bad, can it?
      And, I’m sorry to hear about your twin. How sad.

  4. On January 29, 2012 at 3:33 pm Laurence said:

    I was born five weeks early, which meant that instead of being a mighty monkey, I’m a goat. I don’t know what this means, but I’m sure it’s auspicious. It seems the sort of thing that would be.
    Laurence recently posted..Sex when travelling: location, location, location

    • On January 30, 2012 at 3:30 am Sally said:

      Well, according to my sources (the Internet) goats are “elegant, charming, artistic, gifted and fond of nature.” So, yeah, sounds much better than a monkey… I really don’t think monkeys can be trusted.

  5. On January 29, 2012 at 3:41 pm Mario Lurig said:

    “The cake is a lie.” – Sorry, had to be said (I couldn’t resist it).

    I would say I started as a late bloomer, but around 30 (last few years) I settled in and I’m pretty confident I’ve switched it up a bit and become an early arriver. I have a loose plan, it’s working, and I’m proud of the life I am moving toward.

    So really Sally, I think you should be quite proud of the things you are doing and have done, so go rabbits!

    By replying to this post you are ‘talking to boys’: one step at a time.
    Mario Lurig recently posted..Successful CrowdFunding Venture through Kickstarter – Dice Candies

    • On January 30, 2012 at 3:28 am Sally said:

      Okay, I had to look on Urban Dictionary to figure out what “the cake is a lie.” So, it’s looking like if I want to be able to continue to talk to boys (or at least be able to understand what they say), I will need to have ready access to Urban Dictionary. I think I can do this…

  6. On January 29, 2012 at 3:45 pm Selly said:

    Can I also have a year full of cake please? There is no way this is a bad sign, if you ignore the calories which I intend to, cake is always awesome and definitely perfectly suited to predict a year full of awesomeness! So yeah, there we go, awesomeness x366, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!

    • On January 30, 2012 at 3:26 am Sally said:

      I know, right? How can cake be bad. According to the friend who translated the sign she said the cake stood for caution. What? That doesn’t make any kind of sense. Who can be cautious when around cake?

      • On January 30, 2012 at 9:19 am Selly said:

        I don’t know anyone sensible who would want to be cautious around cake unless of course there is gold inside and you’re supposed to fish it out, I’d be cautious then cause I wouldn’t want to swallow all that gold…so heavy. Anyway, cake doesn’t stand for caution, something there went wrong in the tradition. It definitely stands for yummy and awesome and uhm chocolate of course because every good cake has chocolate, right?

  7. On January 29, 2012 at 8:46 pm 50+ and on the Run said:

    There seems to be a lot of this going around: Relying on paper placemats, I spent 50 years certain that I was a Rat–and then found out that I am, in fact, nothing but a Boar. Oh, well, guess I’ll cut off all my hair, quit my job, sell my house and start a do-over. Actually, that IS what I’m doing! Wish me luck!

    And Happy Birthday, Sally!
    50+ and on the Run recently posted..Sunday Haiku XVI

    • On January 30, 2012 at 3:23 am Sally said:

      Those paper placemats at the Chinese restaurants are so misleading. They should really come with a disclaimer. That’s why I always thought I was a dragon until the Internet informed me otherwise. Stupid placemats…. or stupid Internet. I can’t figure out which one is stupid.
      And, wow, GOOD LUCK! Sounds like this is totally going to be YOUR year too.

  8. On January 29, 2012 at 9:01 pm Katja said:

    OK, so I AM actually a Dragon. Like, properly. Except that I’m much more like a Snake. Is anyone else getting the impression that the Chinese might be a little bit off the mark with this zodiac stuff?

    So, anyway, about this wheel of dessert thing. Now, that I can get behind. CAKE, people!
    Katja recently posted..Moonlighting

  9. On January 29, 2012 at 9:05 pm Alison said:

    I hope multiples of 12 in age are good luck, I turn 28 this year ;-)Think I’m a rat, which, let’s face it, is probably the worst one to be!
    Alison recently posted..Why Visit Lincoln, England?

    • On January 30, 2012 at 3:21 am Sally said:

      Well, I guess the multiple of 12 thing only applies to multiples of whole numbers (12, 24, 36, 48, etc). But, hey, I say make 28 YOUR year. And I have lots of friends who are rats. They are good people. (Or you could just choose the cuter variation like they do in Japan and say you’re a mouse?).

      • On January 30, 2012 at 11:53 pm NFAH said:

        My China-dwelling sister claims that my bad luck year is over because you don’t start out zero in China, so you’re 36 from the time you turn 35 to the time you turn 36, and thus through the whole of your year-where-it’s-your-zodiac-sign.
        NFAH recently posted..On dragons and bunnies

        • On January 31, 2012 at 4:28 am Sally said:

          Yeah, it’s the same way in Japan, but that’s yet another thing that me, Japan, and China are going to have to disagree on. I am 36 goshdarnit, NOT 37, thankyouverymuch. 🙂

  10. On January 29, 2012 at 9:58 pm Joseph said:

    Right…you could say I’m a late bloomer…and if you feel bad about being born in the year of the Rabbit, I was born in the year of the Rooster..rooster I say…what do they do? cut your sleep short…please…so I take a stand and try to wake up as late as possible (and yes, when I lived back home with my parents I used to growl at them in the morning)…also, I almost arrived 2 month earlier than planned, but kept to the schedule in the end…once again happy birthday and do hope someone sent you a unicorn! 😉
    Joseph recently posted..New project

  11. On January 29, 2012 at 11:13 pm marybindc said:

    I had to look and just learned I’m a sheep (or ram or goat). The description couldn’t be farther from me. Always elegantly dressed? (I am currently wearing levis and a sweatshirt from 1989). Shy? (HAHAHA no). Creative? Uh, no.

    Maybe I’m actually a triplet. 🙂

    • On January 30, 2012 at 3:17 am Sally said:

      Ha ha. Nice. The thing is I do actually match the rabbit personality (well, except the part about having lots of lovers) and not the dragon personality (apparently you need to be brave to be a dragon… that’s a stupid requirement). So maybe my zodiac is right? Who knows?
      But, yeah, you’re probably just a triplet.

  12. On January 30, 2012 at 1:00 am Rachel said:

    I too always though I was a dragon, until I realized the date of the Chinese New Year… I was sad to not be a dragon, because dragons are awesome and I have a dragon tattoo (not that it has anything to do with the zodiac, but it was one of those things where people are like ‘what does it mean?’ and I think, nothing, it’s just cool, but say ‘well I am a dragon in the zodiac).

    I think I may have been early too! But perhaps not so early that I would have been a dragon had I come on time.

    Anyway, happy birthday!
    Rachel recently posted..Getting to Jeju the Long Way

    • On January 30, 2012 at 3:14 am Sally said:

      This seems to be a common occurrence — people thinking they’re a dragon and then finding out they’re not. Me should start a movement or a club or something: Rabbits Who Should Be Dragons. Okay, I need to work on a catchier title.

  13. On January 30, 2012 at 7:04 am Fiona at Life on Nanchang Lu said:

    I’ll say it again….Happy Birthday Sally! I’ve always loved those random fortune-telling papers/sticks/cake wheels.
    When we were travelling in Guizhou there was a crusty old guy with a bird in a cage who (for a small fee) would walk along your forearm, sniffing it, then choose a paper fortune for you from the box. True story.
    In an extraordinary twist of prediction, the fortune the bird picked said “wealth something something, longevity something something (hey – my Chinese is not that good), success something…but ONLY if you pay this kind old man 19.7 yuan (exactly). Amazing. Do you think there is a statute of limitations on a fortune-telling? Coz I’m still kinda waiting for the success and wealth to show up……
    Fiona at Life on Nanchang Lu recently posted..Seven Must-Dos at Nanjing’s Lantern Fair

    • On January 30, 2012 at 1:23 pm Sally said:

      I really think I need to find that bird in Guizhou. I don’t even know where Guizhou is but I’m on a mission! And it just so happens I have exactly 19.7 yuan burning a hole in my pocket…

  14. On January 30, 2012 at 1:40 pm Amy said:

    late bloomer here…think I’m also on the track of “constantly figuring things out later than everyone else does.” At 37, according to an informal (as in I never took it) survey of my peers on facebook, I’m supposed to be a soccer mom living in a nice big house somewhere in the suburbs, rather than an ex-expat and wannabe writer living on the cheap in a part of NYC that is neither Brooklyn nor Manhattan…

    Anyway, I think we thirty-somethings who don’t fit the mold should continue to spin our dessert wheels and hope for cake and not sticky rice globs and continue to claim our years whenever the hell we feel like it. 😉 And Happy Birthday Sally!

  15. On January 30, 2012 at 9:48 pm Priya said:

    Sally, I most definitely am a late bloomer ( still blooming btw). I have yet to learn how to swim and ‘talk to boys’ haha. And honestly, I don’t feel like I’m ever going to grow up and get a life. I guess we all kind of feel that way regardless of our age.
    Oh, and FYI, you’re definitely a dragon/rabbit. I see you as fearless and confident and full of fire ( full of life). But you’re not hideous like a dragon. You’re cute as a rabbit ( but you don’t let people take advantage of the cuteness).

  16. On January 31, 2012 at 12:33 am Lauren said:

    I’m a precocious late bloomer if that makes sense 🙂 I was born later than expected and took longer than my peers to hit certain social milestones (didn’t have my first boyfriend til 18). However, I read early and was asked to skip kindergarten because I was ahead (I didn’t).

    As for the Year of the Dragon, I’m a 1981 metal rooster, and this is supposed to be my year. I hope it brings good things to you as well.

    • On January 31, 2012 at 4:14 am Sally said:

      Umm, yeah, I was 19 when I had my first boyfriend… but I didn’t really start “dating” until I was in my mid-twenties and, well, you know about me and my inability to talk to boys. So I guess I started things really LATE.
      Thanks for the well wishes. I hope it’s YOUR year too. (I’m totally willing to share. I’m nice like that. 🙂 )

  17. On January 31, 2012 at 4:29 am Jill said:

    Well, I also turn 36 today, and I thought I was the dragon too. Happy birthday to you and your brothers.
    Jill recently posted..We just shaved our heads

    • On January 31, 2012 at 4:32 am Sally said:

      Happy birthday to you, too! And I think you totally have the right to decide if you’re a dragon or a rabbit. It’s stupid to let your birthdate decide something like that. 🙂

  18. On February 1, 2012 at 7:52 pm Phil said:

    Having looked at plenty of websites which concentrate on travel writing for my university degree, they didn’t exactly make me laugh out loud.

    Your blog did though and as it focusses on travel, a little bit, I’ll be saying why this article made me laugh like a lunatic in the library next week.

    Thank you Unbrave Girl. You’ve made me chuckle.

  19. On February 4, 2012 at 3:15 pm choi kum fook said:

    Very entertaining post!Miss Sally, you can be either rabbit or dragon.In western year,you are dragon. whereas, you are rabbit in Lunar year. Ha!Ha!So you are lucky, having two chances to do things! You have more advantages than others.I have no choice, being a rabbit because I was born in the middle of the year on 1951. Cake!? It is not a very good sign in Chinese. ‘Cake’ means ‘Sad’ in Chinese.Finally, on the whole, as on my view,Chinese Fortune Customs like fortune telling paper;sticks; cake wheels; bird cards picking etc,.you may believe a bit, couldn’t charm too much on them!

    • On February 8, 2012 at 4:02 am Sally said:

      Mr. Choi, I like the idea of being BOTH a dragon and a rabbit. It’s an interesting combination — fire-breathing but fluffy! But I don’t like what you’re saying about cake meaning sad. How can that be true? That makes me feel sad just thinking about it!

  20. On February 9, 2012 at 3:44 pm ChinaMatt said:

    Happy belated birthday! An extra-long and cheesy life shall be granted to you!

    And don’t feel so bad about being a rabbit that can’t breathe fire. If you want a role model, think of the rabbit from Monty Python’s Holy Grail.
    ChinaMatt recently posted..On Getting Lost

  21. On February 21, 2012 at 4:22 pm Ceri said:

    Definitely a late bloomer here. 😛 Haha.
    Ceri recently posted..Return to Blogging (with a Vlog)


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