I spent the afternoon today ushering in the Year of the Rabbit with a group of friends in the Chicago suburbs.
Although the outside temperature crept above freezing, we enjoyed a banquet of tasty Cantonese food indoors in the comfort of central heat.
But my first Chinese New Year 20 years ago wasn’t so comfortable.
Here I am in a small city outside Nanjing with my friends, the Chens, and their extended family. We stayed in this town for several days and often took strolls outside to keep warm.
The temperatures in Jiangsu province hovered in the low 40s Fahrenheit, but we didn’t have any indoor heat. None. So it felt warmer to walk outside as the sun struggled to peek through the dense coal smog. It sure beat sitting in one place inside, barely feeling your toes through three layers of socks and polyester slippers.
This trip was my second to China, and I realized then that a life in rural China wasn’t for me.
Three years later, fate had other ideas.