My Chinese New Year 2016 Gone Wrong

My Chinese New Year 2016 Gone Wrong

Happy Chinese New Year!
Happy Chinese New Year!

In America, it’s easy to forget that Chinese New Year is even happening.  Akin to Christmas in China, no one in America gives a flying crap about a holiday based on an outdated calendar.

My boyfriend was no exception.  Although he’s Chinese, he was way more excited about the super bowl.

“Am I allowed to watch super bowl?” he pleaded.

“What about Chinese New Year?” I frowned.  “I thought we could make jiao zi (dumplings) together and watch a Chinese movie or something.  You know, get in the spirit.”

His face scrunched up.  He paused.  His mind went into the how-to-correctly-answer-girlfriend zone of concentration.

“Yeah…we can, uh, do that,” he replied after one full minute of silence.

“Oh, just watch the football game,” I rolled my eyes.  “I’ll go celebrate with some real Asian people.”

Sadly, boyfriend couldn’t do either.  He got called into the hospital.  But instead of wish everyone a “Xin Nian Kuai Le,” I can assure you he checked the score on his mobile for the play-by-play of the super bowl as he rounded the hospital.

Luckily, my fellow international friends invited me to a simple Chinese New Year gathering at their home.  I had a chance to spend the holiday with my Chinese, Korean, Japanese and Vietnamese-American friends.

The Egg Rolls and the Incident

Vietnamese Egg Rolls
Vietnamese Egg Rolls

After picking up groceries from the ol’ Ranch 99 Chinese Supermarket near my house, I rolled up my sleeves, put on my apron and got to work.  I was going to make Vietnamese egg rolls.

Vietnamese egg rolls are similar to Chinese egg rolls, but way better.  Just sayin’.

There are two kinds of Vietnamese egg rolls: those made with won ton (egg & flour) skin that are usually stuffed with meat and vermicelli rice noodles, and the other kind made with meat stuffing and rice paper wrapping, which my mom and aunt usually made for me growing up.

I helped my mom fold and roll up the rice paper egg rolls countless times throughout my life, but I never actually made the stuffing or fried them myself.  So, I gave myself a challenge.

It was the awaited moment young daughters everywhere face in their life: the moment to cook like their mother.

… I found a recipe online.

After rolling over 20 egg rolls and sweating over a deep fryer, I towered over my finished creation.  Face caked in oil and hair in tatters, I had did it.  I made Vietnamese rice paper egg rolls–and they tasted mighty fine.

Then I looked at the clock and realized: Shit.  I’m 10 minutes late.

Without even looking in the mirror, I packed up the egg rolls, threw a package of tang yuan (sweet mochi) in my car and sped off.

Everything was going fine.  There was no traffic.  I drove with some Chinese music blasting, me totally singing along.  I was about ten minutes away.  I could smell the egg rolls in the trunk.

Then I made a right turn and there it was.

Debris.  All over the road.

There was no avoiding it.  It was to the left, to the right, to the front.  I braced for impact.


My stomach sunk with the noise.  I pulled over and jumped out of the driver’s seat, inspecting the outside of my car.  It was dark, but from the looks of it there was no heavy damage.  I pressed on the tires to check the air pressure and they seemed alright.

I sighed a breath of relief and hopped back in the car.  I somehow managed to get away clean.

Or so I thought.

Dinner With a Surprise

Chinese New Year 2016 Feast

My friends and I gathered at their humble abode for some Asian cuisine.

My Chinese friend from Sichuan province made spicy noodles.  In China, eating noodles = long life.

My Korean friend made tteokguk, a traditional mochi (rice) soup with beef and eggs.  It supposedly ages you one more year for the new year.

My Vietnamese-American friend brought a shit ton of fruits.  Cause Asian people love, love fruit.

And my Japanese friend, who doesn’t celebrate Chinese new year, came along anyway for a good time and brought booze.  Woo-hoo.

And, of course, there were my egg rolls.

Anyway, we feast like it’s Thanksgiving and roll on the floor in gluttony.  It was a joyous evening of talking, laughing, and good food.  We finished it up with tang yuan.

I said my farewells and hopped in my car.  As soon as I put the car in drive and hit the gas pedal, however, I knew something was wrong.  The tire symbol on my dashboard lit up.  My stomach lurched as I inspected my Prius’ front wheel and confirmed the worst.

I had a flat tire.

Yes, there are 10 nails in my tire

“I’m sorry to bother you,” I called the friends I had just left. “But do any of you happen to know how to change a flat tire?”

“Hold on one minute Mary,” my friend assured me.  “We got it covered.  We’ll be right out.”

My four friends rushed out to the parking lot in worry.

“I called my friends who know how to change a flat tire,” my Korean friend said. “They’ll be coming soo—“

Before she could even finish her sentence, a car came wheeling up behind us and parked.  Out hopped three young Korean men, one smoking a cigarette.

“They’re faster than 911!” my Chinese friend cried.

Before I even realized what was happening, the boys put the jack under my car and started to inspect my tire.  I was barraged with Korean.  I had no idea what was going on.  One boy kicked my rim, another one started loading up a “how to change a flat tire” video on youtube.

“I thought they knew how to do this!?” I started panicking and reached for my insurance card.

“They know, they know” my Korean friend patted me on the shoulder. “Relax?”

I was assaulted with Korean once more and one of the boys, cigarette in one hand and wrench in the other, began to jump on the wrench attached to the bolts of my tire in an attempt to unscrew them.  My car slid forward off the jack.  The two other boys rushed to hold my car up.  I grimaced.

Oh god.

As I began to dial my insurance provider, the Korean boys somehow managed to take off my old tire and put on the spare donut.  I figured, if they put this much effort into it and then I called the insurance roadside assistance, it would be a slap in the face.  I mean, who cares if the donut maybe rolls off later as I try to drive back home? It was all about good manners and showing my appreciation.

And as fast as they came, the Korean boys lit up one last cigarette as they put the final screw on the donut.  They gave me the thumbs up, smiled, and sped away in their car.  Although they had saved me from impending doom, I didn’t even know their names.  Hell, we didn’t even communicate.  I merely muttered a thank you as they drove into the night.

So last night sucked.  But somehow, I was saved by a magical Korean-boy-band-mechanic-trio.

This morning I took my car into the shop and spent a ton of money buying a new tire and fixing the alignment of my vehicle.  The paint job was ruined from the debris as well.  Ah, cars.  You expensive death machines.  How I wish I could live without you.


So Happy Chinese New Year everyone! 

And don’t forget the very important lesson we learned from Mary’s Chinese New Year 2016:

Make sure you know how to change a flat tire.

18 thoughts on “My Chinese New Year 2016 Gone Wrong

  1. Whoa, that is just horrible, Mary! I’m so glad those Korean guys were able to help you put on that spare.

    My Chinese New Year hasn’t been the best either for personal reasons. So yeah, am totally feeling that “CNY gone wrong” vibe myself.

    1. Yeah, nothing seems to be more stressful than car trouble, it seems 🙁 I’m just really grateful that this didn’t happen on the freeway.

      Oh no Jocelyn! I hope you’re feeling better after CNY (although it’s still kind of going on there). I hope you can have some time to relax, rewind and recover!

      Even if it was a not-so-hot new year, the photos on your blog look great 🙂 Nice weather and good food!

  2. Happy new monkey year! And that sucks about the tire. I have no idea how to change one either… but I almost don’t drive so I am fine I guess?

    1. I know, I started whining in Japanese as the whole flat tire incident went on, saying:

      “I should just move back to Japan! This wouldn’t even happen there!”

      To which my Japanese friend said, “yes it could. This could totally happen in Japan.”

      And I replied, “no, it wouldn’t. Because you don’t have to drive.”

      And she could only say, “Oh. you’re right.” haha.

      I wish I could live in a place where I don’t need a car… I told Richard this was #1 for my priority list in terms of places to live, but only 2 cities in the USA make this possible (Boston and NYC, maybe DC). Sigh.

      I hope you enjoyed Osaka and Kyoto!!!!!! How was it!?

  3. Those egg rolls look fantastic! So impressed. I don’t think I’ve had Vietnamese ones in years.

    My dad made sure I knew how to change a tire. When I did change my own tire, and announced it proudly to all my coworkers, they merely looked at me like I was an idiot and said, “Why didn’t you just call AAA?”

    AAA is much, much faster. Also less greasy. They had a point.

    1. I’ll make you egg rolls, Autumn!

      You know, as I was writing this post I kept on thinking to myself: “I bet Autumn knows how to change a flat tire. Cause she’s a badass.”

      After the whole incident happened I realized I should have just called my insurance to begin with… but then I wouldn’t have gotten to tell everyone I was saved by a Korean boy band trio, haha.

      1. Yeah, the boy band was pretty hilarious. Smoking and changing tires, like 50’s greasers or something! I kind of wonder if they had actually changed a tire before. Well, back when I first drove across the country, I had no cell phone (can you imagine!) and there were some very deserted stretches. It’s not a bad skill to have for instances like that.

        Also, a tire iron makes a damned good club. For instances like that.

  4. As always, I love your wording. I feel like I was reading about myself on that “find a recipe online” bit.

    Sounds like things were hectic! I didn’t do much this year either, but nothing is better than flat tires (which, now that I think about it, I don’t know how to change either). Looking at these photos I do feel like I was missing out on some delicious food, though.

    1. Happy New Year! I know in Japan Chinese New Year isn’t really celebrated that much, but I heard that most of China is IN Japan right now because of the long Chinese new year holiday. Have you seen any Chinese tourists in your neck of the woods?

      Thanks for the comment! And yes, the food was super delicious 🙂

      1. I’ve heard that too! I’ve been stuck in the office and at non-tourism facilities, though, so haven’t run into them this time around. I’ll bet I’d run into them if I were shopping at the drugstores where they can get things like tax-free cosmetics!

  5. Ah, don’t worry. You got your “bad luck” out of the way so soon, at the beginning of the year! And now it should be smooth sailing 😀

    When I learned to change a tire, wayyyy back in h.s., I was such a baby about it. I cried while my step-dad taught me. I have no idea why. I guess it was so hard, my poor teenage brain 😛

    1. The question is: do you still remember how to change the flat tire from way back when? haha. I think I would have cried, too. Doing anything with cars is so overwhelming and stressful. I can’t even replace wiper fluid on my own, haha.

      I really hope I can find a way to live without a car again 🙁

      Anyway, hoping my bad luck is out of the way! Happy New Year to you!

  6. Oh no! I’m sorry your Chinese New Year turned out so badly. I’m just glad you got away with a flat and nothing more serious than that.

    I’m so jealous of your Vietnamese egg rolls though (they are totally waaaay better than the Chinese ones).

    I’m having Chinese New Year issues myself, since I’m in a new city and I know exactly all the people at work on my team who were there just before the holiday started. That’s it. So here’s to a year that’s better than the new year itself! It can only go up from here on out, right? Right?

  7. I swear to the old gods and new, Vietnamese food is hands down the best thing on this planet. With the possible exception of the congealed blood soup stuff.

    How does ‘Americanized’ Vietnamese food compare to the real thing? I’ve found Australian Chinese food to be pretty abstract, but the Vietnamese here is often surprisingly authentic – even in tiny remote/rural towns!

    1. Haha “I swear to the old gods and new,”…. sounds like a Game of Thrones line? 😉

      Yes, Vietnamese is very, very good. I do recommend you eat your fill before you go to Japan, because I found that to be the most difficult thing to find in Japan. When I finally found a pho restaurant in Tokyo they charged $15 bucks for a small bowl of pho that tasted TERRIBLE! Here in the USA you can get a really delicious bowl of pho for $8. Yeah. I missed Vietnamese food a lot while I lived in Japan.

      Hmmm, actually, Vietnamese food is actually pretty authentic here in the states. When I visited Vietnam and had a bowl of pho there, I was actually surprised at just how similar it tasted to what I ate at home. I think in America we don’t make the rice paper egg rolls, and it’s hard to find dishes besides pho and the bun (the cold vermicelli noodles with fish sauce on it). Finding Banh Xeo (the pancake thingy) or Bun Bo Hue (the spicy soup) and other dishes like around here is kinda tough–but not impossible! Vietnamese food here is definitely more authentic than Chinese!

      Are there a lot of Vietnamese people in Australia?

      1. Australia has a pretty large community of Vietnamese descended folks. There were a lot of refugees in the late 1970s, and Australia being large, modern(ish), safe, and relatively close to Vietnam geographically led to a lot of settlers here.

        As terrible as that part of Vietnam’s history may be, I’m glad it eventually led to such excellent food popping up in Australia. From what I hear from the older generation, multiculturalism has saved Australia from ending up a culinary wasteland of inter-war-period Britain proportions.

        My mother once told me that when she first arrived in Australia in the early ’80s, she asked some of her coworkers about where she could find garlic, and was told – “Garlic!?, You mean like that Wog food shit?”.

        We’ve come a long way. Sort of.

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