新年快乐!

Happy New Year and Year of the Dragon!  To celebrate, let’s have a quick Mandarin lesson, shall we?  新年快乐 is translated as ‘Happy New Year.”  In pinyin, the Romanized spelling of Chinese characters, it’s spelled xin nian kuai le.  I won’t bother with tones because a) it’s too difficult and far better left for someone more qualified to teach you and b) I don’t know how to type it on my computer.  To pronounce:

  • xin is pronounced like “Sheen”, like Charlie Sheen.  As in Crazy Charlie Sheen.
  • nian is pronounced like “nyen”, like the “nyan” in Nyan Cat…so it’s “nee-en.”  OK, so not really like Nyan Cat.  I just wanted an excuse to link it.
  • kuai is pronounced like “why” with a “qu” in front, like the beginning of “quick”.  Or you can say “quay” with a weird fake Cockney accent.
  • le is like it’s spelled. Like you’re pretending you speak French when you really don’t. “I am le tired.  I want le baguette.”

Or you can do it the easier way and have Google Translate say it for you.  But my way is more fun, don’t you think?

For those of you not in the know, today (or most likely yesterday in your time zone) was the Lunar New Year, which is commonly known as Chinese New Year, but is in fact celebrated by lots of cultures across the globe, and not just Chinese.  So really, it should just be called Lunar New Year.  I confess, I am not an expert in New Year’s traditions or folklore or horoscope predictions.  That’s next year because 2013 is the Year of the Snake and that is my zodiac animal.  Not going to lie, I have my chapter in The Handbook of Chinese Horoscopes memorized.  I think every Chinese household has one, along with the mandatory peacock feathers (for good luck) and giant wok (because how else do you make authentic Chinese food?)

Regardless if you celebrated New Year’s or not, I wish everyone a prosperous and joyful 2012, with lots of money and fortune heading your way.  And no, I didn’t get that from a fortune cookie.

Learn To Drive

Maybe I’m just noticing more bad drivers because I’m actually driving quite frequently now.  Certainly I noticed awful bikers when I was biking around during college.  Thanks a lot, girl who was biking in the wrong lane and crashed wheel-first into me.  I don’t think it’s just LA; we have awful traffic here, but not particularly bad drivers as a whole.

Even though driving the freeway isn’t a requirement on the driving test, it should be.  Since nobody’s ever really taught proper protocol on how to drive on the freeway, most people just learn as they go, or as it seems to be now: they just do what they want.  I want to start a driving revolution.  I want people to actually drive well, not just adequately enough to pass a driving test.  I have a solution to this.  I propose every new driver should go do two things.

One: go maneuver a car around a Chinese grocery store parking lot.  I can guarantee you that you will see the gamut of bad drivers here, and you will have plenty of opportunities to test your own patience as a driver.  Since you can’t run over the couple just aimlessly meandering around the parking lot willy-nilly like it’s a green meadow and you can’t exactly ram headfirst into all the cars that enter the lane in the wrong direction, you’ll quickly learn to meditate and achieve inner peace, rather than descend into incoherent grumblings of rage that cause your eyebrows and fingers to twitch inappropriately.  And next time you’re faced with an annoying driver on the road, you’ll handle it with grace and maturity.

Two: go maneuver a shopping cart inside a Chinese grocery store.  That’s where the real test lies.  More often than not, the carts will be a little wonky (i.e. a wheel is wobbly, you can’t seem to push the cart in the direction you want, it won’t start unless you push in a certain angle, etc.).  There’s no point in trying to switch a cart because your next one will probably have a different problem, and besides, pushing with a bad cart is part of your steering abilities.  If you can successfully navigate around the store without hitting anybody, and you can manage to park your cart to the side (because it’s so crowded, if you’re waiting for someone to pick something up, it makes more sense to just wait in a less crowded area rather than fight the traffic), then I think you’ll be handle any of those jerk wads who just swerve from lane to lane on the freeway, plus you’ll learn that forcing your way into tiny spaces usually isn’t worth it, and that you can just wait for a bigger space.

You can also try this at Costco, but since the carts are way bigger and you’ll be dodging people wrestling with bundles of toilet paper and “indoor/outdoor reindeer” (no joke; saw one in Costco on Saturday and that was literally the name they gave it), I would recommend practicing in a Chinese grocery store first and then testing yourself at Costco.

So if you’ve ever been told you’re a crappy driver, go do this.  If you haven’t learned to drive yet, even better.   Let’s make the roads a better place to be, one driver at a time.