By Assunta Ng
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
The Year of the Pig is supposed to bring us wealth and prosperity. Instead, Seattle gets snow— treacherous storms one after another —putting all Lunar New Year celebrations in limbo. Wait, it is said that a pig year should shower us with optimism and energy. That energy has surely been misdirected to a dirty mess in the city after the snow.
When I watched the snow pouring like thunderous rain on Feb. 11, I didn’t know what to make of it. I stepped back a little, trying to put everything in perspective.
What people don’t know is that the pig has a mischievous trait. It may be fat and slow, it also likes to play. Long ago, I remember what my friend, who raised pigs, said — that no one can get a pig to do something.
“What do you do if you want the pig to act the way you want?” I asked.
“You have to bribe the pig,” she said.
“Really, the pig is that smart?” I responded.
Don’t underestimate the pig year. It can be as unpredictable as next week’s stock market. That snow was just a little fun the pig wants to have. Is that it? The best is yet to come? Who knows! Some folks said, snow is a good sign — meaning water, translated into Asian cultures — meaning wealth. I didn’t know Asian cultures have a philosophical way of looking at things. Presently, this snow has hurt quite a bit, not only in the Asian community, but much of the Northwest.
On Feb. 9, Chinatown was like a freezing ghost town. Several businesses, including Uwajimaya and restaurants in the International District (ID), were closed. In the past, the first Lunar New Year weekend is presumably one of the busiest in the ID. Over 10,000 people come from all over the state, and visit our community to see the Lunar New Year festival, packing our grocery stores and restaurants with family and friends. Bakeries and barbecue outlets sell out their goods faster than any other time of the year. Children put on their beautiful Asian costumes. Lion and dragon dancers perform with loud gongs and drums, firecrackers are lit to chase away evil spirits, and you can hear them from blocks away.
Many ID restaurateurs were counting on the New Year weekend, and the days leading up to or following the New Year. However, this year’s weather was weird. A week before Lunar New Year, we had good warm weather. Then, it changed Washington state into another Alaska overnight. The cold spell, on Lunar New Year’s Eve, extended for more than a week. Thank God, the City of Seattle has been doing a good job to clear the streets of the ID and downtown.
Many organizations, which set their events on Feb. 9., had to reschedule to a later date. First, Chinatown-International District Business Improvement Association decided on Feb.5 to postpone its Lunar New Year festival to March 2. Asia Pacific Cultural Center announced a change to its event to have it on Feb. 23, a day before the storm hit on Feb. 9. Bellevue Square was the last one to announce its decision on the morning of Feb. 9, to postpone its Lunar New Year event until March 2.
As I walked around the ID on Feb. 11, quite a few restaurants weren’t open, and many had cut back their dinner hours. Rain or shine, some organizers could not change their events’ date, despite the uncooperative weather, like the Seattle Hop Sing Tong’s Lunar New Year banquet. Only 200 people showed up, and several tables were empty. The schedule was set in advance, so its national officials could attend the different chapters’ banquets. Besides, other Chinatown organizations coordinated their New Year banquet dates, so they don’t clash with one another. If one changes its date, it would ruin the whole community’s celebration schedule.
Some meteorologists said that the recent snowstorms were the worst in the past 40 or 70 years in our area. Small business owners, including restaurateurs, might moan and groan about how much their business had suffered in the last 10 days. But restaurateurs were not the only ones.
The community can play a vital role in helping ID businesses and Asian restaurants in other parts of town. If you didn’t get to celebrate the Lunar New Year with your family and friends because of the snow, this weekend and the next and the next, would be great to invite them to come to the ID and support the businesses. I cancelled a family dinner on Feb. 9, and would do one when the weather gets better. Lunar New Year celebration doesn’t end until the middle of March. You still have time for a wonderful festive meal.
The snow had also impacted us. We are one of the organizers for ID Lunar New Year festival, the costume/mask contest on Feb. 9. I’m glad the event was postponed, rather than to have the contestants standing in the cold. Also, snow would have destroyed most of the costumes since most are made of thin material.
The Seattle Chinese Post, Northwest Asian Weekly’s sister paper, was in jeopardy to be published on time, since more than half of the staff couldn’t make it in to work. Some staff members’ power went out in their homes. The day before, the print shop for Seattle Chinese Post also had power problems. It gave me anxiety all night, thinking about what could possibly go wrong on press day. Quickly, I rolled to the side, and soothed myself to sleep. I have written articles, urging readers not to worry about the unknown. Why am I doing it to myself, I wondered. The fact is, it’s always easier to give advice than to take my own.
So, I put a few drops of essential oils that help with relaxation on my pillow. Then, I took some slow deep breaths, counting one to five for each breath before I exhaled. Within minutes, I fell asleep. If I don’t have the energy of a dragon and horse the next day, I wouldn’t have the spirit of these two animals to face my challenges. I slept for seven hours, and felt ready to tackle the world when I woke up. Things change dramatically every day. Never think about your problems once you are in bed.
As of press time, all of our staff members showed up, except for one. Life always has a mysterious way of working things out.
For those who suffered from the loss of business during the first Lunar New Year weekend, don’t look at them as losses. I did spend time relaxing at home, and counting my blessings over the week. Be prepared for surprises in the Year of the Pig. Never take good times for granted. And never take for granted those who have supported you through thick and thin.
The pig year is still young. Look for the good, satisfaction, and fun even if you are in troubled waters. The pig year can be a rewarding year, you will soon discover.
Assunta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.