A Tour of Georgetown and Chinese New Year Celebrations

It’s been a busy weekend.  I’m really tired.  Simon is still asleep at 10:30am, so I’m guessing he is too.  The students, who are still adjusting to the time change, must be even more so.

The USM buddies planned an outing on Saturday to show off some of the neat sites of Penang.  Our family accompanied them as the students walked around the Botanic Gardens.  Simon was in a really great mood and managed to avoid the cactus garden this time, so hey–we’re getting better at this!


Friends at the Botanic Garden.



From there, we went to the Clan Jetties.  These jetties have a really interesting history.  In the late 19th century, many Chinese immigrants were arriving from Fujian Province, seeking work and an escape from the poor living conditions in their homeland.  (Note: Fujian Province is the northern neighbor of Guangdong Province, where we were living.) The men who arrived organized themselves by their originating villages and broad family groups.  The men labored as dock workers and, hoping to send as much money home as possible, they were looking for cheap real estate.  Rather than living on land, they expanded the piers and built small homes and shanties on stilts above the water.  Eventually, the men had enough money to send for their families and the jetties became homes to entire communities.  Six clan jetties–still bearing the names of their founding clans–still exist.  They are still used as residences but the piers are open to the public.


Simon took a liking to Afi, one of the USM Buddies who has been so kind to him.


USM Buddies.


Age of the Selfie.


After the jetties, we were hot and hungry.  We walked into central Georgetown, to the Little India neighborhood, and had a fantastic lunch at The Woodlands, a vegetarian Indian restaurant.  The people at my table ordered a bunch of dishes to be shared, and we all walk edge away, sated with delicious new foods.
In the evening, I invited the Gusties to join us as our family was headed to Georgetown for Penang’s official Chinese new Year’s celebration.  Many of the small streets were closed to traffic.  Big displays were set up around town and there were six stages with a variety of performances being held.

Unfortunately, just as the festivities were to begin, it started to rain.  There would be several cloudbursts throughout the night, just enough to keep us all damp.  Maybe it felt a little refreshing, after walking in the sun all day?


A rainy night.


“Look at all the pumpkins!”

It took a long time for our group to meet up–further proof that in future years, the program should make cell phone communication and transportation arrangements a higher priority.  We’re still learning.  But we eventually found each other.  Our group–the Carlins, the 10 Gusties, and Mindy (a USM buddy)–made our way to the Esplanade, which was the center of the festivities.  Several of us had our pictures taken with our zodiac animals.


Year of the Pig!


Year of the Dog!


I’m the only Horse in the group. And did I mention it was raining?

After that, our family split off from the students.  It was well past Simon’s bedtime but I wanted to stay out to see all the sights.  And he was having a great time, too.  One of the stages had a youth group performing traditional Indian dances.

Indian dancers.


They were followed by what had to be the highlight of the evening for me, the diabolo performance.  Diabolos are sometimes called “Chinese yo-yos.”  There’s a piece of string with two wooden handles.  Then you balance a double-coned yo-yo on the string and keep spinning to keep it balanced.  We saw them when we were in Chengdu and I was impressed at the time, but this was incredible.  Every time I thought the performers were on their “big finale” act, they came along and did something even more impressive.  I don’t often post videos, but these are too cool not to share:


It’s worth saying that they make it look easier than it is.  I’ve tried one of these before, and I couldn’t even keep the cones balanced on the string for 10 seconds.  Afterwards, Simon walked over to the troupe and picked up one of the yo-yos.  The leader of the troupe helped him spin the diabolo!  He was so excited and proud of himself.


Very proud of himself.

From there, we caught an Uber cab home.  It was after midnight and our kiddo was still awake.  We stayed up just long enough to get notification that our students had arrived home safely and then we fell into bed–we still had a busy Sunday ahead of us.


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