Saturday, April 17, 2010

Passover in Dalian

Happy belated Passover! I had a lovely Pesach in Dalian, and I hosted my first-ever seder for Jessica, Tae, Chris, and Lucy. It was fun, but surprisingly nerve-wracking. I'm not used to explaining the holiday (I'm the only Jew of the group) and it made me view it through fresh eyes. For example, why does Elijah show up and why do we open the door for him and why does he drink the wine? I had no answers for these questions. But with the help of the WJC Women's Seder Haggadah (thanks Mom!) I think I did a fairly good job in leading the seder and everyone enjoyed themselves.

Jessica helped decorate by arranging a Mantel of Plagues. It turned out great, featuring plastic frogs, rubber insects, beasts (stuffed tiger), lice (salt), darkness (sunglasses), hail (cotton balls), and boils (acne medication).

She also helped me make the food. It all turned out well, except for the matzah balls, which were very dense. We also realized that we don't own any plates, which shows you how often we entertain. We've spent the year eating out of very shallow bowls, which is fine, but it gets tricky when you're trying to serve a meal with a soup course. So, after the soup, I washed the bowls, and gave them back to people. Nor did we have enough spoons, so Jessica and I drank from our bowls. It was all a little makeshift, but good.

I was also able to assemble a pretty decent seder plate, as seen above. I am most proud of my horseradish addition (the gloop of green on the left) because I really persevered in finding it. I went to Trust Mart, which is a large supermarket nearby, and asked many unfriendly salespeople where the 辣根 (la gen) was. There was lots of vague pointing and rows of mystery jars, but finally I insisted someone show me exactly where it was, which was on the bottom shelf in a little bucket. I was very happy.

Everyone at the seder was exceedingly polite and respectful and serious, which was wonderful, but it also filled me with anxiety. "Just relax!" I pleaded with my guests. "This is a fun holiday!" However, the more I talked about bitterness and oppression and blood and plagues, the less fun the holiday seemed. Passover has never struck me as sad - it's all story-telling and thoughtfulness and ritual and matzah - but it was hard to inject a sense of liveliness into my own seder. I will say, though, that I hid afikomen for all my guests and they ran around like kids, which was fun to watch. Also, my friends love any holiday where it is required to drink four cups of wine.

My favorite quote of the evening? After a night of eating, drinking, and really driving home the oppression of my people, I tried to start cleaning up. Tae stopped me. "Oh, no, no." he said. "We'll do it. You've suffered enough."

Next year in Jerusalem!

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