Happy Year of the Rat

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Tonight is Chinese New Year’s Eve and across this storm ravaged, coal-famished country, children, junior employees, door staff and delivery boys will be coughing politely, and extending hands, in expectation of lai see—the envelopes of money that are the customary seasonal gift. Polls in Hong Kong have revealed that the average amount each envelope will contain this year will be 20 Hong Kong dollars, or about US$2.50. Hm. If it was any less the envelope would be worth more than the money itself, which would mean that you’d be paying people to take money from you—or something like that.
Call me audacious, but I’m giving our concierge five times that amount. A venturesome US$12.50. He’s spent the past year vetting visitors, holding lift doors open, handling our parcels and wishing us good day, despite whatever existentialist doom his lot in life has most certainly entitled him to feel. He’s earned his beer coupon (which is the name we fondly give to the Hong Kong 100 dollar note).
Chinese New Year is also a sacrosanct time of family reunion (though someone should tell that to my mother, who is off to spend the holidays in the sinful palaces of Macau). So, to readers in China, I hope you made it home OK, and are not still stuck on a train on some desolate, icebound plateau, surviving on raw cup noodles and melted snow. 恭喜发财 to you and yours.

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