It´s the Year of the Rabbit, You Stupid Ox! (Time To Travel To China)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

On February 3rd, the Tiger stepped aside to make way for the Year of the Rabbit. When he did, something surprising happened. People seemed to actually care about it. I can´t recall another Chinese New Year really capturing everyone´s attention quite like The Rabbit has. I could not log onto my Twitter account without constant Rabbit references.

In conversations people talked about rabbits. Bugs Bunny was mentioned. Even the intrepid Editor-in-Chief of The Expeditioner was not immune to the pull of the Rabbit when he wrote this in an email, “Great page view count this month. 2011 is indeed the year of the Rabbit!” To which I could not help but reply, “Silly Matt, page hits are for kids.”

As we enter the first stages of The Year of the Rabbit, I remember my own year of the rabbit. If you´ll allow my ADHD run wild for two paragraphs, I´ll explain.

When I was a little boy of eight years old, two rabbits entered my life. One hopped, the other crawled. One was named Hopper, the other Crawler. Hopper was a pet store pedigree rabbit kept in a cage made from a squirrel trap. Hopper lived alone in his cage until the day we found the wild rabbit. We found Crawler crawling in a field. He was crawling because his hind legs, and possibly his back, had been broken. Likely, he had been in a car accident. We took Crawler home to live with Hopper.

I first imagined that Hopper would welcome her crippled kin and willingly share her pellets. Instead, hopper looked at crawler as a suburban house wife might look at a crack whore — she ignored Crawler with utter disdain. No one in my family knows what happened that night. But the next morning Crawler was dead and Hopper innocently drank from her water bottle. She looked naively blameless as only a murderous bunny can. That morning my brothers and I learned an important lesson about rabbits and life: just because they both have floppy ears, doesn´t mean they´ll like each other.

But returning to the Chinese New Year. For me all this buzz about rabbits, and by association, China, comes at an opportune time. It comes as I am toying with the idea of making a trip to China. To fertilize the idea, I´m reading J. Maarten Troost´s Lost On Planet China.

Troost is most known for his travel book The Sex Lives of Cannibals, but he does a good job with China, providing historical contexts for his frequent humorous observations. Like a good traveler should, he approached China with the awe the most populous country on the planet deserves. Napoleon once remarked that, “Let China sleep, for when she wakes, she will shake the world.” And in the Year of the Rabbit, the world is shaking and China waiting for travelers to breach its walls and catch a glimpse of the other world that the Middle Kingdom represents.

Troost´s book, the excitement of the new year, my own childhood memories of rabbits; all this made me excited about China. Riding this wave, I searched for my own Chinese Zodiac sign. I waited for my third-world internet service to yield results. Would I be a Tiger? Did I dare dream as lofty as Dragon? I could settle for Snake, and a part of me hoped for Monkey.

It turns out I am an Ox. An Ox. I am a stupid, stupid Ox. According the description of Ox, I am sedulous (which is a nice way of saying I´m slow), simple and straightforward. I am obstinate and a poor communicator. That bodes well for a writer. Also, apparently Oxes who are “Leaders in their career may not discover their abilities.” So basically I might be awesome at things that I´ll never discover. As far as anyone knows I might be an amazing snow blower repair man (not that there’s anything wrong with that). I could be the world´s best snow blower repairman, but I will never discover this ability because I am a stupid Ox.

If all this was poorly communicated, remember that I am after all, only an Ox. But this Ox is still going to plan a trip to China. If only to have a word with whoever is in charge of assigning animals. It´s a long shot, but I want my animal changed.

So as we start to get comfortable with The Year of the Rabbit, I am just where a good traveler likes to be — planning a trip. Asia is on my radar simply because I have not been there. So I´m reading up on it to discover it before I go. But like an open itinerary, things could still change. Some other corner of the world could call, some friend could lure me to her corner of the globe (her because, well, nevermind), or some other place could suddenly stand out on the world map comforter I wrap myself in every night. It´s a big comforter. Oxes are huge.

By Luke Armstrong


About the Author

LukeArmstrongLuke Maguire Armstrong lives in Guatemala directing the humanitarian aid organization, Nuestros Ahijados. His book of poetry, iPoems for the Dolphins to Click Home About (available for sale on is especially enjoyed by people who “don’t read poetry.” (@lukespartacus)

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