FUZHOU, Feb. 23 (Xinhua) -- Viviana Cardozo, an Argentinian living in China, celebrated this year's Spring Festival holiday in a very traditional Chinese way -- lighting firecrackers, hanging red lanterns, visiting relatives and, most importantly, preparing sumptuous holiday meals for her family.
For the family dinner on Feb. 11, the Chinese Lunar New Year's eve, Cardozo made sliced boiled chicken and other local delicacies in Changting County, east China's Fujian Province, where she lived for more than a decade.
Cardozo was born and raised in the Argentine capital Buenos Aires and moved to Changting, the hometown of her Chinese husband Yang Cong, in 2006 after they got married.
Now a China hand versed in the country's language and culture, the 35-year-old said she experienced frequent culture shock when she first arrived in China, and it took quite a while for her to get used to and finally enjoy the distinctive Chinese culture.
The language barrier was her biggest challenge during her first days in China. When her husband, an interpreter, was not around, she could only rely on body language to communicate with her in-laws.
To master the Chinese language, Cardozo started with the pinyin, or the Chinese alphabet, and gradually moved to children's books.
"During those days, my father-in-law would randomly point at an object and tell me its Chinese name, and I would repeat after him. That's how I learned to speak Chinese," she said.
She proved to be a fast language learner. It took her only half a year to speak fluent Mandarin and another six months to be able to understand the local dialect.
Chinese food is another great challenge. "So many things were new to me, such as bitter melon, durian and herbal soup," Cardozo recalled.
"The first time my mother-in-law opened a durian in front of me, I thought the fruit was rotten because it smelled so bad," she said. "I gave it a try anyway, and gradually fell in love with the fruit."
Local specialty foods in Changting such as sliced boiled chicken and local desserts also became eye-openers for the newcomer, who soon learned how to make those delicacies from her mother-in-law.
"My mother-in-law would give me instructions in the kitchen and help me learn to cook more Chinese dishes," said Cardozo, who has developed cooking as a hobby and grown to be the best cook in the family. "The local markets are now my favorite places in Changting."
Now Cardozo's daily routine includes strolling through the county's narrow lanes and bargaining with vendors at local markets in the morning.
"Preparing Chinese food is like making an exquisite handicraft. It's quite an enjoyable experience," she said.