Happy New Year!
As you may have guessed, Chinese New Year is a huge holiday in China. 😉 Most ex-pats make fast tracks out of the country for 1-2 weeks. They take advantage of the 2 week school break and head home or on vacation. We didn’t. In the month and a half before CNY we were in the US for 3 weeks and then had Andrew visiting for 2 1/2 weeks. From the time we moved here I said I wanted to experience one CNY. It just happened to be our first and I don’t think it’ll be our last. Most of our ex-pat friends told us we were nuts to stay. The city empties out, nothing is open, and it’s like a ghost town. So? I’m not sure I see the negative in that scenario. CNY is the one time that most Chinese can return home and they ALL return to their hometowns/cities/villages/farms for 1 or 2 weeks. There are millions and millions of people all trying to get on every last train, plane, bus, and car back home. The photos on the news and in the papers would be enough to frighten any non-Chinese back to their apartment. Even if I was Chinese I’m not sure I’d make the exodus back home.
So Anders and I bucked the trend and decided to stay. We had plans, big plans. On the first day of his vacation we had a Pub Day and made a list of all the things we wanted to do while we had GZ to ourselves. We were going to take long walks, play badminton, exercise, work through my computer photo disaster that has been building for 9 years since I got my first digital camera and whose files take up about half of my memory space, play board games, sightsee (I wanted to show Anders all the places I discovered with Andrew), and so much more. Well…the weather did not cooperate for any of the outdoor activities with the exception of one long walk on the eve of CNY. Jan. 21 was the last day we saw the sun until Jan. 31. Not only did the sun not come out but it either rained, was cloudy, or foggy EVERY SINGLE DAY. And you know how humid it is in the summer? Well, that same humidity translates to bone-chilling damp in the winter. The temperature hovered around 45° the whole time, day and night. So this meant that there were no outdoor activities. I feel like the Grinch came and stole our Christmas. We tried to go to the Guangdong Museum one day and there was a line out of the building. I thought everyone was supposed to be gone?!?! So we took a brief walk around the amazing park in the area but it was freezing so we walked quickly, I took a few photos, and we called Ben.
In the days leading up to Jan. 22 and 23 (CNY eve and CNY) I could sense the excitement and energy building. People were bustling and everyone was buying special food. On the Friday before I had to go to the store to stock up on toilet paper and milk because everyplace was going to be closed for the week (we were led astray – I guess by people who have never actually stayed here!). We went to one of the “Flower Streets” on the 22nd and loved it. I would stay here every year just to experience that. Almost every neighborhood has one and there are a few very large ones. Several streets were blocked to traffic and flower stalls were set up selling traditional CNY flowers. There were also booths set up with CNY trinkets and they were so colorful. The whole affair looked like a rainbow exploded. So many people wished us Happy New Year in English and we wished it right back in Chinese. The TV tower was all done up for the celebration as well. It has a special light show of red and gold. It’s very pretty, has lasted since the beginning of the break, and I suppose Monday night will be the last for it.
Chinese New Year night was the night that they had the fireworks. Anders and I were planning on walking the mile or two to get a good vantage point but it was too miserable so we took our chances and stayed in the apartment. It paid off because we had a great view and they lasted for 30 minutes. It was the best fireworks show I’ve ever seen but I kind of expected it since the Chinese did invent them. 😉 Every night since CNY eve there have been individual fireworks and firecrackers shooting off. We’re coming up on 2 weeks now and they’re still going off at night. It’s funny because it’s illegal in GZ to do it but everyone does. I thank them for it too.
There will be another festival on Monday to officially end the CNY celebration and things will be back to normal. Looking back we had a very relaxing week at home despite the weather keeping us in the whole time and I think that the ex-pats that leave don’t know what they’re missing. AND I earned a Starbucks coupon from Berlitz because I was able to keep up my Chinese lessons!
5PM – 60°