Friday, February 4, 2011

War Zone

Before the post starts, here are some pictures from last year.

Last Year [Chun Jie]
Adam bought several firework boxes and needed to blow them off before they became "illegal". So, we went out to the frozen river and watched them fizzle away. Because it was the last night to blow off fireworks, there was lots of noise that night.

A different night with a different box.

See Mao in the center of that roundabout? He is actually quite a giant statue.

This Year [Chun Jie]

It is somewhat surprising when you come from a State that doesn't allow the average person to buy fire crackers to see what people can get their hands on in the street stalls for Chinese New Year. Last year, Adam bought several fairly large firework boxes. They are "relatively" inexpensive, especially in comparison to their American counterparts. This year, Adam has been good about not buying any fireworks. As his mom said, now is not the time to be blowing up money. Plus, everyone else in our city of several million seems to have bought fireworks of all kinds, so it's not like we have to pitch in order to have a spectacular New Year. This has been really hard for Adam, as he's had to avoid the temptation of many firework stands. These fireworks are special to him because I don't think they would be legal in America. They are much to big and explosive. They are closer to professional grade than anything, and are not your normal 4th of July experience.

Chinese people seem to have a set tradition for celebrating New Year. Some have to work on Lunar New Year's Eve, but usually by mid-afternoon they are all with their families, eating food and celebrating with each other. For some families, this might be the only time in the whole year that they get to see each other. They watch CCTV together for a few hours. I tried watching the variety shows put on by CCTV this year and last year, but I think its an acquired taste. It also helps if you can actually understand what they are singing. It's basically one fantastic musical number with extravagant costumes after another. There's a large audience sitting at tables, watching the spectacle, and I wonder how much you have to pay to be there. Probably hundreds of millions of people are watching this broadcast to celebrate New Year, so I suppose it's the booking to get if you are a performer of some kind. Chinese people might light off smaller displays throughout the day, and lots of noisy firecrackers too. Around 9 or 10 pm, they start lighting off the big guns and then take a break at midnight to eat jaozi which they prepare together that day. Yum!!! Jaozi is another word for pot stickers, which some people in America have eaten before at different Asian restaurants.

During the whole day, lots of noisy fire crackers are lit of on sidewalks and in the streets. They make a lot of noise, and leave a lot of debris and smoke. This Lunar New Year was not a very good year for taking pictures because it was such a smoggy day. Before the fireworks even started, the air was already filled with pollution and a thick layer of clouds.

People shooting firecrackers out their apartment windows. Doesn't seem like the best idea ever--we saw a few fire trucks come our direction.

Can you see how smoggy it was?

As it starts to get dark, the noise making fire crackers are blown off less and less, and the big show starts--lots of fireworks purchased by families, businesses, and everyone else that has a few hundred kuai saved up for New Year. As foreigners, it's our duty to observe in surprise the sheer number of explosions that fill the sky. To be outdoors during Chun Jie means that you are surrounded by loud explosions and thick odors...gunpowder. I suppose that the Chinese deserve to fill their atmosphere with gunpowder--they discovered it after all.

Adam and I stayed in a hotel with some friends and watched the firework display from the 10th story windows of our rooms. We played games and went out for dinner. It was a fun way to celebrate---we also made it to Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts. Yum!

Our hotel room--relatively cheap for how nice and large it was!

We had a very nice bathroom in our hotel room and a walk in closet...I wish we had a walk in closet in our apartment! The baby and I--this shirt disguises my bump very nicely.

Eating dinner with our friends in an "irish pub". We had to wait for our food for a while, but we used our time well and played banangrams while we waited. I had a little guacamole with my food--oh so good and hard to come by!

It's hard to explain the smells, the sounds, and the sights of Chun Jie until you've experienced it for yourself. For me, it's like a town's 4th of July show, times several hundred, and it lasts until the wee hours of the morning....and then continues for the next several days. One of the nice things about staying in a hotel is that the walls are a little more soundproof, so I was able to sleep through all the noise. In our apartment complex, if someone lights of a box of fireworks in our courtyard it echoes through our whole building. In the morning, in the afternoon, and especially at night, we hear lots of fireworks. I think at a certain point, fireworks are not allowed to be shot off anymore. There is a deadline to the merriment. Young and old love their fireworks in China!

Our good Shenyang friends.

Starbucks in can order in English.

Have a cup of prosperity! Happy New Year!

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