Friday, February 7, 2014

Happy new year and wishes of auspiciousness in the year of the horse! 新您快乐,马年吉祥,心想事成!

Greetings everyone, and happy new year! It is now officially the year of the horse. I spent new year's eve delayed in a plane in Sanya trying to get to Shanghai, but I'll get to that later.

So Chinese New Year first hand in China was quite an experience! From what I gather, the holiday spans eight or so days, including all sorts of practices according to what day of the new year it is etc., but which are still mysterious to me. Because the holiday is so special and long, it is a time for people to return to their hometowns to be with their families, which often times, is very very far away (China- is- huge- ). People work like dogs all year long, but once CNY hits, they close up shop and get out of town. Everything all around the country shuts down. No more noodles, midnight BBQ stands, dumplings, fruit markets, etc. No banks, post offices, Public Security bureaus...All that is left are major grocery stores, and some over priced foreign stuff (which is never that good anyways).  This leaves people like me sort of at loose ends. We hunted down the only Lanzhou Pulled Noodles place within a 5 mile radius that was open.

Another special thing about CNY is fireworks. Families will set off fireworks, and the bigger the better. None of these sparkler, ground-bloom pansy type fireworks; people bring out the big guns and set off the giant fireworks that you can see for miles. We were up in our friends high-rise on day four or five of CNY, and someone right below us was lighting them off, and they were exploding right outside the window, while at the same time, other families all over were doing the same thing. You could see fireworks in every direction. Other than being a spectacular fire hazard(!!!), they were pretty wonderful to watch.

The fireworks bring me back to my delayed flight from Sanya to Shanghai. So fireworks equal smoke. And so the most important day of Chinese New Year, the eve of the new year, a day that involves lots and lots of fireworks, also just happened to have horrible smog and pollution. It was just a deadly combination, causing the entire Pudong Airport to shut down, leaving us delayed down south for several hours there. Even worse, when we arrived in Shanghai, I immediately got a terrible cough, which seeing as I was feeling fine hours earlier, I think is clearly attributed to the bad air. Yuck.

Overall though, it was very fun! Even though nothing was open, I enjoyed Shanghai, and enjoyed being together with my friends, the closest to family that I can get over here. It was also to see how important of a role CNY actual does play in the lives of Chinese people; in the states I never knew.  Anyways, happy year of the horse everyone! Cheers~