Saturday, February 16, 2013

Welcoming in the Year of the Snake

Chinese New Years is BIG. 
Bigger than Big. 
Bigger than Big Bird. 
Blindingly big... Literally. 
Also Lung-suckingly big. Is that a word? No? 
Maybe it's a Chinese word.
Well it should be.

After the big hurrah of fireworks went off on Chinese New Years, we literally couldn't see the buildings across the street from our apartment because the smoke was so thick. We opened a window to try and better take a video of the flashes of light coming through the smoke (why did we think this would help? I don't know? Stop asking intelligent questions, Internet!) and let in a big plume of purple smoke. 

The light show with accompanying percussion continued all night and then all of the next day… and most of the next… and the next….

*This picture is deceptive because it makes it look like most of the fireworks are above the buildings. Ha! How the whole city is not set on fire on New Years, I have no idea.*

February 9th was Chinese New Year (or New Year's Eve… still not too sure. The differences between the Chinese Lunar calendar and the Roman one make it difficult).
However the Chinese don't honor the Chinese New Year and Chinese New Years Eve, two days of celebrating, thing that we do with our New Years in the States.

*A man and the candles he's made in a Buddhist temple in preparation for New Years*

Their exuberance for the New Year and all it's wonderful new possibilities cannot be contained to just two days, so they start setting off fireworks at the beginning of February. Just as often in the middle of the day as in the middle of the night. They don't discriminate.

It just gets bigger and louder and more frequent as you get closer to the actual holiday.

Everything is Red and Gold.

It's the 16th of February here and the celebration still hasn't stopped. Children throw poppers at each other. Grown men excitingly line up trails of firecrackers on the sidewalk to later send screaming into the sky, just barely out of reach of store fronts, or simply chunk them from the windows of buses to add a little excitement to their transit ride.

*Not really sure what ringing this big bell was supposed to do for the New Year, probably bring good luck or something, but it was free to do and looked like fun.*

You can't walk anywhere without bumping into a festive paper lantern. The gutters are filled with red crepe paper from used lanterns and fireworks and you'll see small piles that have accumulated where the wind has carried them.

It's beautiful.

We spent our Chinese New Year with friends and family.


*That's Lark's estranged brother, Norbert, in the center.*

The crazy's flew all the way to China and were here just in time for the holiday.

*The charming result of a freak snow storm, beautiful West Lake, and New Years lights*

Lark's and my friend Mathew, a radio dj here in Hangzhou, invited us all, for a traditional Chinese New Years at his house.
Unfortunately, because of the baby, we had to arrive late and leave early. We still got to participate in a lot of the awesome though.

*Some locals in a small town we visited bringing home the traditional red bags full of gifts of nuts, fruits, pajamas, or something of the sort for their family.*

We made jiaozi (dumplings) leaving a coin in one for someone to find and receive good luck, or a broken tooth, and then all sat down on stools around a banquet of a meal that his mom had prepared for us. It included such Chinese delicacies as pig's ears, tofu with wood ears and cabbage, bamboo shoots, chicken legs, and a surprisingly sweet and mild rice wine that his dad made and served to us out of a Sprite bottle.

*So much China in one picture. It's kind of overwhelming.*

After all that we braved the cold to set off an arsenal of fireworks and then retreated upstairs into a heated, 5 star hotel lit, room of his house to shout things like, "Stupid Idiot-Face! Why would you leave your wife all alone with guys who are clearly going to cut her into bite sized pieces?!" at the television as it played Taken 2.

We then said our goodbyes and spent a car ride showering Matthew with too many thanks as he drove us back to our apartments. 

*The surprisingly fireproof city of Hangzhou*

Side note: Did y'all know that the Chinese have a saying that goes something like, "Good friends don't say thank you." Also, I've been told there's an expression about Westerners that translates to "Too many thanks." Their thinking is that if your friend is really a good friend, then of course they would do this favor or nicety for you, just as you would do it for them. Where as, us Westerners have it engrained in us from infancy to say "thank you" on any and all occasions it could possibly be applicable. A couple examples from the evening:

"Thank you for inviting us."
"Thank you for passing the peas." 
"Thank you for sharing your special home made wine with us."
"Thank you for introducing us to your neighbors who just wondered in through the guest room during dinner. They seemed so entertained that there were foreigners in the house and by my husbands and my height differences. It was great to be able to be a little side show/ zoo exhibit without having to learn any entertaining skills."
 "Thank you for such a lovely dinner. "
"Thank you for being so gracious when Lark almost set your house on fire with that firecracker."
"Thank you for shutting the doors against the cold."
"Thank you for laughing at the corny jokes we were loudly shouting at the TV screen and then giggling about."
"Thank you for giving us a ride home."
"Thank you for inviting us for such a lovely meal again! We never would have gotten to experience something like this otherwise!"
"Thank you for dodging that car driving the wrong way on a one way road so carefully."

I just can't help it. It's like word vomit. Any "thank you" that I hold in weighs me down and makes me feel incredibly rude until it burst out, usually accompanied by many more thanks and in much more grandiose terms.

"Why thank you for such a bountiful spread, dear Mathew. Without your good humor and plentiful felicity and generosity, this evening would be Oh, so ever more mundane, Your fantastic sacrifice and general awesomeness will be remembered forever in our hearts. Huzzah!"

It's a problem.

*We were told these were the Gods to pray to if we wanted good luck and riches in the New Year*

Anyways, Mathew, if you're reading this, thanks again. You made our Chinese New Years fantastic. HUZZAH!

And Lark Senior and Erica, you're the best. THANK YOU for being so fantastic to put off your work and come all the way to China to hang out with us. Love you guys.

And any readers out there, Thanks. You're pretty cool.



Sunday, February 3, 2013

Chinglish and Harry Plopper

Hello again fellow internet users! 
I've been neglectful.
Lots of stuffs been happening.
Like Christmas. And my family visiting. And me being lazy.
That laziness has really been filling up my schedule.

Anyways, I'm sure you've been wondering if I have any awesome Chinglish pictures that I could share with you.
And I do! Surprise!

This seems like a pretty good warning sign right?
"Don't fish for power lines" seems like pretty sound advice!

However, look where it is.

 Such a bad name. Such a bad, painful name.

Can't figure out how to eat your batteries with chopsticks? Have no fear! Complimentary utensils are here!

Saw this walking back home the other night. Now, I know what you're thinking, "Slavery's still legal in China??! Quick! Let's use our military force and go abolish that!"  You guys are jumping the gun a bit though. This is OBVIOUSLY a makeup shop. Obviously.

Should I be insulted?

The coffee shop around the corner from us sells this gem. YUm!

Since everyone in China happens to be the same size (No joke. The Walmart equivalent near me sells one size of dress.. which happens to be a long shirt on super tall me.) I guess this is necessary for the few exceptions. I just thought it was hilarious how blunt they were and that Peter Griffin decided to endorse it.

 The emblem says Ralph Lauren. The tag does not.

Italian Chinese man selling street pizza?!! Yes please!!
Side note, this vendor doesn't actually sell pizza. Why do they have the pictures then? ...Good question!


Double Teehee!

The first hotel we stayed at when we got to China had these two beauties. 
This one was on a door right by the elevator that couldn't have been a full sized room.
Was it a broom or janitor's closet? The smallest Staff Room ever? Or another elevator shaft that they only use to throw dead bodies into?
We'll never know...

I'm thinking there must be some sort of Harry Potter-esque corridor between these two. I didn't have enough faith to try running full speed between them tho. Pity.

Speaking of Harry Potter, we are now on break for Spring Festival (woop woop!), and since the hotel where we live closes for the break, they put us up in a fancy shmansy place downtown!

This morning, for almost the entirety of my block long walk to the coffee place, I was serenaded by one of the street cleaning trucks that drives around spraying down and scrubbing the streets with a Scarborough Fair/Harry Potter theme hybrid and the acoustics from the super tall, widely spaced, concrete buildings in the intersection made it echo.

I had a super serene, "I'm a self-empowered being, I can conquer this mountain, this place looks so beautiful when I'm floating above it," moment before I remembered that there were 20ish Chinese people staring at me and if the light changes, that truck could pass me and spray some of the baby poop off the street onto me. I then sprinted across the street and became less involved in the music and more in preserving my poop-free pants.

I love China.

More soon!
No, Really!
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