February 14 was a day of happiness, a start of a new year in the Chinese calendar, yet, to an outsider like me, it was seen as complete chaos that lasted an entire two weeks.
Yes, there was plenty of laughter and families were united, but the fireworks became outdated and extremely boring, as they were blasted 24/7 into the open sky, to only hit my window of the 22nd floor apartment that I am currently residing in, during its process of falling down on the people below.
Oh, the headaches the fireworks caused.
At night, something once seen as beautiful in my eyes lost all meaning and became a form of danger that I had to be weary of as I stepped outside. Before coming to Beijing and experiencing the Spring Festival, I had only seen fireworks on Independence Day or at Disney World (or Disney Land) at night over an open field or water form.
Beijing, on the other hand, does not care if you can see the fireworks or if they are shot between buildings, in an alleyway, or in the middle of the street.
Bystanders even love having flakes of explosives fall on them as even more scatter the ground. People in China just know how to take things to a completely new level.
On the other hand, the first few days of excitement did grow on me. I learned how to make jiao zi (dumplings), I met a few members of my extended host family, and ended up trying a bunch of different foods including stinky tofu, which I suggest you never try.
I did have a chance to play with sparklers and small fireworks on the first day and that ended up being enough to last me through the entire festival. Through those days of new beginnings I got to witness a loving family squeezed around a tiny table as they shared their first dinner of the New Year together.
As there was some peace within families during the holiday, the sounds of laughter and explosions brought together strangers and old friends. Superstition lined up to be played with while old traditions were dug up again and looked at in awe.
Chinese New Year lasted for two weeks. With only a week off from school, you could see how anxious students were to get home afterwards. They left to either send off more fireworks into the sky or to just be with their family, who traveled both far and near to be with them. But all of this soon came to a complete halt when February 28 flew by.
The day of the lantern festival would mark the last day of fireworks, as they were finally all sold out at stands in the middle of the street, and there was no reason to shoot them off.
There were no more tales that told them that lighting fireworks during the months after New Years would bring them luck and happiness, or make their business prosperous. Instead, adults went back to work if they didn’t already start the week before, and students began to stay after school to get help in areas they struggled in or to just study more as school became more serious.
Before I started high school at Jing-shan I was experiencing a vacation that involved more video and picture opportunities than I could possibly imagine. Now, I just sit in the back of a newly renovated classroom filled with loud ninth graders, shadowing my host sister with three other “foreigners, as they call us, silently reading a different book each day as the week drags on.
At times I put down my book to stare at the teacher speaking but find it impossible to understand an entire sentence that he or she says. Only able to understand single words, I look back to my book hoping that it will teach me some secret to decipher the Mandarin language.]]>
Afterwards, we walked through this arch that looked like a metal detector but was actually a temperature detector’€how cool is that? And we were told to walk slowly, and if I am guessing correctly, if the detector went off, you would be thrown into quarantine.
After a few more steps, we waited in line to get our visas checked and to hand in an immigration form, which we also filled out on the plane. Although I forgot to sign mine, I still got through.
After we pulled our luggage off the conveyor belt, we were rushed over to the exit where,Â ladies and gentleman, I became famous (even if it was just for five minutes, it was fantastic).
Cameras were rolling, we were smiling and waving, and names were being called out. Flowers were given and more pictures were taken, until I was whisked away by my host family.
My host mother can’t speak any English, while my host father can manage a little and my host sister is still learning.
Although they were really nice to me, I felt as though I were in a zoo being watched by everyone; when I did something wrong or different, I was laughed at.
But I don’t believe that it was suppose to be seen in a rude manner, rather just a laugh from people who have never interacted with an American before. They are curious, which makes me to want to learn from them.
Although my host father is living in another apartment near his work place and I will only be living with my host mother and sister, I look forward to this experience of living with an entirely different family for four months.
The following morning arrived quickly, as I slept like a baby, not having had any sleep on the plane.
I unpacked, updated my blog (www.mytb.org/mgchin), read and responded to emails, and tried a few new foods. I tried everything from cereal yogurt to “French bread to duck heart; I even tried scorpion!
That day they taught me that Chinese families are very giving and sweet. At least my host family is.Â They took me to Qianmen Street in the afternoon and bought me a few things, even when I said that they didn’t have to.
By this time around, the only phrase that I’ve used in Chinese that I know for sure is xie xie (thank you). And whenever I say anything in Mandarin, my family praises me.
I met my host aunt today; she was the one who drove us to Qianmen Street, and she is so nice. She told me, in Mandarin, that if I ever want to go anywhere she’ll try to get me there and that she wants to be my friend.
In the end, my first impression of Beijing, China, is that it’s a huge city just like Boston, and the people are generous. I can’t even say how sweet they are.
But I have yet to experience the real China, as I haven’t seen a squat toilet yet’€and I’m going to continue to try my best to avoid them as long as I can.
After being in Beijing for only two days, I have already become famous, a zoo animal, a friend, and a family member’€what more could I possibly ask for?]]>