The week that was (or not)

New Year’s eve in Dalian, by Graemetric on Flickr

“…Starting at 7am and slowly building in intensity throughout the day, moving noticeably up a gear as night falls, to reach its finale at midnight, the city quite literally spontaneously combusts. The normally passive Chinese mindset is blown apart. So this is how the pressure cooker of 2000 years of Confucian obediance and 45 years of Communist control lets off steam…”



What a week. On Sunday evening I returned from Flower Island (a place that really doesn’t live up to its name) after freezing my #%(#%*^! off for a week teaching Crazy English. Monday and Tuesday were quiet as I settled back into my apartment and enjoyed NOT being surrounded by other people, just by a dog who demands my constant presence and affection. 

Wednesday was New Year’s Eve, Chinese style, which meant that the fireworks reached a crescendo of deafening noise at midnight. It is the one night when Chinese people work out their repressions via a rip-roaring, rootin’-tootin’ loud time. Now there are a couple of expressions I’ve never in my life used (“gangbusters” is another) – why I felt compelled to do so now is beyond me; I will never use them again. The sky turned 50 shades of orange, yellow, and other explosive colors, the noise lasting until about 1 am. Xiao Gou Gou and I went for a nighttime walk, but we were both a little scared by the noise, although I DO like the Roman candles.

This New Year (or Spring Festival), however, seemed to be missing something – that extra oomph (there I go again). Turns out that the price of fireworks is about 30% higher than last year, so people are using their firecrackers wisely. The rest of the holiday has been quiet, not the cacophony of last year, which went on for two weeks. During the calm I’ve spent 2-3 hours a day practicing the guitar, which I put down to my compulsive personality, or perhaps in my 50s I’ve finally learned to concentrate and developed good study habits. I’ve also been studying Chinese with more dedication than usual.

Today it was cold and wet and yucky – rain from morning to night. A good day to hibernate in the small study room. And to eat spicy buckwheat noodles. I’ve been downloading movies; last night I watched Into the Wild – an OK though over-long movie about a young man who forsakes everything to bum around the U.S. and then to head north to Alaska, with, I may add, tragic consequences. I’m currently downloading No Country for Old Men, the newest Coen Brothers oeuvre; I’m just finishing the book by Cormac McCarthy on which it’s based. Each film takes about 2 entire days to download, depending on connection speed, so I’m cultivating patience at the same time.

Tomorrow, the last day of “Golden Week,” the official 7-day holiday for Spring Festival, I may go to the Lantern Festival at Tazishan Park, weather permitting. It’s a fantasy-land of colored lanterns that I missed last year, and vowed not to this time. I’ve also decided to break down my resolve and purchase a cell phone – I know, don’t faint. I figured my head wasn’t getting enough radiation.

March may or may not be busy; if the parents come to China I will fly to Beijing to be with them. I will also decide whether to shop for a new teaching job for the next academic year, which may involve visiting other schools. Then there’s the teaching routine that will demand my attention after an 8-week holiday. Ah, the pleasures of the academic life.


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