The Year of the Snake

IMG_1244Another New Year’s Eve celebration?!

Apparently there is a second chance at a new year if you’re in a foreign country that uses a lunar calendar. Since China follows the lunar calendar, the first day of the new year was February 9.

I had heard comparisons between the grandness of Chinese New Year and Christmas in the United States, but from what I saw, the two are utterly incomparable. For starters, fireworks are the main attraction during the Chinese New Year (CNY) and last for two weeks. Two full weeks of completely sporadic, exploding chaos. Without any apparent restrictions on fireworks, Chinese locals buy huge boxes filled with fireworks and set the entire thing on fire, rendering any unsuspecting passerby subject to inflamed flying bits of firework remains. Yes, it’s a little scary, but exhilarating at the same time.

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My friends and I spent the frigid Friday night leading into the CNY wandering through the restaurant/bars surrounding Houhai Lake, staring in awe of the thousands of booming pyrotechnics, and narrowly avoiding the exploding boxes.

It is also a week of mass traveling throughout China, with millions (literally, 10 million) of Chinese families venturing across Asia to spend the CNY with their family in their hometown. With plans to travel to Hong Kong for the week I entered the CNY optimistic and excited for [another] new year.

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Asian John Mayer

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Rich, Katie, me, Amy, and Lorena in front of Nanluoguxiang Ancient Alley

My roommate and I set out with some friends–three girls from the U.K. and a fellow American bloke–to Nanluoguxiang Ancient Alley. It was basically a long stretch of adorable coffee shops, food stands, and trinket stores within a hutong. We spent the afternoon sipping coffee on a rooftop coffee shop exploring our own cultural distinctions. We Americans learned correct usage of British phrases such as “bloke” and “proper” and we, in turn, taught the girls how to properly use the word “legit.”

Keith and Katie cheesin’ in front of lanterns in front of Nanluoguxiang Ancient Alley

Check out the lady on the side yelling at me to take off the fuzzy panda hat. Tehe

Me and the UK girlies

Yep, we bought ears

As the sun began to set, we ventured toward Houhai where the restaurants bordering the lake were glowing with a mixture of Christmas lights and Chinese lanterns. While we were enjoying drinks on an outdoor patio, a little Chinese girl started took interest in us. Somehow Keith got the child’s parents to cheers with everyone, and the parents handed a beverage to the 2-year-old so she could clink glasses with us! An infant cheersed us with an adult beverage; something that I can’t imagine happening too often in the U.S.

Pretty lights in Houhai

After corrupting the youth of China, we ended up at a venue filled with acoustic sounds of John Mayer. Once the Chinese singer/guitarist finished his set, he took a great liking to me and I found out that he was from Shanghai and he was fabulous at applying liquid eyeliner. After I tried octopus on a stick, swung around in a hammock strung over a table in the bar, and we all danced on stage a bit, we called it a night. I decided if all nights in Beijing were this randomly awesome, I just might love it here.

Asian John Mayer

Peepshow at the Park

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Looking like tourists at Houhai park with Matheus and Maki

I had made plans to explore Beijing with new friends so I headed to the subway station closest to my apartment. It was a normal afternoon with the sun shining and birds chirping in the park that I usually pass through. A young Chinese guy ran past me and I thought to myself, “huh, he’s in a hurry,” but I continued walking. I got about 15 feet away from a tiny gate I have to pass through at the end of the park to get to the subway and the running Chinese guy was standing at the gate. He had his *ahem* man parts in his hands. At first I thought he was just finishing peeing (public urination is way common here), but he continued to shake his junk for a full minute! I froze right where I was and freaked out because he was obviously intending for me to see this and I couldn’t get through the gate without passing him closely. There was no way I was going near this man while he was shaking his wiener at me. I ended up hopping over a fence to get to the subway. Maybe he was welcoming me to China?

After that little incident I met up with Matheus and Maki and after dining on a super traditional meal at McDonald’s, we headed to the drum tower (Gǔlóu (鼓楼), the drum tower of Beijing) to watch a drum performance. The tower was originally built for musical reasons, it was later used to announce the time, and is now a tourist attraction.

Performance in the drum tower

Afterward we walked around a scenic park and lake in Houhai. The best part was the adorable rooftop restaurants and bars that line the lake.

Houhai lakeside restaurants

According to my Chinese roommate, my little incident that occurred earlier in the park is not a normal greeting, so I [thankfully] shouldn’t be expecting any similar encounters.