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WWIII? Nah, just Chinese New Year

February 12, 2011

I swear, I thought the world was going to end.

I knew going into the Chinese New Year (also called the Lunar New Year) and Spring Festival celebration that there would be fireworks. But I only understood fireworks from a sheltered Westerner’s perspective. I grew up in the suburbs. The only time I ever saw fireworks was on the Fourth of July, when they would be giant, staged extravaganzas–very safe, very widely viewed–or at Disneyland, choreographed to music. Fireworks were always pretty special and magical for me as a kid.

No more.

Fireworks during Chinese New Year here the very large city of Shanghai (approx. 20 million people strong) are TERRIFYING. They sound like war, like constant gunfire. g. That snap and pop and boom and sizzle and whistle. They are ubiquitous, on every little teeny side-street and down every ally, in open areas, between buildings, out on the roofs of restaurants, you name it. They litter the streets with red rubbery stuff. The air smells like sulfur. They are also never-ending.

This cartoon from the blog of The World of Chinese sums up my experience pretty accurately:


There was one really magical moment for me and Rick. The last major night of fireworks, we were in our apartment and noticed that they were particularly loud. We’d been seeing them out our big floor-to-ceiling window all week, but this time, two groups of people were launching them right outside our building. Literally right there. There were sparkly fireworks right up in out faces! I’ve never been so close to fireworks before. Rick took a 10 minute video clip of the magic.

But I think ultimately, despite that one very cool night, I disapprove of this unregulated firework extravaganza because its so terribly dangerous. This year, the nation’s biggest casualties were a five star hotel and a 1,000-year-old Buddhist temple. Sad. And there are always lives lost in this madness. It’s just not worth it.

Maybe when the new Shanghai Disneyland opens in 2014, Disney’s fireworks show will be so spectacular that it will quash the little, dangerous, smelly ones in the street. But I highly doubt it.

Otherwise, my vacation was quite relaxing. The gym was closed for most of the trip, so guilt-free laziness ensued. Rick and I watched a whole bunch of moves, hung out with our dear friend Phillip (who writes the excellent blog Philip in Beijing, see link in my Blogroll on the sidebar), and experienced a Chinese arcade, among other small adventures. Mostly, we got to relax and spend lots of time together, which was just what I needed.

Finally, in a big F-you to China’s silly rules, I was supposed to go to work today (yes, on Saturday), but decided to call in sick instead. I’m not giving up my weekend to the Party. Pft.

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