Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Beixin Chinese New Year Chronicles: Day Five

  • Tony misplaces a toy car that I had bought for him just the day before.  I looked all over the apartment for it.  After ten minutes, I found the car but my first reaction was to keep looking for it.  I have spent so much time on fruitless searches for Tony's lost toys that I expect instinctively to not find them.
  • At TKIC
Day Five  (February 5) of my Beixin Chinese New Year Odyssey was my last full day in Beixin.  We had a bus ticket to leave at 1310 on Day Six:
  • I am awake early this morning though I can't say I got up early.  I look at all the text files I have loaded on my mobile phone.  I read snatches of Shakespeare, Chesterton, O'Connor, the Bible, and Jewish wisdom.  They make that moment in Beixin tolerable.
  • Still, I haven't been active or taken initiative.  I've been letting time pass.  Is there anything I could do to be of use to these people?
  • I take Tony to the gravel pit so he can play with rocks.  While there, I see an old man rummaging through piles of garbage.  In his three wheel cart, I see empty bottles and lettuce leaves.  I hope he wasn't rummaging for lettuce in the garbage.
  • Back at the in-laws' compound, Tony won't let me leave.
  • Tony wants to watch Baba (his grandfather) play Mah Jong.  The problem is too cigarette smoke in the Mah Jong Room.
  • Late in the afternoon, I am finally able to sneak out of the compound to visit the student who is working on his PhD in Edinburgh, Scotland.  He invites me to say at his home for a big CNY feast his family is having.  I accept the invitation.  I get a tour of his house which is three storeys high.  One part of the house overlooks a canal and the other side overlooks a Beixin street.  While up on the third floor, the student makes a comment about how he told his father that Beixin is so full of garbage and that something should be done.  I ask the student why the local government doesn't pay someone to clean Beixin up, and he tells me that the local government may not have the money to do this, or the money gets pocketed.  His father then joins us and throws two perfectly good plastic bags into the canal.
  • Next door to the student's home, I see the neighbors have a goat in their backyard.  The goats live near a canal-side pile of garbage.
  • Supper at the student's home is wonderful.  I nibble on some green beans and sip XO brandy with cola.
  • "We don't worry about politics.  We just drink and eat."  They tell me at the dinner.
  • Kong Ming Dan. (see links above for videos of this)  The latest CNY Fad they tell me.  Cloths soaked in diesel are tied to wire attached to a big plastic bag.  When the diesel cloths are lit, they cause the air in the plastic bag to expand.  The plastic bag can float and soar in the air.  Good quality KMD's can stay in the sky for days.  Cheaper ones fall to the ground after twenty minutes.  When the KMD's land, they sometimes cause fires that burn people or property.  I get to launch one myself.  They are sold at many shops for 2 rmb a piece.
  • The student shows me photos from his visit to Manchester United's stadium.
  • Tony gets a boo-boo after slamming a door on his hand.  The fireworks have been causing him to close all the doors in the in-laws' compound to dullen the sound.

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