Year of the Dragon!!!!!! …. Wait Where Did Everybody Go?

One would think that a city of millions of people wouldn’t be able to clear out in a few days. To all the non-believers: IT CAN HAPPEN.  My family left on the 18th of January and Chinese New Year’s Day was on the 23rd.

Events that occurred during this ghost town time include:

  1. Getting on the subway and getting an entire bench to myself!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  2. Getting on the subway and getting an entire bench to myself… then a man coming and sitting in the seat RIGHT next to me.
  3. Getting on the subway and seeing a massive black plastic bag fling itself out of a man’s luggage…turns out he was trying to keep his fish fresh by not killing it quite yet.
  4. Walking down the subway steps to see a naked woman sprawled out on the freezing tile shrieking like a banshee while a policeman casually wrote her a ticket.

I was hoping to visit my good friend and co-worker at UW, Jiawen, in his hometown of Changsha in Hunan province, but thousands of train tickets sold out in a matter of seconds, so that was a fail. If you don’t know much about the Chinese New Year travel rush, it is worth a Google or two.  Basically Chinese New Year is like Thanksgiving on speed.  EVERYONE goes home. Train tickets sell out almost instantly!!  This year people were able to purchase tickets online which made it almost impossible for migrant workers and street vendors with no access to Internet to go home.

Since I was staying in Beijing I thought I’d explore a bit and hit up a New Year’s festival with my friend Miriam!  We researched and decided to buy tickets for the DiTianYi Fest. As we approached the entrance, we immediately began taking pictures of the red lanterns hanging from every possible branch and rooftop. Zodiac signs were visible everywhere, especially variations of dragons, one cartoon dragon with human features being particularly disturbing. Snacks ranged across the board and we ended up with soft shell crab and some type of deep fried dough… you can take the girl out of America, but can’t take the America out of the girl! J

Out of all things New Years that never ceased to scare me, though, were the freaking fireworks.  Yes, the first time I saw them on NYE were amazing… but I did not anticipate two solid weeks of fireworks. Chinese fireworks aren’t the big showy American kind, rather a long chain of explosive nuggets that sound like gunshots. Needless to say I was jumping every 5 minutes at the sound of fireworks thinking they were drive-bys.