March 12, 2009

Chengdu, China

For a few weeks leading up to the Lunar New Year in what the Chinese refer to as Spring Festival, it became clear when inquiring about bus and train tickets to other destinations, that the holiday traffic of 1.3 billion people can really take it’s toll on the country’s transportation systems. I decided to avoid the possibility of being racked and stacked like a piece of luggage and, instead, grounded myself in Chengdu until movement South became a reasonable possibility again.
This was to be my second New Year’s celebration in China; the first followed the date of the solar calendar, December 31st, and gave me just enough time after my return flight from Japan to crack open a beer at my hostel in Shanghai and clank glasses with a bunch of people I didn’t know. I had been diligent that night in declaring my resolutions: Replace a portion of my noodle intake with vegetables! Start doing yoga in the morning! Stop thinking evil thoughts about the people who turn the light on in the dorm room in the middle of the night! Usually my resolutions only make it about a month, so I was pretty thrilled in Chengdu, as January 26th approached, that it looked as though these lofty goals were going to be realized by a technical default.
Spring Festival Eve produced the vibe that happens in almost any city on a holiday; storefronts were mostly closed and the streets were quiet except for a few people scattering to their relatives’ houses with fruit baskets and flowers in hand. Since I had no relatives in town or the necessary Mandarin language skills to get myself invited somewhere, I decided to see how the pandas at the Chengdu Panda Reserve ring in the New Year. After a few hours observing them, it became clear that they celebrate by eating massive amounts of bamboo, napping, walking in a circle and repeating this year after year after year.
Feeling a little left out because I only like bamboo in small quantities sautéed with some soy and a pinch of ginger, I made my way back to the hostel in search of some revelers who might be a bit more compatible. Although they weren’t as furry and cute as my previous friends, I did manage to meet an internationally mixed group of fellow traveler’s at the free dumpling party who were as excited as me to risk eyes and limbs by renting bicycles to ride through the streets which were exploding with tons of questionably made fireworks.
Chanting “Shing Lien Gua Luo” (Happy New Year) through the crowds as the night sky was painted with floating lanterns and bursts of color, I was finally feeling the spirit of both the solar and lunar New Years Eve together, although this time I didn’t make any new resolutions, and decided instead to just try and live…live through blasts that is.

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