So to start off our week, Trent and I attended a Shuren celebration for the incoming new year with all of the staff from the successful middle school company. It was his first Chinese dinner party and we had a great time, drinking BaiJiu (rice liquor), watching the entertaining shows onstage, BEING an entertaining show onstage (we sang the Chinese “Happy New Year” song!), eating authentic dishes, and visiting with friends. Over the next few days, we stayed at Tony’s house (if you can remember that far back, I stayed with his family in September as well) and toured the city of Yangzhou. He got to see the beautiful Slender West Lake, Bamboo Garden, the outdoor market (with the giant insects, plants, and other random animals if you recall). Of course, the flowers are no longer in bloom since it is winter, but it was gorgeous regardless and he can’t wait to return to see the real deal when everything is in season. He loved, in particular, the homecooked meals cooked by Tony’s mom and shopping in the curious alleyways in town. After our brief visit ended, we headed into Taizhou with Robert, Diane, and Bill for Chinese New Year’s Eve.
We spent most of our time eating and watching/listening to fireworks going off all over the place. They began weeks ago, but they grew more and more intense as the holiday grew nigh. We visited Robert’s family in his hometown and had some amazing cuisine and practiced our Chinese with everyone there. They were more impressed with Trenton’s ability, since I look Chinese apparently and therefore should speak it fluently. We had a wonderful time hanging out with Robert’s son and cousin and set off some big fireworks in the driveway, rivaling neighbors’ displays. I taught Trenton, Diane, and Bill to play the traditional tile game of Mah Jong, which was also very fun. The highlight of the trip, however, was midnight. From our hotel view on the ninth floor, we had a 180-degree horizon view of the fireworks going off in all directions. There is no way to explain the craziness that ensued well before midnight. As darkness fell, fireworks were nonstop. We didn’t think it could get any nuttier than this, it was like being in a battlefield, except the missiles were beautiful fireworks. The noise was incredible, our window panes shook for two days straight. Seriously, these folks do NOT sleep! And then… it was midnight. If we thought it had been insane then, it was impossible now – there was no square inch in the sky without a firework blazing through. You could feel the bass of the resounding pops in the sky reverberate through your entire being. It was literally the most phenomenal experience of a lifetime. The next night, Trent and I even got to partake in a lantern-lighting ritual where we light flaming paper lanterns and send them up into the night air. I wish there were a way to accurately describe this scene without falling short (like I say all the time about China… sorry, but it’s true!) but it was just too epic. My advice? Add this one to your bucket list. CNYE in China. Do not miss out!