Spring Festival in the Countryside
Being a student in China has some very significant perks – especially when it comes to holidays. You might not get your usual Christmas vacation (it was rather depressing having to sit in the classroom on the 24th or 25th December), but Chinese University students are given a very long – sometimes up to 5 weeks – winter holiday.To make the most of our time in China, and to practice our Chinese, of course, my friend and I took on the quest of travelling during Spring Festival. Our rough plan was laid out as follows: Train it from Beijing to Nanjing, then take a train to Zhengzhou in Henan to visit a friend of ours who was travelling home for the holidays. Next stop, Shenzhen and Hong Kong, followed by Yangshuo, Guilin and back to Beijing. Surprisingly, we actually made it to all of these destinations and managed to stick to our plan.
We spent the actual New Year days in a small village named Jiaozuo outside Zhengzhou. Not really knowing what to expect when our friend invited us to his home to celebrate the New Year, we hopped on a train from Nanjing ready for an adventure. Unlike the other trains we had taken, this one was old, loud, and uncomfortable. Five hours later, after having endured questioning by almost every other passenger in the cabin (what are you waiguoren (foreigners) doing in this part of town??), we finally arrived in Zhengzhou at around midnight.
A bumpy bus-ride and a daring motorbike-ride later, we made it to our friend’s family’s home and were warmly welcomed by his parents and grandparents. There was a lot of chatter in their local dialect, of which we couldn’t understand anything, but it looked like they were happy to see us. After we were presented with some soup and nibbles, our friend and his father gave us a tour of the village and their land. As we walked through the old streets (no skyscrapers here!) we were followed by a group of curious children, who had probably never seen a non-Chinese person in their life. We visited the family’s other property and hung up couplets on the doors and arches and bought fireworks and firecrackers in preparation for the evening.
By sunset the first firecrackers were set off, and the blasts did not end until the early morning hours. There were home-made jiaozi (dumplings) for dinner and soup, followed by a game of majiang of course!
The next morning, offerings were made to the temples nearby and firecrackers were set off on the fields to welcome the harvest. It was truly an unforgettable experience to see everyone together, singing, laughing and celebrating. The only way I could describe it is the warm, fuzzy feeling we have at Christmas.. just more explosive.. 🙂
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