For Spring Festival, Hannah and I were taken to our friend Ting’s home in Jintang. We spent the first few days with her parents and had huge lunches and dinners at her grandmother’s place.
On the first day, we took part in burning money for the dead. It is a tradition to burn paper money so that your ancestors have money in the afterlife. It is also common to burn images of clothing, like a winter coat or something fashionable. Hannah and I both took part in this tradition, so now our ancestors are rolling in RMB. (RMB is one of the ways to refer to Chinese money. Money can also be referred to as “kuai” or “yuan.”)
Around the time of Spring Festival, many Chinese will decorate their entryways with phrases, such as the one pictured above right. They usually say something about good luck and fortune; however, some people have told me that the phrases can also depict a story. To actually understand what it says, you’re supposed to read the right side of the door first, then the left, and finally the one above the door.
At Ting’s grandmother’s place, there was an adorable little puppy named “Niu Nai,” or “Milk” in English. It was terrified of us, but after a little coaxing, it came out and growled at us. It was adorable, to say the least!
We then went for a hike in Jingtang up a large hill with a Buddhist temple at the top. We climbed countless stairs and enjoyed the beautiful scenery. There was a random cow and calf halfway up the hill in the wooded area, just hanging out! I tried to get a picture, but they were too far away. 🙁
At the top of the stairs, I felt like a champion! The stairs at school always get me winded, so this was quite a journey!
At the very top of the hill, there was a large stone Buddha. It is customary for one to walk around the Buddha three times, so I took in the scenery as I caught my breath from the stairs. I really need to get into better shape! As we were leaving, we passed a wall with a Chinese character on it. We were told that it symbolized happiness, and if we could close our eyes, spin three times, and walk to it and touch it, we would be blessed with finding happiness. However, this is actually quite a difficult task that supposedly imitates life because finding happiness is challenging for most. I think happiness is an attitude, not something that can be found.
Plus, I wasn’t even close to touching the character.
After a day filled with stairs and exploring, we returned to Ting’s grandmother’s place for a nice meal. We then lit fireworks and released paper lanterns. Unfortunately, I was still very sick and couldn’t stay awake until midnight. It ended up being okay, though, because the fireworks don’t stop at midnight…or one o’clock in the morning. No, they continue through the town until the next day. I woke up around four in the morning to the sounds of firecrackers and again at six to loud booming noises. I wish I could have enjoyed it all instead of being sick, but there is always next year!
The next day, we went exploring again at another temple. Once we climbed the thousands of stairs (I’m getting a really good workout here in China), the walkways opened up into the perfect kite flying area, complete with two or three vendors selling kites!
I got to choose my kite and was lucky/unlucky enough to receive this one. Originally, it was folded closed and looked very much like a bird. Boy, was I wrong. The thing that really bothers me about this kite is the bear on the right, because it has a blue nose and bright red lipstick. We’re stepping into clown territory here–thank you, no thank you! After this day, however, I see these bears quite often. I guess there is a TV show called Boonie Bears…or something like that.
Anyway, I got to fly a kite for the first time in my life and I wasn’t terrible at it!…Except when I almost took out a dad with his kid. The Boonie Bears almost nailed him in the face…It was my first time flying a kite, though!
We stayed at Ting’s uncle’s home for two nights, and while I was there, I learned how to play Mahjong! For many westerners, this can be a difficult game to play because there are three suits (like suits of cards) and one of them is made up of numbers written in traditional Chinese. In the upper left picture, I have arranged them 1-9. The goal of the game is to make four groups of three and one group of two. You can make a group by having two or three of a kind or three numbers in sequence. Each group must be of the same suit and there are four pieces of each number in that suit.
On the last day of our vacation with Ting, we were taken to a lantern festival called Chengdu’s Festival of Lights. There were so many lanterns, vendors, and people!
I prefer sweet things to spicy, so I had one vendor make this bird lollipop for me. It is really cool because the vendor actually draws it with the sticky sugar right then and there. My favorite part of the festival was this exhibit in the upper right photo, because the goddess was playing a flute that became a river for the goats. The music was so soft and relaxing, and her fingers actually moved like she was playing music!
Spring Festival was quite exciting and I had many adventures. I would have enjoyed them even more if I wasn’t so sick, but now that I am better I can at least enjoy the memory! Happy Chinese New Year!!!
For more information on how you can get an English instruction internship in China, contact Felix Muzza at FelixMuzza@mail.sunyjcc.edu or visit our International Internships page.