About four yesterday afternoon Ma gave me a bowl of jiaozi and said, I can see you're hungry, so eat these now, then when Ba gets back eat some dishes and drink with him.
And of course, I had a not-quite-full-bowl of jiaozi to chase down the baijiu and chicken legs I'd been sharing with Ba.
It's hard to beat Ma's jiaozi. She makes them from scratch. They're the best jiaozi. Store-bought jiaozi don't even come close. Even Tianjin's Baijiaoyuan can't match Ma's jiaozi, and that's the best jiaozi restaurant I've ever come across.
Anyway, last night proceeded as always. Jiaozi and baijiu were consumed. Didi took off to play with his friends, not returning till early this morning, as he does every Spring Festival. We settled in to watch the Spring Festival Gala on CCTV 1. We- meaning lzh and Ba helping to choose and set up, but me doing all the fuse lighting- let off a few fireworks at midnight. And then we were woken up bright and early this morning. There's some rule somewhere that one must get up early on the morning of New Year's Day, even though you got to bed some time after midnight the night before. And of course, I had to let off another string of crackers. The neighbours, though, were doing their level best to match last night's barrage. I didn't have the energy for that, but fireworks must be lit.
Well, the Gala, usually known in expat circles as the Craptacular, was its usual self. The skits were alright, at least. Not brilliant, but good enough. Could've done with less of the heavy-handed politics, though, especially the hyper-nationalist jingoism. Still, it made the administration's focus abundantly clear: Support for the rural population and migrant workers and, of course, those caught in the snow down south. I can't, and won't, complain about that.
But I do wish that the committee in charge of choosing the song and dance routines would be shot- or at least exiled to Hoh Xil. And Jay Zhou was bad enough, but please, don't ever consider inviting S.H.E. again. That song was awful- a bad song to begin with, but the lyrics were simply terrible. I'm sure the Devil has now added that one to Hell's selection of elevator muzak. Yes, I am saying this, and I am in my right state of mind: The Taiwanese pop stars invited to this years Gala managed to make the military song and dance troupes seem almost pleasant.
But the skits were alright. I enjoyed most of them. Lose the song and dance routines, just run with the skits, that might be alright. Although, as good as Song Dandan and Zhao Benshan are- and they were in fine form last night- I suspect it might be getting about time for them to move on from the old married couple from rural Liaobei routine.
Then after breakfast this morning we loaded up a barrow with Pepsi and baijiu for the other clan households in the village and went off to deliver them. It was then that I was warned that lzh and I may be given money, this being our first Spring Festival properly married. Wasn't expecting that one. So we trundled off, stopping in each household only long enough to drop off the baijiu and Pepsi and have a quick chat, accepted the money (which was always given by an aunt to me, and which I was not overly comfortable with, but whatever), gave money to the children of cousins, and managed to get back in rather less time than I was expecting. Somehow we managed to escape Ergu's house without being forcefed a banquet, as has happened every other time we've been there.
So far as I can tell, we've managed to visit everybody we need to visit in the village, and it's only a trip to the county town left. So it looks like perhaps the next few days are going to be a bit more relaxing than I expected. Cool. And the county town is all but guaranteed to be a fun trip- Laogu and Laogufu are exceptional hosts.
These two afternoons I've managed to get out and go for a walk through the fields. It's really quiet out there. Well, of course, it's winter.... But even the highway and railway seem quieter than normal. But the highway has seemed quieter ever since the "truck lane" (in reality, a separate highway running more or less parallel with the original one) opened. I don't think that's a function of the extra distance from us- it's only 20 or 30 metres south of the original highway as it passes our village, and on the same side of the railway as us. There actually seem to be fewer trucks on the road. When we went out to Huailai two weeks ago, there just as many trucks as I would've expected on the sides of the highway, their crews availing themselves of the various restaurants, bathhouses, garages, and other services targeted at them. But the highway seems to be much quieter on this side of the border. And considering the reports I've read about all the extra coal being shipped from Datong to Qinhuangdao to rescue the south, I was expecting to see more train traffic. No, at least, there's no obvious increase. I did see one really huge train yesterday afternoon, though, so long it had two locomotives at the front, and another two probably a kilometre back in the middle of the train.Anyway, enough rambling. I'm tired. Doubtless a large crowd is going to show up here at some stage, and if not, then it'll gather at some other house.