Publié le par chrislzh

So it's New Year's Eve again. It seems everybody else in the village stocked up enough explosives to supply the army of a small nation. Or perhaps the New Zealand Army, in which case they'd still have enough left overs to celebrate the New Year having done a good, charitable deed. They've been going since dawn, these guys, with no let up. Not quite the cordite-drenched explosive insanity we can expect about midnight, but certainly enough to make it sound like we're on the front lines of a small war.

We've just put up the New Year couplets and fuzi and pictures of door gods. Of course, that meant I was yet again on fuse-lighting duty, because a roll of firecrackers is needed to complete that particular task. No problem, I've got this down pat by now- hold cigarette to fuse, when it sizzles, run like hell. I get plenty of practice every Spring Festival, to the point where it's becoming almost instinctive. Somehow I remember us doing this earlier last year. I guess they felt they needed everybody here before they put the couplets up.

Everybody? lzh's brother, who, because his initials are the same as lzh's, we will refer to as Didi, won't be home for the Spring Festival. He's doing some kind of internship on a construction site (yes, this is related to his major. Not sure how, but...) and he's stuck keeping an eye on the machinery while everybody else buggers off home for the holiday. And his boss didn't even have the decency to make arrangements of any kind for the food and drink he would need. Bastard. If I could've had my way we would've phoned the boss and told him to look after his own damn machines and brought Didi back with us, but my opinion doesn't count for terribly much.

Anyway, Didi needs the experience and a good taste of the real world.

We got here yesterday. My arrival was delayed because Ma was still in the county town selling apples, so there'd be nobody home to greet and feed me if I came up on the day planned. lzh managed to get a couple of days off work, allowing us to come up together yesterday instead of me coming yesterday and she fighting her way through the crowds this afternoon.

The trip was perfectly normal, except that when we got to the county town bus station we discovered the bus route to the village had been changed and we had a choice of hiring a car or miandi or walking down to either 东关or 中心市场. We wound up hiring a car. The driver was a complete idiot, of course. She accosted us in the bus station. She was the first to tell us the bus route had been changed, but knowing all too well the kind of 'taxi' drivers who hang around bus and train stations, I refused to believe her and sent lzh off to ask one of the bus workers (I could've done it, sure, but getting her to do this kind of thing cuts down on a lot of unnecessary bullshit). Having been told by four separate people that the bus route had changed and we'd have to walk down to either 东关 or 中心市场 if we didn't want to hire a car, we crossed the road and climbed into this woman's Xiali. Did I mention she was a complete idiot? Well, half the conversation was about me, but naturally, did not involve me at all, even though had she had half a brain the driver would have noticed that I had already spoken to her in Chinese and that lzh told her perfectly clearly that I understand every word she says. But never mind, it was lzh who was subjected to all the usual complete fucking idiot questions, and all I had to do was sit there looking pissed off and occasionally rolling my eyes or groaning.

We took a different route to the village, one which had alarm bells ringing in my head as the car took a couple of unusual turns on it's way out of the county town. But then I realised that she was taking us along the north shore of the reservoir (which is not really much more than a river connecting small lakes and wetlands as it passes through the county town, so far as I can tell) and down some back roads, but in the right direction. And considering she was only getting a 25 kuai flat fare, it was in her best interests to get us home by the shortest route possible or have some large, strong men waiting to extract more money from us. Fortunately she was thinking more along the lines of "shortest route possible", and once I realised we were heading in the right direction, just by different roads, I relaxed. We wound up on the road that runs past lzh's middle school and the bath house, so we popped up on the highway in the middle of the village, meaning we we had to drive a couple of hundred metres back towards the county town, but apart from the last couple of hundred metres, we avoided the highway and its hordes of overladen, speeding trucks, which made the journey a lot more pleasant.

Oh sure, the highway is exciting, but sitting in a rickety miandi that sounds like it hasn't seen any maintenance since the fall of the Ming Dynasty and seeing a Steyr truck mere centimetres from your wife is not the kind of exciting I enjoy.

Well, apart from leaving the couplets until today, Ba and Ma have been busy getting the house ready for the festival. They've bought a small arsenal- enough to celebrate, perhaps enough to make a rifle company of the New Zealand Army feel like they finally have real weapons. Hopefully, unlike last year, none of our fireworks will blow up in my hand or anywhere close to me. I'm always on fuse-lighting duty. They're still thoroughly scrubbing and cleaning the house and everything in it (I half expect to be stuffed into the washing machine at any minute). Sometime soon Ma will start a mad-dash attempt at the Guiness record for the most jiaozi stuffed in a single hour. Then she'll try for the record for the most jiaozi stuffed into her son-in-law without causing him to explode (and I'll enjoy that, of course, she makes the best jiaozi on the face of this earth). Then I'll be sent out to blow shit up. Assuming the tv is working (somebody discovered the illegal cable connection and made them pull it out. Last time we were here we could still watch CCTV 1, though, so our tv watching hours were filled with mirth, merriment and excitement) we'll manage to squeeze in time for the Spring Festival Gala, of course. Well, that much I assume from previous experience.

It really feels good to be out of the city again. Well, after the trip up I was feeling pretty tired, grumpy and headachy. I dumped my pack on one of the armchair's in the other room sat on the kang, and two seconds later Ma was standing in front of me with a bottle of beer. Excellent! Just what I needed. After that bottle I was right back to normal again.

There are two bright, shiny, New Year-style posters on the wall over the kang. The higher one has a big, golden 福 on a red background, two fat, pink toddlers, a boy to the left and a girl to the right, holding scrolls. The boy's scroll says "福到我家来"; the girl's scroll says "年年大发财". In front of them is a massive pile of gold, 人民币 (oddly, the hundreds are a mixture of the old blue ones and the new red ones, but the fifties are all new) and other assorted treasures. The lower poster has 财神到 across the top, in sparkly gold characters on a red background, with a carp in each corner, a picture of the 财神 in the body of the poster, down the left edge, "新春福旺财宝聚", and down the right, "佳节吉祥富贵来", both in the same sparkly gold characters on the (obviously) red background. Both posters are pretty cool.

Pinyin input systems really should recognise New Year couplets.

In other news, two of Niuniu and Zaizai's puppies have been found new homes, but one is still here. She's really cute, really really cute. And tough, and intelligent, and active. She's reached that stage all toddlers get to- the Age of Terror- when she's running around getting into anything she can and causing merry havoc (as, I believe, I predicted she would), but she's so cute and provides hours of entertainment. Yesterday afternoon she dragged a cabbage leaf as big as herself back to her box, managed to break pieces off it, and use the bricks supporting the radiator next to her box to climb back into her box carrying the pieces of cabbage leaf, where she ate them. Doesn't sound like much, but it was a lot of fun to watch.

Anyway, I should stop rambling now.


Publié dans chrislzh

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