Firework sets and boxes are for sale in the streets of Beijing
We are leaving the city for Chinese New Year, as are millions and millions of other Chineses and laowai, foreigners.
I read that 200 million Chinese are travelling home this year. As you have probably read, heard or seen in your international media this year has the worst winter conditions since 50 years. Millions of migrant workers want to go home to see their families. It is the most important Chinese holiday. Some see their families, including their young children only once a year. Heavy snow and ice in many parts of the country (except Beijing) have blocked railways and shot down power lines, thus millions of travellers got stranded.
My ayi left last Saturday together with her husband, who works as a carpenter in Beijing. They went home to see their 8 year old son and their parents and siblings in Anhui province. I am really releaved to hear from our driver, who brought them to the railway station that they made it home. She text messaged him that she had arrived, after a train ride of over 30 hours.... last year it took her 17 hours. We gave her extra money to be able to buy a better ticket in the sleeper on her way back. Apparently it is not possible to buy a return ticket in Beijing, only in her home town. Or it has to do that her husband's company only buys one way tickets to go home. Anyway, she will be anxiously awaited here in Beijing in two weeks. But I told her that I do not mind if she cannot get an earlier ticket... I feel bad that she takes care of my son while she cannot see her own son. It is one of the problems that migrant workers are facing. Chinese kids only can go to school where their parents are registered and the registrations seems for some too expensive - but more expensive than that are the school fees in Beijing in comparison to the schools in the countryside.
I also feel sorry for the 12.46 million migrant workers that will remain in Guangdong for the Spring Festival due to the bad weather. It is not only that they probably face terrible conditions during their stay, but that they miss the reunion with their beloved-ones.
China Daily, an English language newspaper, does report factually about that subject. I guess other international media are jumping on that subject and reporting individual fates. But also Chinese media seems to report more. The picture left shows a soldier with a flame thrower melting ice off frozen power-lines in Yunnan on the cover of Qilu Evening News of February 4th (photo via Danwei). It looks like James Bond is fighting for China. I heard also from my neighbour, who is Chinese, that the people who got stocked for 40 hours in a train couldn't use the bathrooms and used noodle cups instead... Now we have arrived at one of my favorite subjects... the Chinese loos... However I could not get the confirmation of another rumor that was reported a year ago - that people on a train would wear adult diapers because the trains are so full that there is no way to make it through to a loo.
But when is Chinese New Year after all?
This year New Year's Eve is on February 6th. So beware, the fire crackers will explode all day long! And for those who do not know, fire works are on sale since some days in front of supermarkets or at street crossings (above picture from last Friday night). You can buy the biggest red box with thousand of rockets that fires for 20 minutes for 50 to 80 Euro. Amazing. That is why you hear fire works already now every evening, even during day time. Althoug it seems to be illegal to fire your rockets before the 6th when you live inside the 4th ring road. But the higlight will be the night from the 6th to the 7th, when the year of the Pig ends and the year of the Rat - or more cute, the year of the Mouse - starts. The 7th is the first day of the New Year and is a real holiday. Even Yashow market & company closes its doors. The staff will stay home, just for one day.
The celebrations will go on for a week, meaning more fire works during the evenings. If I remember well, the lantern festival, this year on February 21st, will be the last day and showdown of fire works. Two years ago there were "detonations" all day long until around 2 am.
This last weekend were two working days. And who has not left yet is leaving on the 6th, like we do. There are an estimated 22 million people using the plane to travel home this Chinese New Year Holiday (10% more than in 2007). Hopefully not all on the 6th from Beijing airport...
Xin Nain Kuai Le!, Happy New Year
Chun Jie Kuai Le!
Happy Chinese New Year!