Two days off over Spring Festival gave the interns enough time to recuperate and revel in Chinese New Year merriment and cheer. And what merriment and cheer was had! First, in the form of the much-loved, Chinese obsession, KTV!
Meanwhile, Alan, Becky and Journey packed up their bags and zipped up their cases to visit home for a few days over the holiday. Similar to Christmas in the U.K, Becky told us how families reunite to enjoy large feasts and the giving of special gifts. Traditionally, adults present children with embellished red envelopes containing money for a sign of good wealth and prosperity for the New Year of the rabbit. The interns too, profited from this courteous Chinese custom as we handed each of them a ruby ticket to future fortune when they arrived at a secret intergalactic hub of the Workers Stadium. This was for their joyous, melodious evening ahead- I use the term melodious, very loosely!
Our vast KTV pod was sleek and futuristic! With mirrored walls and ceiling and even a sparkly flashing floor, the white leather sofas and circular spinning chairs added to the sense that we were being transported by a spaceship into the New Year! This was to be a truly postmodern Spring Festival-year of the space bunny! Abba to Aerosmith, Boyzone to Bon Jovi and Bad Romance to a bit of Barbie Girl- the golden classics were out in their forces and what with cheeky peanuts, popcorn and beer in sweet and fizzy abundance- there was nothing more to be desired!
An hour into the party, our program manager, Solaro, called six people up to the stage and we surprised them with personalised chocolate cakes for their birthdays this month! In TTC tradition we had all nationalities up to sing Happy Birthday in their language and even roped Solaro into giving us a Cantonese solo! So with delightful song and dance from the Norwegians in the house and the scrummy chocolate cake added on to the array of buffet, everyone was catered for.
One and all came out of their shell that night, even some of the shy souls, including our lovely teacher Karen, who enjoyed a centre stage boogie, shadowing fellow teacher Robert- a well experienced, dab-hand at the karaoke malarkey (as you can see in photos from previous intakes). Any initial coyness passed effortlessly after a few drinks and boosted the party into full swing! Twirling dresses and towering heels filled the stage along with some persistent mic hoggers!
Everyone was a popstar, but no one more so than our office heartthrob (apparently) and self confessed geek, James Joyce who striked again with his boy-band expertise by busting out a belting rendition of the rap from Blue’s ‘All Rise’- one of his all time faves! Kirsty and I even gave into our superstar urges and hit the floor at one point, wowing gawping interns with our mind blowing, Gaga-licious routine. (I’m not sure anybody noticed to be honest) but it kept us amused for ten minutes!
Aerosmith supplied an emotional end that rounded off KTV nicely and the interns eventually dispersed, scurrying away into the booming darkness, to secure the best positions (and cocktail deals) for the crazy firework displays and night long jubilations! After a quick clean and tidy, the rest of the staff and I hurriedly made for our nearby rooftop destination, where, at midnight, the panoramic views were beyond breath taking! On the way we passed boxes and boxes of fireworks, lined up on the roadside all conjoined and ready for take off.
Children skipped along the glittered streets clasping cartons of gunpowder explosives and fire crackers bigger than themselves. As we ducked and dived from oncoming rockets, Pete explained to me how the popping pavement fireworks were traditionally intended to scare away approaching dragons – and with such a threatening snarl, I can understand why. It was hard to believe my eyes as I swung this way and that, to marvel at the 360degree sights.
Bursting bangers punctured the sky and crackling sparkle sprayed the darkness, illuminating the heavens! The constant eruptions were overwhelming and the whole sky caught ablaze when midnight struck! The noise was deafening as Beijing united in setting their New Year alight. And three days on, the fireworks still have yet to cease. It has really made up for missing November 5th back in England.
Bright blue skies graced New Years day as the ghostly roads relaxed, offering an otherwise alien spectacle, being so far removed from the usual roaring traffic clogging up the highways. Beijing twinkled with a real sense of community and content, as business breathed out, skyscrapers slouched and children forgot about their homework for one day only. It was amazing to be a part of.
Interns enjoyed a well earned lay in and set off to explore the many temple fairs and ornate processions that invaded the usually collar crowded areas. It was the warmest day so far, this winter and the sun set the golden streets alight with smiles. Tiananmen Square and the lantern lined Qianmen Street bustled with thousands of families, basking in some much needed quality time with each other. It was reminiscent of a lazy Sunday afternoon when all the chores are done and all that’s left to do is go out and saunter in the sunshine.
It was a Thursday like no other. And my, the parades were pretty and the convoys were impressive but the most enchanting thing was the infectious atmosphere of such family spirit. Just from working in schools here, it is evident how unbelievably hard the Chinese work. The hours are ridiculously long and many don’t see their families for months on end, so you can imagine the relief and happiness that embraced the country’s capital on New Years day.
Beijing is a place that justifies why it’s called the human ‘race’