It’s midnight in China, and it feels like we’re in the middle of a siege right now, as loud booms, sharp reports, and far-away thunderclaps crack. The smell of gunpowder and explosions is everywhere: burnt, acrid, sharp. We try not to think of what it’s doing the air quality.
This city is echoing, filled with thousands of distant booms, and some not-so-distant ones. Every Chinese person left in Beijing must be setting off firecrackers right now. Unlike holidays in the US, where only certain designated authorities can set off fireworks, anyone in China can set off any type of firework so everyone is setting off every kind. And so we’re carried back to what the Civil War must have sounded like: thankfully, though, without the accompanying carnage. This is a celebration.
At the louder cracks, we lean out of our windows, trying to catch a glimpse of some of the fireworks, making sure they’re not headed for our building. I finally manage to get the camera ready in time to get a picture against the dark night sky.
At 10:00 p.m., we decided to wander around campus for while to get some up-close action. We should have brought ear protectors, because wow are these fireworks loud. Take the noise of a string of Black Cats and multiply it times ten or so and you’ll have a rough estimate of what these sounded like.
Unsurprisingly, it’s nearly all men setting these off. They seem to love the loud sounds and watching things go “Boom,” with the added spice of danger from perhaps getting hit by an errant Roman Candle.
One man came up to us and asked if they have fireworks in America (at least, that’s what I think he was asking!). We tried to tell him we did, but that you can’t set off big ones there. I’m not sure he understood us–we were lacking some pretty necessary vocabulary words, as somehow they don’t teach you to say “fireworks” in Chinese class.
And then we went home and tried to go to bed–I’m sure you can guess how sucessful that attempt was. Strings of fireworks being let off outside one’s bedroom window do not a sucessful bedtime make. The noise was a cross between a loud hailstorm on a metal roof and a catfight.
And that was how our first day of the new year ended, not with a bang, but a whimper. Of relief that the fireworks were finally over, and we could go to bed.
This week, we’re planning to see some of the other New Year celebrations–yes, it’s celebrated for a whole week. Probably by the end of the week, we’ll be able to sleep through just about anything.