Lantern Festival

Last week it was Lantern Festival, the 15th day of the Chinese New Year. Chinese New Year festivities began on the 23rd of January with a new moon, and 15 days later the festivities ended on the 8th of February with a full moon.
It’s a terrible indictment of my laziness that I wrote that paragraph about two weeks ago, at which time it actually was Lantern Festival ‘a week ago.’ Somewhere over the past month life in Xi’an has come to seem completely normal. Trying to write for the blog every week now feels like if I were in London and wrote “today I took a bus to Greenwich to go to Waterstones and buy a book, then I went to Tesco to do my weekly food shopping.” To me it feels boringly ordinary, although I have to remember that (hopefully) it’s actually still interesting to people back home, and just because I’m now settled enough for almost everything to seem not worth mentioning, actually when thinking about life here there is still so much to write about.

So, Lantern Festival. It’s the final festival of Chinese New Year, when lots of people let off lanterns to celebrate. This being China, lots of people also let off fireworks and firecrackers, but that’s almost every day of the year. Apparently the loud bangs of firecrackers scare away the evil spirits, but I think in the modern world it has more to do with the fact that men like to set off explosions. For Lantern Festival me, Brittany, Colin, Nick, Andy and Andy’s girlfriend went to the south gate area to see the sights, eat some street food, and eventually find a bar for a drink. The lit up dragons were stunning and everyone was having a good time. In the plaza by the south gate there was in impromptu choir and such was the atmosphere that between Chinese songs we were hard pressed not to accidentally start singing christmas carols.

We walked up through the south gate past all the food stands. There were people selling all sorts, from strawberries dipped in caramel to individually shaped caramel animals on sticks and steamed rice cakes dipped in sugary sauces. We found our way to a bar on bar street where we experimented with various dangerous ways of playing with sparklers indoors. Fortunately no one was hurt, but me and Andy were both sober after he took up a challenge not to drink for a couple of weeks.

Later on, Dave and Phoebe arrived, and soon after midnight we let off a lantern that successfully avoided the trees, electrical cables and buildings, and which we watched soar off into the distance.

Since the Lantern Festival three weeks ago I haven’t done much. We have a new teacher at school called Rosie, I’ve got some new classes at school, and I’m finally getting into a routine and feeling at home in Xi’an.

I’ve written a second half to this post, but I haven’t posted it yet mainly because the writing is crap, but also because it doesn’t quite reflect accurately what I think. As it’s written though, it shouldn’t take more than a good redraft to sort it out, then I’ll post it as another shorter post.

Anyway, I think that will do for now. Apart from the second half of this post, next week maybe I’ll write about laser quest for Nick’s birthday and a more comprehensive update on teaching. Sometime soon I have a special treat for James and Louise back home who work for Transport for London: I’m going to write a detailed account of the metro system here in Xi’an!

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