Day 5 - 10 for 20 at the New Year Festival

Friday, February 12th, 2016

Good (2.5 Mountains)
Bad (No Mountains)
I’m starting to keep track of the level of smog using the mountains I can see from my apartment. As I stated in yesterday’s post, there are a maximum of 3. Each day, I will list how smoggy it is based on how many mountains you can see. The more the better! Here we go:

Smog Level: No Mountains

Today is Day 5 of the Chinese new year, which means that there’s some sort of festival going on. Shimou made plans with her Cousin, Si Si [Se Se], to go. We meet Si Si and her Fiancé at the subway station.. which we arrived at by cab. Cabs are ridiculously cheap here, by the way. This cab ride was a 5 minute ride and cost $2-3 CAD, and a 30 min ride will be about ~75 RMB, which is $15 CAD. We're talking standard cabs, which are still more expensive than Uber.
Some of the Lighter Crowds
We ride the subway, and they talk a fair bit while I understand very little of it. Right now I’m listening just to become accustomed to how the language sounds and attempting to figure out where the breaks in the words are. It's not all that easy when you don’t know the words and they speak lightning quick. Even if you pick up a word you think you recognize, it’s not necessarily the same word because of their intonation, but sometimes I grab the odd word pairing correctly. I’m also listening for common words that keep recurring so that I can fill in those blanks. I have yet to look up the list of 1000 most common spoken words. Yet another thing on the to-do list.

30 minute train ride later, we meet three more of their friends. I didn’t catch any of their names, but two are dating and one is a kind of guy that stands off from the crowd, just a little, fiddling with his giant wooden bead bracelet. They’re for good luck, don’t get any ideas. They make jokes about my height, and seem to all be light-hearted, good-spirited people, though I can only loosely follow the tide of conversation.

All Carmelized Sugar
Some places will make these things in front of you
Cab and a walk later, I meet Qi Qi [chi chi], Shimou’s 16-year-old brother. She lead me to believe that he spoke english as well as her, but his English is about as good as my french - sort of functional, but definitely not conversational. Once the group is reunited, we enter the festival.

Both the train station and the festival has metal detectors and bags scanners. Shimou says it’s for safety, but looking at the “security theatre” of the TSA, I’m not sure I buy it. Inside the festival, we ride the wave of people toward the food stands. We haven’t eaten yet at this point, around noon, and I’ve been up since 7. I'm ready to eat anything they put in front of me.

They have an assortment of things, all of which are pretty good. Fried tofu with herbs and salty sauce, deep fried chicken bits, heavily spiced, deep fried lamb, pork buns, dough that’s deep fried in garlic pork fat, and caramel on a stick that’s made into various shapes (ours was a butterfly). Si Si is very lively, prone to little jumps and speaking loudly. She’s constantly smiling. Her fiancé and her have a funny dynamic, almost like the comedic relief you might see in a Chinese movie. Qi Qi doesn’t speak much to me, but we hold haphazard exchanges, offering food or whatever.

Goin' Green!
Tossin' Coins while the Monkey King Laughs (back left)
They got this really thick, salty soup with bits of stomach in it. I try it, and it tastes.. like salty, thick stew. Si Si, her fiancé, Qi QI, and Shimou all look at me expectantly, to which I give a half-hearted response that says “yeah, it’s alright.” Their continued expectant stares told me that wasn’t good enough. I end up emphatically nodding, smiling, and giving a thumbs up. The texture of the soup is somewhat like snot, which I tell Shimou, who passes it on to her cousin mid-bite. We had a laugh, me in particular as Qi Qi chastised Shimou for saying it while they were still eating.

After eating, we flowed through the park. It seems everyone is walking counter-clockwise through this U-shaped park with a large pond in the center.

That's not a Rando, that's Qi Qi on the right
A statue of the Monkey King, Sun Wukong, and 5 giant coins stood atop a stage. People were throwing coins through the square-holed center for good luck. I have 3 coins, giving one to Shimou and one to Qi Qi (who I want to call Albert). We throw ours, and miss. The coin I gave Qi Qi was a Canadian quarter, which liked enough to keep instead of throwing. We laughed at a stand we hadn’t seen before throwing the coins. It says: 20 Yuan for 10 tokens. Ridiculous because it would be cheaper if you just threw the Yuan. Coins aren’t very common, I guess.

There are carnival games and a bizarro statue of the Hulk. Don’t ask me why he’s there or why his face looks so messed up. It’s a lot of slow wandering around this lake, looking at faux cherry blossoms and Chinese architecture until near the end, when we waited in line for this traditional dessert, “tea” pudding. It doesn’t resemble or taste like tea in any way, and is thickened using tapioca powder. Tapioca powder is chock full of calories, but really good for that particular texture.

While waiting in line, this speaker kept saying something that was too garbled for Shimou to make out. Turns out the thing was saying “don’t stand here, keep walking, move.” Nothing to see here folks, get a move on! Bear in mind, this is directly across from shops that are selling food and souvenirs.

At the exit, we say our goodbye's to everyone except Qi Qi, who tags along. We struggle for a while to find a cab. The three of us make our way to Starbucks, where we play Golf. Qi Qi seemed to really like the game, as he kept commenting on how good it was at their family dinner, Shimou reported.

Dumplings are traditional for dinner on Day 5. The VPN’s are frustratingly bad. If I could just find one that consistently worked well with my phone, I’d be all set. At least I found out that torrenting sites aren't blocked. Major victory, there. I take a nap, waiting for Shimou to return.

...And After. This is the "Tea" dessert
Shimou’s Dad and Step-mom sent lots of homemade dumplings for me (pork and celery; lamb and green onion), complete with a sweet vinegar, garlic sauce. I ate two cloves of garlic, which burn and taste somewhat sour thanks to the vinegar. The dumplings were damn good. When Shimou had relayed the events of the festival, her family thought that I must be easygoing because I wasn’t annoyed by the crowds and enjoyed the festival food. It was interesting, more than anything, to see so many people in a park at once. After cleaning up, we talked while Shimou ate cherries, then turn in around 2.

Editing Music: Back To You by Migrant

No comments:

Post a Comment