суббота, 19 января 2013 г.

Impressions of China (Part V): Christmas and Boxing Day in China

When I was little, Christmas day was always the Special Day in the year par excellence. Commerce and parents hyped it up to fever pitch and I could never get to sleep on Christmas Eve, not least in expectation of a late-night visit from Father Christmas. Living in Russia, where the Orthodox Church still follows the Old Calendar, I have got used to the idea that not everyone celebrates Christmas day when I do. Not suprisingly in China Christmas day is a day like any other. So any festive cheer was always going to be self-generated. (Incidentally, New Year is much the same; the main holiday for the Chinese is in late January/early February.) Having purchased gifts for one another by Christmas Eve, we spent the latter part of the evening decorating the flat where we were staying. And in the morning everyone arrived early to open presents. Having done so we eventually made our way to a Mister Pizza restaurant for Christmas dinner. This was followed by some more shopping, as we had semi-chosen but not yet purchased the 'transformer' for little Leonardo (my cousin). Later in the evening we had a game of charades in the house, before everyone made their way home to relax. Everyone was quite tired after all the rushing about over recent days. It was a nice, quiet Christmas together, the last since we gathered in Edinburgh for New Year 2004 and, prior to that, since Christmas 2000.

Boxing Day, 26 December, was our last day all together in Jinan. The day began with Lawrence's and my family enjoying a tasty Chinese-style brunch out and a visit to the Post Office to send off our Christmas cards (complete with the names of the countries written in Chinese - an achievement!). I found the way to my nephew Leo's heart by drawing pictures which he had to guess the name of (photo). Later we had to purchase train tickets for our trip to Beijing the following day, which proved time-consuming and almost fell through altogether. In the end we purchased tickets for my middle brother, Conrad, and sister-in-law, Jenny, while we would chance our luck on the following day. Meanwhile, Lawrence planned activities tailored to Conrad: a visit to an amusement arcade and a Jackie Chan film.

The last film I watched with Jackie Chan was called 'Meals on wheels' and was almost cartoon-like in its characters and plot. However, CZ12, its English title was an improvement in some respects. It was of course goofy, however this time it was more 'James Bond meets Mr. Bean'. Jackie Chan is a big star in China, and our Beijing taxi driver referred to him as 'our Huang Di' (i.e. our Emperor)! The film was in multiple languages (Chinese, English, French and others) with Chinese subtitles. It was eminently followable for us; we were even able to pick out some of the Chinese (one, two, three and other simple phrases). The plot hinged around cultural artefacts stolen during the Second Opium War and the burning down of the Winter Palace in Beijing and during the course of the time 'stolen back' by a Scooby Doo gang of young Chinese. There was a definite patriotic feel to the film and spent time in China we could empathise with it. It was also just good fun and a family experience. Settings ranged from the banks of the Seine in Paris to a jungle island, from French chateaux to yachts at sea. The climax of the film involved skydiving over a volcano, from which Jackie Chan recovered to be reconciled with an out-of-sorts girlfriend.

In the evening we went out for a more up-market hot-pot meal (see part II). Mum found the experience a bit unpleasant, fearing food poisoning, however the more immediate danger was hypothermia, as the restaurant was poorly heated and even the cook seemed to be wearing a winter hat to keep warm. We finished off the day with a trip to KTV, which is basically karaoke, a hit with the locals and a chance to walk down memory lane and relax together before our trip to Beijing the next day.

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