Riddles in the Dark
Sorry for the delay. I am unable to get to this website from China and therefore need to find ways to get around the “Great” Firewall.
Anyway, I’ve been thinking about culture lately. The word sounds so solid, so easy to understand; but when it actually comes down to talking about it and experiencing it, it becomes liquid. The differences between two people comes down to preference, experiences, and environment. But is that all that culture is? Is culture individual? Although I claim to be an American, more specifically I am North Dakotan. There are smaller cultures within the “American” culture. For instance; both my roommates are from two different states and neither of them thought I might be a little taken aback when they didn’t wait for me after our class to walk home together, something I know to just be…polite. It sounds small, but it’s kind of like the “North Dakota good-bye.” As one of my out-of-state friends pointed out, most people in North Dakota have really long goodbyes. Also, we talk about the weather a lot. Even here in China I find myself talking about the weather more often then my peers.
So is culture tradition? Or is tradition part of culture? What specifically is tradition? Is it habit? Is it individual to each person or family? Is it tradition that people in North Dakota wait for each other, or is it habit? Is eating lefse a preference, tradition, or culture? Can culture ever be defined?
In addition, my homesickness is starting to sink in. I do miss being around people who understand some of the small things that make me “North Dakotan.” To not always have someone, or anyone really, to practice these North Dakota traditions with. At least before our spring break, there is one professor who will be visiting with the Shanghai students who is from Minnesota. He and I hit it off in Shanghai. We sat at the same family-style table of about ten people, talking about Hockey! We teased each other about it: he’s a Gopher fan. The other people at the table seemed so confused at our conversation; like they’ve never heard two people go on about their hometowns, weather, family traditions, lefse, ect.
Saturday 6:30 pm: after Huanglongxi Ancient Town
Things in China have been good. This week I’ve been very lazy but found a new place to go shopping. It is, however, filled with western stores like Gap, H&M, and Subway. Everyone here says they’re import prices; which means they are more expensive than other stores in China, but the same as they would be the States.
Today we went to Huanglongxi, Ancient Town, which is kind of the equivalent to our Renaissance Festivals, but with more flashy kid toys. In several places there were ‘minstrels’ competing with Beyonce in the background, people selling goods, and tourists wearing ancient clothes for pictures. Overall though, despite the tourist trap, it was really nice to get out of the city and breath fresh air.
Wednesday 2:30 pm: Well this sucks
I’m sick. Mostly it’s a sore throat and all I want is soup. But I have to leave the apartment to get soup and the farthest I want to walk is to the kitchen and back. Outside people stare at me regardless if I look awesome or like I haven’t showered and my hair is sticking out at odd angles. I now understand why famous people are cranky when people stare at them.
Sunday 11:00 pm: The day after Chinese New Year
Oh boy, Chinese New Year. Chinese New Year is most certainly not like American New Year, it varies in basically every factor. Chinese New Year has the family orientation of Christmas, with the fireworks of the 4th of July. Before, I’ve heard rumor that if one has Traumatic Stress or is nervous around the sound of gun shots, don’t go to Chinese New Year. I now understand. The whole city sounds like a battlefield! Also, there are no regulations on fireworks in city limits so some people end up shooting them out their window!
A lot of the festivities didn’t start until dark so I spent the morning Skyping and then headed over to Jinli street for the lantern festival. It was amazing! I’ve never seen so many lights. It was the middle of the night and I could see as though it was noon. Lanterns above, figures lighting the sides, and trees lit up with flower lights! In the center of the festival was a small pond that glowed with reflections.
Apart form the lights, Jinli had venders selling souvenirs and candies! We had a skewer of sugar covered strawberries, nut bars, and cotton candy made in whichever design we ordered. There were performances every two hours on the stage showcasing several different cultures including Russian, Tibetan, and Hispanic!
After Jinli street we went back to the dorms and got coerced into going out and shooting off fireworks.
As we approached midnight the fireworks became more and more rampant, and at midnight they peaked! Festivities were slowing down by 1am and that’s when we headed back to the apartments. In the middle of my street were large firework boxes that must have released quite the sound and show. The sidewalk was littered with firework remains. Fireworks continued going off into the early hours of the morning, but as for what time they stopped I couldn’t say, I finally fell asleep at 3am.
Happy Year of the Snake!