Chinese New Year Mayhem: A crescendo of noise and people

Happy Chinese New Year Everybody!!!

 

China is loud. And crowded. It’s always been loud and crowed and I can’t imagine a day in the future when it won’t be. That just would not be the essence of China.

 

The fireworks here are deafening. For the past few days, firecrackers and fireworks have been set off repeatedly all over the city (and all throughout the country I’m sure, in celebration of the new year). I swear I’ve never heard such ear throbbing fireworks before in New Zealand.  While I was walking back to my grandparents’ house the other night, I was scared out of my wits as a firework was lit somewhere in the city. While I was nowhere in close vicinity of the firework, the noise that erupted made it seem as if it was being set off right by my eardrum.

 

This morning I woke to the sound of heavy rain hitting a hard-steel roof. Or so I thought. I quickly realised that the sound was actually firecrackers setting off. Just when you think its all been lit and set, BAM BAM BAM countless others follow suit. PEOPLE, is it not far too early to be setting of firecrackers?!

 

Aside from the noises of fireworks and firecrackers, the constant honking from cars and the loud chatter of Chinese locals continue to buzz daily. Chinese people are notorious for their naturally loud voices and even just a casual exchange of words at the veggie markets seems as if people are having an intense argument.

 

Most restaurants are usually filled with people and as a result a cacophony of a million shouts and laughter is born. I would be worried if one day I walked into a restaurant here and there was silence. That would be more deafening and noticeable than the chorus of noise.

 

The driving here is insane. Clearly, road rules have not been implemented and for the locals in the city of where I’m currently at, ‘road rules’ are more like ‘flexible guidelines’. Driving on the road is kind of like a real life reflection of those virtual racing games. Objective: Don’t merge like a zip but instead cut in front of other cars where possible, honk your horn when you get impatient, turn onto the main road despite there not being an adequate gap because it’s okay to make other people slow down for you. Oh and driving on the opposite side of the road for a short while is alright… (Not all places in China are like this, but all in all, being on the road can be a pretty scary thing here)

 

I am having a fab time in the 2 weeks I’ve been here. Already a quarter way through this holiday…

 

Ps. I’m sorry that there are no pictures included in these posts to liven’ things up. I don’t have an iPhone (or any phone with a decent camera here or in NZ lol) and thus cannot conveniently take snaps with artsy filters of my daily happenings. 

Hotel rambles

It’s 5 am right now and I can’t sleep… So instead I’m going to write about a few thoughts on hotels.

-Those macro mirrors in the bathrooms. Unless you want a close up and comprehensive look at every pore, black head, pimple, scar and imperfection on your face I suggest you stay away from those things.

-I’m not sure if this one is just my personal experience or whether other people will get my drift. So I’ve found that in corridors in hotel rooms there is generally soft lighting. This is ideal. Strong enough so you can visibly see yourself but also soft enough so that your physical flaws

-Buffet Breakfasts. There really is nothing better than when you book a hotel and you get complimentary buffet breakfasts.

-Towels everywhere. There are neatly folded towels (of various sizes) in all

Even though I’ve been here for less than a week I am overwhelmed by the kindness and care of all those around me.

Chinese people are big on cuisine and eating with family and friends. In almost every meal I have had, I kid you not there have been enough dishes to feed us all twice. Don’t get me wrong; I certainly am not complaining about the surfeit of food

I have consumed far too much food. And lacked on my work out and runs far too much. 

Human vs Mother Nature

 

Note: I am unable to upload blog posts myself as I am not able use VPN and hence I cannot go on wordpress due to the restrictions on website access in China…My mum will be uploading for me these 2 months.

 

On Saturday 18th, I visited the Beichuan earthquake site. Some of you may remember the news headlines back in 2008 when the earthquake hit on may 12th in the Sichuan providence. This earthquake, also known as the ‘great Sichuan earthquake’ is one of the deadliest earthquakes to hit China and on an international scale it remains an immensely terrible natural disaster.

 

Beichuan, is a rural town in China and the scene of one of the worst natural disasters in modern history. Unlike the nearby affected areas that were re-built completely from scratch, the Beichuan district was kept in the ruined condition and today it is a memorial and tourist site for visitors to witness the physical damage. It was hit harder than any other town in the affected area- 80% of the city was destroyed and over half the population perished.

 

Although I had seen footage and photos of this earthquake, it was only after I was physically standing a midst one of the ruined areas that the extent of the damage and ramifications became a living reality. The morning of our visit to the site was extremely foggy and the grey blanket that was the sky casted a gloomy and desolate ambiance. Once in the collapsed town, the absolute calm and quietness ringed loudly. Everything was strangely peaceful but everywhere I looked I saw suffering and utter destruction.

 

One particular aspect that really struck a nerve for me was the schools that were completely destroyed by the shake. All that remained in tact were a basketball hoop in the playground and a Chinese flag on a pole. Piles of concrete, bricks and dust loomed heavily on the school site. What I, and many people are outraged by is that many lives could have been saved if it wasn’t for the poorly constructed buildings. Young children and teens faced an inescapable fate that stripped them of their lives much too soon.

 

The truth is, when such powerful and deadly events happen, for those who only hear about the details through the TV, radio and Internet cannot fully comprehend the long-term consequences of such monstrosities. We hear the breaking news and usually a few weeks after the event, the talk and the details gradually wear away. But the pain and the severe aftermath remains very much a living nightmare for those who are directly affected long after the initial event. The suffering is beyond words and physical representations.

 

I hope this rather depressing experience I have shared holds some light. Today, I saw how vulnerable humanity is against the strength of mother- nature. I have always been a believer of fate and that God is infinitely greater and more powerful than human beings. While in no way am I claiming that this tragic disaster happened for the better, I do believe that it should serve as a testament to how short and precious living is and encourage us all to appreciate the little things in our daily lives. At the end of it all, we really have very little control over our lives. In a matter of seconds thousands upon thousands of lives can be prematurely taken away. Standing towns can be degraded into ruins within seconds.

 

May all the victims rest peacefully in a better place as my thoughts and prayers are with them five years after that terrible day. 

I love airports

A place of goodbyes, new beginnings or just the bridge to your next vacation. For me, I was on my way to China for 2 months. Confession: The hustle and bustle of airports gets me giddy and really brings out the 5 year old in me. Everything is interesting. Especially in big airports, where everyone seems to be headed onto divergent paths I feel a strange sense of insignificance but not in a depressing way. Just an awareness of the plethora of places and people left for me to discover and meet. I’m sure I am not alone when I admit that I will make up stories about the people I spot negotiating their way through the crowds. The ones rushing to their terminal. The ones struggling to lug all their carry ons. Despite being summer in NZ, practically everyone in the airport is dressed ready for winter. Except this one lady who thought it was travel appropriate to wear a stripped black and white body con dress. Talk about comfort…

I’ve been up since 4.30 am today (pre-trip excitement) and took off for flight en route to GuangZhou airport at 10am. I must say, each international flight I go on only gets less comfortable. Sleeping for 5 hours straight on the plane used to be so easy. This time, I managed a total of one hour. ONE FREAKING HOUR.

Once at the GuangZhou airport, Dad and I were pretty clueless. The maze-like layout of the airport was clearly too much for us country Kiwis… But dad insisted that his initial confusion was due to the immense change and extension of this airport since he was last here. In his defence it has been 10 years since he was last in his mother -land. I forgot how crowded and hectic China is. Somehow I always relish in the absolute manic of this country. 

Although its only 9pm in China thats 1am NZ time. I am currently waiting for our transfer domestic flight headed to Chengdu. I miss my cheeky puppies (Eddie and Power are actually dogs but I like calling them puppies) already and its less than 24hours. My eyes are blood shot, I look subhuman, I can barely formulate coherent thoughts in my mind and a shower right now would be wonderful. It has been a long day of travel and waiting and observing and eating.. Let this 2-month venture begin!

I hate mice

I’ve always had a fear mice and any rodent for that matter. Last night, while I was in bed watching youtube videos, from the corner of my line of vision I spotted a small black thing. HOW THE HECK DID A MOUSE GET IN OUR HOUSE IN THE MIDDLE OF SUMMER? It’s not even the appropriate season for mice to be sneaking into the house…  Within seconds of spotting this creature scurrying from its hiding corner, I yelled out “MUMMMMMMMM”. It’s almost an act of fear reflex.

Now, for those who find mice ‘adorable’ and ‘cute’. Do not be fooled. The only mice I like are Mickey and Minnie Mouse. I don’t care how small or supposedly ‘harmless’ they are, the sight of a mouse fills me with (irrational) fear. While I know that we are far more scary to mice than they are to us, I cannot bring myself to overcome this fear. Mice and me are like summer and winter. Not meant to exist in the same hemisphere…

Rummaging through the garbage…

So this is the story of how I ended up rummaging (may be a slight exaggeration) through the garbage… After mass my parents and I headed to the hall next door for a shared dinner with everyone from church. Once I sat down with my food I realised that I had left my plate case at home (1st careless mistake). In need of orchestrating a hygienic way to hold my plate while its out of my mouth when I eat, I decided to wrap tissue paper around the plate covering it entirely. It could easily be mistaken for a pile of scrunched up tissue paper (2nd careless mistake). After dinner, I went next door and chatted away with my God-mother who I haven’t seen in absolute ages… Leaving my plate in that room (3rd careless mistake). Before I knew it, it was time to leave as the hall was about to close. Just as I was about to go in the car, it suddenly hit me that I didn’t have my plate in my mouth. By now the fluorescent red flashing lights went off in my mind. Most likely my plate would be in the garbage along with scraps of food and other ‘scrunched up tissue bits’. Now, this not so ideal situation wouldn’t be so unideal if it wasn’t for that fact that I was about to leave on thursday to go to China for 2 months. There would be no way I could get a replacement in less than 4 working days. My dad and I first went back to the hall and asked the last people there if they had seen bits of tissue paper on the table. No Luck. We looked in the kitchen bin and it had just been emptied. Definitely no luck. I ran outside to the garbage bin and ripped open the black plastic bag. As expected there were a million pieces of food and tissue and plastic cutlery. And a pretty funky smell.. Both dad and I were resolved to give up on finding my plate amidst the fountain of rubbish. But for some unexplainable reason, I felt compelled to pick up a lump of tissue thinking perhaps that one was the one that contained my much needed plate. Wrapped inside the tissue was indeed my plate. 

Now, you may not be able to share the utter relief and joy of finding this teeth plate, but for me, it felt like a miracle to have found my lost item. So this mundane event of losing and unexpectedly finding my not-very-exciting but necessary-to-have mouth plate made me think of just how lucky I was and also the role that chance plays in our lives. As a result of my careless (do believe me when I say that normally I quite the opposite to being careless) actions, I could have found myself in a very inconvenient situation. But by chance I stumbled across the needle in the haystack…

I realise that I am making quite the fuss over this matter but I can’t help but feel that God once again took control. Despite this being a seemingly insignificant event I do believe that there are many events in our lives, albeit big or small, where the presence of something so much bigger and more powerful than us as humans takes the reigns in times of problem. So I guess what I am trying to extrapolate from this experience is that sometimes a little luck should be much appreciated. As you can tell I am really philosophical. Either that or in serious need of help…

Hi, my name is Shirin

In the advent of the new year I finally created a blog. This will be an online hub where I share my experiences, thoughts and mindless rambles. I don’t know who would want to read my blog but if you have found your way onto here, then I hope you might stay.

I am an 18 year old currently on a 9 month break/’gap year’ until I start uni in the States later this year. I was admitted into my dream school in december and since then I’ve been able to relax, spend time with family and friends and occasionally ponder over where my life is headed after a roller-coaster of a year that was 2013.

I called my blog ‘keepmehungry’ because of two reasons. 1) Anyone that knows me will testify to my intense love for food. I don’t eat to live but rather live to eat… jk… but in all honesty I really do love food and the level to which food brings me happiness is kind of sad. Or really fabulous depending on the way you look at it. 2) Personally, I think that being curious and wanting to explore and learn are salient qualities that one should have. One of my favourite quotes ‘stay hungry stay foolish’ epitomises the way in which I want to lead my life. For now, I like ‘keepmehungry’. Although I wouldn’t be surprised later down the road when I cringe at my supposed present ingenuity for my blog name. But I guess that is the nature of my generation, we change and constancy is rare.

I hope you find this blog somewhat entertaining during my adventures this year and the ones to follow.

Good night