Enter the Horse
For my first Chinese New Year proper, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. We were about to leave behind the slippery Year of the Snake, and a bolder beast would come cantering towards us: enter the Year of the Horse.
The plan was to host the Hastings Massive’s Nicki and Rolley at mine, then venture to theirs via a tourist-esque trip to Shanghai. Plan it seems is a strong word, perhaps idea would have been a better – looser - term.
Superstars that they are, the pair boarded a 13 hour sleeper bus and arrived just up the road in Shanghai. Adamant that we’d visit the world’s largest city - also known as the Pearl of the Orient - in the coming days, I encouraged them to skip the tourist bit so the three of us could get lost together.
Incredibly, and disappointingly, almost all of the local shops and eateries close for the entire 10-day holiday. Owners and employees across the country take this time to head back to their home towns during the largest annual human migration in the world.
All the amazing dishes I’d promised them were nowhere to be found. Instead Rolley managed to knock up a few spectacular delights, mainly by combining noodles with just about anything else we could find. The rest of the time we survived on western-style foods at over-priced restaurants or Maccy Ds.
Still feeling a little fuzzy-headed from the night before, we headed out to meet the gang on what we presumed was New Year’s Eve eve. Alas without adequate funds or any remotely appropriate attire, we were bemused to discover New Year’s Eve was actually that very night.
It’s weird to think on one night over 1.3 billion people become a year older. Here, as it is in other countries including South Korea and Vietnam, you get a year older with every turn of the year; and not every birthday as we do in the west.
After our delicious meal at one of the city’s finer establishments, feeling the early effects of the beverages, we hit the streets to join the country in lighting fireworks by the roadside.
Like teenage kids rebelling against all we’ve been taught from our respective countries, we – the city’s most responsible and highly respected bunch of professional teachers - held fireworks like futuristic swords as they shot out multicoloured flares with a bang. Naturally, we didn’t aim for each other directly. Instead we opted to merely skim the heads of the others.
Still none the wiser to what the traditional Chinese New Year’s Eve entails, but much merrier, we finished another vital bar session; then popped out for the midnight hour to light our grand finale. This time we weren’t so fortunate to all escape unharmed. G-brother Man aka Gareth Goodman got his little bottom slapped a cheeky stray. Some call it karma. Others call it horseplay.
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