There are roughly 25 million people living in Shanghai. Just before every Chinese New Year begins, it is estimated that between 5-10 million people leave the city to go back home to celebrate with their families. This mass exodus of people from the city is known as Chunyun, and it is the largest annual migration of people on earth. The hardships that people go through to get home can be overwhelming. It is extremely difficult for people to arrange for transportation because bus and train tickets are hard to come by, and plane tickets are out of financial reach for many people. Making matters worse, even if someone is able to get a bus or train ticket, there is a good chance it will not be a seated ticket. My assistant told me that her train ride home took 30 hours, in addition to a 3-hour bus ride from the train station. She was lucky to get a seat for most of the train ride, but had to stand all three hours on the bus. Our plane ride from Los Angeles to Shanghai was about 18 hours, and if I had to stand up for the duration of that flight, I think I would have gone crazy. The hardships people go through during Chunyun go to show how important it is to be with family for the Chinese New Year.
Perhaps the main reason that people light fireworks during Spring Festival is because there is a belief that they help ward off evil spirits and dispel any bad luck or misfortune prior to the new year. Before we came to China, one of the things I was looking forward to most was seeing the amazing display of fireworks throughout the Spring Festival. So far, the first and fifth nights rank as the best, they were spectacular and going off everywhere. At one point, when we were down at the Bund, you could do a 360-degree turn and see fireworks in every direction around the city. Unfortunately, we will be in Japan for the Lantern Festival on the 15th day, which might be the best day for seeing fireworks. We have already seen our fair share, however, and many of them have been so close to our apartment that debris from the blast hits the windows. It's not the most ideal situation, considering how many fires are caused by people who light firecrackers right next to large apartment complexes. Having said that, I don't believe there is a place on earth I would have rather been for the last week of my life.
This week was a very exciting time for us, spending our first Chinese New Year in Shanghai. We tried to get out and participate in as many of the festivities of the holiday as possible. One of my favorite things that we did during our week-long break was visit a Chinese Hot Spring. I’ve been lucky enough to be able to go to a hot spring in Costa Rica and Colorado. I absolutely love the hot spring experience and was so excited to see what it would be like in China! Apparently, Chinese New Year is a very popular time to soak in the hot springs here. It was extremely crowded and it appeared that almost all of China was there during their vacation from work. The weather was chilly but not cold and it was a perfect, sunny day for soaking in some warm water. When we arrived, I noticed, this hot springs was very different than any other I’ve ever been to. It appeared to be more like a water park with slides, a lazy river (which wasn’t working when we went), a wave pool, and even an in-water bar. We had a wonderful time, soaking, swimming, and just having a relaxing day at the hot springs. It was a great way to spend part of Chinese New Year!
After spending the day at the hot spring, we went back to a small town nearby -- it took us about an hour to get there by bus. There wasn't much for restaurants in this town, so we had a fantastic meal at a street vendor. Though it isn't for everyone, street food is one place that you will find some of the most authentic Chinese food.
We are now in the Year of the Rabbit, which is my year and therefore, I am supposed to have good luck and fortune this year! Mike was born in the Year of the Monkey and Chinese astrology says that this year will a good one for moving forward with plans and goals. So it sounds like we're going to have a pretty good year this year! We will be in Japan next week so we may have trouble posting our next blog entry. But if you don't hear from us next Wednesday, please keep checking back! Until then, Xin Yi Kuai Le (Happy New Year)!
Antique Shop at Dongtai Road
Maybe It's Just Me
After the great weekend we had, it was hard to imagine that it could get even better, but it did. Normally, Super Bowl Sunday includes BBQ, a few beers, and a bunch of friends. This year, I had to wake up at 6am and hustle down to the Big Bamboo (a local bar that was showing the game and serving all-you-can-eat American breakfast) because I would have gone crazy watching the game on my 14" laptop screen. Before we went, I thought there would be a good chance I'd be one of the few die-hard fans that would sacrifice my vacation-sleep for the game. But, when we arrived 30 minutes before kick-off and got the last two seats in the whole bar, I realized it wasn't just me. It was a great game, and it was awesome to watch with other expats and enjoy a slice of American culture in Shanghai.