October 05, 2009

Military Parades, Canadian Thanksgiving and More

As I blog, the bedtime story is unfolding.  Not two seconds ago, I heard Paul Bunyan chopping open a letter from a mysterious Mr. Kenneth Watanabe who invites him (along with Babe, Jesse James, John Henry, Pecos Bill, and Wild Bill Hickok) to come to Japan and eat sushi.  The return address on the envelope is P.O. Box 129 Japan.  When P.B. (as he's come to be known) arrives in Tokyo, he heads straight for the main post office.  Outside, he spots a monolithic samurai who challenges him to a duel.  As they destroy the environs, the samurai gasps, "Who are you?"  P.B. sinks his axe (Chipper) deep into the sidewalk and says, "I'm Paul Bunyan, from Quebec".  The samurai kneels before Bunyan-san and lets him know that he is Mr. Watanabe, and the two promptly feast upon sushi until their stomachs are bulging.  And thus, another hero has joined the ranks of Paul Bunyan and the Gang.  James has foreshadowed that soon we will be introduced to Annie Oakley.  After that, who knows?  Calamity Jane?  Hatchet Carrie?  Typhoid Mary?

Holiday atmosphere is fairly bursting here in Beijing.  Thursday, Oct 1 was the national 60 year celebration.  We watched the celebrations on TV with all the rest of the Chinese nation even though we were not 7 km away from Tiananmen in the comfort of our home.  The streets were amazingly empty (especially for a holiday) since everyone was inside watching the celebrations.  The nation's leader viewed the troops standing up in a car.  There was a cannon salute, followed by an hour long military parade.  I've never seen anything like it and constantly turning to James for his insight (gleaned from years of playing Axis and Allies).  He spotted the amphibious tanks, surface-to-air missiles, surface-to-sea missiles, surface-to-surface missiles, special forces, super-special forces, and of course, lots of aircraft of all shapes, sizes, and uses, including a plane with a long dangling hose for refueling fighter jets in mid-air.  The planes could be heard from our apartment window.

We saw the medical, food, and gasoline units.  At one point, it began to feel a bit like a very elaborate game of Miles Bournes, and we were waiting for the "Puncture-Proof Battalion".  The overall effect of the parade was certainly very awe-inspiring, and made us realize just how formidable a force the military really is.  It was very interesting to see thousands of men and women marching in perfect unison, and when they took a step forward, you could see straight down the column between their moving legs.  And of course, there was the satisfying and incredibly crisp sound of thousands of boots striking the pavement.

After the troops and equipment came the floats, and then the hordes of dancers.  The most amazing thing about the dancers is that they were able to move in unison by the hundreds, but in ways that seemed to be constantly verging on chaos.  There were streamers and fans flailing, and drums beating and every colour in the rainbow.  This part went for another hour.  This was probably the first time that we appreciated our gigantor TV.

Later that night came the rest of the celebration.  The Insider's Preview before the beginning, showed us that about half of Tiananmen Square was covered in a forest of fibre optic trees, and that within this 21st century forest dwelt a colony of men in shimmering gold coats who stood ready to burst forth with fronds, giant flowers and various other eye-pleasers.  We later learned that during the show there were 99 different fireworks shows going on throughout the city.  The one we saw was by far the most elaborate one we've even seen.  

On Saturday we celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving a week early. We hosted a meal with our Canadian friends and invited some Chinese friends as well.  I spent the day making bread, pies, baked beans and apple sauce.  One picture at the top is of some baking cooling on our laundry rack.  The boys spent the day watching me, making their own little "pies" (picture) and trying to steal bits of food, with the word "pie" never too far from their lips.  James did the bird(s) and marshmallow yams (James can't celebrate a Thanksgiving without making Grandma Frey's marshmallow yams!).  Turkeys are non-existent here and chickens are pretty small, so we had to make do.  Saturday was also the Mid-Autumn Festival, and we've been eating so many moon cakes (picture) that I'm almost sick of them... almost!

Sunday, I went shopping for some more winter-like clothing.  I didn't bring any with me from Canada because they were too bulky, and I suffered a fair bit last spring when the heat was turned off in March and it was still cold outside.  The heat doesn't go back on again until the middle of November, so we'll be chilly again soon.  I intend on being prepared this time around!

This morning we were invited to go with three other Chinese families to the Olympic park.  We travelled with men in one car and women in the other.  A sort of surreal moment for me was when I found myself describing in Chinese for the ladies in our car how to make maple syrup. We all started giggling together because something about it was terribly funny.  It turns out that Olympic park is the closest thing we have seen here to the Whiteshell (for all you readers familiar with Manitoba).  It had (what looked like) uncontained growth of trees and shrubs, many little "lakes", hills, big rocks etc.  James and I quite enjoyed ourselves, and the boys barely complained, which is sort of like enjoying themselves...

All in all, its been a great week and we have enjoyed ourselves tremendously. 

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