Take it from me... the best thunderstorm you've ever heard has NOTHING on Chinese New Year in Beijing. Imagine 16 million people setting off firecrackers! From the street. Beside your window. Firecrackers the size of frankfurters (maybe two inches thick). Aside from the individual bursts and blasts, the whole sky has a deep rumble at all times, like the most ominous thunder you've ever heard. Sometimes it even sounds like a huge ocean wave. Screeching rockets! Since the blasts are traditionally meant to scare away evil spirits they are also set off during the day. I heard the first rocket this morning at 7:00 am and they've been going all day since them. Since 5:00 pm on they have had much greater intensity. I've had a number of pictures in my mind over the last few hours as the Tiger is welcomed in Beijing...
1) Black outs in London during WWII with the sky lit only by blasts, and the sound of anti-aircraft gun and flac exploding everywhere. Battle in full tilt! Airplanes! Air sirens! (in our case emergency vehicle sirens and car alarms which are almost as frequent as the fireworks)
2) That scene from Anne Frank where all eight of them are peering out the broken sky window.
3) The 1st of July on Steroids!
Our family has spent the evening with the apartment blacked out running from window to window to catch the best view. "Come to the living room! Come to the living room!" "Now the dining room!" Between all the rushing to different windows, it took me half an hour to cut two onions and two green peppers for supper. All the noise has the ability to send a constant rush of adrenaline coursing through your veins. I kept on catching myself holding my breath and I felt like a kid who thought it was fun to run around in a dark house, bumping into things.
As suspected, Jude has not been very happy about all the noise. For the rest of us it all became white noise long ago, but not for Jude. The poor boy spent several hours trying to prove that he was brave. But when I gave him a hug at one point he threw himself into my arms and spent the rest of the evening with his head buried in my neck, clutching his stuffed Curious George, heart pounding. What a brave boy!
Because of the buildings all around, we can hear more than we can see (the only time when it would pay to live on the 27th floor!). But we are still getting our fair share of the party. Every square inch of sky we see is getting almost constant action. We have seen some extremely reckless fireworks habits. Firing into moving traffic! Setting up firecrackers on the road (and a taxi just barely missing it!). Re-lighting a "dud" several times, which to me sounds like a blown-out-eye. Trust me, these are not small gimpy firecrackers. Any one person's display beats what we've seen in North America.
By midnight the noise has become so loud that within our own house we have to yell to hear each other. Our eyes are burning with gunpowder and our throats ache! The streets are covered with the ghosts of thousands of feet of firecrackers. My stomach is making about as much noise, complaining because of the smell and from running from window to window, but I just can't stop.
Chun Jie Kuai Le! Happy Spring Festival and may the Tiger come bearing gifts for you in this new year!