Thursday, February 21, 2008

A quarter to danger

Have you ever seen/read Harry Potter? You know that clock the Weasleys have? Instead of the time it shows each member of the family and what they're doing. If they are coming home then the hand moves to Coming Home, if they're in imminent danger then the hand moves to Imminent Danger. You get the idea. I was thinking that if everyone in the world had one of those clocks, more of those clocks would point to Danger at this time of year than at any other time of year. Why? Because it's the Chinese New Year, that's why. During these two weeks, there are untold numbers of people smashed onto trains and buses, which isn't necessarily extra dangerous in itself. It just seems more dangerous in my mind to have so many people crammed into one vehicle. The thing that would push all those clocks over the edge would be the crowds of people gathered in the streets, using cigarettes to shoot fireworks and firecrackers straight out of their hands. The most scared I've ever been in China was my first year during Chinese New Year. I went with some friends to the square here in town for the last night of the festival. We saw all the Chinese going there, we figured we should too. It turned into a mass of people, practically shoulder to shoulder, shooting various things filled with gunpowder into the air. When you stick up head and shoulders past the crowd, all of those things are shooting past your face!
They don't just shoot up into the air, though. They then explode and throw pieces of cardboard and paper (and sometimes colorful pieces of burning metal or other minerals) out in all directions. It's the loudest, most chaotic, most dangerous thing I have ever witnessed. It only took about 5 or 10 minutes for me to get freaked out (even little kids are given things to light) so I left and watched the explosions from a safe hilltop on our school campus. You can literally turn in any direction and see a fireworks display on the first and last nights of the festival. The festival lasts for two weeks and every day in the middle is filled with intermittent bursts of fireworks (intermittent being every 5 minutes). The first and last days, you don't really go more than 10 seconds without more booms and kapows. It's pretty cool, I must say. Anyhoo, last night was the last night and I unfortunately went to bed very early with a very bad headache so didn't really witness any of the celebrating. I feel better today, though. Oh well, I'll just buy some fireworks and make my own show this weekend.

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