Sunday, February 18, 2007

Chinese New Years

Yay! Vacation! My week-long break for Chinese New Years just started. People kept saying that the entire country shuts down for CNY but like most other things this is an exaggeration. What is opened and closed seems very random though- on what my roommates and I call "food alley", an alley with lots of food stalls (you probably guessed it!) almost everything was shut down. But on the next street up there were lots of little food stalls open but no tea stands. 2 blocks up, half a dozen tea stands and no food. So I think you can get what you want but you have to be patient.

I discovered a place called MosBurger (which I thought was Mo's Burger, but it is pronounced like Moss. Which sounds unappealing), it is apparently a Japanese chain. It was funny- the Chinese menu had picutres and I was content to point and say "Wo yao zhege," but they brought out an English menu for me and it was totally unhelpful- all the descriptions included many-syllabled Japanese words. I settled on a Spicy Burger and it had this sauce that totally tasted like Bailey's sauce (which is this hamburger place that used to be in DuBois where I grew up). That made me happy.

People are setting off firecrackers everywhere- like the weeks heading up to the 4th of July in Hazelwood. But no gunshots! One thing I have to write more about is the devil-may-care attitude with which people approach life here- there just isn't the same concern for safety we have in the West. The firecrackers are a great example. I guess no one plays with firecrackers if they have a huge concern for their personal well-being, but here it's kind of ridiculous. Little kids will be setting off big firecrackers, ones that have different colors, not just little noise-makers.

The other thing that's out in full force are the "bai-bai fires"- bai bai is the ancestor worship and people burn stuff, sometimes paper representations of stuff like cars and furniture, but usually just fake money, for their ancestors to use in the afterlife. Usually they just put a metal trash can out in the street in front of their store and stoke the flames with fake money. Besides the seeming danger of thousands of open flames, these fires are really hot (it's like 80 degrees and humid right now) and cause lots of pollution. Supposedly the government was trying to get these sort of after-life credit cards to catch on- apparently you would buy a fake American Express with a million NT on it instead of burning a million NT worth of fake money- but from the looks of it, it hasn't caught on yet. They make these fires all year but they are definitely more prevalent now, I guess to give luck to the new year?


Lucy said...

I saw those scenes in China, too. But it was just limited to a day instead of all year. Is that a better solution? Because I don't think the credit card would work for them!

Taiwan-Teacher said...

Limiting it to one day does seem a lot smarter! We'll see if it catches on... :)