60 Years, Mid Autumn, Shenzhen, & Brook Rafting

Trip Start Jun 30, 2008
Trip End Dec 31, 2009

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Flag of China  , Guangdong,
Monday, October 5, 2009

China is celebrating 60 years of 'liberation' by giving everyone a 9 day holiday. I have never experienced a country celebrate something so long nor with the intensity and importance that we witnessed this past week.  We watched the 3.5 hour National Day Parade at Tiananmen Square in Beijing via T.V at a friend’s home on October 1st.  I have attached a video segment to give you an idea of the calibre and ‘unity’ of the Chinese people. Also see http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2009/10/china_celebrates_60_years.html for amazing photos of the celebration.  

If you can see the effort, training, patience and perseverance in this ceremony you will get a glimpse what is happening all over China.  It is hard to describe without you experiencing the thoughts, feelings and attitudes of the Chinese people and how vastly different they are compared to us in the West.  A few examples:

-         You ask a 16 year old boy if he has a girlfriend and he immediately says "no" because his studies and a good education are more important right now.

         Whether weekend or school holiday students still get a tremendous amount of homework.  When we have a holiday we have a holiday!

         We met several students who attend a public middle school that starts at 8am and goes until 7pm!!!  We found out this is very common.

         A man will not get married until he has saved enough money to buy a home for his wife to be (and her family). 

         A classmate (primary, middle, or high school and University) is one of the most valuable and cherished relationships of a lifetime.  Time after time I meet people who ‘network’ based on who they went to school with.  We all have friends and acquaintances but I have never seen anything so ‘efficient’ and ‘important’.  A common expression is “A friend of my classmate is a friend of mine” and they take care of you like you are ‘royalty’.

         You will rarely see a loud argument in public let along a physical fight BUT try to pay for a meal and you will see two fully grown men in a pushing match to see who can pay the bill.  (Dad, I know what you are thinking!! J)

Our whole family experienced love and generosity this past weekend when my friend (Henry) made arrangements for us to visit his classmate (from 22 years ago) in Shenzhen for the day at the amusement park called “Happy Valley”.  It was the Mid Autumn Festival (Moon Festival) and we got a glimpse of not how important the Festival is but rather how important it is for family and friends to get together.  I cannot think of any celebration we have that is so important to the majority.  Christmas is the closest that comes to mind but in comparison it does not hold the ‘dizzying excitement’ that the Mid Autumn Festival does.  Note:  This is considered the second most important festival AFTER the Spring Festival.  Unfortunately, we have not experienced it here as we will be gone during that time.

The Moon festival (also called the Mooncake or Mid-Autumn festival) falls on October 3rd in the year 2009. What is the Moon festival? Every year on the fifteenth day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar, when the moon is at its maximum brightness for the entire year, the Chinese celebrate "zhong qiu jie." Children are told the story of the moon fairy living in a crystal palace, who comes out to dance on the moon's shadowed surface. The legend surrounding the "lady living in the moon" dates back to ancient times, to a day when ten suns appeared at once in the sky. The Emperor ordered a famous archer to shoot down the nine extra suns. Once the task was accomplished, Goddess of Western Heaven rewarded the archer with a pill that would make him immortal. However, his wife found the pill, took it, and was banished to the moon as a result. Legend says that her beauty is greatest on the day of the Moon festival.

We experienced what happens on a national multiday holiday when no one is working or at school – they all go to the amusement park!  I could not believe how many people were at the park and how LOOOOONNNNNG we had to wait in lines.  We spent 12 hours at the park and did what it would take 2 hours normally to do.  One 40 second roller coaster had a minimum four hour wait (not counting the numerous people who have no problem ‘budding’ in line).

We had planned on spending the night before returning on the fast ferry in the morning but were asked after fighting to pay for our hotel for the night (which I lost) if we would go to Mr. Yin’s hometown of Dongguan to visit his family. 

We took some time and discussed (aka argued) the implications.  Mr. Yin & his 15 year old daughter (EVA), who had a van waiting for us at the ferry terminal, paid for our entire family to get into the Happy Valley along with all the food for the 12 hours. 

Only after talking to my friend, who said it would be an honour if we went with him to his home town so we said ‘why not’.  We are sure glad we did as it was really our honour to meet such wonderful friends and family and had a glimpse of Chinese contemporary culture we would otherwise miss. 

We ate, ate, played firecrackers, ate, visited and ate some more.  That evening (again after trying to pay for at least some of what we received) we were again asked if we wanted to stay another night and go and visit another classmate.  After a quick vote (even though James was getting a cold) we said “why not”.

We packed very light as we were really just going for the day that turned into two days and now three we had to start washing things as everything was ‘ripe’.  James learned how to wash and dry his underwear quickly in a hotel room.

The next day we went to Jiangmen and visited more classmates and classmates of classmates.  We had another large meal before going to a friend’s (perhaps classmate) fish farm/office in the country.  We all had a great time and ate another fabulous meal before being asked (are you with me?) if we wanted to stay another night and visit more friends.  Although we were having a good time James was really not feeling well and we were all out of clothes and getting tired of the pace we were on and so decided to decline and return that evening after ‘playing with firecrackers’ again.

We had one day of rest and then Sabrina, Sophia and I went on what we were told was a River Rafting tour to the country side.  We had a wonderful time together but the river was more a brook or creek and the raft was a rubber dingy. 

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hamiltonfamily on

Wow - the video brought tears to my eyes. Makes lifes ordinary challenges seem pretty small in comparison. Glad you are all well and survived the roller coaster rides. Meggie

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