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March 5, 2007 - Guyuan, China

Guyuan Grenadiers


The Lantern Festival

What a misnomer. The Lantern Festival. Now I understand the weather was cold and rather snowy by Guyuan standards, but that isn’t a good excuse as to why I didn’t see a single lantern bobbing down the street. What a sham.

It should have been called the Fireworks Festival instead.

To say that there were plenty of fireworks would be an understatement. That is slightly wrong - you can never have enough fireworks - but you could say they were in attendance.

I got myself a bit worked up for this festival as there was mention of long dragon dancing crews along with their percussion sections, huge floating lanterns and lots of fireworks along the way. Guyuans very own Macys Thankgiving Day Parade.

Walking through town after lunch with a friend, we encounter small pockets of people on street corners glumly watching 2- and 3-man dragon dancing teams work themselves into a cold sweat. It was slightly sad to see, the dancing teams working so hard at mediocrity, the modest crowd reaction and the dirty slush on the ground covering everybody.

3 o’clock. Nothing. 5 o’clock. A few passing women in gaudy costumes, most with heavy winter scarves over the top, but no parade. 7 o’clock? Same.

Dusk was upon us and I was disappointed. I started my long slippery trek back to my apartment - camera woefully silent, head down-turned - when my boisterous 80-year old neighbor (the schools’ former headmaster) popped out from around my front gate, shouted a big


and shot a roman candle at me.

That’s right. He lit a roman candle - those oh so wonderful fireworks that spit forth flaming balls of red and green and blue - and shot it at me.

A little dramatic, yes, as he did have the decency to fire it off at least 5 feet over my head, but it was still in my immediate direction.

As his chuckling died down, he grabbed my arm and we trundled back off in the direction of the main square in town. Now I only catch about 1 in 10 words that he says - but with the frequency that he said the word “fireworks,” the boyish gleam in his eye and the speed at which we hiked I was getting my hopes us. I was not disappointed.

Almost on cue the street around me - the small shops, homes and alleyways - erupted. Strings of firecrackers, roman candles, sparklers, fountains, artillery shells and smokebombs.

Small children ran frantically through traffic tossing firecrackers under cars.

Middle aged men ran frantically through traffic tossing firecrackers under cars.

The former headmaster ran as frantically as possible through traffic tossing firecrackers under cars.

When we finally made it to the square the town was ablaze with sparks and already covered in a sulfury-smelling blanket of smoke. The riot police were out in their finest polished plexiglass shields and black helmets. The traffic was at a standstill. The crowds “ooh’d” at the flashes “ahh’d” at the bangs and screamed when a fireworks was tossed at their feet.

Controlled mayhem.

For two hours I stood with hundreds of people gaping at the display above us. Watching as opposite sides of the square competed for the best display. Heads turned skyward with tiny sparks and bits of spent clay from the shells rained down on us. Keeping us on our toes was a legion of under-30 pranksters, lobbing firecrackers at us timed with the explosions in the sky.

When I finally tore myself away at 9:30PM my fingers were frozen stiff, my ears were ringing and I had powder burns on my pants.

All in all?

What a holiday.

» Link lovin’

Diplomats Denied Entry - What a finely tuned pile of crap we have.

God in a Particle - Smashing our way towards God? Nope.

You already know what I think about fireworks... However, I have to say that, I hate the new (vertical) format. Especially since I went to great effort to retrofit my mouse with a horizontal scroll wheel. Sheeesh!

- Oofy Poofy on a Sunday

I agree!! taking me a while to get used to as well. I say "back to horizontal!" ahora!

- guess who on a Tuesday

I have people telling me they won't read anything because they can't stand the side scrolling, then this?

I guess that's what CSS is for...

Fine fine, how about i give everybody a choice... I mean whats a few more hours writing code for the site rather than content?

- allister on a Tuesday
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