March 12, 2007 - Guyuan, China
The Smoke Over Guyuan
Remember the first Gulf War?
Grainy, green images of Baghdad from shaky cameras. Gracefully arcing lines of tracer bullets, waving back and forth, reaching out from the ground. The sporadic flashes bleeding the screen to white, leaving only the CNN logo behind. Choppy video of streets on fire, smoke gushing from broken windows, people running in disarray from the terror raining down on them. Staticy phone calls from correspondents interspersed with bone shaking explosions and rattling doors.
Flash forward to Guyuan, China. Now.
Desert like clime? Check.
Flaming bits of explosives flashing through the sky? Check.
People running from debris? Fires in the streets? Choking clouds of smoke? Check.
Teeth-rattling, gut-punching explosions. Check.
We’re only missing CNN.
Now I’m not really trying to compare the two - that would be awfully
climatic climactic and thoughtless of me - but the similarities in sight and sound do come to mind. And how did these similarities come to pass?
You got me, I haven’t the slightest.
This afternoon I did noticed large farmers’ carts pull into town, loaded high with a dried plant - about 5 feet tall, looking like a cross between heather1 and marijuana - and crowds lined up to buy it. I didn’t put any real importance into it.
Then - about 8 o’clock - darkness set in. That’s when I looked out my window to see a cloud of dense yellow smoke roiling over my wall and past my windows. Action Allister sprung out of his chair hoping to circumvent another2 disaster only to find both neighbors burning stacks of aforementioned dried plant. And as if it was planned - it was, I’m sure - the firecrackers started. Big long chains of them, popping and cracking for minutes at a time.
Deciding I didn’t want to clean anymore I did the next best thing. Grabbed the trusty camera. Outside I found pile after pile of, yet again, special dried plant aflame.
And what would you do if you found a pile of this certain dried plant on fire?
Why, throw firecrackers in it and jump over it of course!
That’s just what happened.
Kids leaping over. Old guys jumping over. Women in high-heels shrieking their way over. Crazy foreigner with camera in hand jumping over - much to the crowds’ delight. But thats not all, no. Mothers waving, yes, waving their toddlers too young to be doing any fire-jumping, over the fire. Firecrackers thrown in the fire spitting flaming plant on jumpers and spectators alike the whole time.
Yup, a holiday committed to burning loads of dried plants, setting off firecrackers and waving kids over fires.
I can get behind a holiday like that.
- Calluna vulgaris or heather. A popular garden plant known for its colorful small flowers and often ornamental foliage. Invasive and can be used to make brooms. «
- On Sunday I awoke to clouds of steam floating past my window. Trying to unfog the brain, I ran downstairs to find all of my neighbors banging at my gate. There’s me in shorts, shoes and nothing else, 4-inches of snow on the ground and 10 of my closest neighbors in my courtyard watching water spill out of my unused kitchen. Bloody radiator burst. Ha ha, very funny.«
@boo boo - i'm glad there's a benevolent anonymous spell-checking angel hovering over my shoulder...