Events and noteworthy occasions

The focus of this page will be on local events and other happenings, rather than a calendar of birthdays and anniversaries of my friends and colleagues, for data protection reasons.

You can participate on this page, if you have any local events worth chirping about. Click here to add your story.

Aston road trip to ancient town of Yaowan, on the 30th of April

I gathered from the entrance ticket that this was the first town on the Grand Canal, but I don't know more than that, apart that it was a good team building event. Between the owners of Aston School in Lianyungang, the foreign and the Chinese teachers and other people who were personal invites of some of our colleagues, we filled a complete bus and off we went.

We had a stroll around, followed by lunch together, before we entered the imposing ancient gate of Yaowan, to find a town packed full with a multitude of folk, from tourists, to locals, to street performers - the whole world was there!

Less popular means of transport...

The more popular traditional version

I couldn't resist sharing this local bar, on par with our tapas bars in Spain!

Valentine Day slipped by pretty unnoticeably

Apart from watching plenty of couples around me, the girls sporting huge bunches of flowers, usually roses, not much else happened in my life. Not that I expected anything, anyway...

I had a dinner with another friend and she explained that the flowers are more like a display of the boyfriend's or the husband's wealth rather than a token of true love. That reminded me of my colleague once talking about 'her BF' who turned out to be her boyfriend, unromantically.

Starting the Year of the Snake on the 10th February 2013

Boy, am I glad I had a coffee in the afternoon yesterday?! I was warned by my friends at lunch time that, although there's no special festivity to mark the crossing into the New Year over here, in Donghai, nevertheless we should expect some enhanced fireworks displays at midnight. It was like in the middle of a war! Unforgettable... for the wrong reasons.

So, I had my siesta during the afternoon and I decided I wasn't even contemplating trying to sleep through the fireworks, I had a coffee and I worked on my laptop until late in the night. It was dark around 6-ish and it's when they started cracking the fireworks here and there, so I opened my curtains and I was entertained by the sporadic shows along the main road, as I could see them from my bed, where I was perched, leaning on my little radiator.

Around half past 8pm I remembered about the New Year Eve's Gala on TV, which came highly recommended by my friends today. I think my TV suffers from neglect with me paying no attention to it. I sometimes switch it on, only to listen to some more Chinese, thus sharpening my listening skills. But on this occasion I was quite pleasantly surprised with the quality of the show and, by midnight, I was in quite a celebrating mood!

Which is just as well, given all these events, as there were some loud activities in the neighbourhood that I just could not describe in words... The sensation of being at war, in the front lines comes to mind every time I hear these Chinese fireworks. I've never been in a war, but my inner intuition tells me this is how it must be.

Should I mention that I have some every day (!!!) just below my apartment, where they are setting them off for the guests in one of the most expensive restaurants in Donghai. Not only are they too noisy, for what they're worth, but they manage to set off at least a couple of cars' alarm systems every time they go. Of course, then you have the noise of these alarms for even up to half an hour at times.

I survived the midnight events, the TV show helped spread the spirit of the moment inside my apartment as well. I spoke to my friends and family on Skype, with my headphones on, so that helped a bit as well and then I went to bed around 2am, having renewed my New Year resolutions accordingly. Around 5am there were more fireworks, to add to the fun, but nothing compared with those at 6am! Around 7, when they woke me up again, I realised... of course, 6 is a lucky number, which explains the noise at that time. However... 8 is considered the luckiest of all in China, so... guess who was to be 'lucky' again?

OK then, here's the proof: the past events left this smokey pollution behind. This is how my corner looked at 9am, when I finally came alive. Just to add more fire to the ashes, they were burning the rubbish left behind on the streets. I won't be airing the apartment for a while...

Our second Happy New Year! ....  on the 10th of February 2013

We're enjoying a New Year's holiday, until the 15th, but I was advised not to travel outside my town, due to so many people travelling at this time of the year. I didn't feel like travellig anyway, as I'm just getting over a mighty cold (where's that boyfriend who could have helped me to keep warmer?).

Because it's not forbidden to travel, per se, I was asked if I was planning to go anywhere or not. I was curious why would they ask me this and I was told that I needed to report to the local Police if I wanted to go anywhere and where exactly, which completely put me off after all! Then I contemplated the work these policemen had to put in during the holiday, recording everybody who'd move to and fro - no way!... Somebody told me today that, according to Chinese tradition, people spend the New Year's Eve at the husband's or boyfriend's family, the New Year's Day at the wife's or girlfriend's family and the 2nd day of the year with their friends. I tried to visualise the kind of travelling that's happening right now in the whole of China...

I was invited for lunch at my friend's family. We were 9 people around this table, really designed to seat 4. The lady on the far right of the picture, kept busy in the kitchen for the duration of the lunch and nobody tried to stop her bringing more and more food to the table. Here is a lovely 4-generations family get together, where the little girl (3) couldn't stop singing the ABC song and the Do-Re-Mi one. The dog participated to the feast, in his own corner of the yard - little fat puppy!

I'm watching an entertainment show on TV, on New Year's Eve - the 9th February 2013, marking the end of the Year of the Dragon this time around.

I am mesmerised with a group of dancers doing a very clever synchronised dance, similar to the synchonised water dancing we see from time to time and I'm just thinking.... The Chinese have spectacular physical abilities, whether in sports, dancing, rope walking, or massage, repairing an old bike, drawing, calligraphy (especially!). Let alone making things - more and more and more of them!

However, when it comes to thinking skills though, I usually find a lack in their abilities, sadly. Pondering on this now, whilst being carried away with the beauty of this group on TV, it occurs to me that this may be so, strategically. Maybe the masses were discouraged from thinking too much, by the powers to be, lest it would make their tasks of holding such a vast nation in the kind of check they managed to do for centuries. What do you think? Write to us here.

Here is a story from our new friend Xiao Guang. He had a memorable Spring Festival!

My birthday was an event that came and... went... again!

My boss Joe made us all a pleasant surprise for my birthday - he brought us a huge cake, with lots of sugary cream, the favourite for the sweet-toothed Chinese. I spent the whole day at school and we dipped into our sweet delight on and off during our classes. By the end of the day, as we haven't managed to devour it completely, we shared it with the few adult students who finished their class at 7:30pm.

We had Christmas, although this is not a very strong event in my books...

Our students brough their friends along - they were about 50 children in total! They learned a Christmas song... Jingle Bells! They even sang it to me in Chinese, at a much slower pace than our tune.

We then played charades with words in English, from our lessons so far. We had a game of Santa online, but this wasn't fun, as we didn't have a projector, so I had to hold my laptop high enough for the group to see it.

Cakes and oranges were served, but here were no drinks, for hygiene reasons! On the whole, a good party! Fun packed in 2 hours...

My own little Christmas tree

I made an effort to brighten my dining room table with a little Xmas tree, after all. The cards were from my students and the pressies were from me, for some dear friends I had Christmas dinner with.

Merry Christmas everybody!

My friend's aunt's wedding - 16th December 2012

I went to Mabailing's aunt's wedding today - the most beautiful bride I've seen in China so far... this being the third wedding I have experienced!

They have two weddings over here - one for the bride's family members, when the bride wears a red dress (well, coat in this case), for red stands for good luck; and another one for the groom's family members, when the bride wears a white wedding dress (or a coat, given this cold weather).