...It's been a while since I have updated this journal. So, let's begin with a bang! China is an agrarian society and for several thousand years has lived by the seasons and by the moon. So, the beginning of Chinese New Year follows the lunar calendar and wanders out of sync around the Gregorian calendar over about a 3 week span. It is responsible for every native Chinese person having two birthdays (a new year so you must be one year older...) and pretty much shuts down every factory in China for at least a week. Back in 2637 BC emperor what's his name (I think Huangdi) invented the Chinese Lunar Calendar. In conjunction with this invention and the insuring annual celebration, over these last several millennia Chinese have held to religious theory that supports good and evil as being represented by good gods and bad gods... not quite evil spirits but more to "annoying" spirits. Luckily for the Chinese, all troublesome spirits are highly sensitive to decibels above 130. So, in the 800's AD, with dogged intent, the Chinese invented gunpowder (our name... their name may as well mean something more like bad spirit loud powder... ) for, among other purposes, it is used most effectively for making a lot of noise in a short amount of time.
...Before the explosive powder there was the pan. I am not sure what was before the pan but I do know that the pot and pan were utilized in conjunction with other kitchen utensils to generate as much noise as possible in as short an amount of time as possible. So, when the spirits ganged up and made something like a solar or lunar eclipse, villagers in villages within the path and span of these celestial shadows emptied out the kitchen and in unison banged on everything that would make noise in a proven tactic to drive away the clever and annoying spirit. They banged until the event expired and then celebrated to no end their success. For, in the end, their tenacity always succeeded in repairing the sun or re-gaining the light of the moon. Hey! Seeing is believing. How can you argue with success!!!... so much for eye wittiness testimony... As far as these photos go, take a look closer. In the back ground is the end of a quarter mile long strand of firecrackers (the longest I have seen to date). Top right image is a shot along the way, bottom right is lingering debris but look at the smaller bottom central image. Look at the size of the "atomic" cloud! Is that a fire cracker or what!! I can report from the scene that there was absolutely no evidence of bad spirits loitering...


...Factory owners have no qualms about standing on the shoulders of underpaid workers. They have no qualms in pushing a 7 day a week agenda nor unannounced overtime nor adhering to unprofit sharing. But come Chinese Spring Festival, Katie (ke qi) bar the door cause everyone's goin' home! Period!! Including the boss. They pack into trains (the train shots are actually in Hong Kong. But... you get the picture) and busses and stand by or sit on their luggage for tens of hours. Although there are a lot of trains in China the average Chinese person will opt for the bus. Its cheaper and goes to any and every location in China. If ya' got some extra change big sleeper busses (otherwise big TV equipped reclining chair sit down busses) travel to hub cities where far less comfortable big sit down buses exit to more locations where standing room only smaller busses exit to even more remote destinations where even smaller big van busses deliver the traveler reasonably close to their finial destination where awaits the motorcycle taxi or the rattle trap local truck/van type of taxi.


...There is a lot of cheap luggage in China. From the "disposable" carry bag (self disposing since they are packed to within a fraction of their tensile strength), to real nice "knock off" name brand luggage, to the bucket. I don't know how long the

"bucket" has been employed as luggage in China. Perhaps it is a recent development or perhaps it is a carry over from the bronze age. I don't know. But the contemporary plastic bucket is a mainstay piece of luggage and then retained as a carry all around the homestead. In rout it appears to be used to carry utilities items such as tooth brush, toilet paper and other gotta have stuff and then little breakable items plus it can always double as a stool on the long ride home. Whoever may have had the foresight to imagine the value of the plastic bucket in contemporary Chinese culture would be beyond rich. For, I think it is safe to say that for every Chinese person, there is at least (if not now by the time the Olympics arrive) one plastic bucket. That's by today's count, 1,306,573,445 buckets!... and increasing by 1 about every 8 seconds. Now that I think about it, considering the tradition of passing useful things to loved ones after you die, there is a growing possibility that plastics buckets will displace people in an unknown verging future timeline! For people die but plastic buckets just.... fade....

...It is also a time for eating...unusual food... at least it is unusual to me... I don't know what this food is but it is pretty. I could have asked but I would not have been able to understand the answer. That's the trouble with all of the "Learn Chinese Books". No one accounts for understanding the response. You can say "where is the big hotel" or "what's cookin'" but there is virtually no possibility that you will understand the response. There are a few reasons. One of the funniest is the apparent Chinese love of gab. They just love to talk. Imagine you go to a store to buy a plastic bucket. You want a blue one. You take an English speaking Chinese person with you to translate. You only see red buckets so you ask the translator to ask if they have blue buckets. Your English would be something like this: "Ask if they have any blue ones"... and the translator will turn to the sales person and ask... now this is where it gets "wild" for I don't know just what they will ask but the dam breaks and a virtual flood of language pours out between the sales person and the translator.
...About 3,000 words later your super friendly translator will turn to you and say in English "No they don't" or "Yes they do". I am 57 years old so I don't know if I will live long enough to get good enough at Chinese to understand what is contained in these oceans of speech but I can say, it is normal behavior among Chinese people I have encountered. Another reason I would not have understood if I had asked what was cookin' is even more interesting. I don't know how it got started but even though the written language is the same for most all Chinese, when it is spoken the wheels come off. You take a back woods un-educated Chinese person from one province and drop him into another he won't even be able to ask for a bowl of soup! Heck, just blindfold him and drive him down the road 50 kilometers or so and he won't be able to communicate using speech. Although now a days most all Chinese are educated to speak Mandarin, if they every want to have a private conversation with someone from their home town they just laps into their local dialect and the conversation is automatically unintelligible to any evesdroppers. There are hundreds of versions of spoken Chinese. Even Chinese TV is subtitled with Chinese so at least everyone can read the dialogue even if they don't understand what is being said. Now a days a cute little habit demonstrates itself in the area where I am at. If you don't understand what someone says they just whip out a pin and scribble some Chinese characters onto the palm of their hand and hold it in your face. It took me a year to figure out why they did that. But at the heart of it is they know that the written language can be understood by most all Chinese. And then they are so purely lost in subjectivity that it never occurs to them that a non-Chinese person will not be able to understand the written word. So, I don't know what's cookin'. You and I can see that it is white and you probably agree that it is attractive but I am as lost as you as to what it is.

and end with a whimper...........
...This shot is pretty empty... doesn't feel so good. I have plenty more like it. Nothing but a few stragglers and the red paper debris of the spent firecracker strands. I don't know why they don't move beyond red. There are plenty of other colors. I am learning to speak Chinese so I know for the duration of their recorded history they have been aware of all colors of the spectrum. So why just red? I investigated the answer and got the typical Chinese explanation "it has to be red!"... well, I know that so I dug a little deeper and got a little more "why would it not be red?" and sort of surprise that I would even think there should be a different color. But the bottom line seems to simply be "good fortune". Red means good fortune. No if's and's or but's.. The Chinese people that I have experienced put a lot of faith in adhering to cultural formulas that convert average fortune into good fortune. There is a lot of behavior that revolves around these time honored traditions. Perhaps in the past good fortune meant a better crop or your wife having a son rather than a daughter (hey! its not my cultural more') or tangible earthy stuff like that. But in this millennia its about money. So there is red...red, red, red. Its everywhere. At weddings, birthday parties, when moving into an apartment or opening a store or just about any event. red... and add a little sulphur and charcoal in the correct proportions and kaboom!! ya' get exploding red. I can say one thing for the Chinese, they never go half way! But back to the photo, this back street would normally be thick with people and all of these closed doors would be open for business. The back street stores do the most business because that is where the average worker goes to spend their money. The main streets are for the well to do, the tourist and the Hong Kong weekend shoppers. I put in this photo to emphasize the enormity of the exodus and consequently the enormity of the ensuing return. The people haven't just gone indoors. They have traveled across a continent for a home cooked meal, to swap stories, to get and give huggs, to knock a knot on little brother's head and together climb the same tree they did when they were his age and remember the love that gave them the hope to leave home for the long lonley hours in the factories of South China... to gain the change to afford their own.......... red