Firecrackers for New Year, Beijing style


The war started a couple of weeks ago and orders are to quit for the Olympics on today’s full moon. Firecrackers for New Year, Beijing style I mean. The first day they were exploding against my 12th floor windows and everywhere else right across the city. The sweepers were out early next morn and picked up 50 tons of red paper but I didn’t notice much firecracker waste cleaned on the 1925 sidewalks around town. Casualties were a few. At least one killed by a direct hit, but being mid winter apartment windows were well closed so burn outs only happened in the few where they were so impatient they never got outside in time to light up. Hence the demons are chased away for the Year of the Rat along with most other domestic and the few wild animals left around here.

Too, things look kinder with the temperatures already well above zero and the long Johns off. Still it hasn’t snowed in 2008 and most days have been clear and sunny with the north wind blowing the pollution back down to Canton where it mostly belongs. Its back in vengeance today though with visibly within 100 yards and impaired, minus the firecracker smoke, and the Gobi spring sandstorms are looming to make things worse. So its all forwards to that auspicious 08/8/8 day, 6 months away when things will be more clement and the Olympics start.

So I am guiding it in the style of old China. There is no point being really civilized as this is where the locals will profit most and buy another car to cram these jammed city streets. Communism forget it, pinch pennies, get that new car and go forwards in life. A sad tale given the picturesque big streets crowded with the tinkle of bicycle bells just some 15 years ago.

But the Peking duck restaurants are all still somewhere as is a cheap cold bottle of beer for 50 cents. One could hang around the restaurants next to the foreigner compounds with their western menus and prices and feel like one never left home as most do. The “Wall” will be crowded, but then there are all those other unique places that I have found to get local. Tickets for the Olympics have gone crazy as expected and it takes a professional to work the black-markets and find non-photocopies at a tenth the cost marketed overseas. Better to enjoy other sights along with lamb kebabs on a side street and buy dollar DVDs.

So with the madness of a full fireworks display everywhere just in front of my window its time to sign off. Normality might reign again for the first time in a couple of weeks tomorrow. I am off to see if this Olympic crowd will pay me more than you in the morn. You know they love volunteers.

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