After many long days of travel, on January 27th Brock and I touched down in Fushun, China. We were quickly acquainted with unfamiliar Chinese letters and squat toilets. Brock and I were welcomed with warm hugs and big smiles by my father, Hong (my step-mom), and her nephew.
During our journey to our hotel room, we got our first taste of life in China. We witnessed people on the side of the highway shoveling snow by hand as people zoomed by. We gawked as motorcycles & vans drove towards us head on. Our mouths agape as our host pointed out the various abandoned buildings. We had heard of China’s ghost cities, but we didn’t realize how real they were.
As we entered our hotel, Brock insisted that we were at the wrong place (side note: he had nothing to do with the booking.) It was a high-rise complex that was nestled onto the water. Our lobby greeted us with the shinest & biggest chandelier I had ever seen. It’s safe to say that this was the nicest hotel I had ever been in! On cue, my Anxiety and I began freaking out. Remembering numbers isn’t my strong suit, I racked my brain to remember how much this place cost. I wouldn’t book something crazy expensive– would I??? Truthfully, I wouldn’t, I’m very conscious of my money, but sometimes my Anxiety wins. Dear GOD, please tell me I didn’t agree to pay $200 a night. Well, it turns out that our Room was a fantastic deal! For what we’d pay for an average motel room in the U.S., we were able to get a luxurious executive hotel room in China. The bathroom wall was a window, with an electric curtain. Our king size bed had been a cloud in a past life. We had a fancy shower, a gigantic tub, and a telephone next to our toilet! Our desk would make for a perfect workspace. The view from our room was stunning. Our room overlooked the river and a busy skyline scattered with LED lights. As Golden Hour slowly engulfed the city, I was in awe with our life. These travel moments of pure bliss are why I love travel more than anything else.
In celebration of the New Year, we went out to dinner. For special occasions, the Chinese rent a private room in a restaurant. Our family sat around a huge Lazy Susan and passed around all sorts of Chinese delicacies. Our choices consisted of delicious garlic clams, squash, cabbage cakes, duck rolls, and many unfamiliar dishes. A lot of foods that I surprisingly tried! We took several shots of a local vodka that tasted like paint-thinner. The family toasted to everything- to a year of health, more money, welcoming Brock and I to the family, and so on. It was one of the happiest and most loving occasions that Brock and I have experienced with strangers. The joy radiated with every smile and laugh.
Shortly thereafter, Hong and her sister showed Brock and I how to make Chinese Dumplings. You use two chopsticks to mix warm water with an egg and flour. You let the batter rise and then roll it into a long snake. From there chop it into tiny pieces and roll out each bite-size piece of batter. Following, the dumpling is stuffed with veggies and shrimp and intricately pinched closed. Where it is fried in a wok.
Upon the clock striking 11 p.m the (DIY) firework frenzy began! We rushed down 6 flights of steps and out into the frigid night. The night air was full of firework smoke. My lungs were silently screaming out in discomfort. On our right their was a family playing with sparklers. 30 feet away on our left, a family was lighting off firecrackers. In the distance, we saw gigantic display of fireworks booming. Our family quickly began launching our personal supply of fireworks. To my surprise, they were the same kind that you’d see on the 4th of July in the U.S. I was stunned that an average Joe could purchase them here in China. They boomed, sparked, and cracked. At one point, I did a 360 degree turn, and could see a light show at every angle.
Heading home, our car whizzed by fireworks being lit on the side of the road. We passed by fountain fireworks and Roman candles, by a matter of feet. My stomach was in knots, hoping that we’d make it out alive. I was astounded when I saw people starting & attending to fires on the side of the road. We saw at least 30 fires next to the curb. Puzzled, Hong explained that they were in honor of someone who had passed.
Our night ended after watching more fireworks from above the city of Fushun, China. The simple pleasures of family bonding over a gigantic dinner and DIY firework displays made my heart burst with happiness. I couldn’t have asked for a better occasion to meet the people closest to my stepmom. I often find it difficult to explain why I love to leave, but in reality, it’s easy. Our Chinese New Year is the perfect example of why Brock and I travel. We travel to meet new people, to experience new cultures, and to have once-in-lifetime experiences.
From my family to yours, Happy New Year. I hope that this year, you find yourself with a healthy family, more money, and increased happiness. Although I don’t believe in wishes, I believe that with hard work, you can make shit happen.
Finally, congratulations Rooster, it’s your year!
Explore the Chinese New Year by clicking this link.
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Happy travels to you all!