Thursday, February 25, 2010

Tiger Tiger Water Water

The water crept in some time on Monday night. I thought they had taken a hose to the hallway and the water had somehow seeped under my front door; but the bathroom hadn't dried from my shower; the kitchen seemed far from dry too. My passport on the coffee table had its corners curling throughout Tuesday; before I realised that moisture had swamped this city. Today we stood around the staffroom telling each other of our various aquatic home disasters.
The weather in this topsy-turvy month has been the biggest feature of life. The day before my Chinese New Year break was bathed in brilliant sunshine; the dust smog had vanished; if one were to photograph Guangzhou for a tourist guide, this was the day. Then I went on holiday and the temperature crashed from the mid-twenties to below ten degrees. It remained that low for the whole holiday period and then the first week back. The classrooms cold, the teachers wearing beanies and coats, students remaining at home, and mice were even heard stirring. And now we're swimming and warm, the mid-to-late twenties. My energy has surged like the temperature. My last class I was absolutely wired.
The second biggest feature was the coming of the Year of the Tiger. It roared into action in the cold. In the day before New Year's Eve, I was at a loss with how I was going to spend the festival. In a supermarket queue, which was miles longer than it had ever been, I texted a friend, to ask, to be presumptious and beg, for a chance to share his family's new year. It was a big request but after consulting his family, he said yes. It was a great day. I'm eternally grateful. We had lunch at his grandmother's place where they accommodated my eating preferences well; his father is a keen drinker and seemed rather glad at my arrival. He'd raise his glass ready to clink at every opportunity. Thankfully that was lunch and he had to drive. Dinner, however, there was no restraint. We went to a restaurant and he brought cognac. Needless to say, his glass was often raised; and I was obliged to do what I needed to do for his arm to rest again.
The Flower Market is a Guangzhou tradition at New Year. In the lead-up, there are several streets that sell flowers, kumquat trees (tiny grape-sized oranges), peach flower trees and dahlias. The sign outside my apartment says they should eliminate superstitions, but the fact that the "quat" part of "kumquat" sounding similar to the cantonese sound for "auspicious" all means that they sell like hot cakes. Oddly though at an occasion called a Flower Market, the number one thing to buy on the night of new year's eve is a toy windmill. That is because the spinning of the windmill turns and pulls the luck in. My friend's cousin wanted bought one for me, which I gaily and drunkly ran down the street with.
The year turned but the weather didn't. I rested a day and then I walked the city exploring two mid-river islands. One thing that is useful to know about Guangzhou is that it sits amid the Pearl River Delta. The whole area is riven with many rivers and islands. My district is a large island although you'd never know it until you looked at a map. Another island was completely taken by the colonial powers after one of the Opium wars and has a large number of colonial buildings. Another was covered with mansions and tree lines roads. Walking them was wonderful.
But now in sweeps the work and the wonders of a busy life. My sister arrives in Guangdong shortly and more exploration awaits me at every week.


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